Southern Kettle Classic
Emma Carlin Trails
July 20th, 2013
The Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series is a singletrack series, and the Southern Kettle Classic pushed that to delightful absurdity. WEMS riders had the pleasure of racing the legendary Emma Carlin trails for the first time, and with that privilege came the responsibility of cooperating with fellow riders to allow passing on the unrelentingly tight trails. With rare exceptions racers worked together and made it a very fun day. The old race location on the John Muir system has seen some nice updates in recent years, but the local IMBA chapter has given the Emma Carlin trails a nearly complete overhaul which made it a joy to ride. Those who like a fast tread around numerous blind corners and over funky rock obstacles were in for a treat. Short punchy climbs connected long twists that flowed tight to the trees over an eight mile lap.
Fast locals always make the Southern Kettle Classic a tough one to win, and this year was no exception. When the Le Mans start sent riders stampeding right onto the single track, Ron Stawicki of Café de Arts led the run and was soon joined on the bike by teammate Carlos Haeckel and Mike Naughton of Gore/WheelWorks, fresh from a Lutsen 99er win, herniated disc and all. Series point leader Matt Millin of Mountain Outfitters used local knowledge to work his way back through fast traffic, sometimes waiting for a rider to bobble an obstacle before passing. Early on the first lap Millin passed series regular David Swanson on the side of the trail with a serious twist in the front derailleur he used as a chain keeper. Half way through the lap he found Stump Farm 100 winner Lee Unwin stopped with a blown-up front shifter that would force him to ride the remainder of the 10 lap race in the small chain ring.
The lead trio flew through the opening laps faster than anyone anticipated. By lap four Haeckel was just over a minute ahead of Naughton with Stawicki a further two minutes back, smiling all the time. Millin kept it tight, finishing his 6th lap near the leaders in under four hours. He rushed out onto lap seven with Stawicki, just a minute before a huge mid-distance field would swamp the course. Meanwhile, Swanson and Unwin had one working shifter each, and a lengthy battle for 5th place was heating up. Swanson brought back a minute on lap three, and again on lap four. He entered the pits at the halfway point just ahead of Unwin, and neither was wasting any time. Quick pits and panache built Swanson a two minute lead, but Unwin kept cool and finally pulled Swanson back into view on lap eight before finally breaking the battle open on lap nine.
Haeckel had trouble of his own with the front cluster and dropped to third by the final lap. Naughton finished all ten laps in 6:34 and looks fit for the Breck Epic Stage Race in three weeks. The smiling Stawicki finished seven minutes later and is ready to re-gain his Wausau24 crown in just a week. Millin finished a very strong day in 4th and extended his points lead over Unwin who was 5th on the day. Two-time defending series champ Beth Wagner of RASTA moved into the series lead with a 40-mile mid-course win. Adam Gipril led a huge mid-course men’s field while Greg Jones used a 3rd place on the day to tighten his point battle. Maciej Nowak turned the fastest lap of the day and gave his growing team a short course win while Corey Samz extended his points lead with a 3rd on the day and five races to go.
WEMS racers may see each other again on the Beechwood trails at the Wisconsin Single Speed Championship on August 3rd, an exciting multi-staged affair on some exclusive singletrack. August 10th will see WEMS up north at the RASTA Rock-N-Root, a Rhinelander singletrack treat.