Race #4 of the Minnesota State Championship Series was held at Mt. Kato Ski Area, just south of Mankato, MN. I decided to head up the day before the race to get a good recon ride in. Once I had crossed over into Minnesota, the skies darkened and the rain began to fall, heavily in some areas. I wasn’t too worried about though because the folks in Minnesota rarely, if ever, postpone a race. I got about 30 minutes away from Mankato and the skies began to clear up. I arrived at the course and the pavement was dry and it looked it had stopped raining there at least a few hours prior to my arrival. The temps were a nice cool 60 degrees. I love the weather up there!
I ended up doing three laps of the course and was not disappointed. Minnesota race courses are some of the most technical race courses that you will find anywhere and Mt. Kato was no different. It has a lot of climbing, roughly 500 feet per lap, lot’s of tight singletrack, and some pretty gnarly root infested descents. I wanted to ride more but I’d already been riding for about 90 minutes and didn’t want to cook myself for tomorrow’s race. I’ve come to the conclusion that riding a mountain bike on some sweet trails is kinda like eating ice cream, I’m always happy whenever I do either one.
The view from the top
Race day… I arrived at the course with about 2 ½ hours to spare and was able to relax a little and take my time getting registered, suited up and ready to roll. I got a nice hour long warm up in and rolled over to the start area about 15 minutes before the start. The usual Minnesota folks were there less Ben Moore, Jay Richards and Paul Hansen. I think that Ben lives in Madison, WI and didn’t want to make the drive. I think Jay was taking a mid season break and I saw Paul after the race clad in street clothes. Earlier in the week he blew his shoulder out at a practice race at Buck Hill. That sucks, I hope he gets well soon, nothing worse than having your season derailed due to an injury. There was still enough good competition in attendance to ensure my admission into the pain cave. Brendan Moore, Sam and Eric Oftedahl, Luke Nelson, Jesse Rients, Justin Rinehart and Chris Fisher to name a few.
The race started on a climb that snaked it’s way to the top of the hill. I grabbed a front row spot at the start next to Brendan and was determined to get off to a good start. The gun went off and I ended up somewhere around 6th or 7th in line as the trail began to point skyward. I worked my way up to 4th or 5th by the time we hit the top and Brendan was already off the front. Throughout lap 1, Brendans gap kept increasing to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore. About midway through lap 1 I was sitting in 3rd behind Brendan and Sam O.
I was able to stay with Sam until about the end of lap 2, however by that time his pace on the climbs was becoming a bit much for me and I had to back it off a little. I yo-yo’d off his wheel for a little while until the elastic finally broke. Sam was riding really well and I simply couldn’t match his pace on the climbs. I couldn’t see anybody behind me, so I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to keep Sam in sight, intent on settling for 3rd.
Descending over the roots of all evil
At some point during lap 3, I could see somebody behind me closing up a pretty rapid rate. So once we hit the climbs, I pushed myself pretty hard to at least make it difficult for him. Sometime during lap 4, he had gotten to maybe within 10 seconds of me. Shortly thereafter he started to fade until I couldn’t see him anymore. I still kept the pressure on because I had no idea where he was, and I also wanted to try and reel Sam back in. I never did catch Sam and unbeknownst to me, Brendan had gotten crossed up on a root on one of the descents, burped a lot of air out of one his tires and had to stop to re-inflate. It must have been on the descent they call ‘Quick Release’ because I never noticed him on the side of the trail. Quick Release is the type of descent that’s heavy on roots and steepness, if you’re not focused on the trail, you will quickly find yourself having one of those intimate moments with a tree that we mountain bikers tend to dread.
Havin' a great time playing in the woods
Sam rode an excellent race and ended up with the win with a time of 1:40:41. I rolled through in 2nd with a time of 1:41:32, close but no cigar. Brendan managed to fix his tire and salvaged a hard earned 3rd with a time of 1:42:47. Brendan was the masked man that had closed to within 10 seconds of me midway through the race. He put in a pretty hard effort to chase back up to the front end of the race and his efforts had caught up to him just as he was about to catch me. It’s too bad that he flatted because I think the he probably had the race well in hand. Right now he appears to be the fastest dude in Minnesota. Luke Nelson brought home 4th in 1:43:45 and Eric Oftedahl rounded out the top 5 in 1:44:35.
Mt. Kato boasts some pretty sweet trails and I had a great time riding and racing on them despite all of the pain that they cause. My plan was to stay in Minnesota that night so I stuck around after the awards and had a great time shootin’ the breeze with Eric, Brendan, Paul, WWJ and a few others. The mtb scene in Minnesota is pretty sweet, hopefully I can make it up to one or two more this season!
Next up… I’m headin’ out to Colorado for my annual 2+ week training camp in Durango. I think that I’ll probably make a quick stop in Breckenridge on the way and probably do the USA Cycling National Marathon Championships. Should I do the pro/semi pro race, or should I do 40-49? I’m not sure what to expect there because I’ve been tapering throughout the entire month of June. My fitness seems to have dropped off a little, but I’m still pulling off some great results so we’ll see! I’ve never raced at an altitude higher than the top of Seven Oaks Ski Hill in Boone, IA, which is about 11,000 feet lower than some parts of the course in Breckenridge. Regardless, it should be a lot of fun! I’ll try to do daily updates throughout my stay in Durango, so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading,