WEMS #5: RASTA Rock’n Root

RASTA Rock’n Root
WEMS # 5
August 10, 2013

Matt Millin found himself alone on the single track. The WEMS points leader had taken his first trip up to Rhinelander from Kenosha this weekend, and I had left him to the trails on the first lap of the Washburn Lake system. He would learn that although a mountain biker can be isolated in the big city, riders in Rhinelander are never really alone. Teamwork and family built that trail, and Millin was right in the heart of it, never as solo as he thought he was for the 10-hour race.

The first rider Millin passed would be my own son who was ripping up the downhill run that some give me credit for constructing after all the badgering that got it built last summer. It was really the plan of Bikes-n-Boards shop owner Al Jozwiak all along, and numerous volunteers put in days of hand work on that trail including Steve Engel who had just ridden his RASTA jersey into second place behind Millin. Jozwiak would again have his way as Millin approached the hand sculpted summit that is Stone Soup. He was tested by rock, lumber and elevation on each lap, and after every traverse of Al’s Log he would be entangled in what I always recognize as a Dennis trail. Dennis Loy was the builder of some of the first single track in the Northwoods, and his touch can be felt anytime the Washburn trails double back on themselves in a tight slalom through the aspen. Millin was loving those turns as he rode on by himself, far of the front.


Those surreal trails still remind me of the day my bullet-proof friend and mentor brought me there for the first time. That was Rhinelander trail builder and tough guy Wayne Fish who had survived the middle school to retirement only to be faced with the brain cancer that put his wheels on the wall barely two years ago. Wayne’s son Bryan was back home on Saturday and rode those same trails to fifth in the six-hour race.

The night before Millin had pitched his tent on the shore of Perch Lake in the shadow of the Judy Swank shelter, a haven named for the silent sports matriarch instrumental in its construction who was taken by cancer just four years ago. Her son Adam met Millin on course six laps in. He had come home to light up the trails for a win in the 6-hour race.

Millin said he rode alone for most of ten hours, but the woods of Washburn Lake are thick with spirit and devotion. Near the end of every lap he would pass the new Bobcat that Jozwiak and crew have used to carve the first of many speedy new trails to be built at Washburn in years to come. Bobcat driver Paul Wagner rode the Gunnar to a strong third place behind Nick Hozzem to move within striking distance of reclaiming a mid-course series championship.

Beth Wagner passed up a relaxing day of racing for the sleepless role of race director but stayed on the path to her third mid-course championship. After a strong finish as a junior at Bearpaw, Rhinelander 17-year-old Isaac Wendt entered the 3-hour open class and was able to finish ahead of ever single adult. Jostein Alvestad suffered vehicle trouble and had to withdraw early but still earned enough points to move into the series lead in the single-speed class ahead of Rock’n Root winner Lowell Johnson Jr. Along with Tyler Welnak, the top-three single-speeders are separated by less than three points, a virtual tie at the mid-point of the season.

WEMS riders will see each other again on the notorious sandstone heights of the Levis Mound on August 24th.


Words: Chris Schotz
Photo by Andrea Roberts


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