Mud, Sweat and Beers provides an emphatic exclamation point on the end of Michigan’s Spring Classics. Its May 5 start date sets the divide for the Michigan cycling season, ushering in the summer races, high temperatures and even higher stakes every single week. The fast and furious mountain bike race, held at Mt. Holiday in Traverse City, Michigan, signals the transition from the gravel road races, time trials and small races to the first big, true fat tire test of the season.
Mt. Holiday provides a great platform for the race’s start/finish. Title sponsors, Right Brain Brewery and McLain Cycle and Fitness, throw a great party for the riders to indulge and relive the race, with a beer tent and delicious food on hand. But that comes after all the action, and the Pale Ale (10 miles) and Stout (20 miles) categories offer an awful of that, with tests for riders of all ages and abilities. The Root Beer and Ginger Ale races are non-timed kids’ events that entertain spectators and racers. These kids’ races are the only way to still get in on the fun this season, with the Pale Ale and Stout races already sold out. If you’re not a kid, you’re out of luck.
From Mt. Holiday, racers make a quick loop on private land and through a subdivision on pavement, winding their way up all of the time. The opening two miles of the race are absolutely killer. Right from the gun, it’s a drag race of sorts, with riders jockeying for position at the head of their fields before hitting the single-track. Before long, the course winds over to the famous VASA 25km loop. One of the most beautiful and well-maintained trail systems in the state, the VASA loop is the perfect terrain for the race. Most local riders train on this section of the course year round, not only for MSB but also for the finishing miles of the Iceman Cometh in November. For teams like Hagerty Cycling, Einstein Racing, Epic Happens and Right Brain Brewery, the familiar twists, turns and climbs are an extra incentive to hammer and ride strong.
Mud, Sweat and Beers is also the first true showdown for all of the area’s top riders. Some of the top racers in the Midwest take the start in Traverse City, making MSB an early target and test against the best in the area. Including last year’s winner (and the 2012 Barry-Roubaix winner), Mike Anderson (North Country Cycle Sport). Perhaps the best ride of 2011 was City Bike Shop’s indomitable Jeff Craven, who rode his way to third place and a huge early-season podium visit. Another bright spot of the race is the Conflict: Traverse City’s two powerhouse cycling teams clash for the first time en masse at MSB. In 2011, Einstein Racing’s Jason Lowetz and Ron Sanborn flooded the top ten overall in the Men’s race, with Ron winning the single speed division in the eternal battle with Hagerty Cycling’s Steve Andriese. Andriese and Sanborn will renew hostilities at Mud, Sweat and Beers after Sanborn’s dominant showing at St. Fatty’s Fat Bike Race in March.
The women’s field is annually the most exciting showdown. The yearlong struggle between Einstein’s Johanna Schmidt and the assembled powers of Hagerty Cycling’s very best (namely, Susan Vigland, Lauri Brockmiller, and Bridget Widrig) ignited at MSB. Mountain biking can have some team tactics, but at the end of the day, it comes down to power and guts. Schmidt jumped away from distance and took the win over the Hagerty trio, who took places 2, 3 and 4 overall, chased all the way by Fusion’s Kim Thomas. This year, a strong Hagerty squad will be looking to topple Schmidt and shove their way up to a 1-2-3 finish.
The 2012 edition of the Mud, Sweat and Beers is going to be a great race and transition into another beautiful and action-packed Michigan cycling summer. Head over to Mt. Holiday May 5 to take in an awesome northern Michigan event. Rumors have it the mud pit at the finish will be back, joined this year by a bike washing station run by the Hagerty-Thompson O’Neil Law U-25 Development team.
Make sure to watch for GTMTBA’s racers, including Dave Walston, Joe Sovis, and Emily Savickis!