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It’s going to be an intimate get together Saturday, with a collection of some fine athletes tuning up for Mud, Sweat and Beers.

The turn out looks to be small, but the talent level is higher than ever at Mid Michigan Community College’s Rust Shaker. The race, just a week before Traverse City’s Mud, Sweat and Beers, is the perfect playground for racers looking to test their legs-and find some singletrack-after a long spring on gravel roads and pavement. The course in Harrison is notoriously rough, with some high-speed stretches punctuated by slow, grinding technical portions for much of the last half of the 13 mile lap.

The race is increasingly becoming an important warm-up race for MSB, but it is also one of the most underrated trails in the state. With many trail systems still either snow covered, ice spotted or muddy, Harrison is one of the first places clear for some great riding.

In the Men’s Pro race, the field grew from three to fourteen in the past week, with Jorden Wakeley and Chad Wells making returns to Rust Shaker. Leadout Racing’s Dan Korienek will be flanked by Keegan Korienek. Keegan is set up for a big season, and rides at Rust Shaker with a serious chance at a top five, if not a podium. Midland should also see a top five, be it from Matt LeVasseur, or the Rychwa Brothers, Eric and John. Brian Hancock will also be on hand, with Einstein Racing sending Dave Walston and both Sovis Brothers, Cody and Wes. Wes will be making his first race start since Fat Camp! on March 8, though he’s had a very rigorous two weeks at the Tour de Yen. All of that racing was inside, though.

It’s certainly Wakeley’s race to lose, and he’ll benefit greatly from having a lot of happy memories on a course he’s been almost unbeatable on. It’ll be the race debut of his Borealis Yampa outfitted with 29+ wheels. On a course as rough as this, the 3″ tires with the right air pressure could go a long way towards smoothing out the road to victory. Look for both Korieneks to be in the hunt, perhaps allied with Chad Wells in the chase. Despite a lack of race and trail time, don’t count out Wes Sovis if he is feeling one hundred percent.

The Women’s Pro race is the safest bet of the weekend, at least so far. Only Einstein Racing’s Stacy Smith is on the start list, but it shows how seriously the team are taking this one. They are sending ten riders south for the race, most of them in that big fancy van. Probably watching Top Gun on the way down, too.