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Mountain biking on the rise: Laddies Loppet, Kappel’s Challenge, group rides bringing more bikers than ever to lakes area

Mountain bikers of all ages and skill levels hit the trails at Maplelag Resort for last year's Laddies Loppet; the 27th annual event takes place on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-3. (Photo by Robert Williams/Tribune)1 / 4
A mountain biker prepares to jump over an obstacle on the Maplelag course during last year's Laddies Loppet cross country bike race. (Photo by Robert Williams/Tribune)2 / 4
The rugged Laddies Loppet course at Maplelag holds many twists and turns to challenge even the most experienced mountain biker. (Photo by Robert Williams/Tribune)3 / 4
A biker carefully studies the course ahead of him during a leg of the exciting 2016 Laddies Loppet cross country race; the 2017 event is scheduled for Labor Day weekend at Maplelag Resort. (Photo by Robert Williams/Tribune)4 / 4

Did you know that one of the longest-running mountain bike races in the Midwest is held right here in Becker County, every Labor Day weekend?

The 27th annual Laddies Loppet Mountain Bike Races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2-3, at Maplelag Resort, which is located just 20 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes. Part of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, this family-friendly event includes races and age categories for every level of rider, from beginner to pro. But that's just the beginning of the recreational opportunities for biking enthusiasts in the lakes region, which has seen an explosive growth in the sport since the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area began its first mountain biking season just four summers ago.

"It's expanding hugely throughout the the Upper Midwest," says Blake Larson, one of the founding members of the Lakes Area Mountain Bike Alliance and Trails (LAMBAT) volunteer group. "Because of that, there's a lot of grant dollars being put into trail builds in places like Cuyuna (in the Crosby-Ironton area), Duluth and Grand Rapids."

LAMBAT was formed a couple of years ago, he added, to begin planning for the future growth of the sport in this area — and as of July 1, LAMBAT officially became a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA).

"It gives our club some national recognition," Larson said of the group's inclusion in IMBA, adding that it is LAMBAT's goal "to develop more trail systems and bring more mountain bikers into the area."

The eventual hope, he said, is to make Detroit Lakes into a bronze-level IMBA Ride Center: IMBA currently has 37 such Ride Centers worldwide, representing the "Best of the Best" that mountain biking has to offer. (See https://www.imba.com/model-trails/ride-centers for more information.)

According to LAMBAT supporter Mark Fritz — who is also the current president of the DMRA board — having an IMBA Ride Center in your community "is like having one of the top 100 golf courses. If you have Ride Center status, people will come from all over the world to ride on your mountain bike trails."

And when they do that, they also patronize local businesses and restaurants — which can have a significant economic impact, he added. "So that's been a goal of ours since the beginning."

Duluth has earned a Gold Ride Center designation, while the Cuyuna State Recreation Area has earned a Silver designation and the Twin Cities earned a Bronze level designation; an IMBA conceptual plan has shown that Detroit Lakes also has the potential to reach Bronze level, and it is LAMBAT's vision to reach that potential, Larson noted.

Fritz added that IMBA's Ride Center criteria extend beyond how many miles and types of trails there are within a certain radius of your community — a range of other amenities such as bike-friendly lodging and/or camping facilities, shopping, entertainment, and the quality and variety of eating and drinking establishments in the area are also included.

But the biggest step in the process, said Larson, is to construct the trails themselves.

Building the dream

Besides the nine miles of trails available at Detroit Mountain, there are also 4 miles of single and double-track trails built at the nearby Mountain View Recreation Area, and another 3-4 miles at Dunton Locks County Park, or about 15 miles total, said Larson. Nearby Maplelag also offers over 10 miles of trails, mostly single-track.

"The goal is to have 50-75 miles of trails in Becker County," he added..

LAMBAT's current project, which was recently approved by the Becker County Board of Commissioners, is to add another 3-4 miles of trails at the county-owned Mountain View Recreation Area by the end of October/early November.

"Our next trail build date is this Saturday, Aug. 26," said Larson. "We'll skip Labor Day weekend, and then meet every Saturday in September from about 8 a.m. to noon.

"Caribou Coffee provides us with free coffee in the morning on our trail build days," he added. "This Saturday, Zorbaz will also be providing one free large pizza for every five people who show up to help."

The group will head over to Zorbaz once the trail building session is completed, Larson added.

Upcoming rides and races

If you're looking for opportunities to get out and enjoy the beauty of the lakes area in late summer and early fall, there are a variety of mountain biking events and opportunities on the schedule, starting with the aforementioned Laddies Loppet.

Racing action begins on Saturday, Sept. 2 with the traditional Series Cross Country races including Kids Comp, Citizen, Sport, Comp, Marathon and Expert/Elite. Sunday, Sept. 3 includes the traditional Short Track races with Open Men's and Women's Classes in Kids Comp, Citizen, Sport, Comp and Expert/Elite. The Short Track racing will be held on a tight course winding through the cabins and trees near the lodge making for great spectating, but only the cross country races count for points in the MMBR series. (Visit www.maplelag.com for details, or to sign up for the races.)

Thursday, Sept. 7 is the inaugural Tour de Lake Bike Race, which uses the same marathon (26.2 miles) and half-marathon (13.1 miles) courses designed for the Dick Beardsley Run that takes place two days later, on Saturday, Sept. 9. Sponsored by Blue 84, Lakeshirts and the DL Bike Shop, the races get underway at 6 p.m. Cost is $40 for the full marathon course, or $35 for the half marathon course. For more information, or to sign up, please visit

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on Sunday, Sept. 10, Detroit Mountain will host the third annual Kappel's Challenge Mountain Bike Race. Presented by the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club, this family-friendly event includes a 15-mile sport class and 6-mile citizen class. The cost to pre-register is $20 per person; after Sept. 4, the cost rises to $25. Check-in starts at 10:30 a.m. on race day. For more information, or to sign up, please visit https://www.webscorer.com/register?raceid=109009.

LAMBAT and Detroit Mountain will be co-hosting a Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day event on Saturday, Oct. 7 to help more families try out the sport. Free bike rentals will be available along with instruction and a fun ride. One of the best features of Detroit Mountain is the skills park — an area where kids can gain experience on a mountain bike and try out features like wooden ramps, dirt rollers, and rock gardens before hitting the trails. Learn more about Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at www.imba.com/kids.

LAMBAT also hosts group rides every Tuesday night at the Detroit Mountain trailhead; a general ride starts at 6:30 p.m., with a women's-only ride starting at 6:45 p.m. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with LAMBAT, come to their monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month; the group meets in the upstairs room at Lakeside Tavern starting at 6:30 p.m. For the latest updates please follow LAMBAT on Facebook.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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