The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

The second annual Gravel Grinder race was held in Boyne City Michigan on October 3rd. It is the third event in the Michigan Mountain Mayhem series. Whether it was the cash purse of $12,300, the KOM contest with five big climbs, or the great food and beer at the finish, the race once again drew one of the biggest and fastest fields in the state. Here is what some of the riders thought.

Marie Dershem, Team OAM NOW:

Gravel road races draw a tough crowd. Rough dirt and seasonal roads, big climbs, and unpredictable fall weather make the perfect mix for a suffer-fest. The Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder did not disappoint, as Daniel Yankus, Team OAM NOW racer said, “This year’s full course had wind as an appetizer, climbing as the main course, and some boulder filled descents for dessert.” Yankus was joined by teammates Chris Abston, Collin Synder, Alex Vanias, Amy Kimber and Kaitlyn Patterson for this year’s 60-mile Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder. Jon Morgan went after the 45-mile version.

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

This year, the race rolled out at a fairly easy pace due to the big headwind. Cole House went off the front right away, but no one panicked. Everyone made it up over the first KOM and a small group of 20-25 rolled into the Diablo Mountain’s 1.8-mile long, 500ft climb KOM. Vanias set the pace from the bottom and trimmed the group down to 10 good climbers. From there, four racers bridged across to the lead the group with Vanias and Yankus in pursuit. Vanias and Yankus managed the gap and began closing in on the lead group. One rider had a mechanical and another we picked up shortly after. It appeared that the three up the road were working together well as the gap quickly went out to a minute where it stayed on the plateau. Not far behind, in a large chase group, Abston, Synder and Patterson worked together. Through the seasonal road Vanias and Yankus were able to shake a guy out of the lead group and they knew that working together was their only option.

At the halfway point, disaster struck Yankus. He flatted, leaving Vanias solo in the chase. With Vanias pushing on, Yankus changed the flat as quickly as he could and charged on. Meanwhile Abston and Synder had a little collision in the feed zone, putting a damper on Abston’s good legs. Racing on his own through the second half, Vanias bonked with about 8-10 miles to go and settled for fourth. Yankus made lemonade out of lemons for sixth. Collin grabbed 11th.

The overall Women's podium. © Julie McGraw Photography

The 45-Mile Women’s podium. © Julie McGraw Photography

Then closely behind, yes, very close behind was the overall female winner Kaitlyn finishing 12th overall. With some bruised ribs, Abston followed as well for 14th. Amy Kimber rolled in third place overall female, reserving two out of three podium spots for TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors strong women racers.

The team rode very well together and each had the opportunity to support teammates. Awesome race all!

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

The 60-Mile Women’s podium. © Julie McGraw Photography

Tom Burke, Giant Bicycles p/b CHG Inc. & Zingerman’s:

The MMM Gravel race is an event I have been looking forward to all year. The event only in its second year draws a very competitive field of [money grubbing] racers. With $1000 for the win and another $500 for the KOM everyone is ready for a fight. The course is a challenging one, throwing in about as much climbing as you can get in Michigan. It even includes some very sketchy seasonal roads tucked neatly into a 60-mile package.

Cole House's early attack. © Julie McGraw Photography

Cole House’s early attack. © Julie McGraw Photography

The event got under way on a cool October day with Cole House lighting it up and nabbing the first two KOM’s. The second climb of the day was the biggest so I know it would be decisive. Near the top Brian Matter bridged to Cole and it looked like they might ride off into the sunset. Adam York, Jordon Wakeley and I crested the climb together only a hand full of seconds off the leading duo. During the chase York flatted and Wakeley dropped me. In retrospect I probably went too hard up the second KOM.

The 45-Mile Men's Race Podium. © Julie McGraw Photography

The 45-Mile Men’s Race Podium. © Julie McGraw Photography

The remainder of the race saw riders going forward and some backward. Late in the race I was in a group with Dan Yankus and former MTB national champion Ron Catlin. We set about chasing Alex Vanias and Mike the “Simonster” Simonson. In the sprint for fifth Ron took me to the tape, cleanly, and I had to settle for seventh. A fine day but I might still like another crack at this one.

Brian Matter, Trek:

This past weekend was a trip through the UP of Michigan and down to Boyne City where I have many fond memories of growing up racing the Fun Promotions MTB State Championships.

Although this weekend was a dirt road race… a perfect opportunity to get in some good quality time on the Boone. The course is 60 miles starting and finishing on pavement, but with plenty of gravel in between along with a good amount of “seasonal” roads. By seasonal, they mean sand pits that could easily be inserted into any Belgian World Cup race course, hairy descents nearing 40 mph, and a fair share of that just greasy enough mud.

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem. © Julie McGraw Photography

In the end it came down to a battle with Cole, Jordan, and myself. Jordan was super strong on the MTB and would gap Cole and I on most of the dirt roads. We fought back on the smoother higher speed stuff. Cole flatted on the gnarliest of seasonal roads and I was again chasing Jordan, but this time solo. After the catch we traded pulls into the heavy headwinds the last 20 miles and just over the top of the final climb I was able to attack and solo in for the win. Cole held on by two points to win the KOM competition (five lung searing climbs with a different point value to each depending on difficulty), a nice consolation prize after flatting.

It always feels good to defend a title in any discipline at any race and The Gravel Grinder by Michigan Mountain Mayhem is one of them. It’s hard, it’s long, it makes you think and it’s the best time of the year to be UP north in Michigan with the changing of the season and the fall colors shining.

The podium for the 60-Mile Men's Race. © Julie McGraw Photography

The podium for the 60-Mile Men’s Race. © Julie McGraw Photography

Good timing for a Podium before my fourth trip to Belgium Tuesday!

Michigan Mayhem Gravel Grinder Results

Place60 Mile Womem 
1Kaitlyn PattersonTEAM OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
2Susan ViglandHagerty Cycling
3Amy KimberTEAM OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
4Lisa MarkleyRoll Models Racing
6Kimberly NufferTough Girl Cycling
7Heather Goss
8Mary ReichardtNorth Country Cycle Sport
9Jennifer ScottTwin Six Metal / GRBC
10Beth CollinsHagerty Racing
Place60 Mile Men
1Brian MatterTrek Bikes
2Jorden WakeleyQuiring Cycles
3Michael SimonsonMain Street bicycles
4Alex VaniasTEAM OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
6Daniel YankusTEAM OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
7Tom BurkeGiant Bicycles p/b CHG Inc. & Zingerman's
8Jason BuccellatoRBS Trek Racing
9Cole HouseIsagenix / Sea Sucker
10Matt AckerGRBC / Salsa Cycles
Place45 Mile Women
2Dawn ClucheyFreewheeler Racing
3Helen TaylorRoll Models Racing
4Laura Fletcher Riege
5Julie DykstraGrand Rapids Bicycle Company
6Sophia Leongas3rd Coast Racing
7Katie TomczykNorte
8Lindsey Stacy3rd Coast Cycles
9Lou Richey
10Sue Karasiewicz
Place45 Mile Men
1Simon BaileyWheels In Motion
2Luke MullisAndrie Machine Star Jnr Devt
3Tom LinckLeadout Racing / West MI Bike
4Rex Reist
5Tom ScottTeam Speed Merchants
6Brad LakoKLM / Cold Stone
7Jim JackovatzKLM/Cold Stone
8John RiskWolverine Sports Club
9Michael BernhardTwin Six METAL
10Jeffrey Johnsonfreewheeler racing