February is the Month of the Sharpie. Across the Northern Hemisphere, cyclists start circling important dates on the calendar as local events announce race dates and start times. Registration for races like Barry-Roubaix, the Lumberjack 100, Mud, Sweat and Beers, and the Iceman all pop up or fill up quickly. For a lot of Northern Michigan’s racers, the first big date comes at the end of March with the Barry-Roubaix in Middleville, Michigan. This year, however, the race hit its 1,500 rider cap in February 4, making it the largest edition in the race’s four year history.
For those too slow in signing up for the Barry-Roubaix, it’s time to come up with an alternative race schedule for the spring. There is nothing more motivating to get you outside and pedaling than knowing you’ve got some big races coming up early in the season. Without the Killer Gravel Road Race to get geeked up for, here is a short list of great events to sign up for to get some spring racing miles under your belt.
The Lowell 50 - The Flat River Race Series kicked off last fall in Lowell, Michigan, for the fall edition of this gravel road race. Billed in spring of 2012 as “The Thriller After the Killer”, the Lowell 50’s March 31st edition is going to be a huge draw for all those with eager legs after the Roubaix, and for those who were too slow in signing up for the earlier race. The route is the same as the fall edition, with just under 50 miles of alternating gravel and pavement winding through the greater Lowell area. The race features two picturesque covered bridges and scenic views of the countryside. It also features podium girls, an added draw to the hay bale podium and cool prizes.
Fisk Knob Time Trial – Fusion Cycling presents the 32nd edition of Michigan’s toughest time trial. Even if you don’t have a time trial bike, the 17-mile course of Fisk Knob combines all the elements of a challenging course that evens out the playing field. After a screaming opening descent, riders power along an undulating flat section before heading back up two climbs. The finish is the same as the start, and the last three minutes or so of the race is an uphill sprint to stop the clock. The Fisk Knob Time Trial is capped at 180 riders, so sign up soon to test yourself against the clock in this classic Michigan race. If you’ve never raced a time trial before, this is a great opportunity to put yourself in “The Race of Truth” and see how you react to the pressure of racing against the clock.
Mud, Sweat and Beers - This mountain bike race is becoming the punctuation of the spring racing season and a massive event in Northern Michigan. The race starts and ends at Holiday Hills and winds through much of the VASA 25K loop, making it one of the fastest races of the season. For riders looking for a pure mountain bike race to start the season, Mud, Sweat and Beers deserves top billing. Racers choose between 10 and 20-mile distances (Pale Ale and Stout, respectively), with full race categories for both. The early May time slot (May 5th this year) has produced very nice weather, with cold mornings typically warming up comfortably by race’s end. With Right Brain Brewery providing post-race refreshment, this is a great race to end your spring or kick-start your race season. Mud, Sweat and Beers also gives fans an early look at the form of some of Michigan’s top riders, and serves as the first full showing of many of the area’s top teams, including Einstein Racing, Hagerty Cycling, Right Brain Brewery, City Bike Shop and many others. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the brand new GTMTBA team making its debut!
Photo credit: Jody Hofstra