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Racing at Spirit Mountain

Great Hawk Chase 2017: Is There a Better Race Course in Minnesota?

By Troy Melhus, 08/15/17, 10:00PM CDT

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Take a ride on one of — if not THE best — trail systems in all of Minnesota at the 2017 "Great Hawk Chase" at Spirit Mountain.

DULUTH, MINNESOTA — If you haven't ridden Spirit Mountain the last few years, you don't know what you're missing.

The Minnesota Mountain Bike Series returned to Spirit Mountain just outside Duluth again this year — its second year back at the popular ski area after a short hiatus — with a wallop.

To say that Spirit Mountain boasts some of the — if not THE — best mountain bike trails in the state of Minnesota is to understate the obvious. After the Great Hawk Chase took detours to Lester Park and then other (also, fabulous, btw) trails in the Duluth area, last year marked a triumphant return to the area that historically was one of the toughest courses in the MNMTB Series.

But if you think it's the same race course you remember from the mid-2000's, it's time for you to create some new memories.

Sure, there are some of the oldies and goodies that we've always associated with the best of Spirit's singletrack, but now there is so. much. more. 

If you ask anyone, what really makes this new trail system rock is "the flow."

"The new flow section of the lower part of the hill was really fun," said Megan Barr, an expert racer for the Angry Catfish bicycle shop. She finished second in the women's 19-35 age category. "Especially as it preps you for the rooty section that we knew was coming up later in the course."

And that was, in fact, by design.

"We strung together a race course that we thought would be unique in many ways," said race director Waylon Munsch. "It brought back a lot of the old trail from decades ago, some of the old-school stuff, but we also incorporated that with a lot of the new flow trail we've got here at Spirit Mountain. We had something that worked for everybody."

What the flow does is turns what could typically be a bomber descent into an action-packed cross-country descent filled with twists and turns that almost — seriously, almost — make the brutal climbs worth the pain.

Actually, it's not the climbs themselves that were brutal at this year's race; it was the cold rain that pounded the afternoon race during those climbs that broke a few Spirits, as it were.

"We caught a little bit of rain in the afternoon which definitely intensified things on the downhills a little bit," Munsch said. "It made for some interesting final laps for everybody, but everybody held it together really well."

Peace Coffee Racer Troy Melhus is a former Expert racer in the Minnesota MTB series and former staff writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He can be reached at tmelhus@gmail.com.