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Hanson Hills 50

by Michael Green • July 08, 2022

Hanson Hills 50

Like last year, my first race of 2022 was the Hanson Hills 50 MTB race. Based around a ski hill in Northern Michigan, the Hanson Hills 50 is two loops of mostly singletrack and contains some great flowing trails. Unlike last year, I decided to race with gears. Last year I’d had a decent appearance in the singlespeed division but taking a wrong turn derailed my chances. This year I’d gain some redemption with gears.

With my Santa Cruz Highball at the ready the neutral roll out strung out the group into the singletrack. I placed myself and the front and entering in about fifth wheel. The first half of the track contained a lot of climbing and a lot more roots than the second half. I struggled a bit with the hills and the pace of the little guys flying up the slopes but settled into my own pace after only losing a few places.

It was perfect weather in the sixties to start and into the seventies during the 3 1/2 hours of riding. The sun was welcoming and inspiring and lit up the forest wonderfully. It became a bit lonely after a while as the field strung out. I expected to see some members of the initial front group, at least through the trees and even at the turnaround, but nothing? While I wore a hydration pack for the race, I took a bottle at the half way point as I started to double guess my strategies as the temperatures heated up. The slower pace of singletrack in racing conditions is sometimes hard to estimate as there tends to be less cooling - this turned out to be a lucky decision because in the second lap, cramps started to raise their ugly heads for the racers.

The cramps meant that some ahead of me started to slow, specifically those who had passed me in the early section of lap one, but still no sight of the others. I was feeling decent on the flowy trails of the back half of the course and was trying to make up as much time as I could. I had one guy on my tail for a while and it was fun to see the differences between us on technical and less technical terrain. The latter is where I excelled in comparison and I dropped him pretty significantly coming into the final section.

I finished pretty tired. I had my share of cramps late in the race but battled through them. I stuck with my eating and drinking plan for the most part and was certainly thankful for that extra bottle. I was very congnizant of the trail markers and kept my head up all of the time, not wanting to miss a turn like last year. It turns out that a couple in front of me in their mono-vision, race fueled haze had missed a turn somewhere as I did last year and completely derailed their race - at least I noticed soon enough to back track last year. Fortunately this aided my result to some degree as I won the 50+ division and was 4th overall - I was pretty happy with that!

A weekend off and my first gravel race of the year - wish me luck.

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