Tag Archives: Minnesota Mountain Bike Series

The Freewheel Frolic at Afton Alps: my first MN Mountain Bike Series race

MN Mountain Bike Series 2012 Freewheel Bike 
The Freewheel Frolic was last Sunday, the first race of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, held at Afton Alps near Hastings, MN. (Apparently, Freewheel Bike in Mpls is a sponsor.)

Having finished 50th of 59 riders in the Rec Class at the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Races at Buck Hill a few days earlier, I was eager to see how I could do in the 60 and Over age group.

Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps
I was a little apprehensive about it, as I’d heard a few comments about how Afton is the toughest venue of the entire series because of the climbing required.  And on Saturday, the day before the race, temps were in the 90s. Turns out, race day temps were in the upper 50s with a drizzly sky.  Perfect.

As I lined up at 9:30 for the Citizens Class, I looked around for other fellow 60+ geezers and found two: Gary Schildgen from Dellwood and Brad Beisel from Plymouth. "Guaranteed podium," we laughed.

The climbing was indeed tough.  In three places on the course, I got off to walk my bike, not because of the sheer difficulty but because my legs were crying out for a different set of muscles to take over.  I also discovered I could walk the bike up these sections faster than I could ride. Most other riders I saw did likewise.

Some of the downhills had bumpy washboard sections so you couldn’t really relax on those. And there were a few downhill turns that were flat with loose gravel. I wiped out hard on one and threw my chain, but got up without a scratch as I had my knee/shin protectors on and was wearing my new padded gloves, courtesy of a Penn Cycle swag drawing at Buck.

I was thrilled to pass a few riders since I’d only passed one rider the whole race at Buck.  My 29’er flies on any kind of downhill so on Loop 2, I tried to position myself to make some passes just prior to a downhill. That’s the extent of my first attempt to think strategically. I have no idea if it’s sound.

Podium, 60 and Over group, Citizen Class, Freewheel Frolic 2012 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series podium medal Kryptonite Modulus lock 
I finished 35th of 59 and won my age group, earning me the right to stand on the podium, a classy medal, and a Kryptonite Modulus lock

I’ve learned that a cross-country mountain bike race is a very different experience than just riding a single-track as fast as I can. The pure pleasure of a rolling, berm-and-obstacle filled trail isn’t there, at least not yet with the two race venues I’ve experienced. But the overall physical challenge is much greater and therefore the end result is quite satisfying.  And the social environment before and after a race is definitely fun.  I think I’ll keep doing it.

See the large slideshow of 46 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Gary Sjoquist, a man on a bicycle mission, with a company where you’d like to work

Gary Sjoquist, Hans Rey, John Gaddo, Jeff Verink QBP HQ in Bloomington, MN Gary Sjoquist, Griff Wigley
If you care about bicycling for yourself, your kids or your town, you should know what Gary Sjoquist is up to.

QBPI met Gary over beers in Crosby, MN a month ago (left photo, blog post here). He’s the Director of Advocacy for Bloomington, MN-based QBP (Quality Bicycle Products), one of the largest bicycle parts distributors in the world.  He invited me to take a tour of QBP’s headquarters and yesterday I took him up on his offer. (Photo album below.)

MORC MN Mtn Bike Series 2011 Trips for KidsMinnesota High School Cycling League
Among his Minnesota-related activities, Gary co-founded Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) “a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to safeguarding the future of mountain biking in Minnesota… ” One of MORC’s projects, which Gary has worked on for over ten years, is the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System that opened a month ago in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival is what got me hooked on mountain biking and spending more money than I’d ever imagined at Milltown Cycles.

Gary’s the director of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, a non-profit organization that, besides hosting the races, uses the entry fees to fund:

  • Trips for Kids, “which provides inner city kids the opportunity to experience mountain biking on our Minnesota trail system.”
  • The new Minnesota High School Cycling League, “a newly formed Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned sport that begins competition in September of 2012.”

Nationally, Gary’s the Director of Government Relations for the Bikes Belong Coalition:

Bikes Belong CoalitionBikes Belong Coalition was formed in 1999 as the national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers working to put more people on bikes more often. U.S. bicycle companies recognized that they could accomplish more for bicycling by working together than by working independently. From helping create safe places to ride to promoting bicycling, we carefully select projects and partnerships that have the capacity to make a difference… Additionally, we operate the Bikes Belong Foundation to focus on children’s programs and bicycle safety.

For more on his work, see the 2008 Bike Radar article, Interview: Gary Sjoquist, advocate.

As you’ll see in my photo album, QBP’s headquarters and distribution center is not only huge, but spectacular. And it’s got a reputation as a great place to work. Their Career and benefits page has the details on why.

See my album of 30+ photos, the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow: