“We wanted to make it the toughest mountain bike race in the Midwest.” - Danny Hill, Marji Gesick 100 Course Designer.
85 to 90% singletrack. 12,200 feet of climbing. 100 miles. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure this one out. The masterminds behind this race wanted to make sure every mile to the finish line was earned, even more so if you’re after the pre-cutoff time belt buckle or the $1 first place prize. You read that right. ONE dollar.
The terrain of Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is nothing to be trifled with, and the route of the race is strewn with roots and rocks and seemingly all uphill. Despite the play-hard-to-get nature of The Marji Gesick 100, the organizers are incredibly proud of what they’ve created, and they’d love to show you their version of a good weekend. We got in touch with Race Director Todd Poquette to get some more background and details on what racers can expect.
Please introduce yourself. How long have you been a resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and how long have you been riding there?
POQUETTE - Todd Poquette. Husband. Father. Voice of Marji and Event Director. Born and raised in the U.P. Moved and returned too many times to count. Riding since 2010 when I decided there was a helluva lot more to life than the corporate grind box.
The U.P. takes a little bit of work to get to. What’s your tourism pitch?
POQUETTE - If it were easy everyone would do it. Tourism pitch is one word: Adventure!
What’s the origin story of the Marji Gesick? Where does the name come from, and who are the architects behind the event?
POQUETTE - During the research phase of the race concept, I wanted to find something unique people would remember. I also hoped it would tie directly to the history and heritage of mining on the west end of Marquette County. I met Marji Gesick through a simple Google search of “iron ore mining history Ishpeming Michigan”. I love the story and welcome others to perform the same search. The history is deep and extremely interesting.
Think about how hard life had to be in the 1800’s for people. Every day must have felt like our racers do for just one day. The way I look at it, if they (our ancestors) can survive a lifetime of struggle, we sure as the hell can honor that sacrifice by doing it for a day. I’m not trying to trivialize the challenges and struggles of life in the 1800’s or the oppression Native Americans faced. I think we have much to learn from looking back, specifically, to see what a difficult and hard life really looked like. We should all do more “hard things”. This event is NOT about winning, money, and fame, it is about human struggle, overcoming adversity, pushing limits, and not accepting the excuses we make for ourselves and putting it all on the line for one day. It takes mental toughness and grit to attempt something you damn well know you probably can’t do. Too many people play it safe, find a fluffy way to justify it and stay home. There’s no growth in that.
As far as for the “architects” behind the event… I would say Danny is the trail architect and I am the voice (attitude) for the lack of a better or more impressive title.
Describe the course planning process and goals.
POQUETTE - Course process: Link every major trail system in Marquette County to create a one-day mega event of suffering and self-exploration. We’ve been adamant from day-one about running the event UPHILL from Marquette to Ishpeming. I think we’re the only event in the country who can claim to be all uphill from beginning to end!
How much do the personality and riding styles of you and your riding cronies influence the vibe of the event? If the Marji Gesick 100 was a person, what would they be like to hang out with?
POQUETTE - This is deep! Is the personality and vibe of the event influenced by our personalities and ride styles? Hell yes. We ride long. We ride hard. We ride uphill. We drink beer. Sometimes we drink too many.
If the race was a person… that’s funny. Well, for starters, you’d probably wonder most of the time why you hang out with him. I have a racer quote from a couple of years ago I feel best articulates what it’s like to be friends with MG100. Here’s the setup: I’m at the finish line congratulating racers as they finish. Josh crosses the line visibly broken down. With a smile and far too much enthusiasm, I extended (for a handshake) and asked, “How’d it go!”. He did not shake my hand but stared me straight in the eye and said, “I don’t know if I hate you or love you right now.”
That’s what it’s like to hang out with us.
What do people need to know to register and get to the area, and what kind of bike set up do you recommended to make it to the finish line?
POQUETTE - Register at www.marjigesick100.com
To get here: Drive north for Canada
Recommended bike setup: Full-suspension. Plus tires. #Deadwood SUS…I’ve put about 4,000 miles on one. It was built to handle this course.
Making it to the finish line: GREAT question.
Any closing thoughts or things I forgot to point out?
POQUETTE - 100% of the proceeds from the event go back to local trail organizations.
Know the Self-Supported Ethos.
You will be self-supported. There are no race operated aid stations. GPS is required. YES, we said required. While the course is signed from beginning to end, you will be expected to handle whatever adversity is thrown your way. This includes the possibility of a sign falling down, being blown down, or eaten by a bear. Stuff happens, and you need to be prepared for it. Road Rules apply. You will not find happy, smiling volunteers at every road crossing. In fact, there will not be any volunteers at road crossings. You are on your own. Bring proper equipment, lights, nutrition, and hydration. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. In the event of an emergency, your best bet is to call 911 and hope for the best.
For some visuals on The Marji Gesick 100, check out this great video.
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I had to live on both coasts a couple of times to realize that maybe being born in the Midwest wasn’t just arbitrary. I’m drawn to the terrain here, and if you catch me with one of this region’s supreme IPAs in hand, I’ll talk your ear off about my favorite spots. I’ll always take every opportunity though to explore every nook and cranny anywhere I can on a bike, because that’s what makes me feel most alive.