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Ore to Shore Epic - Marquette, Michigan

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |September 23, 2012 3:40 PM

Ore to Shore Epic – Marquette, Michigan

The Ore to Shore Epic might be one of the best kept secrets of the Midwest mountain bike scene.  This past weekend, over 2,200 participated in the Hard Rock (48 mi), Soft Rock (28 mi), Shore Rock (10 mi), and Junior Rock (4 mi) races.  The events are all mass-start and use a point-to-point format, finishing on the shores of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI.  The race is named for the iron ore industry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and between the characteristic red mud on the course and giant ore docks along the shore it’s hard to miss the heritage.  This years’ Hard Rock race was 48-miles long and 2 hours and 26 minutes short for the men (19.7 mph!) and 2 hours and 43 minutes short for the women (17.6 mph!).  Average speeds on the course are high due to elevation loss, extensive double-track, sections of road and the mass-start format which rewards racers who are able to work cohesively within a group or sit-in a draft.

The women’s race plays out very differently than the men’s each year.  This year I netted my first victory out of three attempts (2008, 2011, 2012); and it took 48 miles of head-to-head racing against Jenna Reinhart (3x Ore to Shore winner and co-owner of Nicollet Bike in Mankato, MN) before the finish came to a sprint.  From the start, I narrowly avoided two crashes and hit the brakes hard after the second.  Jenna was up ahead tucked into a group and a large gap formed due to the crash. I hit the first double track chasing, full-tilt, not exactly the plan.  Luckily, Topher Chase of Marquette, MI (who spends his winters in Tucson, AZ) put in a huge effort to close the gap.  It was huge.  Once those gaps form, they are so hard to close.  To race Ore to Shore, you have to put yourself in a fast group and ride a little over your head to give yourself a chance.  I missed that group from the start but, luckily, found myself in a position where I could keep tabs on Jenna. 

From that point forward, until the last 20 minutes of racing, Jenna and I worked together.  We both wanted a solid overall result and also had to be on the defense from a hard-chasing Sarah Kylander (who crashed hard at the start, still caught our group, and was riding like a contender until she had to pull-the-plug).  We never actually knew Sarah was out of the picture and I know better than to write-her-off. Sarah nipped me in the last five miles of Ore to Shore in 2011. Lesson learned.

For the next 30-some miles we kept catching and passing guys, all the while assembling our own group with Jenna and me largely setting the pace.  We also had some exceptional help in pace-setting and even had a couple guys working for us—one reason I love this race!  In the last five miles, we found ourselves amidst a large group and we both settled in, hoping to catch a breath before the finish.  The trick was to stay in a good position where you could react to any moves, while still riding in a draft, all the while keeping safe. It takes one part confidence and one part recklessness to race ski-trails at 20+ mph on an unfamiliar wheel. It’s exhilarating.  If that’s not exciting enough, there are large swaths of sand on course and a couple of steep, deep sandy descents towards the finish. 

I managed to stay on Jenna’s wheel until the last climb on course. It’s named "Kirby’s Hill” and is probably less than 60 seconds, flat out.  This year, the climb was sandy, loose and rocky.  Jenna led into the climb and snuck around a couple guys before the base.  I tried making a pass on the climb and ended up running up the hill. Not what I planned! I could see Jenna was taking full advantage of her gap, but was relieved she didn’t have a wheel to pull her to the finish.  Instead of chasing right away, I relaxed.  The last two miles of Ore to Shore are flat, fast and the wind can play a huge role in the race.  It’s unpredictable and I needed a kick at the finish.  Patience paid off and within moments, a guy had caught me and we worked together to chase down Jenna.  In the last mile, we had a spectacular ‘lead-out’ from a guy.  I think we were both hanging on with everything we had left, Jenna on his wheel and mine on hers.  When Jenna started to lose his wheel, I had nothing left to accelerate around her.  So I sat on for a couple breaths before making my move.  I knew exactly where I had to begin my sprint to win (thanks to practicing with TJ during my pre-ride).  So at least something went as planned! 

Thanks to Scott Tuma for putting on such a great race.  I also want to thank our hosts in Marquette, Tyler Jenema and Monica Markvardsen, and congratulate them on their recent engagement.  Also, a huge thanks to TJ (check out his race report here) and my in-laws for the race support.  Also, a huge thanks to Crankbrothers for their support.  You can follow the rest of my racing season  Now I can’t wait for O2S 2013!

Hard Rock Overall – Men

1st– Cole House (Oneida, WI)

2nd– Brian Matter (Sheboygan, WI)

3rd– Mike Phillips (Chicago, IL)

4th– Christian Tanguy (Rochester, MI)

5th– Jorden Wakeley (Graying, MI)


Hard Rock Overall – Women

1st- Chloe Woodruff (Tucson, AZ)

2nd– Jenna Reinhart (Mankato, MN)

3rd– Susan Stevens (Harrow, ON)

4th– Diana McFadden (Duluth, MN)

5th– Anna Ganju (New Berlin, WI)

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