There are few courses better suited to out-and-out racing than the one hosted at the Bear Claw Epic. A perfect balance of climbing and descents, singletrack and passing zones, high speeds and technical turns; no other course in the state offers up a winner more well-rounded than this one. And with the fall racing season kicking off in earnest, there’s no better race to see where you stand as you build fitness for Lowell, Peak to Peak and Iceman.
If you haven’t tried this race out yet, make this the year. The seven mile course features 350 feet of climbing per lap, with the climbs largely coming in the form of short, sharp tests. Riders brave enough to stay off the brakes on the descents are hugely rewarded with a little extra momentum going up the rollers, making this a race with a higher than normal average speed. The high average speed keeps gaps to a minimum, which means you should never come off the gas – the leaders aren’t ever as far ahead as you might think.
Another bonus of this race? It’s so accessible for newer riders! Race distances and categories are broken up from Beginner (1 lap), Intermediate (2 laps), Sport (3 laps) Expert (3 laps), and Elite (4 laps). No matter your level of experience, there’s a race category and distance for you. There’s a reason for this. The race is associated with the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and all proceeds will go to maintaining and improving the Cadillac Pathway trail system. The race organizers, Michelle Andrews and Dustin Webb, want to make sure the folks who haven’t checked out these trails before come out to see the high-quality trails right in their backyard.
Speaking of the organizers, they know what they’re doing. They don’t use arrows to mark the course. They use real, life humans to man all the corners and intersections to ensure no one gets lost and everyone gets ample adulation throughout the entire course. After the race, there’s water, G&D Pizza, Blue Heron cookies – everything you need to recover from you effort on the trails. By all accounts, this is easily one of the best events of the season. A huge thank you needs to go out to the Cadillac cycling community for putting this top-notch event together!
Bear Claw Epic takes places September 22. Online registration is just $35, while day-of is $45. Get yourself signed up for one of the most organized, well-run races of the season. Anyone want to check out Clam Lake Brewery after? I’ve been wanting to check that place out for years. Let me know.