It rained for twelve hours straight during the night before and the temperature barely hit 40 degrees the morning of the Sixth Annual Peak2Peak Mountain Bike Classic. Some of the less invested riders woke up and looked out the window, doubting the sanity behind racing in such cold and damp conditions. A second cup of coffee or a phone call from a friend, perhaps coupled with the encouraging knowledge that the Peak2Peak never disappointed, drew roughly seven hundred racers to Thompsonville, in spite of the weather.
Perhaps no other mountain bike event impresses as much as the Peak2Peak, and this year it was even better than in the past. Even with rough weather, those seven hundred racers were treated to one of the best organized and efficiently run cycling events in the entire state. From the start times and category waves, to the well-marked and manicured course, to the great fans and fun after-party, the Peak2Peak has slowly shifted from being a warm-up race for the Iceman Cometh in November to being a premier event all its own. Much of the credit has to go to Endoman Promotions, the organization behind the race, and its director, Tad Peacock. The race responds and listens to racers every year, incorporating changes in the course and timing to make the race more enjoyable for everyone who enters it, from Beginners to the seasoned Pro. It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes for a relaxed, fun atmosphere, where racers and fans support everyone no matter what their team or hometown.
A built-in factor in the race’s success is the location. Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa has very quietly been home to some beautiful mountain biking trails, and the race has made these trails more and more popular each season. While the VASA and other areas get a lot of attention, the Crystal Mountain property might be one of the best kept secrets in northern Michigan, a haven to locals and diehards from June until the snow starts to fall.
The 2011 edition of the Peak2Peak saw one of the strongest fields ever to take the starting line. Fans were treated to the closest race in the event’s history, with the entire Elite Men’s podium separated by just seven seconds, and the top five all within a minute. Cole House (ProCyclist), a former rider for BMC (and, it should be noted, a former 7th place finisher at the U-23 Tour of Flanders) took his first ever Peak2Peak title just two seconds ahead of Nathan Guerra (Wheel&Sprocket/Vision), with the National Ultra-Endurance Series Champion Christian Tanguy (Team CF) taking third. Traverse City locals Jeff Craven (City Bike Shop) and Ty Schmidt (Einstein Racing) impressed as well, taking 8th and 9th places, respectively.
The Women’s race was no less exciting, if not quite as close. After a three-way duel played out for most of the race, Mackenzie Woodring (PriorityHealth) took off to take the win over her future teammate and Traverse City native Johanna Schmidt (Einstein Racing). Sue Stephens (Quiring Cycles), a two-time winner in the past, held on for third, loading up one of the strongest and most accomplished podiums ever in the Elite Women’s event.
After the race, pro riders leaned their bikes right next to beginners’ bikes and joined in on the post-race storytelling and imbibing. Right Brain Brewery, the event’s title sponsor, offered up their best seasonal selections and fueled an enjoyable afternoon.
Mountain biking is a sport where the overall winner can often be seen chatting happily with beginners in their first race, keeping the sport connected, down to earth and inviting to everyone. And for the Peak2Peak, that is a winning recipe that will draw everyone back again for 2012, no matter what the weather is like.