The 2013 Top Banana rolls into the mountain bike season in style.
A packed August and a demanding fall bring the season to a dramatic climax for the Top Banana contenders into the grind of the schedule. The rest of the year is entirely dirt, combining classic mountain bike races and cyclocross events to determine the most complete riders in Michigan.
Big M Resurrection, August 4. Mountain biking returns to Big M after a one year hiatus. For those with no interest or legs for the Lumberjack 100, this race ushers in a triumphant return to one of the best courses around. One of the most complete circuits around, Big M is a true test that will shake the resolve of racers entering those late summer hard spots of fitness. With any luck, the promoters will include the two big climbs, the fire road and the Paramount. C Race, 5 points, -1 through the top five.
X100, August 24. 100 miles. Seriously. A 100 miler makes its debut on the schedule, and with it, the promise of double points. Any winner will have certainly earned it. Combining 50 miles of singletrack and 50 miles of gravel, the route will challenge those who excel in one discipline and could be lacking in another. A lead of a few minutes is absolutely nothing coming out of the singletrack with over two hours of gravel ahead, and the ability to average 20 miles per hour on the gravel is pointless if you are decapitated on the trail. Double A Race, 40 points to the winner, 35 to second, 30 to third, -1 to the rest of the top ten.
Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross, September 7. One of the top races from 2012 is back and comes in as the kick-off for the cyclocross. Some of the best cyclocrossers in the state make their season here, over two months ahead of the Iceman Cometh and almost four months ahead of the state championships. Folks, this cyclocross thing is the real deal. Don’t miss this.
Battle at the Burg, September 14. The second edition of the Battle will be even better, and the 2012 edition was really quite impressive. For starters, the mid-September start date begins the dramatic lead-in to Iceman preparation. Sue Stephens came out to play, sparking a months long fight with Johanna Schmidt for Michigan supremacy. It’s one of the best, most complete races on the circuit, and if the race directors retain the Cannonsburg Climb again, it will be perhaps the best preparation for Peak2Peak around.
Peak2Peak, TBA. The conditions in 2012 will go down as the stuff of legends. Mud, rain, cold, mechanicals, disasters, collapses…it had it all. While with any luck that doesn’t happen again, those same lessons will be in mind when the racers return to Crystal Mountain. By now, the contenders will be known and there will be lots of pressure on the line with each trip up the Crystal Climb. Look for Mike Anderson to make the trip, though Jorden Wakeley will also look to be in passable fitness as the Iceman draws near. Kim Thomas, Mackenzie Woodring and perhaps even Sue Stephens should be in the mix. B Race, 10 points, -1 to the top ten
Iceman Cometh, November 2. The big one. For 2013, the points will remain as they are for a regular A race, meaning locals will have to ride extremely well to collect any. However, that seems very possible. Last year, Mike Anderson and Mackenzie both nipped the top five, and with the talent in Michigan, there’s no reason to think more won’t join them. Dark horse pick made in February: Ryan Kennedy makes the top ten.
Cross the Bay Cyclocross, December 8. Cap off the season with the most fun you can possibly have on a bicycle. One last race, a few more points up to grab just two weeks from Christmas. With the full 15 points on offer, if anyone is even close to the leader, both will have to make starts in order to keep their placing. Last year, Chelsea Strate and Johanna Schmidt powered to podiums, but Kim Thomas and a host of others, including Algoma Bicycle Co.’s Kim Chapman should all make late season appearance.