NMMBA Iceman Course Work for 2019!

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Last year, Steve Brown approached NMMBA to become the official trail crew of the biggest one-day mountain bike race in the country. The Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge is an event that doesn’t just bring our cycling community together, but the whole sport together for one gritty, muddy, cold day of fun. We’ve been racing and loving this race for each of the past thirty editions; some of our board members also help put on the race, and all of us attend or even suit up to shred. 

As the region’s trail association, we take a lot of pride in being a vital part of the event, and this year’s edition is extra special. 2019 marks three decades of racing from Kalkaska to Traverse City, and we wanted the course to reflect what has made this race so big. We believe that’s finding a balance between sections we know and love (and hate, too) and finding new twists to keep riders on their toes. We’ve spent months working with the race organization, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and our fellow riders to shake things up. 

Our first big project is to get riders from the new start at the Kalkaska Airport and onto the ‘old’ course. After leaving the runway, riders will fly down a sandy two-track for about a half a mile. Here, normal sandy turns into a beach. So, we’re building a short trail to bypass the six-inch deep sand pits and throw riders onto the original singletrack with a bit of speed. In all, it’s roughly 150 yards of much-needed diversion. 

Second, the annual Water Bottle Hill Bypass. The original hill was so washed out and rooty that, today, it’s downright dangerous. We’ve chipped away for the past three seasons to get riders around that hill with a mix of old two-tracks and new singletrack. With approval from the DNR, we’ve got an even better way around the rough descent that may even offer riders a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy a twisting, sinuous switchback descent to the valley floor before the next climb to the section known as Make It Stick. This is still a work in progress, but it’ll be in prime shape by race day! 

Finally, we’ve worked with Traverse Area Recreational Trails to fix up the race’s newest addition, the Headwaters 5K. While new to the race, it’s an old favorite for runners, walkers, skiers, and mountain bikers, and thanks to its close proximity to the Bartlett Road Trailhead, it gets plenty of traffic. That has led to a few sandpits and overgrown corners. Tim Jenema, Chris Kushman, and a host of volunteers have pitched in to patch things up. We see this is a great investment to a popular section of the Vasa Pathway, especially with the construction of the new two-mile skill building trail known as the Acme Bike Park. It’s going to serve as the ‘next thing’ riders tack on as they learn new skills and build fitness, so we want to make sure it’s dialed, safe, and fun to ride. 

We’ve got plenty of work to do before race day, but we’re already feeling that Iceman Fever! Want to help out? Become a NMMBA member, and watch our social channels for more information on how you can build, maintain, and protect non-motorized trails across northern Michigan. 

Mud, Sweat and Beer Trail Day: Thanks For All Your Help!

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It was a busy weekend on the trails! From our trail day to course marking we got a lot done thanks to a lot of hardworking people!

Mud, Sweat and Beers is just days away, and that meant this past weekend was crunch time to clean up and clearly mark the 2019 route. Tom and the crew have put countless hours of thought and planning into crafting a course that offers just a bit of everything, but without some rakes on the ground, it’s all just imagination and theory.

Sunday was all about getting things done. The short section of private land that links the Holiday Village neighborhood to the Vasa Pathway always needs a bit of work, but after a long winter and with a few twists added, it needed more attention than usual. Luckily, we had a few folks raise their hands and hit the woods with us. We spent a few hours raking and clearing from the pavement to the power lines, offering riders a safe, fast trail to link up the opening few miles of the race to the real meat and potatoes of the 2019 course.

And that’s where McLain Race Team took over. They had nearly their entire team out marking the course, putting up pink Stout and blue Pale Ale arrows, taping tight corners, and adding a racer’s perspective the the course that we’ll all really benefit from on Saturday. Board member Steve Mentzer and a dozen other riders handled one section, while the Ernsts and another crew split off to cover more ground.

Of course, it wasn’t all work. Sunday was one of the last nice, sunny days in the forecast leading into race week, which meant it was the last chance to recon the course. The Norte crew had dozens of kids riding the Stout and Pale Ale course, putting in some impressive times and showing everyone how to really rail the singletrack. There were all sorts of groups soaking up the sun and making notes on important sections trail that might play a big role in on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who dedicated their free time to helping us get things primped and primed, and to everyone who went out and made all that hard work worth it! DIg what we’re doing? Make sure you re-up or join NMMBA and help support more work just like this all season long.

Tom White's Mud, Sweat and Beers Preview!

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It’s becoming a tradition just as exciting as race day itself! Tom White talks you through the 2019 Mud, Sweat and Beers course!

Things have changed a TON since the first few editions of MSB. Those races rarely strayed far from the wide-open and fast Vasa Pathway, and while still absolutely thrilling, those events didn’t offer riders much more than a tease of singletrack. When NMMBA stepped up to help design a course, the goal was always to ask more of the rider. We wanted to balance a safe, fun, and accessible route with something that would challenge more than just the engine of the rider, but also demand some amount of technical skill and tactical nous as well. We think our 2019 is the best iteration of MSB yet!

Tom’s turn-by-turn narration is included below, and we also have a file that includes much of the course available here. We do want to stress that riding on private property anytime outside of race day is prohibited. You can access the course from a number of places, and if you hop on the 25 km from Bunker or Timber, you’re going to see markings in no time.

Tom White’s MSB Turn-by-Turn

- Same start and finish as last year.
- Ample passing for the first 5.5 miles.
- The first piece of single track after the private land is the "F-Bomb"
area.  We plan to revamp this crappy section so it flows.
- This will flow into the "Das Boot" section and into the always popular
Jam Sesh single track.
- A fun portion of the winter sports trail is next.
- The course opens up to the rolling part of the the 25K and then into two
rolling hills in Jack Pine Valley.
- A very short single track takes you out of Jack Pine and onto another two
track to intersect the new section of VST by Post #5 (Saplings).
- The "saplings" section transitions into a 1 mile section of new single
track in Strombolis Lake (we will build in April).
- Same gas line and single track as last year (The Other White Meat).
- A 3/4 mile section of Sand Lakes Road is next to allow for passing and
roadie power to shine.
- New section of VST (Ditch Pickle and Tingling Bits) is next.
- After Tingling Bits we transition to some bits and pieces of unmarked
single track and then onto a downhill piece of Perch Lake Road.
- Then it is back into unmarked around Perch Lake and onto the two track
that will take you to the base of the Wall.
- From there we hit a portion of the Vasa 25k and then turn left onto a
seldom used piece of Tom's Cruise.
- Next we hit the Vasa 10k, then two tracks to the private land for a open
and high speed finish.
- There will be a safer merge with Pale Ale riders.
- Approximately 23.5 miles long.

Want to help Tom, Mike, and the whole TC Trail Crew get the course ready for race day? Join us at Mt. Holiday on Sunday, April 28 at 12:30. You can stay up to date on the game plan right here.

2019 NMMBA Trail Series Schedule

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All three of our races are confirmed! We’ve got three dates for you to circle in deep blood red on your calendar this summer and fall.

The NMMBA Trail Series is all about celebrating and enjoying our trails. Northern Michigan offers some incredible riding opportunities, but it isn’t always easy to make the drive or plan the trip to a new place to ride. Summer and fall as insanely busy for cyclists, plus day-to-day life tends to make long drives to different trails tough without having it set in stone weeks or even months ahead of time. Races make it easy to ride a marked trail, often designed to let you enjoy the best sections designed by NMMBA or the local trail crews to make sure you leave smiling from ear to ear.

This summer, we’ll be offering the same trio of trails you enjoyed last year, though you can count on some big changes at each event to keep them fresh and to help you discover new trails, new sections, and more fun than ever.

Traverse City Trails Festival, July 20. We’re headed back to Ranch Rudolf for the third edition of the TCTF! Tom White’s pipe dream has turned into the premier singletrack event in the state, offering 25 or 40 miles of racing or more laid back touring! The race plays a vital role in adding more singletrack to Traverse City’s ever-expanding network of both marked and unmarked trail at the Vasa Singletrack, Vasa Pathway, and all over the Pere Marquette Forest. As always, the race will finish alongside the creek at Ranch Rudolf, with great food and beer to help you recover and enjoy the day!

Short’s Glacial Hills Challenge, August 18. The second leg of the triple header, Glacial Hills is in prime shape in August! Under sunny skies and with flying-fast conditions, Brent Walk and the Fun Promotions LLC. crew is back with another event that not only draws some of the best riders from around the state, the event also raises money for the trails. The local trail crew does an incredible job getting the trail in simply perfect condition, and riders of all ability enjoy their one or two laps on course. It’s also the event that brings us all to Short’s Brewing Company’s backyard, and while our friends at Short’s have a massive presence at every event, it’s a little extra special when you can hit the pub after your race!

Bear Claw Epic, September 28. The summer racing season caps off at the Bear Claw Epic, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Cadillac Pathway. Few races have grown as consistently as the BCE, and with good reason. Offering tons of categories and a course that is equally challenging to elite racers and beginning riders, the event has morphed into the perfect way to cap off summer and bridge into the fall campaign in the long lead in to the Iceman Cometh Challenge.

Racing one, two, or all three of these events supports the local trails and NMMBA, and we challenge everyone to hit all three. Pre-register for every NMMBA Trail Series event and you’ll pick up an exclusive water bottle, which you’ll be able to proudly show off at Bear Claw Epic. Race, tour, explore, and support these trails by showing up and having fun. Questions? Let us know!

Beard of Zeus: Capping Off The Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series In Style

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Beard of Zeus was, in a word, stellar. If you made it out to join us at Timber Ridge, then you know what a race, what a party, what an event the finale of the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series was for 2019.

Last year, the race was cancelled due to ice. This year’s edition of the race couldn’t have seen a more idyllic winter day. With temps hovering in the mid-20s and the sun peeking intermittently between batches of puffy, lazy clouds, it was the perfect weather for shredding. With a two-mile course for the day, we put in a load of work to pack the dry, powdery snow. John Roe was out at 4am on race morning to give the entire course a final pat, with just an inch of fresh stuff settling over the topped of the packed base. With over 100 riders putting in 8-10 minute laps for the leaders and 15-20 minute laps for the more party-minded, the course help up just about as well as we could have possibly hoped with the dry snow.

There was plenty to race for Saturday, too, and the Men’s Open took center stage. With Sunset Scott and Rick Wetherald tied on points, whichever rider finished ahead of the other on the day would nab the Series. Previous BoZ winner Jorden Wakeley was ready to take the spoils of the day, while Series regulars like Eric Langley, Paul Olson, and Kyan Olshove were eager nip onto the podium, should the opening arise.

After riding together early, a crash saw Sunset distanced, and cost him a bottle cage ripped right out of his frame. He spent the rest of the day chasing against a 1’20” gap to Rick and Jorden. Ahead, Rick was all-in on the front to keep that big gap open, knowing that with lapped traffic and any mistakes, 60-odd seconds could disappear in the blink of an eye. Wakeley was happy to sit on and race for the last lap, while a bigger chase group that would eventually collect Langley and Olshove was headed up by the Master’s podium fight, including John Duby, Kris Sands, Rob Goepfrich, and Scott Diment.

On the women’s side, Susan Vigland easily stayed perfect with a fourth straight win, putting in a few minutes early and holding the gap for the full 90 minutes. Chelsey Schlict put in some rock-solid lap times for second, while women’s master’s leader, Cindy Duby, also stayed perfect, riding away meter by meter from Amelia Hasenohrl and Kamie Wade.

Sunset never quite got back into the hunt for the race win, and with a move with a half a lap to go, Wakeley survived the lapped traffic pitfalls to take his second win of the Series out of two starts. Wetherald came home second with Sunset third, enough for the pair to stay comfortably first and second in the final Series tally.

Paul Olson won the men’s master’s, but it was John Duby who claimed the Series after riding with metronome-like consistency since things started way back in January at Fat Chance. Cindy’s perfect season means the Duby mantle must be getting a bit crowded with medals and trophies early in 2019!

We had an absolute blast really taking on Beard of Zeus, and event we’re happy to add to our ever-expanding calendar of races and rides that covers every season. Of course, we couldn’t done it without the dozens of volunteers that manned the registration table, marshaled all afternoon, helped with parking, and contributed to make this one of the most enjoyable fat bike events of the winter! And you can feel good about being there; 100% of proceeds from BoZ go straight to NMMBA, helping us bring you the best grooming, new trails, and advocating for our sport around the region and across the state.

A big thanks to Short’s Brewing, Einstein Cycles, Bearclaw Bicycle Co., 45NRTH, Velocity, State Farm Insurance Agency, Paddles and Pedals of Bellaire, Timber Ridge, and all the folks who helped to bring this together. A very special thanks to the guys at up.bike, who turned their hand to designing some very unique medals at Fat Chance and Series trophies for us, both times on short notice!

Make sure you head over to check out the full race results and take just a second to congratulate a racer for their hardwork. We had a great experience with our old friend Jason Whittaker on hand running the timing, and it’s always a pleasure to have accurate results in hand the second the last rider rolls through.