Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 2, 2013

800 riders hit the mud

Traverse City Record-Eagle

— TRAVERSE CITY — By the time Saturday rolls around, conditions are expected to be perfect for the fifth annual Mud, Sweat and Beers Fat Tire Fest at Mt. Holiday.

That should make for a good day for the more than 800 riders who are competing in four different races.

A recent spate of warmer temperatures has all but wiped out any snow still covering the trail and that should provide an ideal track to run the 22-mile Stout race, the 12-mile Pale Ale, the 2-mile Ginger Ale and the 1/4-mile Root Beer. Riders will depart in waves with the Stout race the first to get underway at 9 a.m.

“It’s unbelievable that it was snow covered nine days ago,” event co-director Jim Kalajian said. “Today I’d be very surprised if there was any snow or ice remaining on the trail itself. It could be a little wet in a couple spots, but we could have the best conditions we’ve ever had.”

Susan Vigland can attest that the trail is shaping up to be exceptional. She was out riding the course on Tuesday and came across some slick spots, but those were diminishing by the day, a result of a week of 60- and 70-degree days.

“It’s going to be perfect,” said Vigland, who typically has been a strong contender in the Stout Elite/Pro Women’s class. “It’s going to be dry — the conditions are going to be awesome. I would hope for the finish there would be some snow and ice. It adds to the appeal and it’s exciting for a race like that.”

She finished second last year.

The races begin and end at Mt. Holiday, in between winding through a Holiday Hills neighborhood, the Vasa trail and Timber Ridge Resort. The finish of the race is described by race organizers as “an adrenaline rush slalom down the ski hill to the muddy finish in the Brick Bath.” The trail features some slight alterations from the past as organizers continue to tinker with ways to make the course better.

“We’re fortunate enough to have hundreds of acres to build the race. Each year we tweak it to keep it fresh,” said Kalajian, who noted logging done by the Department of Natural Resources left spots unpassable before a crew of workers went out and worked on the course.

“This spring we had to go out and find these trails again,” said Kalajian. “We had guys out in the woods doing that last week.”

A love for riding was what started the idea for the race, with Kalajian saying the intent was to create a fun kickoff to spring. But the Mud, Sweat and Beers event also raises money to go toward the Mt. Holiday Recreation Area. To date, more than $100,000 have been raised.

“The race benefits Mt. Holiday, which everyone agrees is a good addition to our community,” said Steve Andriese, who rides in the single track class. “When you put on an event that brings the community together and you’re doing something really fun that raises money for a good cause it’s a win-win situation. When you have this (Mt. Holiday) in our area — this, the Vasa, Hickory Hills — it draws people and makes growth in the area.”

Kalajian confirmed the event has become a big draw for the area, selling out faster each year. He estimates between 30-40 percent of the entrants come from out of the area.

“People enjoy Traverse City. They know the trails from the Iceman (Cometh, held in November), yet it’s a totally different time of the year from the Iceman. It’s about having fun and celebrating mountain biking with the start of the season. It’s called Mud, Sweat and Beers because that’s what the race is,” he said.