Elite U25 Cycling

Meet Miriam Bretzlaff

February 9th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Miriam Bretzlaff

Hello, my name is Miriam Bretzlaff. I’m a 13 year old racer from Highland, Michigan attending Charyl Stockwell Academy Middle School in the 8th grade. I’ve been riding my bike ever since I ditched the training wheels but my first race was the MiSCA series 7 years ago and I’ve been at it since. I have hopped between a couple different teams throughout my riding career but my current MiSCA team is Orange Krush and this will be my third year racing with them. I’ve worked my way up categories over the years and in the 2022 season I won advanced middle school as overall champion. This year I am hoping to race varsity but JV is also an option I am considering. I have also done several other in-state races in the past such as Barry Roubaix, Ore To Shore, Iceman, and Peak2Peak.

This will be my first year racing for the Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development (TAMJD) and I am very eager for the upcoming season. I joined the team because I want to achieve my long term goals and improve as an athlete. I also believe TAMJD has a great support system and I have found many friendships on the team. One of the things I am most excited for is the opportunity to race out of state with a team racing with me, as well as the many gravel races I will get the chance to participate in. Another thing I am very excited for is the team’s annual trip to training camp in Brevard, North Carolina. The trails all over North Carolina have become a desired location for me and I just love riding out there with my friends and family.

Some of my other favorite places to ride are local trails such as Milford trail, Highland rec., and Settlers Park. I also love to visit places all over northeast Arkansas such as trails in Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Bella Vista. One of the local group rides that I especially like attending is the MiSCA sponsored BRAVE ride. BRAVE is an organization of female riders that meet up a few times a month to get to know each other, push each other, and overall just have a good time out in the woods.

My favorite race/race weekend is probably Ore To Shore. The trip up north is always a great time and one of the things I most like about this venue is the constant change in scenery. For example, the trail can change from single track to two track to gravel to road and right back to single track in the span of a couple miles! It’s a race that requires all kinds of skills.

If I end up racing varsity this season as a freshman I will be competing against lots of girls older than me and who possibly obtained more riding experience. Knowing this, my goal for MiSCA is to finish every race and make it on the podium at least once. Some of my other goals non-related to MiSCA are keeping up with my training plan and balancing efforts and rest without overdoing one or the other.

A new thing I’ll be trying this year is out of state racing and I very much look forward to it. I would also like to dedicate more time to gravel rides and racing. I really look forward to challenging myself with the long hills associated with gravel and road even though climbing hasn’t always been my strong suit. I believe becoming associated with other forms of cycling other than just mountain biking will really help me as a racer and teach me skills that I will carry with me throughout my career. This winter I will be trying out for my school’s basketball team. I hope that this is also a beneficial form of cross training and a fun way to spend the offseason.

Sometimes I’m racing against friends and teammates while other times I’m racing against total strangers or old adversaries. One thing that I have learned to remember about racing anyone is to stay sportsmanlike before the race, competitive during them, and friendly after. Another thing that I have learned while racing is that no two riders are the same. My strengths and weaknesses will not always match up while closely racing someone and it can be very hard to beat a racer with a different skill range than I have depending on the course.

I love cycling because of the community I get to be involved in and the chances I have because of it. I am so grateful for everything that cycling has given me, especially the opportunity to be a part of TAMJD and its amazing support system!


Jared’s Race at Iceman Cometh’s 2022

December 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jared Dunham

The Iceman Cometh is a hallmark of Michigan mountain bike and bike racing. In 2021 I didn’t compete; however, I was fortunate enough to be a part of this year’s event. By the numbers, this course was 29 miles in length with 1,453 ft of elevation. The race begins at the Kalkaska Airport and ends at the Timber Ridge campground in Traverse City. This route uses mostly forest roads and the official VASA trails with portions of singlet rack added intermittently. It’s known for the final 3k of the course being setup like a cyclocross event. In terms of weather, leading up to Saturday, it was looking like we were going to get another “mud man”. This was reinforced by the fact that it had downpoured most of the previous night. However, lining up in the Pro/Cat 1 wave, the temperatures were in the low 60’s and while it was overcast, there was no rain for the time being.

We started the race like a “bat out of hell”. Riders were jostling for positions as we made our way out of the Airport and into the first two-track of the course. Nearing this initial two-track, racers ahead of me slowed to get around a giant mud puddle in the middle of the road. I was in the wrong spot of the group and lost several positions due to this, then had to regain my momentum. Generally, there is a good portion of sandy two-track in this event, however between the rain and the 3,400 sum-odd riders that came before us, almost all loose sections were packed down. Entering the first single track at 2 miles, my turns were smooth, and I was able to hang with a group relatively easily. Post-single track was when things split up drastically. People were able to put the power down on the sections of well-ridden forest road and the race officially began.

For a good portion of this race, I was chasing solo riders or small groups of racers that had fallen off the main pack. I’d catch up to a racer/group, find our paces didn’t match, then rinse and repeat. At 5 miles we were on the Brown Fire Lane straightaway, looking back there was a group of riders who were set to eliminate the gap I had. Ahead of me, there was a larger group of cyclists. I put in another dig and managed to hook onto the group ahead of me as we neared the next portion of single track. However, not long after, the group split apart, and I was in the caboose at the time. Re-entering gravel roads at what I believe was mile 11, I was yet again being chased by a group in the distance behind me. However, three riders were forming a peloton ahead of me.

Making a right onto Broomhead Rd, I tucked into an aero position, grabbed the center of the bars, and burned some more diesel fuel trying to catch the riders ahead of me. Avg speed was 21.3 mph through this section. Making a left back onto some forest road, I was only a few bike lengths away from a group of three. Finally at 15 miles, I slipped into one of the rider’s drafts and began to get some recovery in. Our peloton was made up of; Justin Morris, Ben Kailis, Barry Dykstra, and Myself (sorry if I got someone’s name wrong). At 15.7 miles, there was a portion of winding single track, I was still in 4th position, getting some recovery where I could. On one of the sweeping left turns, a small log was positioned at the outer edge of the trail. Noticing it too late, Ben and Barry rode over the log, but were able to clear it again to get back onto the trail. I wasn’t as lucky. My rear tire slipped on the wet log, and I was down on the ground.

Thankfully I had no major injuries, aside from some scrapes and bruises, and neither did the bike. Getting back on my feet, I spent some time pulling the chain out from under my chain ring. I lost a few positions but eventually got back onto the bike. However, that zen-like, flow-state mentality that you need to navigate single track fast was gone. Thankfully, the remaining course is more suited for a rider of better fitness than handling ability, as the most significant climbs were yet to come. 21.4 miles in, I arrived at the Boonenberg climb, which was one of the major climbs and at 23 miles, I was treated to Anita’s hill. It was here that I set a new highest heart rate, at 200 bpm. Shortly after this, the lead group of Women riders caught and passed me; Alexis Skarda, Savilia Blunk, and Rose Grant.

The clouds had been sprinkling off and on during the ride, but this was when it really started to rain. Wearing a jersey, finger-less gloves, normal bibs, and shoe covers, I was slightly chilled on the descents but would warm up again when I hit the climbs. Around 26 miles, I could tell that someone was following relatively closely behind. In the straightaways I could look back and make out a blue jersey in the distance, but I wasn’t sure who it was. Determined to hold my position, I sustained the hard effort but wasn’t going to give it the beans until the legendary final 3k. At the summit of Mount Gary (one of the final climbs of the course), I turned down an offer for Pabst Blue Ribbon and kept trucking. Entering the first section single track of the ending to the event, I did what I could to maintain my gap with the rider behind me.

Photo by: Rob Meendering Photography

The trail was muddy, relatively tight in areas, and twisty. I focused on maintaining smoothness over speed, which paid off. After exiting the single track, I didn’t hear the crowd behind me continue to cheer. This was good news; the rider wasn’t very close to me, and the gap was holding. I sent it on Icebreaker hill, with some minor cramps in my quads at this point, went back through Timber Ridge, and after following more single track, was dumped out at the base of Woodchip hill. The turn onto Woodchip was sharp and I had to take it wide, but I stayed upright and was in the correct gear to mash some pedals. After climbing Woodchip, I descended for a bit and then worked my way back into Timber Ridge for the finish. On one of the final hill climbs, I saw Keegan Korienek nearing the top, but my legs were baked at this point. Reentering Timber Ridge, I rode through the final turns, which I had memorized at this point, and put in a sprint on the straightaway to the finish.

My finish time for this year’s Iceman was 1:46:17, by comparison, my 2019 finish time was 2:14:23. So I was able to shave nearly a half an hour off my previous Iceman race. Additionally, in 2019 I was in peak form at the time of Iceman and training specifically for XC mountain bike races. Apart from comparing previous finish times, something that speaks to the caliber of riders that competed at this year’s event was how I placed in the rankings. In 2019, I placed 54th of 94 Pro men and 165 overall. This year I placed 80th of 99 Pro men and 109 Overall. One thing to note however, is that 2019 was a “mud year”, so it may not be easy to compare apples to apples. Concerning afterthoughts, one thing I needed was better positioning going into the first single track at 2 miles in. Riding with a group and catching some draft as opposed to chasing solo for about half the race would’ve saved a lot of my matches.

Thanks again to everyone who helps put on this race, I haven’t done an event quite like Iceman before. If you raced and met the goal you set, great, if you raced and had fun, awesome, if you did both, congratulations. On a final note, all the people cheering us on are what make this event amazing, so thank you for being out there to heckle us. My race plate number was 99 and the highlight of my ride was riding through one of the last bends in the course and some random guy I didn’t know yelling with conviction, “Go ninety nine”!


Finding Balance from a Junior Athlete

May 9th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nya Caldwell

Hello, my name is Nya Caldwell and I am 14 years old. Currently, I’m a 9th grader at Milford High School. I have always been a multi-sport athlete and have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. This past fall I was on my high school’s scholastic mountain bike team, which is a combined team made up of cyclists from surrounding high schools.

In the winter I transitioned to boarder cross, (or snowboard cross). Boarder cross is a snowboard competition, where 4-6 competitors race down a course simultaneously. This was an exciting new sport for me, which allowed me to expand my snowboarding skills along with providing a different racing experience.

Everyone in my family either races, or rides for enjoyment. When I was 9 I joined Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club. We met every Thursday night for rides and to work on skills. This experience introduced me to MiSCA and mountain bike racing. That fall I had my first race, and it was at Island Lake Recreation Area. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. That was the start of my love for racing. In 7th grade I was the MiSCA Middle School State Champion, and in 2021 I achieved the MiSCA JV State Championship title.

For the upcoming school year, I will be competing on HVUR’s Varsity team, and my goal is to have a strong season with a few podium finishes. I am excited to be competing alongside a great group of friends and cyclists.

This is my first year with Team Athletic Mentors. I first became aware of the team a few years ago, through my cousin Kellen. His success has inspired me to reach a higher level in cycling. My goal for my high school cycling career is to keep progressing to the next level in the sport. I love riding trails, so I would love to become better at skills. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically, which will help me in many aspects of life outside of cycling. Coming into this cycling season, I am hopeful that the demands of my other sports activities will allow me to transition smoothly back into cycling. I wasn’t able to put many hours into off-season training on my bike, but have confidence that my other athletic endeavors will help me get up to speed.

Last month I participated in my first gravel race, Barry-Roubaix. This was also my first race as a part of Team Athletic Mentors. It was a freezing cold day, with temperatures dipping into the 30’s, strong winds, and snowy weather conditions. Before the race we gathered as a team for a warm-up ride. Right away, I knew that I didn’t have the proper gloves to keep my hands warm. My hands were getting stiff, and painfully stinging. This was after only being on the bikes for 4-miles! This wasn’t going to work for an 18-mile race in winter-like weather. Luckily, a very helpful gentleman in the team tent lent me his gloves, which worked much better for me. Lesson number one, come prepared for everything and try out your gear before race-day!

It was so cool to line up at the start as a team. There were a lot of juniors in black and yellow kits and we were all experiencing the race-line jitters together. Everyone was so supportive of one another, offering advice and positive words of encouragement. It was such a great experience and all of my teammates were so supportive. The race was a huge success for the team, winning the junior team division. I managed to pull off a first in the 18 and under female category, which was an unexpected result. I was happy with how the race went and look forward to coming back next year.

The thing that I enjoy most about racing is the rush that I get after the ride. Often butterflies and anxiety can be distractions leading up to a race. I like to listen to my favorite playlist beforehand to help calm my nerves and get me hyped up. Once I take off from the start line I try to focus on a good cadence and any riders ahead of me. When the race is over, I always have a feeling of relief knowing that no matter the outcome I tried my best.

This Spring, I am on my school’s JV lacrosse team and on the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. Balancing multiple sports throughout the year, and the academic demands of high school can be challenging. However, participating in many different athletic disciplines is a lot of fun and I enjoy them all. The key to success is finding the right balance.


The Goals of a Junior Cyclist

March 14th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By  Joel Bretzlaff:

Hello, my name is Joel Bretzlaff, and I am 15 years old.  I’m from Highland, Michigan, and I am a Sophomore attending school at Charyl Stockwell High School.  I have been cycling for 10 years.  Right around the time I was born, my dad started mountain biking with some of his coworkers, and as soon as I was able, he got me out onto the trails.  

A few years later, I rode in my first race through MiSCA, and I have been racing MiSCA ever since.  This season, I will be racing in the Varsity category for the Orange Krush Junior Race Team, and I’m aiming to attain a podium finish at least once, and achieve a top-10 finish at all 6 MiSCA races.  MiSCA is a huge part of my life, and I love that I am able to be a role model for younger racers in the MiSCA organization.

I am entering my second season as a member of Team Athletic Mentors.  Last year, I joined the team for a multitude of reasons.  TAM has allowed me to ride and race with other young cyclists that share my passion for the competitive aspect of cycling.  It has also enabled me to build connections in the cycling community and gain access to resources that help to boost my cycling career.

This season, I have the opportunity to race USA Cycling mountain bike nationals in Winter Park, CO.  I am looking to represent Michigan and my goal is to place within the top 10 for 15 year olds.  The biggest challenge will be the altitude, as the race course is over 9,000 feet above sea level.  I have never ridden at a major altitude before, so it will be difficult not knowing how my body will handle those conditions.

While I am a mountain biker first, last season, I rode and raced on the gravel for the first time.  I find it is a great way to train, and I enjoy gravel adventure rides.  My first gravel race was the Dirty 30 50 miler, where I learned the value of sticking with a group, which I didn’t do very well at that race.  Later into the season, at the Waterloo Grit and Gravel and the Cowpie Classic, I rode much more complete, tactical races, and I experienced better results than at the Dirty 30.  I look forward to racing a handful of gravel races this season, including Barry-Roubaix, where I will be racing in the 18 mile team competition along with my Junior Development teammates.

Another major aspect of my cycling life is my part time job at Cycletherapy Bicycles in Waterford.  This position has allowed me to be involved within the bicycle industry, and explore other possible career paths relating to cycling.  I have also been learning many things about bicycle repair, which is a crucial facet of any cyclist’s performance.  One of the best parts of my job is meeting cyclists of all types from the area and seeing my friends that come in the shop.

In addition to cycling, I am also working towards attaining my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts.  I have enjoyed partaking in Scouts over the years, and I recently completed my Eagle Scout project, where I put in a fire pit, woodshed, and benches at my church. 

I have been putting in the hours on the trainer this winter, and I cannot wait to suit up in my race kit once again at the end of March.  Outdoor riding is more appealing with every trainer ride I complete, and I am wrapping up the winter service/ upgrading of my mountain bike.  Cycling is my passion, and I look forward to making great strides in my cycling career during the 2022 season!


Yin and Yang

June 10th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Hunter Post

I am a Multi-Sport athlete and High School student.  I compete in alpine ski racing, and cycling. Alpine ski racing consists of Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G.  I have raced gravel and mountain bike, and plan to add road racing this season. People find it hard to believe that a fall and winter sport can take up an entire year. My ski season starts in November, and continues until April. I start cycling in April and ride until November with about 2 weeks off in between the seasons. These two very different sports take up most of my  time and energy, I am so grateful for where they’ve brought me.

The social aspect of each sport is important to me. I have met so many new friends that have similar interests and have fun both training and racing with them. In skiing, my coaches emphasize a balance between having fun on the hill and training; the same applies in cycling, too. Having friends to ski or bike with for fun helps me to do that. Some of my closest friends that I train with are also my competitors which pushes us to work harder and gives us the opportunity to learn from each other. In each sport I am part of multiple teams, from my high school ski and mountain bike teams to competitive teams outside of school. I look forward to these practices because of the team atmosphere and to see my friends.

On the teams I belong to, there are athletes with varying skill levels and passion for racing. Belonging to these teams gives me a chance to practice more, work with more rigorous coaches and gain experience. I hope to pursue both of my sports at the collegiate level in two years and hope that this will help my chances. In ski racing, we train for the different disciplines separately. For example, setting a slalom course only helps the athletes get ready for a slalom race. There are a few fundamentals including staying on your feet, finding good balance and knowing when to initiate a turn, but the course is set for only slalom or giant slalom, never for both. In cycling there is more crossover on the training. Mountain bike training helps in gravel races. Handling skills for the trail translate into easier passing in sketchier portions. Training for endurance on my road bike correlates into mountain bike races by helping me to manage my breathing and know how to pace myself.

YIN

 

For me, skiing and cycling are like Yin and Yang because my life would not be complete without either.

Yin

YANG

It helps me to stay focused on one sport at a time, always looking forward to the next season and a chance to start over. Each season has triumphs and defeats that I learn from. It is a cause for celebration when races go well, but honestly I learn more when they don’t go as I hoped. A ski race allows very little room for error. The smallest mistake can change an entire run and two runs are needed to complete a race. Results are often determined by hundredths of a second, so everything has to go right to achieve the results you are looking for. In a mountain bike race, you have more room for error, including falling or mechanical issues. You can overcome the problems you might face in a bike race since you have at least an hour if you face a setback.

By the time one season is coming to an end, I am more than ready for the next to start. I logged 5000 cycling miles in 2020 and couldn’t wait to get on snow.  When my last ski race ended on March 21 of this year, I eagerly packed up my winter gear and waited not very patiently to get on my bike. People always ask me which I like better, and I tell them that I can’t answer that yet and don’t have to choose. Each have different workouts, muscle groups, and race atmosphere. I have found, however, that I am not alone. There are a few of us that both ski and bike race. They go together well, just like yin and yang. I am grateful that I found each of my sports. I hope to continue skiing and biking for the rest of my life.

 


“Best Kept Secret” Ultra-Gravel Ride in Michigan

May 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Jared Dunham

The KRanza 170, is the “best kept secret” ultra-gravel ride in mid-Michigan. Notorious for it’s sand, last year’s ride was given the nickname of “The Sandza”, on account of the course primarily being built from sandy two-track. To give some context, the fastest time from last year’s course was a spicy 12:57:55, laid out by Paul Low. Rob Richardson went as far as to name his Strava ride, “I’d rather cut off my legs and eat them before riding that course again!”. Roy Kranz, the event organizer, promised less sand this year and he delivered with the new and improved 2021 course.

The original course was two 85 mile laps which were done on the eastern portion of the route, before crossing over near Evart. This year however, we continued farther west and were treated with less sand but an added 1,500 ft of elevation. With more hard packed gravel and less sand, my tire choice was a 29×2.1” MTB tire on the front and a 700x42c gravel tire on the back. In addition to this, we also got some rain for two days prior to the event so the sand was reduced even more. One last note, while some of us were riding 170 miles, there was also the option to complete one lap of the original 85 mile loop.

It was 32 degrees at the start, or 28 by the time you factored in the wind. So I layered up with a normal jersey, thermal long-sleeved jersey, and wind vest. However, by the time you added in the sun and adrenaline, three layers was probably more than what was needed. With how long the ride was going to be, I assumed we would have an easy rollout and somewhere along those 170 miles we’d start racing, that was not the case today. The start of the ride was just as hard as any gravel race I’d done, maybe even more intense. David Messing wasn’t leaving anything to chance as he, Ben Kalis, and a few riders from the 85 mile race formed a group and began setting a hot pace from the start. Realizing the race was getting away from us, I tried to put in a good effort and bridge the gap but wasn’t willing to blow up early in the ride.

A group of five chasers formed to catch the lead group featuring: John Whipple, Jon Delboy, two 85 mile riders, and myself. The rain from the previous days had left the roads muddy, some sections had standing water that we were riding through. Running a 2.1 MTB tire in the front of my rig served me well in these areas and I was able to confidently charge into sloppy sections of the roads. In 8 miles we hit the first section of two-track and I took a pull through the road, having ridden this before. Not too long after this point, we were descending a hill and I was completely sprayed with mud from the wheel ahead of me, thinking that we had a very long day in the saddle at this rate. Somewhere within 13 miles, Ben was off his bike and on the side of the road. He hopped back on and joined our group, forming a peloton of 6. At 15 miles, I realized that my engine was probably still running too hot and I needed to throw some coolant in there or we were about to have a premature explosion at the beginning of a 170 mile race. I fell off the group and settled into a controllable pace in zone 2. Not too long after, I caught up with Jon who had left the group for the same reasons. We joined forces and entered the added 85 mile portion to the original 85 mile loop.

The total elevation from this ride was 6,788 ft, much of that began just after passing Evart at mile 30 and ended at mile 100 as we rejoin the original 85 mile loop. Upon passing Evart, we hit some long, rolling, hill climbs and were eventually rewarded with a little over 10 miles of the paved “White Pine Trail”. Until mile 70 me and Jon took turns hammering out the paved section of this course. Nearing the end of the white pine trail I began to feel myself slipping a little, my heartrate compared to my wattage was rising and I could feel the ride becoming harder than it already was. I was confident that I could still finish the ride but was worried that I’d have to slow the pace. At mile 72 we hit 170th Ave, “The Miracle Mile”. Having lived near this area all my life, I knew fully well what this seasonal road was capable of. When it has been dry for several days, the road is a crusty, clay, path of tire marks and tractor tracks. However, when wet, the road is an entirely different experience….

Somehow Jon and I were able to ride about 75% of the mile upright and on our bikes. There were a few moments of slip and slide, but we cleared most of it. Near the end though, the mud got so thick that it was getting stuck in my front fork and shedding off the top of my front tire. The bike quickly packed on the pounds and it was hard to even push it through this peanut butter. Afterwards, we spent a solid 1 5min or more cleaning off bikes and reviving drivetrains. Luckily, Jon had taken some of the spare chain lube that Roy was offering at the start. That saved both of our rides and gears on that day. We agreed that it probably would’ve been a better option to carry our bikes and walk. Not long after starting to ride again I realized that I couldn’t shift out of my small chainring. We stopped and I emptied the remaining water in my backpack water bladder onto the front derailleur. Jon and I cleaned it off using some sticks and found a pebble lodged between the mechanism and the frame. Afterwards, my drivetrain was arguing with me, but I was able to shift into the big ring again. We then began a 7 ½ mile rolling climb to the top of Grove Hill, which depending on who you ask, is either the highest or second highest point in the Lower Peninsula. Upon reaching the top, we are rewarded with a soulful descent to the halfway point at the Dighton general store. Jon grabbed some more water and supplies, and I swapped out my empty water bladder in my backpack for the 2 Liter that was in the bottom of my frame bag. We were then told that 3rd place was probably 30 mins ahead of us at this point, which was about five and a half hours in.

Continuing the ride, I still felt like I was on the back foot and began tapping into some of my gels and more carb rich foods. This was about the portion of a long ride where you reach a low and begin to question how you are going to finish the thing. Eventually I got the second wind I was looking for and came back to life in a few miles. This second wind was quickly followed by the portion of a long ride where you get the euphoric feeling that you can complete the thing. At 107 miles, there had been a serious accident, and someone was being airlifted to a hospital via helicopter. We were not getting through and one of the guys blocking the road said that we had a 20 minute or more wait on the helicopter. The helicopter did eventually land and we spent about 15 minutes scrolling through google maps to get a reroute. The main issue was that we needed to get over the Muskegon River and there were not many options to do that other than take 66 (the road we needed to follow). Our next best bet was to head northeast for a bit and jump onto M115. After some contemplation we decided to go ahead and take the reroute. Motoring through headwind on 115 we made a left at the “Bucksnort Saloon” and were finally back on track. Upon reentering the portion of the course which was the original 85 mile loop, the nostalgia of last year came flooding back to me. We reached the small town of Temple and crossed M61 to enter Strawberry Rd. With the name of “Soulpit”, this four-mile portion of the course is arguably the sandiest. On a bad day your bike will only sink in the sand unless you brought some mountain bike tires. However, we were fortunate enough to have the road well packed down and got through without too much issue.

The next 8 miles was flat gravel till we got to the Leota gas station at mile 134 and took a break. I grabbed a few fig bars and some cheese and crackers to take with me. We ate some gas station pizza with fingers crossed that it wasn’t “from last week” and I downed a Dr.Pepper. Refueled by gas station nutrition, we got back on the road with only 36 miles left. At 140 miles, we hit some rolling hills before the last portion of two-track. This last three-mile section is the primo two-track of the KRanza. A good chunk of it is descent and it’s technical enough that you can make a good case for coasting through some sections. At one point both our rear tires nearly washed out on the edge of a huge mud puddle. Two side-by-sides passed us not long after, and we soon passed them when a truck being pulled from the mud was blocking the road. The remaining 27 miles were mostly rolling hills and felt like a cooldown compared to the first 27. The last portion of the course is through some open farmland which can have some brutal headwind. However, we were spared form the wind and in return got a calm conclusion to the ride. Sort of, there was still a sprint. Not one of the sprinting types, I tried to make an attack on one of the last climbs. However, Jon followed my move easily and we rode together for the last mile.

Making a right onto Clare Ave…

Left onto Hatton Rd….

and Sprint!

Jon takes the sprint.

In total, we finished the ride in 11 hours and 22 minutes. Considering everything that happened along the way, I’d say that’s a pretty solid time. I took 5th, Jon Delroy 4th, John Whipple 3rd (10:48:12), David Messing 2nd (10:18:39), and Ben Kalis 1st with a fiery (9:46:23).

I need to thank Roy Kranz for hosting the KRanza for 6 years, this was my second time completing one of the 170 routes and I feel they present a unique challenge you don’t see at the average gravel ride. With 65 people registered between the 85 and 170 mile race in 2021, I can’t wait to see how the ride changes and evolves as time goes on!

Till next year!

You can find my ride here, the 2021 KRanza route can be found here, and for more information please go here.

Other stuff that happened on the ride

  • Someone flagged us down to say their dog was missing
  • A goose got mad at me (thankfully I was on a bike)
  • A chicken ran out in front of Jon and almost learned why not to cross the road
  • At one point an entire chain was lying in the road

A teen’s prospective: Accidents happen and Goals change

May 28th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Hunter Post

As a teenager in my third season in 2019, I decided that I wanted to start training more in order to improve. Even though I still had school during the day, I tried to ride every evening to get my miles up. My goal for the season was to win overall in the MiSCA JV category.   Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association (MiSCA) is focused on the coordination of youth mountain biking teams and races throughout Michigan for elementary, middle, and high school-aged students.

About a week after school got out, I went up to Michigan Tech to participate in a mountain biking camp. During the camp, we rode the Tech trails, Copper Harbor, and the Adventure Mine. Doing this camp drastically improved my handling skills and stamina. After the camp, I felt connected to my bike and unafraid to ride anything. I was grateful that I had the opportunity to do this camp, and I felt ready for the upcoming races.

Over the summer, I raced in several MMBA races, including Fort Custer, Hanson Hills, Island Lake, Pontiac Lake, Sweat Shaker, Big M, and Glacial Hills. I love doing these races because I feel that they give me a head start preparing for the MiSCA races since they are longer and more challenging. In September, I completed my first century ever. I rode my mountain bike and did Milford trail, Highland, Island Lake, Proud Lake, and Hickory Glen. I was really excited to ride that many miles, but I underestimated how hard it would be to keep pushing. I felt that completing this ride made me a better rider and showed me what hard work really is. Around this time, the MiSCA races finally kicked off. 

My MiSCA race season did not go as expected. I had a good first race at Addison Oaks, coming in second.  My second race did not go as I planned, and ended my season. During the second MiSCA race at Fort Custer, I fell and broke three of my fingers. I was devastated that I would not be able to finish my season or complete my goal of winning the series. I was in a cast for around a month, and during that time I could only ride my trainer. Riding my trainer was not a fun experience, since it wasn’t a smart trainer and I couldn’t interact with anyone. I lacked motivation, but I did my best to put on some miles. During this time, I set a new goal to do my best at Iceman. Once I had my cast off, I had to wear a splint for an additional month. I was not supposed to ride until I was fully healed, but I started riding again in order to prepare for Iceman. 

Preparing for Iceman was very tough, I was getting ready for ski season to start, and I had to try to make up for a month’s worth of riding.  It was difficult to keep riding even though I knew that riding more would help me perform better at Iceman. I was ready for bike season to end and ski season to start. The weekend before I was cleared to start riding again, I did my second century.  I just hoped that all of the training that I had done earlier in the season would carry me to a successful race.

Racing Iceman was a very interesting experience. It was my longest race, and I was not as prepared as I would have liked to be after the injury. I also did not bring any food or enough water. In the end, I finished fourth in my age group, and I now know that to sustain a good pace, I need more water and food. I was slightly disappointed with my performance, I felt like if I hadn’t had my injury I could have done much better.

At the end of my third season, I learned that I have to train as hard as I can, while I have the opportunity, in case I am not able to ride. I need to make the most of the time I have to train, because life is full of surprises and I don’t want to be unprepared. I also learned that goals can always be changed, if I am unable to fulfill my goal, I can always set a new one and work for it. Goals are an amazing way to motivate me to be my best, but I need to remember that they can always change.


The Sport of Stair Racing

May 5th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Ross DiFalco

To start things off, I am no runner. I have tried my hand at running in the past and it usually ends in injury. Like many of you out there, your friends include endurance athletes. These people, just like most friends, tend to try and convince you to do something stupid from time to time. Racing up buildings is not something I normally choose to do for “fun”! We started this adventure off with some good old fashioned peer pressure.

First off, let’s talk about stair racing. This is a sport (I had no idea it existed) that involves running up sky scrapers and other venues with long staircases. Like other endurance sports, most events offer different length races. The race I participated in had two distances, a single ascent and a power hour. The single time is definitely a sprint. The building is a 28 story structure in Southfield, MI so a single effort is hard, but not crazy. Things get interesting when you contemplate the power hour. The way this race works is that you try and run up the building as many times as you can in an hour. The catch is that you are only timed on your way up and you ride the elevator on the way down. I didn’t fully understand this until afterwards. This piece of information is critical if you want to be competitive. It’s a balancing act of conserving energy between climbs, and not wasting the hour.

So let’s talk about how I got in this situation in the first place. I work with a great guy named David Garcia. David runs a weight loss blog called www.keepitupdavid.com and he is super into stair racing. David had the terrible great idea to make it a work event and get the group I am on to participate. David held a few stair specific workouts to teach us the best technique and to help us prepare. The best tips were to double step (skip a stair with each step) and to use the hand rail when you are exhausted. Come race day, most people opted for the one climb, doing the power hour was completely my fault. Also, considering this was a work event, I had to wear a work t-shirt so I represented Athletic Mentors by wearing one of our hats.

When the race started I learned quickly that stairs are not forgiving to pacing flaws. My heartrate quickly went above 170bpm and I started breathing hard. For those of you that don’t know me, I am a very competitive person and will never enter a race purely to finish. To avoid congestion in the stairwells, racers start about 10 seconds after one another. This means you can hear the person ahead and it makes you chase. Chasing is not what you want to be doing in the beginning. When I reached the top for the first time I had passed numerous people but I also knew this level of exertion wasn’t sustainable. I hopped in an elevator and collapsed to the floor to get 30 seconds of rest. For the next 9 ascents I was able to keep myself more or less together. My heart rate was sky high each time and I longed for the elevator rides. The eleventh time entering the the stairwell, I see the guy in first place. In my head, I am wondering why he is just standing at the bottom chatting with the race organizer. It’s time to make my move and go! I charge as hard as I can up the stairwell and hear him follow after me. I am able to keep him from catching me about half way up the building. By the time he catches me, I am absolutely destroyed and he knows it. We make eye contact as he passes and we both know it’s over. I am not ready to give up so I dig in and go with everything I have. I figured that if I started after him, I might be able to win on time. Cresting the top step was bitter sweet, I took a deep breath and up comes my gels and water. Not the way I wanted to finish this race but I gave it my all.

After the race you realize the real mistakes that were made! Lots of stairs without training equal very painful knees. Overall, The Gift of Adoption Stair Race is a race with a great cause. It’s fun to push your boundaries and try new things. Best of all, it was with some great people. I may be done with stair racing but you should get out and give it a try! I was able to come in 2nd or 3rd place? They gave me 2nd but  the timing was weird and it says 3rd online so who knows where I placed. Two of my co-workers also were able to do very well.  If I were to sum up this experience, I would say this:  “Stair racing hurts and it hurts real bad!”


First Time using Electronic Shifting on my MTB

November 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:   Todd Anthes

This review is for the uninitiated. It is not an in-depth review of the product.  It is a scant overview of someone using electronic shifting for the first time.

It was time to replace my SRAM Eagle cassette (ouch), and in doing so, I was one of the first to purchase SRAM’s XX1 Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit. This is not the entire gruppo, simply the rear derailleur, shifter, battery, and battery charger.  When SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS was released you could only purchase the entire gruppo.  

I was neither in the market, nor planning on switching to electronic, but nevertheless I decided to give it a go.

Electronic shifting has been touted as a game changer.  However, I was not convinced. The thought of having a battery and relying on electronic means to shift off-road on a mountain bike seemed risky.  I don’t know that I am past that issue (although no issues yet, including the 48 mile “Hard Rock” Ore to Shore” and a few other races).

But what I can tell you is that electronic shifting is everything the proponents have suggested it is.  A perfect shift, every damn time. Nothing better than that “clunk” of a shift that is perfectly timed, especially in a race setting

The shifter is somewhat finicky.  You can’t rest your thumb on trigger like a regular shifter. If you do you will initiate a shift.  And if you hold your thumb on the shifter it runs through the gears without stopping. You really need to learn to rest your thumb on the bar and only touch the shifter when you want to initiate a shift.   I often bump the shifter when I am off the bike, which is somewhat annoying when you move the bike or start to peddle, and the bike is not in the proper gear.

Within a few weeks I purchased a backup battery.  A battery is supposed to get you 620 miles, but I rarely look at the lights on the derailleur to see if it is “red,” meaning a charge is necessary. Plus, if for some reason the battery de-chargers (e.g., cold, water, etc.).  I want to have a back-up as you can’t shift manually.

I have heard stories, but it might be an urban myth, that if you transport your bike on a rack or in the back of your truck that it might initiate shifts and prematurely drain the battery.  I have not witnessed this, but I am concerned that in the colder seasons that the battery life may be affected.

All in all, I haven’t experienced any issues with the unit. I am somewhat mystified as to how the shifting stays true all the time, but I suppose without a cable to stretch that is one less variable to control.


Yankee Springs Mountain Bike Kid’s Race – Let’s Go!

April 4th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Amy Kimber

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Yankee Springs Time Trial on Saturday, April 27th. This is the longest running mountain bike race in the state of Michigan, beating Iceman by about 7 months.

This is an awesome event for all ages! Whatever your ability, we have something for you, and it’s free for our young racers to compete!  Make it a family event!

Athletic Mentors is proud to be running the Kids Race and Team Members will be there to support and motivate the young riders.   This event has been known to attract around 80-100 kids ages 2-12 years old (we will let older kids race too).   These races are  free, but make sure to sign up the day of the race.

Strider racers will have their own grass loop, it includes a small uphill and some big pine trees to navigate around.  There is plenty of viewing for family and friends.

Our youngest pedalers will have a challenging loop with a combination of single track and a grassy field, it’s about a ½ mile in length. The older kids will choose between one or two laps on the famous 2 mile Yankee loop known to the locals as the “warm-up loop.”  It’s 100% single track. The course offers rocks, roots, and some challenging sand pits for kids to navigate.

Come out and enjoy the day to expose your kids to the sport of mountain biking and trail riding at 8833 Twin Creek Dr, Middleville, MI.  We will have plenty of volunteers to monitor and supervise your kids during the race.  All the kid racers will receive an award!

Along with being a fun event, all proceeds go directly towards maintaining and building the many wonderful trails right here in Western Michigan.

The race schedule is listed below or visit http://yankeespringstt.org/race-day/ for more details.

Strider Race – 11:30
The Striders (bikes without pedals) will race multiple loops on a grass loop with plenty of opportunity for families and friends to cheer. This race will last roughly 15 minutes.

Beginner Race –  12:00
The beginner race will be 1/2 mile long and will consist of a mixture of single track and double track.  Beginner racers should feel comfortable riding on trail and uneven terrain.

Intermediate Race – 12:30 
The intermediate race will be 2 miles long and is mostly single track.  Intermediate racers should have the endurance to race 2 miles and the ability to handle single track on uneven terrain.  The single track is mostly hard packed dirt but does have some sandy spots with a few rocks and roots.

Expert Race – 12:30
The expert race will be 4 miles long and is mostly single track. Expert racers should have the endurance to race 4 miles and the ability to handle single track on uneven terrain. The single track is mostly hard packed dirt but does have some sandy spots with a few rocks and roots.



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