The State Games are back for 2012 and the showdown at Cannonsburg is going to be a battle for gold. 

The Olympic vibe is already thick around Grand Rapids, and this summer’s State Games are thriving on the energy. Michigan’s very own series of events is headlined by the mountain bike race that takes place at the picturesque Cannonsburg Ski Area. Cannonsburg is one of the premier courses in the Mitten, on par with the legendary courses at Boyne, Hanson Hills and Addison Oaks. The short laps make it an outstanding place to spectate and gives riders a tad more encouragement. The spiraling loops have been in weekly use on the Thursday Night Race series this spring, giving Grand Rapids riders a leg up on their home course.

The route over, around and through Cannonsburg’s ski slopes are very tough. The race kicks off with a fast, demanding climb that winds and twists like an Alpine road tucked under thick branches. The ascent concludes with some fast and technical turns and, later, a short jaunt through portions of the terrain park before winding back around for another tough, steep and loose climb before spilling back down to the start/finish area in front of an uproarious crowd. The five laps for Elite and Expert class should take over two hours, making it the perfect warm up for riders looking ahead to the Boyne Marathon in July. There’s a number of technical downhills and descents, too, making it the sort of race that demands an all-around rider to win.

Last year, Jeff Jacobi took the Elite Men’s win at 2:05, a full five minutes ahead of second place Jeff Haney and eight minutes over third place finisher Joe Slanecki. The heat added to the attrition of five grinding circuits, creating huge gaps in every category and leaving anyone not on top form positively reeling. One person not under pressure was the Elite Women’s winner, Julie Allaire. Julie raced unopposed but paced to a solid 2:34 time to take the gold medal.

The Expert Men’s races are also super-competitive, with a special nod to the 40-49 class that included Mark Spore, Tom Scott, Jeff Wittbrodt, Craig Gietzen and Dave Lenting last year, with many of those riders already verbally committing to returning in 2012.

Registration for the MTB event closes June 20. For more information on the MTB race and other events, head over to the State Games website.