We had a few fast folks on board Salsa’s up at Chequamegon this past weekend. For folks not from around here, Chequamegon is ‘the’ big mountain bike race of the year. It’s a unique one as well in that about 1600 riders mass start in the Forty (40-miler) and about 1000 mass start in the Short & Fat (16-miler).
Because of the type of race it is and the quantity of racers taking part this isn’t a race dominated by singletrack. Sure it has some, but it mainly features forest roads and tough sections of the Birkie ski trail. While there are no massive climbs, there is no shortage of short ups and downs. A lot of people find it to be more difficult than they ever thought it would be.
Back in the day I used to write about this race and shoot the race for various publications. I guess I’d have to admit that it holds a special spot in my heart because there just aren’t many events like it. Plus, it takes place in beautiful northern Wisconsin in September…and there aren’t many places finer to be at that time of year.
Salsa pro rider Jeff Hall won this race back in the day, when he was a wee lad of 18-years. I remember that race well as he bridged up to a Michigan rider by the name of Jason Swiatlowski late in the race and then beat him in a sprint to the line.
Well this year Jeff took the race season off. He did one Thursday night local race and commuted to work on his bike. He’s got a 40+ mile round trip commute. He did decide to give Chequamegon another go though. Truth be told, he’d love to win this race again. He’s had numerous podium placings since his win…but he’s never been back to the top spot there again. I really hoped this might be his year. He felt fresh and wasn’t tired from a season of racing. He said he didn’t feel any pressure.
And he just about pulled it off. Jeff attacked a ways past the half way point and rode off the front until about 8 miles from the finish. That’s when US National Champion Cyclocross racer Jonathan Page bridged up to him. Jeff said he didn’t recognize him and didn’t really remember till later that Page was in the race. Well, Page attacked on the final climb before the finish. Jeff said he underestimated it and didn’t respond hard enough. Still he was pretty happy with how he did. I’m glad to hear that since I know how competitive Jeff is. I’m glad he was able to find some satisfaction in a fine finish, even if it wasn’t the top step. Jeff was riding a Moto Rapido.
Two other Salsa’s podiumed on the day.
Ryan Horkey earned a 2nd place podium in the singlespeed category. Ryan has been working hard at trying to get faster. Part of his dilemna is that he also commutes to work by bike almost every day. Those of you who commute know just how hard it can be to turn a commute into any sort of structured training…and how hard it can be to talk yourself into doing any structured training in addition to a regular commute. Nice work putting together a great ride Horkey. Ryan was riding an El Mariachi.
Last but not least is the victory in the Short & Fat by Jake Richards on a Moto Rapido. I don’t know Jake but I know his dad, Jay. Back in the day when I was involved in putting on Minnesota’s race series, Jay was one of the fast guys. I’m sure he’s a fast guy still but I don’t get out much anymore. It is nice to see that one of the nicest guys from those days is raising a fast kid. I hope he’s learned to be as nice as his father as well.
And there you have it…my random recollections and recaps from the Chequamegon Forty. I hope all that took part in the event enjoyed it because there just aren’t many experiences like it.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.