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Chain Drive Retires After 20 Years

Author: From the Keweenaw Chain Drive website
February 14, 2015
mountain | race

After 20 years of drawing mountain bike riders to the Keweenaw, the Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival organizing committee has decided to retire the event.

“We’ve had a good run,” said co-founder and organizing committee member Dan Dalquist. “We feel the race has had a positive impact on mountain biking’s growth in the area in terms of local riders, the availability of local trails, and the
large number of out of town riders we see here every weekend.”

Organizers say that the growth in the number of races in the Midwest was the primary factor in their decision. Just in the Keweenaw last year, there were four major mountain bike races during the summer.

“On many weekends, you have your choice of multiple races in the U.P., northern and central Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota,” said race director Lori Hauswirth. “Most of our riders come from those areas and they’ve told us that they have had to start making tough decisions about where to race.”

Over its life, the Keweenaw Chain Drive has drawn close to 5,000 riders to the area. Funds from the event have helped to develop and improve area trails as well as provide seed money for land acquisition to preserve access for the future.

- Projects supported by Chain Drive funds over the years include:
- Pilgrim River Watershed land purchase
- Swedetown land purchase
- Construction of Aunt Flo trail at Churning Rapids
- Funding for various projects at Michigan Tech including dirt jumps, pump track, technical time trial loop, and the corkscrew structure
- Pull-behind mower for the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club
- Copper Harbor Trails Club mini-excavator
- Coaching certification for kids ride leaders
- Numerous bridges and boardwalks at Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids
- Many tools and trail supplies

Chain Drive volunteers spend hundreds of hours each year on trail maintenance and have organized and led classes for children (and adults) to get started in the sport.

The Chain Drive organizers say they aren’t going away; they plan to broaden their focus to promoting mountain biking on a more regional basis.

“We plan to continue to meet as a committee, with a renewed focus on trail maintenance and development, and programs to get youth involved in mountain biking” Hauswirth said. “We will also play a key role in Ride the Keweenaw, an event focused on promoting all the area trail systems which takes place Memorial Day weekend.”

Organizers emphasized that all of this progress was made possible by hundreds of volunteers, participants, and also landowners that allow trails and trail development on their property.

“We also want to say a special thanks to UP Health System Portage, our title sponsor for years,” Hauswirth added. “Portage provided a lot of logistical support, since the race finished at their campus. More importantly, they also saw, early on, that events like the Chain Drive help to get both youth and adults outside and maintain a healthy lifestyle.” Although the Chain Drive is no longer there’s still plenty of riding and racing opportunities to be had locally that support ongoing trail efforts including:
Ride the Keweenaw (Memorial Weekend)
Miner’s Revenge (Mid-July)
Great Deer Chase (Mid-August)
Copper Harbor Trails Fest (Labor Day Weekend)

Thanks for the memories!

Anderson Claims Ronde van Skandia in Ace Sweep

September 15, 2013
Author: btk

The U.P. road racing season drew to a close this weekend with the annual running of the Ronde van Skandia. Traditionally the opener to the spring classics season, the race was postponed from its mid-April slot due to a severe, late-season snowstorm. Fortunately for all, the mid-September date bestowed moderate temperatures and sunshine on the peloton, a welcome change from the cold and blustery weather usually encountered in the Ronde.

Most of the usual suspects once again gathered at the Cycling Haus in Skandia for the pre-race festivities. There were, however, several notable absences: the start of bird season, the Cheq 40, and work obligations among the excuses used to dodge the inventible pain and suffering that comes with the Ronde. Nevertheless, there was considerable talent on hand for the race. Chocolay Ace Director Sportif Tom Mahaney was rumored to be in top form and ready to strike. His lieutenants Paul Johnston (defending champion), Derek Anderson (past winner), Mik Kilpela, and Steve Kuhl would sacrifice personal glory for their team leader. Blackrocks was also on hand with several contenders: Topher Chase, Brian Geshel, and first-time Ronde rider Jonathan Harbin. Michigan Tech’s C4 cycling team was present with a trio, including Bill Thomas and Dalton Guggemos. Also making the trip from the Keweenaw were a pair of Red Jackets, Chris Schmidt (runner up in 2012) and Bruce Pletka. The Zueger brothers, racing for D3Devo were expected to be a dominant force in the day’s action. Tyler Jenema, coming off an outstanding mountain bike season, would be closely watched by the Ace riders, as would a number of unknown factors, such as Jamie Smith, who had made long the trip to Marquette from below the Bridge.

Following the leisurely, 20-mile rollout, riders tossed their cold weather gear to the legions of fans who had gathered and prepared themselves for battle. If past editions of the race were any indicator, the attacks would come fast and furious as soon as the starting gun sounded and the neutral pace vehicles pulled away from the field. And so it was in the 2013 contest. No sooner had the race director signaled the start did Ace launch its first attack. Derek Anderson flexed his legs with a move off the front. Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt gave chase, though the pair was soon swallowed by the hungry field, not yet willing concede the race to an Ace rider. Topher Chase (Blackrocks) made the next move. Ace, aware of his danger, allowed him to gain only a minute on the field, keeping him within reach. Surreptitiously, Tom Mahaney rolled off the front and slowly drifted toward Chase. The elder statesman of the field, there was no immediate concern that Mahaney could pose a threat. Yet had the younger racers learned nothing of 41-year-old Chris Horner’s performance in this year’s Vuelta?

Approaching the first serious test of the day, a three-mile dirt climb on loose gravel, the field watched in surprise as Topher Chase turned off course, effectively changing the race dynamics. Would the field wait for Chase to realize his mistake and give him opportunity to regain contact?

The field crested the initial climb largely intact and with only Mahaney off the front. Not until Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt made a move to close to the narrow gap to the leader was the status quo broken. Still, the peloton did not respond. The leading duo conversed at a leisurely pace for the remaining three miles of the initial dirt secteur and, to their suprise, opened a considerable lead. With the field all but out of sight, the leaders decided that either the Ace squad was doing its job and slowing the pace or the Blackrocks riders were doing the same in hopes that Chase would rejoin the party. In any event, opportunity was knocking and the pair put their heads down for what was destined to be a painful afternoon of bicycle racing.

Well matched, the duo alternated turns at the front, breaking the relentless south wind for some 45 miles. Only on the longest of straightaways was there ever a sign of the poursuivants. For Mahaney and Schmidt, the only hope that their break might succeed was if the Ace squad could shut down any attacks from behind. Efforts were made, including serious digs by Logan Zueger, Dalton Guggemos, Jenema and Geshel. The watchful eye of Ace riders Anderson, Kilpela and Kuhl ensured that Mahaney's spot in the break was never endangered.

Climbing the sinuous Engman Lake road, the leaders knew that the wind was playing in their favor. Just one more significant climb, the imposing Mur de Sporely, and a strong southwest wind would blow them all the way to the finish line. As Mahaney and Schmidt cleared the summit and traversed the fan-lined, narrow streets of the K.I. Sawyer Air Base, they prepared for what is so often the deciding element of the Ronde: the Mur. A two mile climb over soft sand and dirt. An incorrect choice of line or failed shift can bring even the strongest rider to a stop. The soft sand makes standing on the steep ramps all but impossible as is restarting once bogged down in the quagmire of shattered dreams that litter the forgotten two-track in the Skandia hinterlands. The duo entered the climb togethe with a gentlemen’s agreement to ride it out together to the end. Midway up, however, Schmidt noticed that the now familiar echo of Mahaney’s well-oiled chain had fainted into the distance. Realizing he had inadvertently (he claims) opened a gap, Schmidt decided to push on and finish the business he hadn’t been able to complete in 2012. Cresting the summit to the chirps of crickets and rustling of leaves, he exited the dirt with no one in sight.

Further back, however, the tides were turning. Ace riders Derek Anderson and Paul Johnston had tested the legs of the peloton and quickly separated themselves from a now-discouraged field. Deciding to assess the situation further up the road, they pressed on with the intent of delivering their team leader, Mahaney, to victory. As they neared the summit, they caught a glimpse of red, though could not be certain if it was the red of Schmidt or of Mahaney. Closing in, they realized it was their D.S., which could only mean that the Ace stranglehold on the Ronde title was in dire risk of being lost. With Mahaney in tow, the pair began the arduous task of removing Schmidt from the head of the race, by whatever means necessary. With less than five miles of road, a 1:30 advantage and a screaming headwind, they had their work cut out for them.

Schmidt, looking over his shoulder in the final miles of the race, could see the writing on the wall. Though the end was so close, he could feel the trio riders in the red and black of the Ace team closing in. Leg tiring and water bottles nearly empty, Schmidt opted to save what energy he had and ride out the remainder of the race with his three rivals and take his slim chances in a sprint.

Prepared for the Ace tactics, the Red Jacket rider sprinted all out as the trio bore upon him in an effort to dispatch him from the lead with no chance of recovery. Burning one his final matches, Schmidt held on for dear life and prepared for the attacks that were sure to follow. And they did. As the quartet crested the final rises before the treacherous, washboard descent towards the finish, Johnston and Anderson took turns accelerating until Schmidt could no longer follow. Anderson reached the bottom of the descent first with a 15 second gap and had a wide open path to his second Ronde win. Behind him, the trio played cat and mouse and battled it out for the remaining spots on the podium. With 200m to go, Johnston opened up the sprint, weaving across the road and turning the final 200m into 400m. With 100m to go, Mahaney came around Schmidt for third, securing another Ace sweep of the Ronde. First-time rider Dalton Guggemos (C4/Michigan Tech) took the field sprint for fifth.

Another Ronde is in the books and the Ace hold on the title continues. Spring will be upon us soon, however. Perhaps 2014 will be the year that Ace falters.

Thanks to Tom and Mary Mahaney for once again hosting the highlight of the U.P. race season.

Commissar report:
Contents of the Blackrocks water bottles were deemed suspicious by race officials. Though results have not yet been returned, initial sampling reveals heavy concentrations of 51K IPA. 200SF fine waived pending delivery of further samples for testing.

Matter, Kylander-Johnson Take 2013 Chain Drive

June 18, 2013
mountain | race

Nearly three hundred racers from across the Midwest poured into the Keweenaw this weekend for the 19th annual Chain Drive Festival and opening of the U.P. mountain bike race season. Competing over distances of 16 and 30 miles, the race always proves to be a true test of skill and endurance, with technical singletrack giving skilled riders an opportunity to shine and wide open sections of two-track a chance for roadies to try and limit the damage.

Thanks to the tireless work of event organizers, the trail was in nearly perfect shape. Just a week before the event, pumps had been dispatched to water-saturated sections of the course to drain puddles and new sections of singletrack laid down to bypass recent logging operations. Mother nature came to the rescue as well with a few sunny days to dry up all but a few mud holes. An early-morning shower on race day left bridges treachuerous and root- and rock-covered sections unpredictable, however. Even so, racers reported near-ideal conditions.

The Winners
Taking his fourth Chain Drive title in as many years in the 30-mile race was Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Jorden Wakely of Grayling, Michigan, competing in his first Chain Drive, notched second place, outpacing Ishpeming rider Tyler Gauthier in the final miles. Chris Peariso, no stranger to Keweenaw racing, took fourth ahead of 17-year-old Pete Karinen of Painesdale.

Among the women, it was Sara Kylander-Johnson who once again climbed to the top of the podium in the long race. With perhaps more first place finishes than any other Chain Drive racer past or present, the Duluth-based racer was able to separate herself from up-and-coming pro Cooper Dendel of Marquette. Finishing third was former champion Diana McFadden of Duluth.

How it Happened:
A select group of five formed in the early miles of the race: eventual winner Brian Matter along with Jorden Wakely, Tyler Gauthier, Chris Peariso and Pete Karinen. As the quintet exited the first long section of singletrack some six miles in, they had already put close to a minute into a determined group of chasers which included a number of powerhouses, including Todd McFadden, Scott Kylander-Johnson, Mike Bushey, Aaron Swanson and Tom Carpenter.

Coming out of Drunken Sailor, the outer-most section of the race, the leaders eased up on the pedals to refuel. Led by Border Grill rider Tyler Gauthier as they crossed Lake Annie field, the racers prepared for the battle that was about to begin in earnest. At the midpoint of the race, a relentless series of climbs and technical descents awaited. Brian Matter, well acquainted with the course, moved to the front as the group of five exited the Christenson Road trailhead. Cresting the first climb less than a mile later, he had only Gauthier in tow, with Jorden Wakely digging deep to get back on. Down for the count were Chris Peariso and Pete Kerinen. By the time they leaders descended and reached the top of the next climb, Wakely had rejoined the pair at the front. Peariso and Karinen, hoping the leaders to relax, pushed the pace as best they could. Though they would never close the gap to the leaders, they came within a minute of them with as little as five miles to go.

Aware of the danger behind them, the leading trio pushed a high pace, Matter making his compatriots suffer time and again. The group crossed Swedetown Creek together with just three miles to go. The long, gradual climb to the finish left nowhere to hide, however, and Matter was able dig deeper than others, finishing half a minute ahead of World Snow Bike Champion Jorden Wakely and more than a minute faster than Gauthier. Peariso and Karinen finished just fifteen seconds apart, nearly three minutes down on the winner.

For Karinen it marked a coming of age. Holding his own in one of his first races among the elite men, Kerinen looked strong to the finish and will be a threat for many years to come - in the Keweenaw and beyond.

Among the women, Sara Kylander-Johnson and Cooper Dendel went mano-a-mano right from the gun. Riding nearly pedal stroke for pedal stroke for the majority of the race, the younger Dendel faltered in the closing miles as the more experienced Kylander-Johnson turned the screws when it mattered most. Though she trailed by just a handful of seconds as the pair crossed Swedetown creek for the first time with five to go, Dendel lost over minute after riding the punishing hills that laced one of the final sections of technical trail. After making the river crossing by foot, Kylander-Johnson took no chances and drove a solid pace to the finish, taking a second minute out of Dendel. Finishing third was another former CD champion, Diana McFadden. Andrea Matter of Sheboygan took fourth place finish and Nicole Alexander of Marquette claimed fifth.

The Chain Drive will be back next year the Saturday before Father's Day. Check out chaindrive.org for the latest information on the race.

Full results at: itiming.com

Race photos: xmatic @ flicker.com and brockit.com

Gauthier, Alexander Claim La Fleche du Nord Titles

May 14, 2013
road | race

Claiming his second victory in the prestigious La Fleche du Nord this weekend was Tyler Gauthier of Ishpeming. Riding for the upstart Border Grill / Quickstop Bike squad of Marquette, Gauthier was able to outpace 2012 champion Paul Johnston (Chocolay Ace) in a three-man sprint on the edge of Copper Harbor. Ryan Tervo (Dorfblick Training Center / Flyer Cycles), saved the Keweenaw’s honor with a strong third place finish.

On the women’s side, it was Nicole Alexander of the Chocolay Ace squad who continued her dominance at the queen of the U.P. classics. Finishing second in her first LFdN was fellow Ace rider Christina Bennett. Third place was awarded to Adina Christian of Marquette.

How it Happened:
On hand for the third edition La Fleche du Nord were over forty elite cyclists from across the Midwest, many of whom braved driving snow and gale-force winds en route to the race. Fortunately, the morning snow squalls had been blown eastward by a strong west wind and gave way to intermittent sunshine by race time. Temperatures, as they have been throughout the classics season in both Europe and the U.P., remained frigid.

With much of the Keweenaw still encased in a covering of snow and ice, race officials had been forced to make considerable modifications to the traditional course earlier in the week, eliminating the mountain-top finish on Brockway Mountain as well as two of the more challenging dirt secteurs: Garden City Road and the Delaware Crosscut, both of which were still under two feet of snow on race day. Nevertheless, race directors dug deep to find roads that were worthy of a classic. The Gratiot River Park secteur included sections of dirt, sand, running water, gravel and snow. Though short in length, the section packed 50 miles of heartache into two short miles and would see more than one rider lose time to a mechanical.

All of the U.P ProTeams were represented: Border Grill, with the bookmakers’ favorite Tyler Gauthier and teammates Danny Hill and Brad Jalonen; Chocolay Ace with the 2012 winner Paul Johnston and teammates Colby Lash, Steve Kuhl, Andy Stevens, Matt Colligan, Dave Grant, Mik Kilpela and peloton patron and Ace D.S. Tom Maheney. The Ace roster also included two of the favorites for the women’s race: two-time champion Nicole Alexander and Christina Bennett. The Red Jacket Cycling Team and LFdN host team was represented by cx standout Kit Cischke, past Ronde van Skandia podium finisher Chris Schmidt, and a well-trained Steve Webber. Though they brought only one rider to the race, Dorfblick Training Center / Flyer Cycles was always a threat, particularly if that one rider was Ryan Tervo. And it was. Leading the Machine Star Factory Team was dark horse Logan Zueger along with father Karl and his younger brother. There were also a number of other riders capable of inflicting pain: Keweenaw native Sam Kilpela, in particular, was a wildcard.

After exchanging pleasantries and fueling up on vitamin B(acon) at the Suomi, the peloton slipped out of the sleeping burgh of Houghton without fanfare. The town, having been emptied of students a week ago, had been transformed into a ghost town. Streets were vacant, sidewalks void of spectators. Had it not been for the whistling wind through the wrought metal grating of the city’s bridge, there would have been no sound at all as the riders embarked on their 70-mile excursion into the deepest bowels of hell.

Though all aspired to victory as the peloton searched for its legs and the embrocation began to work its magic in the early miles of the contest, there could be but one champion. Like an obscene Rube Goldberg contraption, with cyclists as the centerpiece, there was no stopping the inevitable, cataclysmic course of events that would lead the riders to the finish. Destiny, fate and luck would all play a role for each of the competitors along the hazard-ridden parcours. It would be the rider who cleared the dirt secteurs without puncture, who could both feign and endure pain, and who had the extra dose of speed, power and endurance when it mattered who would be the victor.

Cresting the end of the first dirt section and the end of the neutral zone, most of the riders made the customary stop to remove extra layers of clothing, burrow into back pockets for packets of energy – in numerous forms. Unaware of what was happening behind them, however, a few riders carried on past the designated stopping point and on towards the finish. Those who had stopped were equally unaware that riders had carried on. It was not until the group resumed the race that it became apparent that racers were missing. It was fuel on the fire, and the main group set off in chase.

The offical support vehicle was informed of the transgression via race radio and motored up the road in search of the missing riders. The duo of Matt Colligan and Logan Zueger were eventually found, and they were requested to wait for the peloton. The strong northwest wind that bore upon the pair on the exposed Lake Superior shoreline, however, drove them to continue onward to the finish line. In a decision reminiscent of the 2008 Paris Roubaix, which saw Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan, and Juan Antonio Flecha relegated for having failed to stop at a railway crossing, LFdN commissaires were similarly forced to relegate the renegade riders, though the decision was not an easy one: fellow racers, spectators, friends and family had waited with anticipation to see how the young Logan Zueger would fare against the top cyclists in the U.P.

Reports gathered from undisclosed sources indicate, however, that the U.P.’s aging peloton is for a lashing when Zueger finally gets his chance. Matt Colligan (Ace), in top form following a week of intense training in the North Carolina mountains, was reported to have faltered numerous times as Zueger effortlessly pedaled up the Keweenaw’s countless ramps. Not yet willing to crush his mentor’s spirit, Zueger repeatedly fell back and coaxed the aging rider on. At the finish line in Copper Harbor, Colligan was spared the agony of finishing second to a rider one third his age by an unfortunate mis-shift suffered by Logan on the final rise before the finish. Riders of the U.P. be warned: the tables will soon be turning.

Though unaware that they would be racing for the win, the peloton was burning up the miles further down the Keweenaw in search of the apparent leaders. A number of other riders who had neglected to stop following the neutral rollout were gradually reeled in and again ejected out the rear.

The dirt secteurs claimed their victims as well, with Black Rocks favorite Brian Geshel losing a chance to lay claim to the title with a puncture. Tyler Gauthier lost one of his key lieutenants, Danny Hill, who suffered a pair of flats.

Eventually, an elite group formed at the front, with Tyler Gauthier, Paul Johnston, Ryan Tervo, and Colby Lash leading the way. In the end, Gauthier outpaced Johnston for the win. Tervo fended off the advances made by Colby Lash and held on for third.

Not long after the remnants of the men’s peloton crossed the finish line, Nicole Alexander (Ace) finished as the first woman. Christina Bennett and Adina Christian followed shortly thereafter.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to help make the race happen and to the Bike Shop and Mariner for hosting us at the start and finish. Thank you as well to everyone who came out to race!

Photos: thanks to Adam Grififs

Great Bear Chase Snow Bike Tiltes to Jason Vayre, Kathy Abbott

March 15, 2013
bike | race | snow bike

Jason Vayre of Marquette turned in a stellar performance at the second annual Great Bear Chase snow bike race, finishing nearly two minutes over the always-dangerous Pete Karinen of Atlantic Mine. Hot on Karinen's heels was Greg Steltenpohl of Marquette (Ace).

The women's title went to Kathy Abbott, who finished the 25k race nearly 10 minutes faster than her daughter, Kate. Third place went to former Keweenaw resident Laurie Woodbury.

Thirty racers took part in the event. Despite several inches of snowfall the previous night, the course was firm at the start continued to solidfy as the racers packed down the snow with their ultra-wide, ultra-low-pressure tires.

Thanks to the Great Deer Chase committee and Pat Szubielak for a great race.

Results are now posted: BearChaseSnowBike2013.pdf

UP PANORMA http://www.uppanorama.com/bearchase/
Christina Merrill: https://www.facebook.com/

Photo courtesy of UPPANORAMA

Gauthier, Abbott Take MTU Winter Ronde

February 12, 2013
bike | race | snow bike

Tyler Gauthier, riding for Culver's Cycling, put the pressure on early in the second annual MTU Winter Ronde, opening a gap that would never be closed. A pair of Blackrocks riders, Evan Simula and Brian Geshel, worked hard to reel in the season professional, but it quickly became apparent they were racing for second.

Kathy Abbott of Atlantic Mine edged Amy Michaels of Marquette for the women's title. Marion Johnson of Ishpeming rounded out the podium.

The MTU Winter Rondevous, a fund raiser for the Michigan Tech Nordic ski team, attracted nearly 20 riders from across the U.P. Though "only" 17 kilometers in length, the hilly terrain and mixture of hard-packed ski trails and softer single track made for a challenging race that left no one asking for more.

Results are now posted: 2013_Winter_Ronde_Results_Overall.pdf

Chris Schmidt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/
Christina Merrill: https://www.facebook.com/

Podium photo courtesy of Christina Merrill.

Fat bike racing continues in the Keweenaw on March 10 with the Great Bear Chase snow bike race. 25k of good times! Visit the Great Bear Chase website for more info.

Sherman Cross '12: Return to Thunderdome

September 17, 2012
cross | race

“I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any.”
- Dr. Dealgood, Return to Thunderdome

The Romans had the Colosseum, the post-apocalyptic world will have Thunderdome. The Keweenaw has Michigan Tech’s Sherman Field: a fortified structure of steel and concrete encompassing a field of skin-stripping synthetic grass, where armies of men wage battle over an oblong ball to the cheers and jeers of bloodthirsty spectators during the autumn. With the football team competing elsewhere and the last of the local lions defeated by local gladiators, cyclists were enticed to compete in the stadium under the ruse of athleticism this Saturday in what was christened the opening race of the 2012 UPCROSS Cyclocross Series. Little did the riders know that they would be racing on a course engineered to slowly fatigue the competitors to near exhaustion over a 30- to 45-minute period to the howling delight of bell-banging hecklers and hooligans.

Some 45 willing participants assembled under the setting sun to partake in the spectacle. Race director Ian Marks and chief of stadium Ryan Tervo had laid out a highly technical course on a space small enough that all of the carnage could be comfortably witnessed from the grassy sidelines yet large enough that lap times were in excess of six minutes. With no fewer than six barriers, gravel, soul-sucking artificial turf, countless off-camber turns and harrowing descents intermixed with wide-open pavement, racers would need to be all-rounders to do well.

In the first of the evening’s contests, Melanie Watkins (Red Jackets) took the gold in the women’s B race, outriding Terra McKinney and Kora Graci. The men’s C race, which saw a number of first-time cyclocrossers, was taken by Michigan Tech Nordic skier Matt Wong, edging teammate Luke Geisor. Third went to Doug Campbell.

In the men’s B race, the 2011 UPCROSS series runner-up Andrew Rickauer continued his winning ways, beating first-time cyclocrosser Kris Bunker of Hancock. James Bialas, riding for Houghton’s Red Jacket squad, rounded out the podium.

Reigning UPCROSS series champion Nicole Alexander of the Chocolay Ace team took top honors in the women’s A race, holding off Lianna Miller, who recently relocated to Houghton from Colorado and who is expected to be a factor this season. Melanie Watkins, following her win in the B race earlier in the evening, rode away with the bronze in the A race against some stiff competition.

Though there were several notable absences in the men’s A race due to a conflict with the Chequamegon Fat Tire and alleged hair washing (you know who you are), the field of 16 cyclists who gathered in the stadium shadows for the start were all up for the challenge. Elite junior mountain biker Pete Karinen (16, of Painesdale) wasted no time in cracking the contest wide open by taking the hole shot and riding clear of his competition with a bunny hop over the first barrier. Karinen, representing the Culver’s Cycling Team, never looked back. His technical prowess on the barriers and strength on the hill climb left no doubt that a changing of the guard on the UPCROSS circuit is imminent. Last year’s series champion Ryan Tervo (Dorfblick / Flyer Cycles) put up a solid fight, however, and claimed second. Brian Geshel (Blackrocks) took the best A-race finish of his cx career with third. Blu Tenbrink, a former UPCROSS champion competing in his first cx race in years, returned to the peloton in solid form and notched a fourth place finish.

The UPCROSS Series is off next week to give racers opportunity to compete in the USGP of CX in Madison but returns with a double header September 29 and 30 in Negaunee with Iron Cross.

Results: now posted

Chris Schmidt / Eric Ollis


Details on Sherman Cross and other cyclocross events across the U.P. at upcross.net.

Perfect Ronde for Culver's Cycling

Author: btk
August 27, 2012
mountain | race

Houghton, MI
Tyler Gauthier of Ishpeming and Cooper Dendel of Marquette captured the men's and women's editions of the 2012 Michigan Tech MTB Rondevous this weekend. Contested on the hilly and technical Michigan Tech Trails under hot and humid conditions, there was no place to hide. Downhills taxed nerves, uphills seared the lungs and the wide open fields in the lower reaches captured the sun's midday rays like a giant solar collector, delivering it's payload of photons onto the lycra clad bodies of the two-wheeled competitors.

An elite selection of three went clear early in the first of the two 12-mile laps. Pete Karinen (Atlantic Mine) set pace for fellow Culver's rider and team captian Tyler Gauthier. Also in the mix was defending champion Tom Carpenter of Marquette. The deck was shuffled several times before Gauthier made his move and set off for victory on his own early in second lap. Riding solo, Gauthier put over four minutes on his nearest competitor, Pete Karinen. Tom Carpenter finished third, just over three minutes down on Karinen. Jeff Squires, riding singlespeed, took fourth and is sure to be a factor in the singlespeed divison of this weekend's Bells's Beer Copper Harbor Trails Festival.

In the one-lap 12-mile race, it was Red Jacket rider Tim Kostner of Dodgeville who took the win. Michael Brothers of Houghton took second with Ken Wikgren rounding out the podium. Cooper Dendel of Marquette, riding for Culver's Cycling, made it 2 for 2 after her win in the Great Deer Chase with another victory. Second place in the women's division went to Kate Waring.

Racing continues in the Keweenaw for the third week in a row with the Bell's Beer Copper Harbor Mountain Trails Festival this Sunday. The grand finale of the mountain bike season for riders far and wide, the event is a high point and, sadly unofficial end, to summer. Fortunately, there's still plenty of riding to be had before the snow flies.

Results: 12-mile race
Results: 24-mile race
Photos: by xmatic

Tom Carpenter, Cooper Dendel Take Deer Chase

Author: btk
August 19, 2012
mountain | race

Calumet, MI
Over 140 racers from across the Midwest lined up on Saturday for Calumet's Great Deer Chase mountain bike race. The race, which features one-lap 15- and 27-mile distances, showcases the extensive Swedetown trail system. Recent rainfall combined with cool temps and partly cloudy skies made for perfect racing conditions.

Taking top honors in the men's 27-mile race was Tom Carpenter (Marquette), who edged John Cowan (Petoskey) in a photofinish sprint. For Carpenter, the victory was particularly sweet after a shifting problem in the 2011 edition of the race cost him a place among the leaders in the closing miles. Rounding out the podium in the men's division was Colby Lash - shown in photo - (Marquette). In the women's long race, Cooper Dendel (Marquette) put over 8 minutes on her nearest competitor, Meilissa Marby (Westland, MI) for the win. Adina Christian (Marquette) finished third.

In the short race, Todd Tollefson (Lanse) outpaced Evandro Ficanha (Houghton) by 20 seconds for the win. Tim Corrigan crossed the line a minute later for third. In the women's race, Marika Abbott (14, of Atlantic Mine) - sure to be a force in years to come - beat her mother, Kathy Abbott, to the finish by half a minute for the win. Christina Smigowski joined the mother-daughter pair on the podium in third place.

The long version of the Great Deer Chase also serves as the unofficial U.P. World Single Speed Championships. The first 20 miles were a tight battle between Chris Schmidt (Houghton) and Curt Klein (Washburn, WI), the pair going back an forth several times in the first miles. Klein suffered a puncture for the second year in a row, however, and Schmidt took the win. Jermey Pletka (Marquette) rode in for second, followed by Bob Carpetner (Lanse). Lori Violetta (Marquette) was crowned female U.P. Single Speed Champion. Valerie Foley (Rhinelander, WI) followed in second.

A big thank you to Marc Norton for again organizing a great event and the countless volunteers and numerous sponsors who helped make the event happen.

Full results: Superor Timing
Photos: by Adam Griffis

Johnston Claims La Flèche du Nord

Author: btk
May 6, 2012

Paul Johnston of the Marquette-based Chocolay-Ace squad claimed victory in this weekend's grueling La Fleche du Nord, a 100 km battle contested over the bone-jarring roads of gravel, sand and pavement chiseled into the rocky spine of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, the Ardennes of the Midwest. This year's highly tactical edition, was highlighted by Tom Carpenter's (29er Crew) 60k breakaway, a solo effort that was shut down just 20k from the finish.

Teams and independent riders from across the region were on hand for the second running of the event, one the Upper Peninsula's two spring cycling classics. Held in the tradition of the European classics, event organizers made no effort to hide that fact that the roads would be rough and unforgiving as the cobbled fieldpaths of Belgium. Punctures were highly likely, to say nothing of the dozens of other flavors of misfortune possible along the route. The winner would need to climb like a goat, descend like the wind, and have a bit of luck on his side.

How it happened
Though turnout was down slightly from last year, the caliber of racers was as high as ever. Members of Houghton's Red Jacket Cycling Team were eager to claim the title: designated team leader Justin Weber and his lieutenants Chris Schmidt and Dan Motowski were up for the task. The father-son duo of Tom and Bob Carpenter was also a force to be reckoned with. And, of course, so too was the dominant Chocloay-Ace squad – though the Marquette-based team saw its chances of victory nearly derailed even before the start: hoards of angry Yooper secessionists used La Fleche as their stage to bring attention to their demands for statehood for Michigan's Upper Peninsula, blocking highways and byways with SnowGos and plow trucks and bringing traffic into Houghton to a standstill in the process and nearly causing members of the Ace squad to miss the start. Only after declaring themselves ardent supporters of the cause were the cyclists granted passage. Leading the Ace squad was Ronde van Skandia winner Paul Johnston, though any of a half dozen of his teammates were capable of carrying the torch should Little Jens falter on his attempt for back-to-back wins: Dave Grant, Steve Kuhl, Andy Stevens, Mik Kilpela and D.S. Tom Maheney. Dark horses Tony Schwenn, Chris Marr and Bill Gale were unknowns and would remain under the watchful eye of the peloton.

Just after 10a.m., under cloudy skies and a strong east wind, the motley group of riders departed Houghton to the delight of at least one onlooker and suspicion of several others. The traditional 15k neutral rollout gave competitors ample opportunity to boast about how little they had been training. Others used the rollout as a chance for a leisurely prerace puncture, hoping to thereby appease the god flat tires.

With the sounding of the gun, the pace accelerated to over 80km/h on the Tamarack Waterworks descent towards the frigid shores of Lake Superior. The 200m of climbing that awaited sent a brief calm over the field as riders waited to see who would launch the first attack. Eagar and motivated following a frustrating Ronde van Skandia, Tom Carpenter moved to the front and drove the pace, quickly stringing out the field and unhinging the first few riders from the peloton. Sections of the steady, five-mile climb were lined with motorhomes and onlookers, some of whom had claimed their viewing point days – if not years – in advance. The relentless pitch combined with the recently graded gravel surface forced riders into contorted positions to retain traction over much of the climb.

As the cyclists crested the Bumbletown summit, word came over race radio that the ensuing descent was extremely dangerous and riders were advised to ride within their ability. For Tom "The Falcon" Carpenter – a mountain-bike specialist – the news was an invitation to ride without abandon. Sensing opportunity, Carpenter guided his two-wheeled steed over the loose gravel, floating gracefully around the corners as those behind him struggled to remain upright. By the time he reached the sandy and equally perilous valley floor, Carpenter had opened a sizable gap, with Mik Kilpela and Chris Schmidt hot on his trail. A quartet of Ace and Red Jacket riders followed a few seconds back. Paul Johnston suffered misfortune on the soft surface, crashing and filling his jersey and shorts with sand in a dramatic fall. By the time the riders exited the most challenging of the day's five dirt secteurs, a selection had been made: four Ace riders (Grant, Kuhl, Stevens, Kilpela), a pair of Red Jackets (Weber, Schmidt) and Tom Carpenter had ridden clear of the now-shattered field. As Paul Johnston worked to regain contact with the leaders and shed his shorts of excess ballast, Carpenter sensed opportunity and launched a courageous attack 70km from the finish. The pair of Red Jacket riders briefly debated launching a counterattack as the Ace riders waited for Johnston, but the window closed when the Ace rider rejoined the group.

Agreeing to cooperate, the Ace and Red Jacket riders worked together, aiming to keep a determined Tom Carpenter within sight and let him wear himself down in advance of the coming climbs. The experienced Carpenter used the curves and hills of Five Mile Point Road to his full advantage, however, accelerating once out of sight and opening a dangerous gap.

The seven riders who trailed the break continued to take turns at the front over the hilly Garden City secteur. Descending into Eagle Harbor, they learned that Carpenter had extended his lead to over 90 seconds. Time was quickly running out for the poursuivants. Suspicion arose in the group: had the Red Jackets conspired with Tom Carpenter to ensure that victory went to anyone but an Ace rider?

With just 30k remaining and only one long climb to be ridden before the devastating Brockway Mountain finish, a trio of Ace riders upped the pace (Kuhl, Grant, Johnston). Behind, the Red Jacket duo of Schmidt and Weber were gapped, as were Kilpela and Stevens of the Ace squad. Near the base of the climb, Andy Stevens suffered a flat, destroying his chance of victory. Ahead, Schmidt – with Kilpela not far behind – dug deep and worked to bring the trio back into range. Taking no prisoners, the leading trio accelerated as he approached, leaving Schmidt an even deeper hole to dig himself out of. Slowly but surely, he again narrowed the gap, coming to within mere feet of the leaders. Then, as is so often the case in cycling – the cruelest of sports – the Red Jacket rider saw his dreams of La Fleche glory come to an end as misfortune struck him as well in the form of a puncture. Towards the front, as the race neared its exciting denouement, Tom Carpenter's lead melted away and a quartet formed from which the winner would emerge.

The leaders, three Ace riders and Tom Carpenter, worked together and maintained a solid gap over Kilpela and Weber, each of whom now cycled towards the finish in Copper Harbor on their own. At the base of the hors category Brockway Mountain climb, which would see riders climbing 200m over 2k, the quartet knew that it was now every man for himself. With gradients of nearly 20% on two separate sections of the climb, there was little a rider could do for his teammates. On the first of the steep pitches, Steve Kuhl and Dave Grant were both forced from their bikes by debilitating cramps. Screams of agony followed the two leaders, Johnston and Carpenter, up the mountain as the pair fought their way to the finish. In the end, Johnston was able to separate himself from Carpenter to take the win in one of the toughest days of cycling anywhere. With his victory, Johnston's secures his place in U.P. Cycling lore as the first rider to claim both of the U.P. Spring Classics.

Thank you to race photographer Adam Griffis for capturing the day, the Red Jacket Cycling Team, The Bike Shop of Houghton for the use of the shop for registration, Cross Country Sports and Downwind Sports and the Mariner North in Copper Harbor for accomodating our group. Thank you as well to everyone who took part and to Jan Haase and crew on the Bumbletown hill for supplying water to the racers.

Race photos: http://www.adampgriffis.com/Events/2012-Fleche-du-Nord/

La Flèche du Nord on for May 5, 2012

Author: btk
March 25, 2012
road | race

BikeTheKeweenaw.com, with support from the Red Jacket Cycling Team, is proud to present the second annual La Flèche du Nord, an informal but high-paced training ride in the tradition of the Belgian spring classics on May 5, 2012. Starting in Houghton and finishing on top of Brockway Mountain, the 75-mile route will take riders over some of the toughest terrain the Keweenaw has to offer. A ride unlike any other, La Flèche features six sections of dirt that account for nearly half of the total distance and will give riders the opportunity to see the Keweenaw from an entirely new perspective. Though not a race, the event will be anything but a leisurely tour to the top of the peninsula.

In last year's edition of the event, the gravel sections of the route were found to be rideable on standard (22-25c) road tires. A few flats did occur, so riders are advised to be prepared and carry a tube (or two) and a pump. For gearing, 39x25 (minimum) or a compact or triple crank are advised for those not wanting to walk the 20% pitches that await riders on Brockway Mountain and several other short, steep sections. With the recent warm temperatures, snow is not expected to be an issue in the 2012 edition of the event.

The course will be marked, and riders will be given a cue sheet and map at the start.

A post-ride fest is planned in Copper Harbor; orgainzers are working out the details.

As this is a one way ride, riders will be responsible for organizing return transport from Copper Harbor to Houghton. A limited number of seats will be available for those unable to secure return transport. Please send a note to cts@bikethekeweenaw.com by May 2 if in need of a ride. If planning on riding, please either send a note or rsvp on the LFdN Facebook page.

No entry fee, no support, no feed zones, no aid stations, no prizes, no glory. Just old-fashioned pain and suffering.

May 5, 2012
9:00a.m.: Rider sign-in at The Bike Shop of Houghton
10:00a.m.: Unofficial start (rollout through Houghton and Hancock)
10:15a.m.: Regroup at Hancock Beach
2:00p.m.: First riders expected on Brockway Mountain

GBC Snow Bike Race / Midwest Snow Bike Championships Recap

Author: btk
March 15, 2012
snowbike | race

With temperatures perhaps more fitting for Calumet's Great Deer Chase mountain bike race than a snow bike race, some 25 cyclists from across the Midwest lined up at Swedetown trails last Saturday for the first running of the Great Bear Chase snow bike race and Midwest Snow Bike Championships presented by the Red Jacket Cycling Team of Houghton. Whether or not the deep snow pack, still firm from the previous day's ski marathon, which had been contested on the same course, could withstand the intense sunshine and rising temps (as high as 55F) for the duration of the event was a cause of concern for racers, many adjusting tire pressure to gain any possible edge over the competition in the unique conditions. How the day would unfold over 25k was anyone's guess, as the one-lap course alternated between the relative shade of baren forests and and wide-open fields.

At 10a.m. sharp, racers rolled out of the stadium under intense media presence. Race favorite Mike Brunett set a blazing tempo as the pack shot up and out of the stadium area, immediately stringing the field into a thin line. Only Brad Jalonen was able to hold Brunett's wheel as the leader crested the first rise. Behind them, Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt dug deep to maintain contact. Close behind, Ishpeming's Danny Hill (Culver's), Bob Carpenter of Lanse and Steve Webber (Red Jacket / Houghton) followed in hot pursuit.

Their lead established, the Brunett/Jalonen duo let up on the throttle slightly. Schmidt, sensing opportunity, burned most of his remaining matches to bridge the gap, leaving Webber and Carpenter behind to chase on their own. The trio now that now formed at the head of the race worked well together, further strengthening their lead over the decimated field that trailed behind them. As the kilometers clicked by, however, Jalonen and Schmidt prepared for the inevitable, dream-shattering attack that was certain to come from Brunett. And come it did: with just under five kilometers remaining, Brunett launched the decisive move on what he had thought was the final hill. Unfortunately, there was not one hill remaining, but several. Jalonen, working a steady pace, was nearly able to reel in the leader before the finishing descent into the stadium. In the end, however, Brunett commanded a 20 second lead over his nearest rival, Brad Jalonen. Schmidt, who had been left in a flurry of snow when the hammer dropped, rode out the race at his own pace and managed to hold on for third. Bob Carpenter crossed the line fourth and Danny Hill rounded out the top five.

The sole woman contesting the Midwest Championship was Kathy Abbott of Atlantic Mine. Though an expert mountain biker, the Great Bear Chase snow bike race was Abbott's first competition on a snow bike and only second ride on a snow bike. In spite of her relative inexperience in the discipline, her performance in the race left no doubt that she is a worthy Midwest Snow Bike Champion.

In the shorter 10k race, a trio of Marquette area women battled it out for top honors. Claiming the first place medal was Kristi Brunett, followed by Janet Koistenen and Melinda Mozader.

Event organizers are confident the race has potential to grow into a mainstay of the U.P. and Midwest snow biking race schedule. Stay tuned for information on next year's race.

Event organizers would like to thank the Copper Island Cross Country Ski Club and Great Bear Chase race committee for supporting the event, cold-weather riding specialists 45NRTH for donating gear and posters as prizes, Pat Szubielak, and Cross Country Sports of Calumet and the Bike Shop of Houghton.

Race photos: by Adam Griffis
Full results

Pete and Nina Karinen Top Cyclotron Podiums

Author: btk
March 03, 2012
snowbike | race

Snow bikers from across the region congregated on 5th Street in Calumet for the inaugural running of the Red Jacket Cyclotron on Saturday. The Calumet Snowdrome, prepared to perfection for the Friday night start of the Copper Dog 150 dogsled race, featured two long straightaways – one, an elevated snow road, the other a snow-covered stretch of ice-encased cobbles – and two 180 degree turns, each demanding expert bike handling skills and nerves of steel. The previous day's warm temperatures combined with the 18+ inches of wet snow that had fallen earlier in the week to form a rock-solid base for the snow portion race course. As weather in the U.P. is known to do, however, the one to three inches of snow forecast for the area the previous day turned into 10"+ for Calumet and a winter storm warning for Marquette. Thus, in a twist of irony, the legions of snow bikers from Marquette who had planned to compete, were forced to retreat to safe harbor on account of the impassible roads in the Marquette highlands, thinning the number of participants somewhat, but not the high level of athletic prowess demanded of the competitors who rose to the challenge.

Three races were held over the course of the day. The first, a straight-up criterium, saw racers competing for fifteen minutes plus one lap. Pete Karinen (Culver's Cycling / Atlantic Mine) was able to open an early gap on his fellow A-race competitors. Teammate Eric Ollis of Houghton nipped at his heels for the duration of the event, but was never able to regain contact. Brian Geshel, the sole rider from Marquette, rounded out the top three. In the men's B-class, James Bialas (Red Jackets / Askel) battled with Bob Carpenter (Lanse) for top honors in the snow crit, with the younger Bialas holding on for the win. Third place went to Pat Szubielak of Calumet. Dominating the women's field was Nina Kerinen of Atlantic Mine.

Following a brief break for course prep on account of intense snowfall, racers rolled down to the far end of the race course for the sprint races which saw racers go head to head on a 500m straightaway. In a game of cat and mouse, Pete Karinen lulled Ollis into complacency before throwing down the hammer, leaving Ollis in a wake of blowing snow and shattered dreams. Ollis was able to fend off a fast approaching Geshel, however, for second. Nina Karinen, who raced with the men's B group, led not only the women's field, but also outpaced all of the men's B riders for the sprint win. In the B race, it was Szubielak narrowly outpacing Bialas, with Bob Carpenter claiming third.

Racing concluded with a 2-person exhibition relay, each team completing a total of 4 laps. With the intensifying snow, driving wind and falling temperatures, racers were transformed into anonymous figures waging battle against the elements as much as each other.

In the final standings, it was Pete Karinen who claimed the overall title in the men's A race. Eric Ollis and Brian Geshel rounded out the top three. Nina Karinen was crowned female champion of the 2012 Cyclotron. In the men's B race, James Bialas, Bob Carpenter and Pat Szubielak took top honors.

As snow biking grows in popularity, the Red Jacket Cyclotron is certain to grow as well. The event offers a unique opportunity to compete in a series of high-paced criterium events over the course of a few hours in the historic and welcoming surroundings of downtown Calumet. Race organizers are looking ahead to 2013. And, though they welcome the snow, they hope that it will hold back a bit on Cyclotron day next year.

Organizers would like to thank the CopperDog 150 race committee and Main Street Calumet for making the event possible. The race would also not have been possible without the support of numerous area business and organizations, including the Michigan House and Red Jacket Brewery, Cross Country Sports, Tony's Country Kitchen, Cafe Rosseta, EarthWise, Bohemia Printing, 5th and Elm Coffee House, Downwind Sports, The Bike Shop, Aspirus Keweenaw, Red Jacket Cycling Team, Todd Van Dyke and The WOLV radio, photography by Adam Griffis and Bill Fink, Andrew Hanson of Marquette for the some truly amazing awards, and Bike the Keweenaw. Special thanks as well to the volunteers who braved the elements: Tim Kostner, Kit Cischke, Rick Vendlinski, Mike and Kathy Abbott, Pat Szubielak, Bill Marlor, and Cynthia MacDonald. Thanks, too, to the racers!

Snow bike racing continues in the Keweenaw March 11 with the Great Bear Chase Snow Bike Race and Midwest Snow Bike Championships.

Race photos: by Adam Griffis

All Systems Go for the Red Jacket Cyclotron

Author: btk
March 02, 2012
snowbike | race

With two storms in the past five days followed by moderate temperatures, the Calumet Snowdrome on 5th Street is sure to be in top shape for the inaugural running of the Red Jacket Cyclotron this Saturday. Racers from across the U.P. and northern Wiscosin will be in town to battle it out for top honors in one of the most unqiue fat bike events anywhere.

A total of nine races in four classes will be contested over three hours beginning at 11a.m. Events include action-packed criteriums for the endurance racers and high-speed sprints for the power riders. Mountain bikers can have a go on the course as well in the Atomshasher Snow Crit.

The day doesn't end with the Cyclotron, however. Snow bike riders are invited to pre-ride the course of next weekend's 25k Great Bear Chase Snow Bike Race in a group ride, which will be leaving from Cross Country Sports in Calumet at 3:30pm.

Merchants up and down Fifth Street and around Calumet will be offering special deals and products throughout the day. Keep your eyes open for flyers with all of the deals and special coupons. And be sure to hit The Michigan House and Red Jacket Brewery afterwards for a Moonlander Ale, brewed special for the Cyclotron!

Brunnet, Johnson Claim First Low Pressure Loppet

Author: btk
February 06, 2012
snowbike | race

Some 24 snow bikers from across the Midwest lined up for the inaugural running of the Low Pressure Loppet this weekend on the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton. The 15k course, a serpentine maze of hardpacked snow over undulating terrain tested both courage and skill on icy descents and stamina on relentless climbs.

Mike Brunet cracked the race open on the opening descent, which saw racers reach speeds nearing 40mph. Eric Ollis, a new signee to the Culver's Racing Team out of Ishpeming, took over at the front and opened a solid gap only to be befallen by shifting problems midway through the race. Pete Karinen, another new addition to the Culver's squad, made his way past Ollis as the race climbed towards the finish.

Top honors in the Keweenaw's first ever snow bike race went to Brunet, who crossed the line in 42:06. Only Steve Kuhl, who took the win in the 15k Copper Loppet ski race earlier in the day, turned in a faster time over the course (41:20). Second place went to 15-year-old Pete Karinen of Atlantic Mine (43:10). Rounding out the podium in the men's class was Eric Ollis of Houghton (43:48). Other notable finishes include Blu Tenbrink of Marquette (4th, 46:45), who saw his first race action in nearly two years. Evan Simula, coming off a second place finish at the World Championship snowbike race in Marquette the previous week, claimed fifth (46:58).

Top spots in the women's division went to Jackie Johonson of Hancock (1:13:00), followed by Marion Johnson of Ishpeming (1:13:20).

Full results at: www.keweenawnordicfest.com

Race photos: xmatic.smugmug.com/keweenaw-nordic-festival
and plus.google.com/photos/

Snow bike racing in the Keweenaw continues Feb. 25 in Copper Harbor at the Tri Winter Cup, organized by the Copper Harbor Trail Club, followed by the Red Jacket Cyclotron on March 3 and the Midwest Snow Bike Championships on March 11.

Tyler Gauthier, Nicole Alexander Claim the Cup

Author: btk
October 18, 2011
race | cyclocross

The Red Jacket Cycling Team of Houghton played host to the Keweenaw Cup for the fourth time this weekend, with over 50 racers testing their skill and stamina on a pair of gut-wrenching, brain-rattling and lung-searing courses over two days. In addition to the normal challenges one faces in 'cross, both races were held under gale force winds. Though the normally ubiquitous yellow caution tape was mostly absent as a result, barriers, a sand pit, run-up and plenty of flags left no doubt that cyclocross racing had returned to Copper Harbor. The race marked the fourth and fifth stops on the seven-race UPCROSS series presented by Blackrocks Brewery of Marquette.

Race number one of the two-race series – the Downtown Hoedown – was contested in Copper Harbor under the deafening roar of surf battering the ancient Lake Superior coastline. Under normal conditions, the dead-flat terrain would have been rocket fast. Largely exposed, however, the course forced riders to wage battle against the wind across a barren field. Under the watchful eyes of a pack of ravenous otters, racers made their way around a pond before eventually gaining shelter from the relentless gales at the edge of a forest. Then, coming off a stretch of pavement at full-speed, a double sand-pit with barrier broke the rhythm. Spectators in the pit zone were treated to a chicane and double barrier before competitors were jetisoned from the stadium area on a short stretch of singletrack with the wind at their backs.

In the first race of the day – men's C – Andy Perry was first to cross the line, making him the man to beat for overall points for the weekend. Mike Brokenshire of Troy, MI notched a second place finish and Red Jacket rider Bruce Pletka claimed third.

In the women's B race on Saturday, Melanie Watkins – competing in her first race as a Red Jacket – took the win. Amanda Groscost, who entered the weekend with a firm hold on the women's B class in the UPCROSS series, finished second with Tara Laase McKinney. hot on her heels.

Riding his snow bike, Matt Belic had a clear advantage in the sand pit, his ultra-wide tires able to float over the sand. Ian Marks of Houghton worked hard to maintain contact, but came up short and finished a strong second. Not far behind was Andrew Rickhauer, who ended the day in third place in the men's B division.

Nicole Alexander (Ace) took her third win of the season, outpacing Christina Bennett (Ace) and Amy Michaels (unattached) in the women's A contest. Alexander's first place finish further extended her already healthy lead in the overall UPCROSS standings, though the tenacious Bennett is never to be underestimated.

Forced to start in the second row for lack of a call-up, Tyler Gauthier of Culver's Racing wasted no time in moving through the ranks in the A race. As his competition struggled to keep their bikes upright, Gauthier sliced through wind, quickly establishing a sizable lead, only Tyler Jenema (Mafia) able to hold his wheel. Eventually, Jenema faded as well, falling back to join Ryan Tervo (Dorfblick / Flyer Cycles) of Houghton. The pair worked together to maintain their lead over the remainder of the fragmented field. Normally the stronger of the pair, the race was Jenema's to win. A botched remount on the final barrier was his undoing, however, and Tervo rode in for second behind Gauthier.

Sunday morning, race organizers were again greeted by a howling north wind off of Lake Superior that made the previous day's gales seem like a gentle breeze. With the wind, the Top of the World Smackdown at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge was certain to be a punishing affair. Making heavy use of paved golf cart paths and smooth fairways, racers would be able to fly with the wind and curse the gales in equal shares. A short run-up, prefaced by a muddy dip and barrier, forced riders to dismount just before turning into the wind for the final time on each lap.

Mike Rust of Rochester, MN edged Mike Brokenshire of Troy, MI for the win in the men's C division. The previous day's winner, Andy Perry hung on for third.

In the women's B race, Tara Laase McKinney took her first UPCROSS victory. Janet Koistenen and Deana Koscielny rounded out the top three.

Andrew Rickhauer returned to the top of the podium with a strong showing in the men's B contest. Matt Belic, his fat tires no match for the paved sections of the course, took second. In a tight race for third, Jon Kangas denied Jason Jilbert podium glory.

Suffering misfortune at the run-up, Nicole Alexander saw her lead disappear as she worked to remount her chain after crashing into a barrier midway through the women's A race. All is fair in love and cross though, and Christina Bennett carried on, holding on for the win. Alexander's second place put the pair in a tie for the overall Keweenaw Cup title. Melanie Watkins, motivated by her win in the women's B race on Saturday, moved up to the A class and finished a solid third.

In the men's A race, it was again Tyler Gauthier. Within the first lap, he had already left his mark on the field, leaving behind him a wake of shattered dreams and broken spirits. The only racers able to come close to matching his pace were Tyler Jenema and Trevor Olson. The former suffered flat midway through the race and retired from the contest; Olson, of Rochester, MN, rode strongly and finished second. Ryan Tervo, the only other rider not to have been lapped by Gauthier besides Olson, claimed third. Mac Brennan of Houghton, who entered the weekend at the top of the UPCROSS standings, took fourth. The Cinderella story in the A class was Brian Geshel of Marquette – currently unattached, but for how much longer – who took fifth, his best finish yet in only his first year of cx racing.

With a tie for the overall championship in the women's A class between Nicole Alexander and Christina Bennett, the pair agreed to the traditional one-legged tie-breaker race. Bennett got off to a strong start, only to come out of her pedal; Alexander rode on for her second overall title. Third place in the A class went to Amy Michaels.

Tyler Guathier, a pair of wins under his belt, was crowned men's champion in the A division. Ryan Tervo, a second and a third place on the weekend, took second. Surprising even himself, Colby Lash walked away with third place overall.

The race organizers would like to thank everyone for making the trek to Copper Harbor. It's a long way to travel, but they hope it was worth your while.

Complete 2011 Keweenaw Cup Results
Photos by Chris Schmidt
Photos by Adam Griffis
More photos to be found on Facebook

Gauthier Claims Inaugural Sherman Cross Title

Author: Ian Marks
September 20, 2011
race | cyclocross

Cyclocross racing kicked off in the U.P. Saturday (Sept. 17) at the innagural Sherman Cross race in Houghton. Racers were treated to a "true" cyclocross atmosphere. The course had a truly unique layout thanks to its location at Sherman Field, home of the football and soccer teams at Michigan Tech. Large segments of pavement and the steepest run-up in the Keweenaw were just a few of the features of the course.

A series of races were held, starting at 4 pm. Daniel Henderson posted the first win of the night in the junior boys race. He would take the ironman award after wins in the men's B, as well as competing in the men's A race. James Bialas won a sprint finish over Chris Schmidt in the singlespeed race. Schmidt took top honors in the master's division, however, outriding Red Jacket teammates Steve Hackney and Dave Watkins.

The men's A race was treated to an enthusiastic crowd supporting the top racers in the U..P as they battled under the lights in the season-opener. In the end, Tyler Gauthier edged out Tyler Jenema for the win. Up-and-comer Pete Karinen took the final spot on the podium and another local, Ryan Tervo, finished fourth. Mac Brennan rounded out the top-five.

The night could not conclude without a fun race. Racers did their best to make their way around the course on all manner of bikes from unicycles and tandems to tricycles and cruisers sporting horns.

With the early race date and unique atmosphere, Sherman Cross is destined to become a favorite among U.P. cx racers.

More photos:
Chris Schmidt
Adam Griffis

Carpenter Crowned Kind of the Keweenaw

Author: btk
September 05, 2011
race | mtb

With a fifth place finish, a win and fourth in the three races that comprise 2011 Keweenaw Triple Crown, Tom Carpenter of Marquette claimed the title, securing free entries to 2012 editions of the events. Second place went to singlespeed rider and 2011 Tour Divide finisher Dan Hill of Marquette. The third spot on the podium went to Jeffery Squires of Houghton, who edged out Andrew Reed, also of Houghton. The fifth and final rider to complete the long editions of the Great Deer Chase, MTU MTB Rondevous and Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival was Red Jacket rider Brett Hamlin of Lake Linden.

The series will be back next year. Instead of just three races, we're planning on including all five Keweenaw mountain bike races. Watch for details.

Final Standings
1. Tom Carpenter: 215
2. Danny Hill: 150
3. Jeffery Squires: 144
4. Andrew Reed: 141
5: Brett Hamlin: 120

Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival Preview

Author: btk
September 1, 2011
race | mountain

September!? Already? Where did summer go? We're still on the warm side of Labor Day though, so that means the highlight of the mountain bike season is still ahead of us: The 18th Annual Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival. If you've raced, spectated or volunteered for the event, you know that it's more than a race. It's a celebration of mountain biking, good friends, music, and the end of summer all wrapped up in what is always one of the best days of the season.

The race: The Copper Harbor Trails Club has worked hard the past several years to create a trail system than can hold its own against anything in the country. Not only is the Fat Tire Festival a great way to experience the system in all of its glory, it's also fund raiser for future trail developments. Racers can again select from two different distances: 16 or 28 miles (hard or very hard). The new course is sure to make more than one racer wish for more gears, especially singlespeeders: the 20% grade that awaits racers at the base of Brockway Mountain will shred the field. Starry-eyed and oxygen deprived, racers will veer north after nearly a mile of climbing to descend The Flow: three miles of singletrack coated in pixie dust. A trail so sweet, memories of the climb up Brockway will vaporize into thin air. Some six hundred feet of elevation loss will propel racers through banked curves and past glimpses of Lake Superior. From there, racers will wind grind up Garden Brook and across US-41 where more familiar terrain awaits. As always: lots of climbing, lots of descending. Like the start, the finish to the race is also different this year: instead of Paul's Plunge, singletrack will jetison race-worn riders out onto Lake Manganese Road for a speedy descent towards Clyde's Field and a quick (or not so quick) spin around the pond and to the finish.

For a virtual preride and map of the 2011 course courtesy of Trail Genius, visit the Copper Harbor Trails Club website.

The event is no secret: well over three hundred racers from across the country (including countless two-wheeling Michigan Tech alumni and some of the top racers in the Midwest) are again expected to compete, making it one of the top draws in the Keweenaw.

Following the awards ceremony (and brats, burgers and veggies), Chasin' Steel of Marquette will be cranking out the bluegrass into the night. If you still have legs to stand and dance, the Mojo Perry Band will follow up at Zik's next door.

The Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival also marks the final leg of the Keweenaw Triple Crown: still in contention for the title are nine racers. See the article below for details!

Triple Crown Update

Author: btk
August 29, 2011
race | mtb

With two of the three races comprising the Keweenaw Triple Crown complete, the scores have been tallied: perched at the top of the standings is Tom Carpenter of Marquette. His fourth place finish at the Great Deer Chase combined with his win this weekend at the MTU MTB Rondevous gives him 67 points. Sitting in second place with 59 points is Jeffery Squires of Chelsea, Mich. (15th in the GDC and 2nd in the MTU Ronde). Rounding out the top three is Eric Ollis of Houghton with 51 points (14th in the GDC, 7th in the MTU Ronde) and Mike Dziobak of Houghton (17th in the GDC, 6th in the MTU Ronde). With no women competing in the long race of the MTU MTB Rondevous this year, there will be no Queen of the Keweenaw in 2011.

The series concludes this Sunday with the Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival. Still in contention are nine riders from across the U.P.:

1. Tom Carpenter: 66
2. Jeffery Squires: 59
3. Eric Ollis: 51
4. Colby Lash: 49
5. Mike Dziobak: 49
6. Danny Hill: 43
7. Andrew Reed: 37
8: Brett Hamlin: 30
9: Troy Eddy: 19

Did Someone Say Cyclocross?

Author: Ian Marks
August 18, 2011
race | cyclocross

A new race, Sherman Cross, is a great opportunity for cyclocross racers to start the 2011 season. The race, which takes place Sept. 17th, will give racers a truly unique experience of racing under the lights at Sherman Field. The event will give true cyclocross racers (although any bike is welcome) an advantage as the race will be a mix of pavement, grass and gravel with absolutely no singletrack. The spectator friendly course will also feature music and food. The night of racing will feature a series of races giving racers the chance to take in more than one race. The night will conclude with a novelty race for extraordinary bikes (unicycle, tricycle, tandem, pugsley, ect.). Registration is $10 ($15 day of) for unlimited races.

For details on the race, check out: michigantechhuskies.com/shermancross

Entry form: shermancross-reg-form-11.pdf

For information of cyclocross racing in the U.P., visit: upcross.net

Zach Andreski, Kris Kolenz Take Kuparisaari Tri Titles

Author: btk
August 15, 2011
race | tri | road

Over seventy racers lined up on the shores of Lac la Belle this weekend for the second annual Kuparisaari Triathlon. Racers and event organizers couldn't have asked for better race weather: calm winds throughout the day, temperatures hovering in the seventies and sunshine made for a picture-perfect day in the Keweenaw.

From the gun, it appeared as though it was going to be a race for second, as Rod Raymond (Duluth) led the way out of the water and cracked open a substantial lead on the bike. Injury brought his day to an unfortunate end, however, opening the door for Zach Andreski, who dominated the brutal run with the day's only sub-90 minute half marathon and finished with a time of 4:27:59. Twelve minutes back was second-place finisher Christopher Sachs, followed by Copperman winner Jeff Juntti (4:47:00). Top local finisher was Iron Mike Dziobek of Houghton, who crossed the line in sixth place.

Taking the win in the women's division was Kris Kolenz of Duluth. Kolenz dominated the 14-woman field, clocking the fastest time in each of the three disciplines. Her time of 5:13:35 placed her in the top ten overall - men and women. Second went to Debi Cain-Juntila (5:43:12.7) and third to Denielle Beilfuss, just five minutes out of second. Top local finisher was Laurie Keteri-Smith, whose time of 5:59:15 was good for fourth place.

Full results are online at: superiortiming.com
Photos will be made available at: xmatic.smugmug.com

Keweenaw Triple Crown: Three Weeks of Racing, One Champion

August 02, 2011
Author: btk
mountain | race

Bike the Keweenaw, in collaboration with the organizers of The Great Deer Chase, The MTU MTB Rondevous, The Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival, The Bike Shop of Houghton and Cross Country Sports of Calumet, is proud to present the Keweenaw Triple Crown, a three-race point series to determine the king and queen of mountain bike racing in the Keweenaw.

On the line are free entries to the 2012 editions of the races to the overall champions in the men's and women's classes as well as prizes to second and third donated by Cross Country Sports, The Bike Shop and Bike the Keweenaw. The overall champion will be the male/female racer with the highest number of points as determined using the system outlined below. The Triple Crown will only be awarded to the overall champions (male/female) in the long versions of each race.

Scoring will be by points, with the winner receiving a number of points equal to the total number of finishers in the long version of each race (the long race of each). The second place finisher will be awarded one point less than the winner down to the rider finishing in last place. Racers must compete in all three races to quality for the Triple Crown title. Points will not be tabulated based on the number of riders competing in the Triple Crown, but rather on the actual number of finishers in each race. Series standings will be posted on Bike the Keweenaw following each race. Prizes will be awarded during the Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival awards ceremony.

The Triple Crown is being introduced as a test run for a King and Queen of the Keweenaw series to be started in the 2012 season, which will include all five Keweenaw mountain bike races - The Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival and Miner's Revenge in addition to the three races that comprise the Triple Crown. After the dust settles from the 2011 season, we'll start planning next year's five-race series.

The intent of the Triple Crown and King and Queen of the Keweenaw series is not to create a hard-core, tooth-and-nail race series, but rather to encourage everyone to race all of the races in the Keweenaw and to create some friendly rivalry throughout the season. At the end of the day, racing in the Keweenaw is all about having fun - win, lose, or draw.

U.P Racers Gearing up for Miner's Revenge: Saturday, July 9

Author: btk
July 7, 2011
mountain | race

U.P. mountain bike racers are again gearing up for one of the toughest rides of the season: The Miner's Revenge Mountain Bike Race in Greenland, Mich. The six mile lap holds no punches. Insanely steep climbs, bedrock descents and a few hundred meters of pitch-black mine shaft. Every inch of these trails has to be earned: 12 miles feels like 24 and 24 feels like 100. Sport men and women will race two, six-mile laps, expert men and women four and three laps, respectively. A headlamp is required.

Entering its third year, the race, held on the grounds of the Adventure Mine in Greenland (near Ontonagon), has grown from a grassroots event to a U.P. classic attracting upwards of two hundred racers from the Upper Midwest. New this year is a downhill hill event, to be contested in the afternoon following the xc race.

The weather forecast looks promising: partly sunny with temperatures pushing 80F will make the entrance to the always-cool mine shaft a welcome sight.

Race action gets underway Saturday at high noon (11:50 for the kids races). The downhill event is tentatively scheduled for 4pm, following awards for the xc race. An after-race mountain bike social gathering will follow with bonfire, camping (FREE), bike games, and trail rides for those with any leftover energy.

For full information, visit the Miner's Revenge website.
Photo from the 2009 event at: www.flickr.com

Matter, McFadden Victorious in Chain Drive

Author: btk
Photo: Greg Maino / juskuz
Updated June 20, 2011
mountain | race

Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wisconsin claimed his second Chain Drive victory in as many years, leading the field of 90 racers in the 32-mile event with a time of 2:02:26. Matter was able to separate himself from a trio of other riders near the half-way point, leaving Darrin Braun (Butler, WI), Mike Anderson (Alpena, MI), and Tyler Gauthier (Ishpeming) to battle for the two remaining spots on the podium. Braun bested Anderson, a several-time winner of the event, by nearly two minutes to take second. Ishpeming standout Tyler Gauthier trailed by just over half a minute for fourth. Top local finisher was Red Jacket Cycling Team rider Justin Weber of Dollar Bay who rounded out the top ten.

Perennial podium finsiher Diane McFadden of Duluth improved on her second place finish last year, claiming top honors in the long event for the women ahead of Sarah Agena-Wright of Stevens Point, WI and Michelle Peariso of Amherst, WI. Kate McCloud of Atlantic Mine was the first Keweenaw rider to cross the line.

In the 16-mile race, 15-year-old Pete Karinen of Painesdale sent a warning shot to the seasoned riders of the 32-mile race, covering the course in a time of 1:03:32 at a pace of 15.1 miles per hour. While a shorter course, the pace put him on equal ground with Mike Anderson, third place finisher of the 32-mile event. A changing of the guard isn't far off. Second and third place in the 16-mile race, contested by 180 riders, when to Parker McColl of Oconomowoc, WI (1:08:59) and Dan Mead of Ishpeming, MI (1:10:27), respectively.

The story was the same in the women's 16-mile event, where Nina Karinen, the older sister of Pete Karinen, notched a win, finishing just over two minutes ahead of her nearest competitor, Emily Shull of Libertville, IL in 1:18:29. Again, the winning pace of 12.2 miles per hour is a clear sign that there will soon be new and young faces on the podium of the long race.

Over 270 racers took part in the 18th annual Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival. Cool and dry weather made for a ideal trail conditions and perfect weather for racing. Proceeds from the race, an all-volunteer-effort, go to securing and preserving the already lengthy network of trails in the Keweenaw.

For full results, visit the Chain Drive website.
Photos at: juskuz.smugmug.com

Walczak Dominates Yooper Sprint Tri

June 20, 2011
race | tri

Rainy skies, wind, and cool weather threw competitors of the inaugural Yooper Sprint Triathlon a couple extra challenges this Sunday, but it couldn't dampen the spirt of the nearly 20 competitors who lined up at the start in Hancock. Claiming the win in the individual category was Houghton resident Karl Walczak, who covered the 500m swim, 28k bike, and 5k run in a blazing 1:18:27, just shy of ten minutes faster than his nearest competitor, Ed Kraai of Lake Linden. The final spot on the podium went Shawn Peterson of Negaunee, who edged out Rick Donnovan of Houghton, who clocked the fastest swim of the day. In the team class, "Winston" (Kaitlyn Bunker, Kris Bunker, and Gregory Reed) took top honors.

The event was made possible by the owners of Northwoods Endurance, Rick Vendlinski and Chris Schwarz, who pulled together some friends at the last minute after the 10S triathlon, previously contested on the same course on the same day, was canceled.

Plans are already in the works for the 2012 event. Check the website for details as race date approaches (June 17, 2012).

For full results, visit the YoooperTri website.
Photos at: flickr.com

Yooper Sprint Triathlon on for June 19

June 12, 2011
race | tri

When word got out that the annual 10S triathlon, organized by the Michigan Tech tennis team had been canceled for 2011, the owners of Northwoods Endurance decided to pull together some friends and keep the race alive - with just over a week to make it happen.

This event sends swimmers out on a point-to-point, .5k swim in the crisp waters of the Portage Canal; on a flat, out-and-back, 28k road bike ride on M203; and on a 5k run course through hilly Hancock. Compete as an invividual or as a team. Chaindrive Challenge: long CD course + the Yooper Sprint.

While the name may have changed, the course remains the same, and the organizers hope to produce the same quality event racers have come to expect for this Father's Day tradition.

Start time is 11 a.m. from the Hancock Campground on M203 in Hancock. Entry fee is $35 for individuals, $55 for teams and includes a t-shirt. For details, visit: www.yoopertri.com.

Racers Gearing Up (and Down) for Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival

Author: btk
Updated June 7, 2011
mountain | race

Just over a week to go before the mountain bike race season gets underway in the Keweenaw. The first of five summertime races is scheduled for Saturday, June 18: the 17th annual Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival presented by Portage Health Systems, a 32- or 16-mile test of endurance, pain and suffering on the Churning Rapids/Maasto Hiihto trail systems of Hancock. The event attracts more than 300 racers from across the Midwest, many of whom have come to treasure the few hours they get to spend each year on some of the finest trails the Keweenaw has to offer.

The 10 a.m. start in Houghton sends racers across the Portage Lake Lift Bridge at a controlled pace, the traffic marshal dropping the start flag along the Hancock waterfront as riders begin their push towards the first piece of single track. Like any race, the first miles are a scrum of flailing elbows, screaming brakes and short-fused riders, particularly at the front as racers jockey for position on the narrow stretch of dirt road that follows the start. Here, all but the first few have a clear view of the open road ahead; the rest are lost in a haze of dust, lungs burning and legs and arm holding on for dear life. The grim reaper comes quickly for those who bury themselves too soon: a gravel uphill dampens the spirits of the few riders who started the race over optimistically. For the rest, a mile of pavement offers a final respite before the race gets underway with the king of the mountain sprint at the top of the always deadly Cemetery Hill. Though there's never been a shortage of speed on the first real test of the day, $50 cash to the first rider to the top throws fuel on the fire.

Cresting the half-mile climb, riders, spread out by the switchback-laced, 10% grade, merge onto the first piece of trail, a short section filled with brain-sized boulders that make those who opted for the rigid single speed wish they had picked the full suspension bike, and those on the full squish glad they did. Often a bottleneck, the Cemetery Trail offers a few minutes of recovery to all but the very first racers. Most of the rest are able to catch their breath as they navigate the rock gardens along the edge of the Swedetown Creek Gorge.

From there, it's game on. Sections of ski trail punctuate the long stretches single-track to give riders opportunity to pass and refuel. Terrain ranges from smooth, flat and fast, to rocky, steep and tortuous. Scenery is equally varied, with wide open meadows, creeks, lakes, ravines, lush green gorges and scenic vistas lining the course.

32-mile racers ride a single loop that features extensive single track and thousands of feet climbing, a good deal of it coming in the final five miles. With a greater percentage of single track that the shorter version, the long race is also more technically challenging. Short-race racers don't get off scot-free, though: there's plenty of tough trail and climbing here as well; these racers are, however spared most of the grueling climbing in the final miles. Nobody races the Keweenaw because it's easy though, do they?

Racers in the 32-mile open class are working for their share of a $1000 payout. With some of the top xc mountain bikers in the Midwest on the line, the battle for the cash is always fierce. Mortals don't go home empty handed though: age-group awards, crafted by local artisans, make every podium spot worth fighting for. Win, lose or draw, tasty food, awaits all racers (and volunteers) at the finish (Portage Health System) in Hancock.

Not only is the Chain Drive a good time, it also serves a good cause: the funds raised by the race are designated to help acquire and preserve riding terrain in the Keweenaw. The all-volunteer race committee also makes occasional donations from race proceeds to local groups to help fund the acquisition of tools to further expand the already lengthy network of trails in the area.

Additional info on the race can be found at the Chain Drive website. Not up for racing this time around? Consider volunteering – every hand and set of eyes helps to make the event successful. Information on volunteering can also be found on the CD website.

Racing in the Keweenaw continues with the Miner's Revenge race at the Adventure Mine Trails in Greenland on July 9.

La Flèche du Nord Podium Topped by Tyler Gauthier / Nicole Alexander

May 09, 2011
Author: cts
Photos: Adam Griffis
road | ride

Legions of flag-waving francophones, anglophones and finnophones lined the cobbled boulevards of downtown Houghton on Saturday as they awaited the start of the inaugural running of La Flèche du Nord, a 70 mile epic over dirt, gravel and bad pavement from Houghton to the top of Brockway Mountain on Michigan's Keweenaw peninsula.

Sunny skies, warm temperatures and clam winds were a welcome change to a spring that has been slow in coming to the northwoods and sent spirits high among the field of 30+ riders who had congregated in the scenic town square for the start. Plied with fresh baked goods and lithium by race organizers, smiles and good cheer came easy to the riders. Few knew, however, of the march of pain that awaited them on the long forgotten and rarely traveled back roads of Michigan's northernmost and least populous county.

The Favorites
On hand were some familiar faces from the U.P. classics circuit as well as those of numerous Houghton-based riders, all eager to leave their mark on what has been one of the most challenging classics seasons to date. Tyler Gauthier (Culver's Cycling) of Ishpeming, coming off of a 9th place finish in the first Wisconsin Off Road Series event of the season in the pro class, was certainly the man to beat. Ronde van Skandia champion Derek Anderson, backed by Marquette's powerful Chocolay Ace squad, was to be a marked man as well. The local hopeful was Flyer Cycles rider Ryan Tervo of Hancock who demonstrated fine form with a second place finish in last week's Ronde. A trio of other Marquette riders, all riding for the Ace team, had also been given fair odds by the bookies: Paul Johnston, who fueled the winning break in the Ronde; David Grant, allegedly capable of imparting femur-snapping attacks at the blink of an eye; and another hometown hopeful, Mik Kilpela, originally of Atlantic Mine, now of Marquette.

How it Happened
As the bells in the nearby cathedral tolled ten times, riders returned their bidons to their holders and set off for the finish on Brockway Mountain, a dizzying 700 feet above Lake Superior. Chatter coursed through the field during the 15 mile neutral start, riders eager to predict victory during the precious few minutes of the race when anyone could still be crowned champion. As muscles warmed and minds focused, however, an ominous quiet, punctuated only by the staccato of clenbuterol inhalers, descended upon the field, the end of the three mile gravel climb that marked the start of the race now in sight.

The long descent to Lake Superior on Tamarack Waterworks Road discouraged any early attacks. Lone Cross Country Sports rider Pat Szubielak of Calumet, with muscle mass on his side, made the first attempt at a break but was quickly reabsorbed by a nervous field. The day's first true test was just around the corner, and came in the form of an eye-popping, four mile, dirt climb. Tyler Gauthier wasted no time in setting tempo, leaving behind a wake of flotsam and jetsom. An initial selection was made immediately, with just 10 riders making the cut. As the grade steepened, fans lined the course, two deep in places, offering water and food to anyone able to take a hand from the bars. Ace rider Derek Anderson again pushed the pace, taking with him five other riders: Gauthier, Tervo, Grant, Johnston and Kilpela. Four others, Ace D.S. Tom Mahaney, Priority Health rider Peter Lawrence, Culver's rider Glen Lerlie, and Red Jacket Chris Schmidt, struggled to maintain contact. Quickly, however, the quartet was stranded in no-man's land, the leaders well up the road, behind them only a cloud of dust. Further back, the field worked hard to rejoin the head of the race. The efforts of Red Jackets Tim Kostner, Mark Klein, Dave Watkins and John Gershenson , Flyer Cycles riders Paul Belknap, Bill Marlor and Mike Abbott, Chocolay Ace rider Nicole Alexander and independent riders Bob Carpenter and Tony Schwennn, among others, were untiring and well organized, but ultimately unsuccessful in bringing down the gap.

For their efforts, riders were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Keweenaw as they negotiated the idyllic, one-lane descent from Bumbletown towards the next secteur of dirt. The long winters had left their mark on the pavement, however, and a pair of riders suffered punctures in the long, thin shadow of the Allouez radio tower: favorite in the women's division, Nicole Alexander, saw chances at victory deflated and Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt was separated from his group of chasers.

Following an uneventful passage through the Copper City secteur and ascent of the, mile-long Fulton climb, the race turned south for a mile before again heading north on flat, wind-prone Cliff Drive. At the front, the leading quartet had become somewhat complacent, allowing the next group to move within two minutes. Schmidt, having repaired his puncture, was given permission to bypass secteur three by race commissars and rejoin the quartet of chasers, which now included Kilepla, who had been dislodged form the group of leaders on Bumbletown hill.

Brass Tacks and Steel Staples
Though now halfway over, the race was only just beginning. Ahead awaited three climbs, each longer and steeper than the last. Near the base of the first, misfortune befell Ace rider David Grant when a rogue staple penetrated the Kevlar armor of his rear tire. Derek Anderson still had the benefit of one teammate, and Paul Johnston worked tirelessly to protect the team leader.

With speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour, the racers breezed through Eagle River. Leaving town was a much slower, more painful affair: a blind turn sent riders onto the Garden City secteur, which featured a 15% ramp of soft dirt followed by three more miles of gradual climbing. With standing on the pedals all but impossible, riders assumed contorted positions to gain traction and inch up the steepest parts of the climb. As the elevation increased, the road surface gradually transformed into a slurry of mud and sand. The finely tuned racing bikes sung a song of despair, gears and bearings penetrated by dirt and grime. The cacophonous line of cyclists, lungs wheezing in the pollen-filled air, made slow progress before finally turning north on the smooth tarmac of the Eagle Harbor Crosscut.

A hide-speed descent into Eagle Harbor set the stage for one of the day's toughest tests: the Delaware Shortcut. This final secteur of dirt covered four, soul-sucking miles of hell. Cavernous, man-size potholes were a constant hazard, wind-fallen trees rested on power lines, threatening all who dared to approach them, and packs of ravenous wolfs circled riders with hungry eyes as they struggled to make ground, pedal stroke by arduous pedal stroke. The road, which only days before had been impassible to all but the most rugged of vehicles was again navigable by bike, if only barely. Riders were faced with soft mud, deep snow, and flowing water as they entered the upper reaches of the climb. Sensing opportunity, it was Gauthier who made a move through the snow on one of the steep ramps that dotted the col. Quickly, he opened a gap of 10m. Behind him, Tervo and Anderson opted for a different line and were nearly brought to a standstill by the tenacious mud and the lead grew by another 20m. Johnston faltered as well, and it appeared as though Gauthier may have established the lead he was looking for, but Tervo was able to recover from the mistake and bridge back up to Gauthier near the end of the secteur. Behind them Anderson fought hard to keep from losing more time. Johnston, now alone, was joined at the end of the secteur by Grant, who had missed a turn and inadvertently bypassed two secteurs. A determined Mik Kilpela pursued the leading five alone, having broken away from his compatriots on the Garden City secteur. His position seemed safe; the trio of Lawrence, Lerlie and Schmidt resigned to their fate. Behind them, thought was only on survival.

The narrow, tree-lined, final 10 miles of pavement leading to the base of the Brockway Mountain climb in Copper Harbor coaxed riders forward, no matter how tired. Gentle ups and downs, minimal traffic and the promise of one final descent into Copper Harbor were all it took to keep the legs turning.

Fire on the Mountain
The reality of the final climb hit riders like a brick wall. A pair of 20% pitches in quick succession and 700 feet of climbing after the 70 miles that preceded it took every bit of energy the riders could muster. Entering Copper Harbor together at the front of the race were Tyler Gauthier and Ryan Tervo. The pair shook hands to commend each other on a job well done and to wish each other a solid ride to the finish. The duo crested the first steep section together, handelbars and cranks creaking with each pedal stroke. Gauthier made his winning move on the final switchback, opening a gap on the tiring Tervo with 1500m to go, which he held to the finish. Derek Anderson, despite his best efforts, settled for third place ahead of Paul Johnston and David Grant.

Taking top honors in the women's division was Nicole Alexander.

Event organizer Chris Schmidt would like to thank everyone who came out to ride and everyone who volunteered time to help make the day a success, especially Chris and Tammi Lehto, who provided unlimited limited support; Steve Webber, who made sure everyone had plenty to eat and drink; event photographer Adam Griffis; Ryan Tervo, who assisted with marking and teardown; John Gershenson, who helped with course recon; and Bob and Jan Haase for spectating. A big thanks as well to the Red Jacket Cycling Team for supplying food, The Bike Shop of Houghton, Copper Harbor Trails Club for securing use of the Copper Harbor Community Center, and Bulldog Brewing of Houghton for post-ride brews.

For more photos from the day, head over to adamjoon.smugmug.com.

Anderson Claims Ronde van Skandia Title

May 01, 2011
Author: btk
road | race

Claiming arguably the greatest win of his career in the fifth running of the Ronde van Skandia this weekend was Chocolay-Ace rider Derek Anderson of Marquette. With the win, the Harvey-based Chocolay Ace squad continues its total domination of the opener to the U.P. road racing season. Bringing no fewer than twelve well-trained riders to the line, the team executed a perfect string of attacks, positioning Anderson for the win with more than 15 miles still to race. Ryan Tervo, a one-day specialist riding for Flyer Cycles of Houghton, claimed second, and third went to Chris Lynch (Team GearGrinder) of Marquette.

How it unfolded

Just shy of 50 riders and dozens of curiosity seekers gathered in the sprawling courtyard of the Cycling Haus on the outskirts of Marquette, a hotbed of cycling in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. On hand were the usual suspects: defending champion Matt Colligan (Ace), perennial threat Derek Anderson (Ace), roulers David Grant (Ace) and Tom Carpenter (29er Crew) as well as members of the up-and-coming generation of U.P. cyclists, including Ryan Tervo (Flyer Cycles), Chris Lynch (GearGrinder), Colby Lash (Ace) and Peter Skellenger (Priority Health). Teams from across the U.P. and northern Wisconsin were represented, with riders from Red Jacket Cycling (Houghton), KMK (Marquette), Culver's Cycling (Ishpeming), Bay City Cycles (Ashland, Wisc.) and several unsigned riders up for the challenge. Notable absences were the Sisu Cycles squad (Marquette), past winner Wes Anderson (Ace) and Tylers Gauthier and Jenema, the pair preferring instead to contest the opener of the 2011 mountain bike season in Iola, Wisconsin on Sunday.

Amid fanfare fit for a royal wedding, cyclists rolled out of the pine-lined chateau into a landscape best described as post-apocalyptic. Protected within the confines of the grounds, riders were unaware of the tempest that had arisen from the thawing tundra: trees, stripped of their leaves, were left void of any sign of life; the festive, tulip-lined boulevards, only hours before a sea of color, had been reduced to lane of pedalless stems, pressed flat to the ground. From a distance, a slow-moving mass of steel and lycra made its way onto the open fields of Skandia, where frenzied horses raced in circles in their pens, frightened by the sight. Small children taunted the peloton as it struggled to make ground, running alongside and laughing in delight at the misfortune etched in the faces of the domestiques charged with cutting the wind for their protected leaders.

The 20-mile rollout, traditionally a relaxed affair, was a challenge for all. Hurricane-force crosswinds battered the field, sending riders across both lanes of traffic in broken echolons that struggled to stay together. Riders grappled for position in the dirt for the slightest reprise from the wind. For a brief period, the pack was brought to a complete standstill, the winds having made forward travel all but impossible. Once moving again, tension grew among racers as the official starting line drew closer. A sea of black and red Chocolay Ace riders swelled to the front of the field setting the tone for the race. Yet again, it was to be a battle of Ace against the world. Would the competition be up for the task?

First attacks
At the gun, a pair of Ace riders went clear of the field in the opening salvo. For the other teams, it was clear that the day would be long and hard. The duo quickly built a sizable lead and threatened to move out of sight. Only then did the peloton initiate a response. Flyer Cycles rider Ryan Tervo of Houghton took control at the front and pressed on like a hard-working diesel truck, single-handedly keeping the breakaway in check. Occasional assistance from other teams (Priority Health, 29er Crew, GearGrinder) was repeatedly sabotaged by Chocolay Ace, which time and again slipped a man into the paceline and slowed the tempo, crushing the spirit of the chasers. This first break was a victim either souvenir-seeking fans or malicious malfeasants, who had removed a road marking, briefly sending the breakaway off course.

No sooner had one attack been quashed, did Ace launch the next. With the team's deep roster, it was a strategy the squad could afford to play all day long – unless the other teams agreed to forgo individual victory in the interest of defeating Ace in a collective effort. Under orders by Chocolay Ace D.S. Tom Mahaney, a pair of new additions to the team took up the attack. Eager to demonstrate to team management that their signing bonus was money well invested, the pair built a significant lead. Again it was Ryan Tervo who put in long efforts to reel them in. Occasional, discordant, assistance from other squads eventually neutralized the attack.

Coalesced and with the wind at their backs, the field thundered on, entering a gravel-strewn secteur of dirt at high speed. Priority Health rider Pete Skellenger launched a graduation-day attack, quickly drawing the riders out into a long, thin line. Crossing US-41, the group again came together and numerous counterattacks followed, the riders given a false sense of strength, the tailwind pushing them from behind.

As the race entered the southern highlands of Marquette county, the speed dropped to a snail's pace. Demoralizing headwinds and steep climbs left nowhere to hide. The field hemorrhaged riders now at alarming rate. Once on the flats, the pace stabilized somewhat and small groups of riders worked their way through the caravan of support vehicles to the safe harbor of the peloton. And again the attacks came. A short effort by David Grant (Ace) and Chris Schmidt (Red Jackets) was countered by a longer-lasting attempt by Joe Bettendorf (Ace) and Glen Lerlie (Culver's). Paul Belknap, the first Wisconsin rider ever to line up for the Ronde, dug in deep and worked hard to bridge the gap, but was eventually overcome by the winds and returned to the peloton. The gales proved to be too much for the leading duo as well, the mindless hydra again engulfing them.

With only twenty miles left to race, intercepted radio chatter told the story of the race about to unfold: Ace Director Tom Mahaney called for the oldest trick in the book: the double, double-pronged attack. Two formidable rookies to the team, Colby Lash and Paul "Little Jens Voigt" Johnston would move up the road and provide cover for a follow-up attack from powerhouses Derek Anderson and Steve Kuhl. The initial attack went off without a hitch, with Lash and Johnston building a commanding lead. Barely out of sight, Mahaney allowed a gap to tear open in the main field, cutting Anderson, Kuhl and Ryan Tervo free of the field. Sensing trouble, Red Jacket rider Chris Schmidt moved past Mahaney and bridged the small opening. Together, the quartet worked to join the leading duo. As they neared their mark on the upper reaches of the relentless Engman climb, however, Schmidt was dropped and quickly absorbed by the fast advancing poursuivant, who chewed him up and left him to the dogs. The trio, however, merged with the duo, staking four Ace riders against the lone Tervo.

Endgame on the Mur de Sporley
As so many times before, the decisive moment of the Ronde was played out on the Mur de Sporley, one of the true landmarks of North American cycling. A group now of four leaders, Anderson, Lash, Johnson, and Tervo fought their way through steep, fan-lined pitches of the climb – a sand-covered forest road, better fit for an ATV than a thin-tired bicycle. The soul-sapping quicksand first slowed Lash and then Johnston. Anderson was the first to exit the forests to a cacophony of cowbells and was soon joined by the chasing Flyers Cycle rider. The pair agreed to work together, the final outcome to be decided on the line. Behind them, Johnston labored on alone, a solid grip on third for nearly half an hour – an amazing feat given the wind. Behind him, Lash rejoined the field of challengers, now reduced to Colligan, Lynch, Carpenter, Bettendorf, Steve Pribyl (Flyer Cycles), and a handful of others. A second group, containing a trio of Ace powerhorses – David Grant, Andy Stevens and Steve Kuhl – powered on, eventually catching the lead group of chasers, which now also included Paul Johnston.

With just three miles to go, Derek Anderson unleashed an attack on his breakaway companion, leaving Tervo on his own. The tailwind drove both riders to the finish at breakneck speeds, but Tervo was no match for the older, more experienced Anderson, who claimed his first Ronde after a well-fought battle. Tervo held on for second. In the field sprint for third, Michigan Tech student Chris Lynch (GearGrinder) outfoxed the field and took the final spot on the podium.

Survivors of what was felt to have been one of the toughest editions of the classic on record recovered from the race at the Cycling Haus in traditional fashion with fine Belgian ales, brats and burgers. A big thank you to race hosts and organizers Tom and Mary Mahaney for another great day in the saddle and post-race party.

U.P. classics continue on May 7th with the inaugural running of La Fleche du Nord, a point-to-point ride from Houghton to the top of Brockway Mountain, featuring 30 miles of dirt and thousands of feet of climbing. See below for details!

La Flèche du Nord: Spring Classics Come to the Keweenaw

Updated: April 25, 2011
Author: btk
road | events

BikeTheKeweenaw.com, with support from Red Jacket Cycling Team, Copper Harbor Trails Club, The Bike Shop of Houghton and Bulldog Brewing of Houghton, is proud to present an informal, but high-paced training ride in the tradition of the Belgian spring classics on May 7. Starting in Houghton, finishing on top of Brockway Mountain, the 75-mile route will take riders over some of the toughest terrain the Keweenaw has to offer. A ride unlike any other, La Fleche features six sections of dirt that account for nearly half of the total distance and will give riders the opportunity to see the Keweenaw from an entirely new perspective. Though not a race, the event will be anything but a leisurely tour to the top of the peninsula.

The gravel sections of the preliminary route were tested this past weekend using a selection of different road tires. Everything from a sturdy Continental Super Sport (25c), lightweight Attack (22c), and a well-worn Maxxis tire handled the gravel without incident. The dirt roads were found to be free of shap rocks, muds and ruts. If weather conditions hold, the dirt should be ideal for bike traffic. The only stretch of road where difficulties were encountered was the final secteur of dirt, from Eagle Harbor to Delaware (Delaware cross-cut road), where the Delware glacier still has a firm hold on road surface. While some sections were rideable, even on skinny road tires, snow depths nearing two feet in places made passage impossible. Event organizers are working on rerouting this section if necessary. For gearing, 39x25 (minimum) or a compact or triple crank are advised for those not wanting to walk the 20% pitches that await riders on Brockway Mountain and several other short, steep sections.

The course will be marked, and riders will be given a cue sheet and map.

A post-ride fest is planned at the Copper Harbor Community Center from 3pm - 8pm for riders and friends and family; event organizers are working on arranging shower facilities for riders.

As this is a one way ride, riders will be responsible for organizing return transport from Copper Harbor to Houghton. A limited number of seats will be available for those unable to secure return transport. Please send a note to cts@bikethekeweenaw.com by May 2 if in need of a ride. If planning on riding, please either send a note or rsvp on the event Facebook page.

No entry fee, no support, no feed zones, no aid stations, no prizes, no glory. Just old-fashioned pain and suffering.

May 7, 2011
9:00a.m.: Rider sign-in at The Bike Shop of Houghton
10:00a.m.: Unofficial start (rollout through Houghton and Hancock)
10:15a.m.: Regroup at Hancock Beach
2:00p.m.: First riders expected on Brockway Mountain
3:00p.m. - 8p.m.: Post-ride fest at Copper Harbor Community Center