There are three things guaranteed at the May 4, 2019, mountain bike race at Mt. Holiday: mud, sweat and beers.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the MSB race at Mt. Holiday in Traverse City. And if you’re looking for a destination race with personality, this could be the one for you.


There are two adult races to pick from: The 12-mile Pale Ale and the 24-mile Stout race.

The most famous point in both races: Willpower Hill is just one mile into the race. This 250-foot vertical climb is a sandy, gravely ascent that dumps you out in the Holiday Hills neighborhood. You’ll ride through an inflatable arch once you’ve reached the top – but not before you pass a few signs from the support squad including: Don’t you wish you’d trained more?

But at the top, you’re rewarded: You get to sail through a paved section called the “Joy Ride.” After that, the two courses split as riders start to snake through single track in the forest winding down around by Timber Ridge Resort. Most of this course is tight twists and turns, with few passing lanes. And it’s not uncommon to have to navigate a few snowy stretches still obscuring the trail!

Mud, Sweat and Beers for Kids

The mud? There’s usually not much mud on the race course itself, but prepare yourself for a thrilling (wet, dicey, gritty) finish. After the last of the single track, riders find themselves at the top of Mt. Holiday. When you’re at your weakest and most spent, you then get the added treat of an adrenaline-rush making you shake as you rush slalom style down the ski hill to the famous mud pit finish. The mud pit is a crowd-pleaser. If you biff it, expect to see your moment of glory posted on Facebook by someone, or several someones, within the hour.

For those of you who like to baby your bikes or your ankle bones, you can take the “chicken loop” around the mud pit. But don’t. The crowd doesn’t like that. And they’ll let you know it.

Mud Jr.

The kiddos can race in the Ginger Ale and Root Beer race.

The Root Beer race is less than 1,000 yards but it covers soft terrain and the return is a steady climb. It’s a short race but not an easy one. Bonus: The participants in this race are always the stars of the finish line mud pit! There’s a lot of “Awwws!” filling the air as parents consider the logistics of bagging up tiny, muddy, wet bike gear for the ride home.

The Ginger Ale race course is relatively short (< 2 miles) but includes steep ascents and fast descents. This race is geared for those over the age of 10 (think tweens and teens) because it includes a long and difficult climb up the back side of Mt. Holiday and the same blistering slalom down as the adult riders in the Stout and Pale Ale races. This is a short but serious race course for the younger spandex set.

Mud, Sweat and Beers for Kids

Sweat (equity)

MSB is a hot ticket – it usually fills up by March, so don’t wait. As of March 15, there were only 75 spots still open for 2019. The race is limited to 900 riders and 0 wimps.

This year’s event includes a new category: Athena, for women weighing 150 lbs. or more. This addition offers a nice balance to the traditional men’s Clydesdale category.

The rest of the categories remain the same: Elite/Pro, Expert, Sport and Beginner. One of TC’s favorites, Susan Vigland, will be back to defend her 2018 title and time of 1:40:13.

On the other hand, your bike might dictate your category: Fat Bike, Tandem, Single Speed/Fixed or Heavy Metal (no carbon and bike weighs 32 lbs. minimum). Heavy Metal is a chance to get the oldies but goodies down out of the rafters in the garage for their day in the sun.

The entry fee for Stout and Pale Ale is $50 before Jan. 1 and $60 thereafter.

All proceeds go to the Mt. Holiday Recreation Area and other local non-profit organizations that support kids getting outdoors.

And Beers

Short’s Brewing Co. from Bellaire is the presenting sponsor of MSB, need we say more? The finish line has a tent with food, swag and beer set up for spectators and racers. But don’t worry – this is a kid-friendly event broken up only by the sound of a weepy race nemesis or two arguing over who owes whom a drink.

Some years, the weather brings sunshine and 60 degrees for the race, and other years we’re standing around the finish line in winter coats we thought we’d put away for a while. Either way, the sight of racers zipping down the face of the ski hill and the roars at the mud pit as riders finish, makes MSB a personality-plus destination race!