I certainly haven't hit all the trails of the previously mentioned Triumvirate Midwest MTB Meccas, but in near blasphemy I'd say what Copper Peak has rivals or exceeds the best stuff those well known areas have to offer.
Alas one must turn a blind eye & go to the start line. As always, I'm looking for new & familiar faces at any race to see long time friends & fellow competitors. This year it'd be once again that strong brute from Iron River Casey Lajoie, his better half & more charming wife Ronnie (heck of a racer too by the way), Nikolai Anikin of Duluth, Jason Rouesch of Medford and a host of others that would start getting the list a bit long.
The 16 mile expert race kicked off with host of racers jostling for the front on the pavement lead out, with Casey eventually throwing down a hard surge & making the rest of us submit to his driving force. Once the opportunity came for a hard right turn onto the two track off-road portion of the race I did the ole slingshot around Casey & edged up the pace on the steadily increasing grade of a semi wet at times sloppy slope. Glancing backwards there was band of merry travelers in single file, steadily holding the pace. Not what I was expecting. So at the next turn upwards on a gravel section I amped it up just alittle more. At which point things behind started to sputter a bit & gaps formed. At one point, I heard an exclamation behind me, no doubt from Nikolai, it was along the lines of "Uh, Aaron, my legs are starting to hurt now, you can quit that any time". Thanks for the tip Nikolai.
Feeling like I put in a very hard effort I arrived at the top of the hill almost 10minutes into the race, albeit without the luxury to enjoy the amazing view one deserves. The consolation wasn't bad though, it was into the downhill portion of the race. 1.5 miles to the parking lot/start area to the cheers of the spectating crowd & then another mile plus to the Black River bottom. It was self interest & pure joy that I was doing everything in my skillset to pin it around the corners. Dropping the outside foot, staying balanced over the bottom bracket, keeping my vision up, elbows bent. Everything I'd learned from a Ride Better downhill riding clinic I'd taken years before. Can't say I wasn't feeling rusty, ok alot rusty & that I almost smoked myself over a corner or two, but both bike & I made it to the bottom in one piece.
A 16 mile event might not seem like that long of race to some, but in bike racing it's about the amount of time it takes. I came across in just under 1:30hour while behind Casey & Nikolai had a great battle going on. Casey getting passed on the final climb but being able to hold onto Nikolai through the mile & half decent & positioning nicely for a sprint finish. Though unfortunately those best laid plans came undone with less than 100yards to go as big man Casey dropped the hammer to go around Nikolai so did his narrow wide chainring do to his chain, so Nikolai came away with number 2 spot and Casey in 3rd. His spouse Ronnie despite taking a bee sting to the forehead & wondering throughout the race if she was going to get choked out by an anaphylactic shock took 1st in the womens category & 9th overall. Result can be found at Superiortiming.com