The Lutsen 99er is located on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior at the Lutsen Ski Resort. Lutsen’s reputation is stellar, and the race is known for its positive, family friendly vibe. I seek adventures that physically challenge me, as well as explore unknown territory. The Lutsen 99er did not disappoint.
Despite needing a few stitches in my knee at the finish line, Lutsen had such a family feel that my takeaway from the event was much more than a scar: it imprinted the Midwest spirit and why I call Minnesota my home. From the race director, Peter Spencer and his amazing wife, to the community that embraces the 2,000+ participants to the charities that benefit from this event, the Lutsen 99er is a well-rounded event that should be on your race calendar.
- Leave Early – Depending on your origin, traffic can be challenging. Anticipate 4-5 hours travel time if leaving from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area. Departing Thursday or Friday no later than noon is wise.
- Prepare for All Weather Conditions – Lutsen often has wet/muddy trails. Take the weather and trail reports into consideration when selecting gear and setting up your bike.
- Bring Bug Spray – The flies and mosquitoes can be biblical at Lutsen.
- Arrange Lodging in Advance – While there are many sleeping options, keep in mind there is only one single-lane road to the start Consider staying close to the start/finish. If you stay at the bottom of the hill, you’ve got a good warm up ride to the start. You may be moving faster than the cars!
On race morning the race staff and volunteers welcome 2,000 riders. A neutral roll out is led by a vehicle that manages the first three miles. Once the vehicle pulls off, it’s game on. It’s hard to feel isolated with hundreds of enthusiastic riders and numerous volunteers cheering you on. The course is clearly marked, and aid stations are fully stocked.
The course is a combination of rutted and bumpy snowmobile trails, gravel roads and minimal single track. The majority of the participants rode mountain bikes (hard tail and full suspension), fat bikes, and even a few tandems. I rode alongside a participant who rode the course on a single speed, cyclocross bike – it was humbling!
My fat bike was my weapon of choice for the second year in a row. In 2017 the course was very muddy, and it rained the last 3 hours of the race. Having larger tires through the mud and trails was a good fit. Last year I used a rigid fork. This year I switched to a Lauf Fat Fork. I also made a few gear changes with Wolf Tooth components and used Bontrager fat bike tires.
In an unfortunate turn of events and what may have been a score for someone else, I dropped my Bento box during the bumpy snowmobile trails area. Thankfully, the aid stations were fully stocked, and there were tons of volunteers ready to assist. I took full advantage of this for all my nutrition needs that day. No matter what distance you race, one thing you can count on is the volunteers being there to assist at the aid stations.
Each year I learn from my experiences, and I make adjustments the following year. I stay open to changes and new ideas, not because the previous setup didn’t not work, but because changes keep things fun and allow me to share my learnings with others.
Editor’s Note: Jill must be doing something right because she finished first overall for women in the 99er!
Race Director Peter Spencer has created one of the most memorable events on my racing list. He’s also involved with Cheq Fat Tire Festival, one of the largest Mountain Bike events in the Midwest. The KÜHL Cycling Team has a big presence at Chequamegan, with several top 10 finishes in both the Men’s and Women’s field in past years.
Wherever your riding and adventures take you, make sure to include Lutsen 99er on your calendar for 2019 and beyond.
Jill Cederholm is a member of KÜHL’s Cycling team. She is a former collegiate swimmer and professional triathlete. She resides in Mendota Heights, Minnesota with her husband and daughter.