2019 Spring Races: Michigan Hits The Gravel


We are one week into our 2019 RAZOR Sharp for Spring training block, and with some sun and warm temps in the forecast, we’re casting a hopeful, eager eye forward.

Mixing in a handful of races is a great way to gain some experience, fitness, and motivation during what can often be a pretty dreary ‘shoulder season’ here in the Mitten. While racers often had to wait until April to find any action, that’s just not the case any more. Even if you skip every fat bike race in the state, you still need only wait until March 16 to kick off the 2019 Michigan Gravel Race Series. The Waterloo Grit and Gravel kicks things off with 32 and 64 mile options on the rolling gravel roads of southeast Michigan. The elevation gain isn’t huge, but it’s a demanding opening shock to the system and a very well run event.

Just a week later, the MGRS rolls on in Vandalia, Michigan with Melting Mann. Once the season opener, the event comes on March 23 and now offers a full 64 miler course in addition to its original 32 mile route. Largely flat, the race’s two small climbs and a wicked two-track section are a perfect test if Barry-Roubaix is on your mind, and it’s a rather ideal three weeks before the big one.

The Thriller Before the Killer, the Lowell 50, comes just one week (April 6) before Barry-Roubaix and serves as the first of a sort of double-header of events in the Grand Rapids area. Often treated as the perfect final training race before Barry-Roubaix in the spring and before Iceman Cometh in the fall, Lowell is a beautiful race in its own right. With some tough climbs early and late, it’s often the devastating crosswinds that split the lead packs; if it’s out of the west, look out.

Finally, it’s Barry-Roubaix. While the race has officially sold out it’s 3,500 places, there is still a way to get in by liking and sharing the CyclingLawyer.com link on the race’s Facebook page. There’s also a very active Facebook group for snagging transfer spots, so if you didn’t get in, don’t give up. The 36 and 62 routes are standard, we’ve already got one rider, Beth Collins, signed up for the second edition of the 100 miler Psycho Killer, which leaves Hastings at 7am and throws riders on all sorts of terrain before coming back to the normal course in the run-in to the line.

If gravel isn’t your bag, the dirt isn’t too far off. The Yankee Springs Time Trial is celebrating it's 30th edition of the race, which makes it the exact same age as Iceman! The unique format is a unique test of the legs on April 20, and a prime tune-up just two weeks before our first local race and the end of the block. It’s also the biggest fundraiser of the year for the West Michigan Mountain Bike Alliance, the area’s trail group.

On April 27, the Rust Shaker is your last chance to dance before Mud, Sweat, and Beers. Especially in years that Traverse City’s trails are still covered with snow, hitting a singletrack-heavy event like Rust Shaker at Mid Michigan Community College it an ideal chance to get your handling skills sharpened up. It’s also just a fun event, reminiscent of mountain bike races of the 90s and early 2000s. It’s laid-back, small, fun, and every leaves with a grin. Plus, your money goes to support the college’s scholarship program and trail maintenance.

Finally, it’s the one our whole block is structured for. Mud, Sweat and Beers is a fundraiser for Mt. Holiday, but that’s not the only reason you’ll feel good about signing up. It’s often the first time all the Traverse City riders get together since Iceman, and the party at the foot of the ski hill is a rollicking good time, no matter how well or rough your race went. Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association has taken the reins on course design, and they’ve offered up a great mix of MSB’s traditionally fast, open sections with a combination of new and old singletrack that you’ll spend the next week search for, just to ride it again. May 4th is the tenth anniversary of the race, though it really feels like it’s been around forever!

Spring is stacked, and we want you to get out and try something new. Incorporating hard race efforts is a great way to compliment what we’re doing inside and get you that much sharper ahead of MSB. Make sure you let your coach know what races you’re planning on so that we can tweak workouts before or after race day, if necessary. Start to decide right now which races are the top priorities, and consider training through events that may not be your main goal of spring.

If seeing all the racing laid out in front of you doesn’t get you pumped up for the season, we’ll have to check your pulse! We have two more spots left in the M/W 6:45am class, so if you’ve got the itch, we’ve got the bikes.