The 2014 edition of Mud, Sweat and Beers is this Saturday, with clear trails, trademark sand pits and a stray mud puddle or two on the agenda.
It isn’t the biggest Pro field ever, but both the Men’s and Women’s races are packed with quality. Former winners, podium finishers, and some riders ready to deliver on their promise all enter Saturday’s race on the start line for another MSB.
A long, cold winter makes the spring race even more important for the more serious riders looking to see where they’re at against the competition they’ll face all season long. For the more casual rider, it’s a breath of still somewhat chilly air to actually put rubber to dirt in Northern Michigan, where layers of ice and snow still smother the Vasa even ten days ago.
The course is relatively unchanged, save a new section of old singletrack added that will increase the race’s distance by a little bit. The time of the lead riders should go up slightly, but it will still be a very fast, aggressive affair for racers. The opening salvos will be fired on Heart Attack Hill, which plateaus at its top for a mile of fast, twisty and hilly pavement before spilling back into the woods and making their way onto the Vasa proper. Two hills and one massive sandpit later, the riders are nearly onto the flat and fast, 3 mile section to Timber Ridge before making the gallop back to the pavement and the start venue, Mt. Holiday.
The far and away favorite is Jorden Wakeley, who cruised to a four minute win last week over Dan Korienek. This week, he’s up against another Grand Rapids powerhouse in Matt Acker. The Freewheeler rider has ridden much of this course just a few months back at the Vasa Fat Bike Race, and in the same direction, and he’s coming into form heading into a busy summer. Tom Scott and Jason Elmore can also challenge, though it’s a massive point of pride for the TC riders to ride well at MSB. Einstein Racing enters four riders in the Pro race, with Ryan Kennedy and Nate St. Onge riding with the dedicated support of the Sovis Brothers. Kennedy is the best option for the team, with St. Onge riding as a dangerous wild card. With the addition of more singletrack, he could be very, very aggressive and open up big chunks of time late. Trever Kingsbury is also up in the big leagues for MSB, riding for North Country Cycle Sport. Only a bad crashed kept him out of the late date for fifth place, and this course suits him even better than last week’s Rust Shaker. Scott Quiring rounds out the field, and if his fitness from the fat bike season has carried over, he’s a great bet for a podium place.
The Women’s race brings back Hagerty’s 1-2 of last season, though the order of which was a touch uncomfortable last season. A poorly marked, two-way section of trail saw Bridgit Widrig off-course, with teammate Lauri Brockmiller taking the win just ahead of her way-righted teammate. Regardless of the order, the pair were flying last season, and there’s nothing to indicate they won’t find the podiums in the same places-or swapped around-in 2014. They’ll be challenged by Melissa Colflesh, who has put in some great rides of the past year and a half, and she’ll be looking to take a big win to announce her place in the upper echelons of the mountain bike scene.