Tale of 3’s with James Hayes!


A tale of 3’s. (3 different bikes, 3 consecutive weekends, and 3 different outcomes)

The past three weekends I found myself racing-riding bikes which I love to do. It has been more fun training for all of this than anything if I’m honest. The three events were The Cow Pie Classic, Lumberjack 100 (My “A” race since I got in for 2020), and Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder

As I entered the weekend of the Cow Pie Classic, I felt trained and ready to go. Looking to test where my training was for the following weekend at Lumberjack 100. This race was super fun and fast as it had rained the night before, and the gravel in Ionia was rolling fast. I found a couple groups to ride with for a while and ended up averaging almost 17mph for 32 miles and finished 3rd for Fatbikes. I felt super good and was going into the following weekend feeling confident, but still nervous.

Lumberjack 100 has been my “A” race since 2020, and I felt ready but extremely nervous the entire week before the race. Finally on Lap 1 the nerves were gone, and I felt good the first half lap but as I left the aid station it started to rain. The remainder of the first lap and the first half of the second lap were like trying to ride your bike on a slip-n slide on the climbs and descents. Tim Bochenek , who has been influential in getting me into this MTB and endurance racing thing, left for Lap 2 behind me as he was having mechanicals and decided to keep me company as I pushed on. We strategized as we approached the aid station, and I thought I was still feeling ok, but soon found myself feeling off as we left the aid station and soon realized that I was right as I was crashing at the bottom of one of the descents. Even though conditions had started to improve, my energy levels did not and I fell short of the 3rd lap cut-off by just one minute. I learned a lot about the importance of race nutrition that day and realized I needed more than I had in my plan for that amount of time on the bike. End of the day, 67 miles complete at Lumberjack, and we will see you next year.

Leaving Lumberjack not finished with the full 100, stung a little which made the next weekend at Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder that much more important in the back of my mind. My good friend Brad Miller had convinced me Coast to Coast was a good idea since he was up from Bentonville to do both races. Some how I agreed and signed up last minute and thought I would give it a go since I’ve been training for long stuff. We rolled out with the sunrise in Au Gres, and I felt good as the rain held off at the start. Then about an hour later the rain rolled in and the struggle was on. Trying to embrace just being soaked and lots of slugging through Peanut butter roads. Checkpoint 1 in Gladwin seemed to come quickly, 57 miles in and I felt good leaving for checkpoint 2 in Marion at the 105 mile point. Fueling plan was working great at this point, and I still felt good. Between checkpoints 2 and 3 (the hardest leg) it got real. 70 miles of everything hard you can think of, both mental and physical. I watched the sunset while rolling through Manistee bluffs two track. It was a highlight and kept me going, along with a call from my wife to let me know if I wanted to make cut-off at the third check point (Big M) I needed to start moving quicker. I really didn’t want to be stopped at Big M for a second weekend. Somehow God gave me the strength to start pushing and make up some time. I rolled into the 3rd checkpoint with 20 min to spare. 7 minutes later I rolled back into Big M as another downpour hit on the descent I crashed in the previous weekend. With a handful of brakes I made it out to the road where I met Keith from Illinois who had been lost for 1.5 hours and somehow climbed to the fire tower in Big M. His Garmin was off and he tagged along with me to the finish and happened to have an extra light when mine died 20 miles out from Ludington. We rolled downhill waiting for the gravel to end and finally rolled into Ludington at 2:19 am, with 41 minutes to spare.

It was a long 3 weeks of racing and now I am looking forward to fun Summer riding and can’t wait for more racing this coming Fall. I am so thankful for all of the encouragement and support from my family, friends and race community. Huge thanks to Aaron and crew Main Street Bicycle Company of Zeeland kept my bike rolling through all of this.