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Mountain biking: Bikers take to Lutsen's hills

Cyclists ride in the 2016 Lutsen 99er. (Photo courtesy of Peter Spencer)1 / 2
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About 1,800 mountain bikers will take to Lutsen's hills to test their mettle in the northwoods on Saturday morning.

The Lutsen 99er, 69er, 39er, 19er and Kids races will take off from Lutsen Mountains resort in waves beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Mountain bikers in the 99-mile race are expected to finish anywhere between five hours and 11 hours, race director Peter Spencer said.

"You have some fast guys coming so they can push each other," Spencer said, adding that there could be a new course record set in Saturday's race. "The course is beautiful right now. It's in great condition. There are definitely these usual suspects out there — typical wet spots."

The race reached capacity a few weeks ago. The Lutsen 99er began as a group of 70 friends riding through the woods in 2010. Now, Spencer said, race officials have started capping the number of bikers at around 1,800 because any more than that will be detrimental to the racers' experience on the course and at the venue.

The mountain biking community and the North Shore is what draws that many people to Lutsen for the day of racing, Spencer said. It's a Minnesota event that largely brings mountain bikers from around the state to the North Shore, he explained. It also differs from a strictly gravel bike race because racers on Saturday will bike over several types of terrain.

"It has a little bit of everything," Spencer said. "It has a little single track. We've got the double track. You've got some snowmobile trails. You have a bunch of gravel. But it's also something that everyone can do."

Those new to mountain biking can do the 19-mile race and the 39-mile race is "that nice sweet spot" that offers a little bit of every type of trail, he said. Racers in the 69-mile race will do a majority of the trail that the 99-mile race covers so they can get a taste of that.

The mountain biking community makes the race the fun event that it is, Spencer said.

"They come up to have fun. They're a really low-key group of people and when you get involved in that group, it just attracts you to mountain biking in general. It's not pretentious at all. It's like you're out there to have fun, somebody has a problem or gets hurt or has a flat, you stop. That's part of the community — we want to help each other and have fun," he said.

The key to any event is making it about the participants and the volunteers and the community will come out to support the event, he said.

"They want to show off the area so it's really cool. They're enthusiastic and it's infectious to the participants that come up as well," he said.

For more race and spectator information, visit lutsen99er.com.

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