The swirling, twisting trails of Cannonsburg provided the perfect terrain for the 3rd edition of the State Games of Michigan. Over the technical singtrack and over the tops of two nasty climbs, with some of the best riders in the Mitten taking the start line.
The Cannonsburg course was altered a bit from this year’s Thursday Night Series, but the home boys from Cross Country Cycle Sport, Freewheeler, Leadout and Founder’s weren’t thrown off much. On a trail where knowing what is around the next bend is critical, especially when it’s a terrain park, the Grand Rapids riders were head and shoulders above the traveling competition. Cross Country Cycle was well-represented in every category, and their trailer and tents looming in the parking lot were a tough omen for cars pulling in on a beautiful day in Belmont, Michigan.
The trails were dry and dusty, but otherwise in perfect shape. The start climb, a fast and fun ascent to the highest point on the course, was packed with the one exception of a patch of sand about halfway up. For most of the categories, the start was absolutely critical. With little clear opportunity to make a move on the tight singletrack, position going onto the climb dictate placement for much of the first lap. For the Elite men, the extra lap meant a few more opportunities to pass, but handling and technical prowess was the order of the day.
It was an experienced field with Dan Korienek, Earl Hillaker, Kyle Stange and Neil Sharphorn taking the line as the favorites, with NCCS’ Chad Wells a Northern Threat. In a day littered with wrecks, mechanicals and too many flats, Well’s had two flats in quick succession early on and was forced from the race. With the dangerous Wells out of the running, the Grand Rapids men were putting in some serious speed and a lesson to all the young riders on how to handle bikes.
Kyle Stange held off Earl Hillaker* by four-tenths of a second to claim a massive win and a gold medal, with Hillaker content, if not happy, to take a silver. Third place on the day went to Neil Sharphorn with Dan Korienek slotting in fourth ahead of Shawn Davison.
*State Games’ results now have Hillaker ahead of Stange for the win. If anyone knows who actually won, let me know.
PriorityHealth’s Craig Gietzen took the Singlespeed win in style, and CJ Anten took the win in the Expert 19-29 by just over ten seconds ahead of Jeremy Karel. Logan Taylor, Cheyenne Smith and Wes Sovis rounded out the top five in the second fastest field of the race, with Sovis surviving a close-call on an off-camber ridge at 17 miles an hour. The incomparable Danielle Musto won the Singlespeed race in style, and deserves a polite Chapeau! for her classy demeanor. With the Sport classes queued up for their start in the middle of the course, Danielle politely excused herself and snuck around the side of the mass of bodies. A lesser (wo)man would have hollered, complained and elbowed some poor Sport rider in the back. But not, of course, the ever-smiling Danielle.
Here’s the Strava info for the three laps the Official Rear Wheel and Derailleur Hanger of kolo t.c. felt obligated to stay attached to my bike. Some of this includes some rather slow jogging and a trip over a log trying to jump out of a rider’s way.
Here’s the entire photo album from the State Games. Feel free to download the BIG pictures for a friend or loved one. It’s totally cool.