Big M Challenge – July 28th, 2013 – Wellston, MI – Big M Ski Area
After skipping both the Sweat Shaker and Boyne races, I found myself in 4th place in the MMBA CPS Sport Singlespeed category. Eric Wolting has 1st in the series locked down, with 5 first-place finishes on the season including a win at Boyne, which was worth 1.5x the points (due to the drive and the distance of the race). I skipped Boyne in order to defend my points lead in the Tailwind series, and even though that series has become my priority, I’d still like to finish as high as possible in MMBA. Skipping those two races really cost me, so it was off to Big M on Sunday to try to make up some ground in another race worth 1.5x the points.
Since Eric has secured 1st in the series, he’s moved up to Expert/Elite SS for the rest of the season with the exception of the Maybury Time Trial. It’s unfortunate, because the only races where we’ve competed head-to-head in an XC race format, each of us had a mechanical (him at Fort Custer and myself at Hanson Hills). I would have liked another chance to race against him this year, but it looks like I’ll have to wait until next year when I plan on moving up. And we’ll both be in the Sport SS class at Maybury, but we likely won’t see each other on course due to the time trial format. Anyhow! Sidetracked. Basically, the point of this is that the Sport SS class in the MMBA series has lost its rabbit, and the rest of us need to fight it out for the remaining series podium spots in his absence. Prior to the race, Byrne Johnson was in 2nd in the series, Bob Kidder was in 3rd, I was in 4th, and Talon Tramper was in 5th. All of us showed up for Big M.
Some background on Big M: it’s a cross-country ski area located in the Manistee National Forest near Wellston, MI. The Lumberjack 100 is held here, and due to the number of trails, race organizers can really get creative with course layout. This means that, even for locals, it’s going to be difficult to anticipate and/or prepare for the race route. I hadn’t ridden here before, and I really had no idea what to expect. Based on a conversation I had with Byrne when I arrived, I decided to lighten up my gearing to 38 x 19. I’d like to thank Byrne for the pre-race information, because if I’d have gone heavier, I don’t think my legs would work anymore. Sport racers were doing 3 x 8.5 mile laps for a total of just under 26 miles, and what turned out to be a TON of climbing.
We started right around 12:30 p.m. with temperatures in the low 60’s. It had rained intermittently all morning, but fortunately stopped for good in time for the sport/beginner races. The conditions were actually pretty perfect, as the rain had settled some of the sandier sections of the trail. I was first off the line and into the woods, and I decided to really push the pace for the first few miles to see if I could get some distance on the group. After about a mile I had outpaced everyone but Talon, and he ended up hanging with me throughout the first lap and for part of the second. The course included a monster climb about 2 miles in that was over a half-mile long, and I was able to drop Talon after our second time up. For the remainder of my second lap and all of my third, I just kept a steady pace and tried to stay upright. I did end up fading a bit from my first lap to my third, as I neglected to eat anything, and the course was not particularly conducive to taking your hands off the bars to drink, so I don’t think I even finished the water bottle I had with me. I definitely need to work on that. Speaking of the course, it was great – tons of faster sections combined with a few severely punishing climbs and a series of intense downhills toward the end. My lap times were right around 40 minutes each, and I finished in 1st place in my category and 13th overall in sport with a time of 2:01:44.
I’ll be heading back up to Big M this coming weekend for a Tailwind series event in order to protect my points lead, and then the Maybury Time Trial on August 17th, which I’m very much looking forward to. – Adam Cefai