Stewart PI Mousetrap – the MTBNJ Blurbs


Going in to this race and knowing the race course required a lot of consistent and almost constant power. My expectations were to just do better than the previous year.
Finished 8th on the day 8 spots better than 2018.

It was another “wet race” although it didn’t rain during the race the previous night’s rain made for a slick and slippery 2 laps.

Much fun was had!  

Time to regroup and move on to the next one.

Thanks to Halter’s cycles, Stan’s No tubes, GU energy and Schwalbe tires for the support.

We as a team couldn’t do it without you. 

 (Race photo by Eric Capers) 


MTBNJ’s Stewart PI Mousetrap is without a doubt, the fastest and flowiest race in the H2H Race Series. After a mechanical DNF last year, I was really looking forward to this race. Some rain overnight created some soft mushy spots, but overall the course was in great shape, and firmed up nicely as the day wore on. I started near the back of my Cat 2 19+ race, and settled into my pace. With so many miles, I was able to ride at my limit, and pick up some spots as the race progressed. I was surprised how quickly my Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s shed the mud after each mud hole. They hooked up nicely on all the high speed turns, which Stewart has a TON of. When it was all over, I rolled over the line in 9th place, which I was really happy with, considering the last mile I was running about 10psi in my rear tire. Thankfully, my Stan’s Crest wheel was able to hold the tire on despite such low pressure. I’m pretty sure I had a small puncture that the Stan’s NoTubes Sealant took care of fairly quickly. Thanks to everyone that came out to support our race, and especially to Stan’s NoTunes and Schwalbe for getting me to the finish line today.  

 (Race photos by Eric Capers and Brian Ackerman)   


I love the Stewart race course. No long, grueling climbs, no endless pedaling to get to the next bit of fun. It’s short, punchy climb, followed by long flowy – seemingly slightly downhill single track- until the next punchy climb, with an occasional stretch of flat fire road. At least, that’s my perception of the course. Your speed feels fast, and fast feels good. I headed into this race wholly focused on riding my own pace and honing in on the hardest effort i could put down while executing skills precisely. Just before the race started I slammed my pinky into my car door. That stung. I went hard off the line and settled into a pretty high pace, pulling away from the group. I dialed back to my target pace in the single track and never looked back.  

(Race photo by Eric Capers)  


Two things I wanted to accomplish in this race: remain upright and be faster than last year. Didn’t quite do the first and only sorta accomplished the second. BUT I had a ton of fun and felt way better than I have been feeling the past few races. And putting the Cat 2 and 3 Ladies together made the field much larger than other races and I felt like I was in a “real” race: that scramble at the beginning for placement into the single track, the pressure to push to catch up and pass someone, the frustration when something goes awry… It’s the most racer-ish I’ve felt all season. And I am super happy with how I did.

P.S. Facebook reminded me that nearly 2 years ago to the day I stopped by Halter’s to pick up this bike … Not a bad way to celebrate! ❤️😀 

Race photo by Eric Capers 

Cat 1/2 19+

Where to start with this . . . I guess at the beginning . . . the Prologue was FAST, and after sitting in staging for a while I was no longer fully warmed up (the cool temps at start didnt help). The horn went off and the pack was off well over 20mph down the fireroad across start finish and into the single track

Lap1: 41:13
The entrance to the single track was quite tight, and caused a bit of a backup, which there is always someone complaining about (if you dont like it then put in the dig and enter first . . . ). Once into the single track I was hanging right on the wheel of the guy in front of me looking for a chance to pass (there arent many). When we got up to the first section through a field i managed to pass 2 guys and catch up with the guy in front of them. Relatively uneventfull through the next section until the 45+ guys started catching up, Some were fine but some just got real upset that there wasnt room to pass . . . 


it’s a tight course, no problems letting them pass where there was room for it.
Dumped out onto the fireroad and I took the turn wide hoping the 45+ guy who was being a real dick would just pass me on it, and realize almost too late the it was another guy in my class right behind me so put in a dig to hold that spot. While sprinting to the next single track section one of the 45+ guys decided i was in his way and decided it was ok to shoulder me out of his way (WTF!?!?!!!). The rest of lap 1 was uneventful, I passed a couple of guys where they had to get off to make it up one of the punchy rocky climbs, and made up another spot going up around 3 sisters.

Lap 2: 41:52
Fast sprint down the fireroad to the singletrack again, this time dodging endurance guys who decided to slow down middle of the trail to find their pit areas. Relatively uneventful till about the half way point, where I drop my chain trying to pass someone on a fun rolling rock climb. Chain actually got jammed between the bottom bracket and the chainring (remember this event its important). Spent what felt like 10 minutes working the chain out and back onto the chainring (it was probably only 2 or 3 minutes) and proceeded to chase down the 2 guys who passed me while I was fixing it and the guy i was trying to pass. Although now the bike isnt shifting right :/ Cant get it fixed with cable tension so write it off as too much mud and keep pedaling through, Back to the start/finish area.

Lap 3: DNF
Started out strong, through the first section. Passed Justin (i think) he said he was down to single speeding it (didnt catch why) but passed him near the first bridge. Managed to catch and pass a couple more guys through the next couple of sections, then on the hard left turn, up a rock face I hear a snap and loose all pedal resistance, (right around the 1/2 way point). Look around on the ground and cant seem to find my chain, turns out it was still wrapped around the cassette and derailleur cage, no aparent damage to the equipment besides the chain. However (as luck would have it) I missed my chain tool when I setup my smaller pack for racing 


 so setup for a long walk out. Ran into the ranger on my walk back down new road and he offered me a ride, It sure beat walking the entire length of the race course.  

Cat 2 Open Women – 3rd place!

I couldn’t believe how many women cat 2/3 women were pre-registered for this race… 22, 11 for each category! Having so many women really does take the pressure off.

I worked the registration table until 8:15, at which point Jeremy took over for me, and I got changed and ready for my race. Jumped on Fiesta to warm up a little bit and to see how my new bike handled. Then I went down to the start and helped herd the racers, which was great because I got a front row start (and didn’t have time to get nervous).  

I knew from the start that Finley Aspholm and Sierra Vasquez (both juniors) would be on the podium, so I followed their lead right from the horn, getting in 3rd on the single track. I was able to follow them for about 1/2 a lap, at which point I redlined and couldn’t keep up anymore. However, we had put a decent lead on everyone, so that was good. A few minutes after starting the second lap, I saw in the far distance a bright blue helmet and was like oh oh, it’s another woman and thought to myself that I should start picking up the pace again! I increased my pace and hoped to reach the finish line before the other girl!  

In the end, I finished 32 seconds behind Sierra and Finley and 27 seconds ahead of the 4th place (also a junior). I’m really super stoked about my race, this was my first race of the year, and although I have been trying to bike a few times a week, it’s been hard to fit everything in with the kids. Thanks everyone for the support, it’s much appreciated!  


Stewart is awesome. I could have done without the mud. I’m still figuring out this whole racing thing.

Lap one I went off and pushed myself harder than at the previous races. Previously I think I gave up too much time by letting people ahead of me into the single track along with valuable time easing into the race. Felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest for the first 1/3 of the lap but eventually it settled down and I was armed up.

End of the first lap into the first half of the 2nd lap I felt great however didn’t have the skill to keep up power in the slippery sections. Cardio wise I felt great but roughly in the middle of the 2nd lap I found my legs just weren’t responding the way I’d like. Just as the last few races I was having trouble mentally in the last portion of the race with the tech. I think my body getting tired has me not riding as well technically as I should be.

Placed slightly higher than I expected. Pretty awesome. Hopefully next year has less mud.


I came to the race unprepared. I didn’t know how far along I was on the course, as my gps showed that I had at least another mile, when in fact, I was in the end stretch. Once I realized it, I hit the pedals hard to pass the girl in front of me, but was too late. She noticed and followed suit. Fun last minute effort, that I lost by half a second.

Great course. Fast and flowy, but I’m more of a rock girl myself.

4th felt almost as good as 3rd, especially considering the fact that we had 11 cat3 women show up, and those NY ladies are strong contenders!

Thanks to our sponsors for the swag. Another fantastic H2H race where everyone, from racer to spectator, had a great time!  

Iggy Cat 1 45+

Before a race can be nerve wracking, I try not to think about it to much. You train, get your bike in order, show up and when the horn goes off you assert your dominance. My 24 yr old son came up with the line Assert your dominance, he is insightful for somone his age.

As much as I’d like to launch, it’s never a good idea in a race, xc tires at race pace are best left closer to the ground. Thx @capedoc

At Stewart on Saturday I took 1st place. The course was slick and I got launched over the bars toward the end of lap 1 while in the lead, my rear brake lever broke off and I had to straighten my handle bars as well. Fortunately I was able to ride it out for 2 more laps and hold on for the win. As uneasy as I feel before a race, the post race elation makes it all worth it  


Racin again and things just felt right. 

My day started at 330 when I got up to pee. That happeùns a lot when you hit 60. On the road at 5 to be in lot to help out the team with race set up which went well with our well oiled machine. Did a little final taping in marking with Utah and then back to staging area to see what’s up. Everyone had everything covered so I asked the boss if he minds if I race and he said, sure.

I kitted up and got a number at 855 and headed over for the 9 start. No prep, no warm up, no nottin, not even more race jitters, I was just going for a ride that’s all. 

Race kicks off and I just try and spin the legs loose to keep all in site. Now we hit single track and it’s a slick mud fest and I’m running a big gear and get sucked right in off the bat. It normally takes me about an hour to warm up so I’m not going crazy but halfway thru lap I am st 11.5 avg and that’s not my norm so I fail back a drop and enjoy myself. I grab a new GU I just got and suck that down, just like the old days. It’s been a few years since I raced so was trying to remember my old habits. So far things were going well and myself and another SS guy were talking and trading places for awhile. He was s cool guy and I was encouraging him to push harder so I didn’t have to pass him and he was doing great but was geared to easy and after about halfway thur lap 2 I was feeling strong and passed him. I ended up catching another SSr and after yelling at him that from around 50 yards back that he better pick it up because I was coming for him I passed him too right before the road to the finish, except I am old and dumb and didn’t realize it was the finish I let my guard down and he passed me with about 50 yards to go. I did catch him and we finished at the same time but I guess he got me because his name was ahead of mine even though we had the same exact finish time. No big deal because I figured It was like 5th or 6th. Ended up it was a battle for 3rd. Oh well, I felt great, felt strong, had fun and was glad I made it to the finish. It was fun to be on the course and fun to push my self at a higher level and best of all I didnt have to train. That is all I have to say about that, yay bikes.  


Alarm went off Saturday morning and I really struggled to drag myself out of bed. The weekend prior I moved in with my girlfriend, and since then I’ve been going on 5 or so hour of sleep per night all week just to get everything set up and settled in on top of my workouts and work. Super busy week but totally worth it. I rode 2 days before the race (Thursday) at Hartshorne woods and felt pretty rough. No energy, no legs. I wanted to quite after 30 min. I took the opportunity to adjust rebound on my forks and shock to get a good flow setup. Didn’t push myself, kept the riding in Zone I/II. During the ride I figured sleep in a bit Friday morning, no exercise that day and rest. I probably would feel better by Saturday.

I was expecting a good result at Stewart, fast and flowy is my Jam. It’s also a power course, and I knew from H2H round #1 I have the power on tap to throw down. Question was, how would a week of poor sleep and poor eating play out? I was not feeling it at all. On the drive up I blasted some music to get my head into the game and focus on the task ahead. Two roles would be filled today. 

-8am to 10am you’re a photo guy snapping photos. 
-10am onwards gear up, helmet on, warmup and it’s race time. 

Got up to Stewart and grabbed my camera. Riding out on the course I noticed is super muddy and slick. Same conditions as Allamuchy and Ringwood, but at this time I’m used to it and optimistic, “hey at least it’s not raining!” Most of the morning I snapped a bunch of photos of all the endurance, cat 2 & 3 peeps and kids. I’ve been enjoying taking the photos at these races. Each weekend I’m learning something new and find small ways to do things better. End of last year I picked up a SLR camera “for work”, it was a black friday doorbuster sale. Back in highschool and college I took some photography classes and did it for fun, feels great to get back into it. I also find watching a lot of people ride the course you can learn a bit. Everyone tackles corners and obstacles differently, but there is generally a way to do it right. I check my watch, 9:50am, time to get ready.

Gear on, bike ready, dynamic warmup and 15 minute easy pedal to spin ‘dem legs. At the line I felt super relaxed, no racing thoughts in my head, no feelings of anxiety or jitters. I was talking with @seanrunnette about photography. I was counting around 20 guys in our group. I decided to not get up front and hammer the start. While taking photos it seemed like the endurance guys were just under 40 minutes with lap times, so this race would easily be 1:50 to 2 hours in length. With the mud and course getting blown out the 3rd lap would be rough. I had to pace myself for this one. Doing this race last year I learned a hard lesson last year after going out super hard on lap one and spectacularly blowing up midway through 2nd lap. 

Horn blows and I get a good start but throttle back. Let a bunch of guys pass me. Look over my should and see 3 or 4 guys behind so most of the group was in front. We hit the first turn of the prologue and the group is ahead. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was tired and out of it at the moment. Heart rate was low, I was seeing 160’s, “okay I can go harder”. No complaints from the legs either. Group ahead isn’t pulling, so I juice it up a bit and pass some stragglers and catch up to lead group. By the time we hit single track I probably got back into the top 10 and I begin to pick of riders one by one. On the little climbs and could roll on the throttle and pass at will. I wasn’t sure was place I was in, but kept riding aggressive and taking advantage of openings. Soon I caught @jShort and pass him on and uphill as he got caught behind and endurance rider. I ask Jeremy what place are you in? He says you’re in the lead, control the race. Most of lap 1 Jeremy is on my wheel, quick glances over my shoulder I see we’re dropping the guys in 3rd and 4th and building a gap. We’re right were we need to be, Jeremy and I may battle but he’s a seasoned racer and we have 2 more laps to go. 

So I managed to lose the front on a rock garden! Crashed right in front of Jeremy in a bunch of mud haha. He of course passes. Ooops! I catch back up to Jeremy and we go into lap 2. Most of lap two felt like I was on cruise control. My heart rate was coming back down, didn’t feel like a race, but we’re in the lead and not seeing the other riders so this is good. But then I saw 3rd, 4th and 5th catching back up. Jeremy kicked up the pace but they were still closing in. Time to move. 

Stewart has a nice long fireroad 4 miles in. I pass Jeremy and drop the hammer and smash pedals jumping from 9mph up to 20mph. I must’ve towed the the guys that caught up to us because they were on my wheel as we re-entered the single track. I start to hammer some of the climbs to see if I can break them. At this point I felt like there I had lots of reserves so I could throw something down to see if they would respond and it worked. It’s now the tail end of lap 2 I was no longer seeing them. I catch up to pro stragglers (@Dave Taylor) and he kicks up the pace and starts to race with me. Crossing start finish I hit the lap button on the garmin and see I dropped my time by over a minutes vs. lap 1 (Lap 1 – 37:48, Lap 2 – 36:22), whoa. 

After start/finish I slow to pick up water bottle #2 in feed zone and Dave passes me. I pass Dave again in the mud and start to hammer the hills because even though he is racing pro, I know Dave is pushing to catch and pass me, So I figure I can lose him on the punchy climbs. Midway through the final lap I’m by myself again but I keep pushing. Can’t risk throttling back when the guy in 2nd might be closing in. I was also trying to see if I could run a sub 36 min lap. Now 4 miles into Lap 3 once again on the fireroad I see @UtahJoe ahead and catch him. Utah lets me pass and starts to casually talk to me and decides to race and begins pushing climbs telling me to keep going. My legs are burning and feeling on the verge of cramping but still I’m digging. Would up finishing the race, running a 36:51 on my final lap so not quite we’re I was aiming! Regardless very consistent, 30 sec off Lap 2 is good for a final lap. Keep getting after it till the finish. Took the overall win in Men’s 15+ cat 1 with nearly a 1.5 min lead over 2nd. Felt great to get a win in this season, lots of strong riders in my class, on any weekend you can count on someone bringing it to you. 

Big thanks to @UtahJoe for that final push on lap 3, even though we’re not in same class it was a good to dig deep for that one. It’s like having a live race coach. Stuff like that makes you better. Happy the training and work is paying off, Saturday was my second overall win in Cat 1 and I’m starting to become a front runner at these races.

Big takeway from this weekend is to always show up. Maybe you’re not feeling it. Doesn’t matter, wake up, load up just go, gear up, line up and go for it. You never know the outcome.   

Big thanks to my fellow photoguy Eric Capers @capedoc for camping out all morning snapping pics. He nabbed a great shot of me sending it off of the rock drop. Also @rottin’ !  

Matt Bruno (Pro/Cat 1) 

After a somewhat disappointing result at Mooch Madness, I came into this race trying for and expecting a decent result, hopefully a podium. 

First lap felt pretty good, let the lead group of 3 go away because I was confident a few would fade. Chase group for end of lap 1/beginning of lap 2 is Roger, Rich W, and I. I’m leading and riding . Roger passes, puts in what feels like an attack, although it may have been him just riding tempo. He gets a little gap which I close down, look back, we’ve dropped Rich. I ride though one of the many mud puddles and suddenly I cant pedal, something is stuck in my drivetrain. Hop off, pull the stick out, the chain is dropped. Struggle for a minute to get it back on due to an unnecessary chain-catcher on my bike. 

The surge of adrenaline from the mechanical has me taking some bad lines for the next few minutes. Rode the next bit with a kid wearing an Astana kit and the last thing I wanted was someone in pro kit to beat me. But, a washout in a muddy corner was my demise, and the Jakob Fuglsang look-a-like edged me out for 6th. 

Retrospective race analysis – don’t run over anymore sticks, remove chain catcher, focus more on recovery the days leading up to a race. 

Post-race was rad. Crew had burgers, awesome raffle, excellent podium commentary, and great vibes overall.  


As many times as I have races Stewart, I don’t know the course at all.  I’m usually just putting my head down and trying to go fast, not really taking in the scenery.   At this particular installment of our Poison Ivy Mousetrap race, I had a good start.   In fact, I took the hole shot and went into single track in first.    The allowed my to ride with no traffic and push through the peanut buttery slick single track.  I had the right set up with Schwalbe tires at the perfectly low PSI (16 front, 18 rear)  and i was able to drift though the slick with minimal braking.     Once i had a chance to look back i was all alone in 1st.  I knew this wouldn’t last so I kept pushing, but its hard to keep the right pace without knowing what’s coming up and how long each lap is going to take.   Eventually Brian caught me and we rode together for a few minutes.     He took a little spill and i thought i may be able to take advantage of that and work a gap but he was right back on my wheel in no time.   It was at that moment I knew he had the legs and was just waiting to make his move.  Things are a little blurry but when the 3rd and 4th place races caught us, Brian was already in front of me.  I got caught up on some endurance racer traffic and ended up behind the group.    I was able to catch back up to 2nd and 3rd and we rode together for a while. Brian was out of sight.     I thought I was going to be make something happen and maybe join my teammate on the podium but when the time came to make a move, they did and I couldn’t answer.    Another frustrating race leaving me in 4th of 20 which i guess isn’t terrible, but I’m hungry. Thanks to Capers for the photo

Utah Joe 

Another year….This one felt so fast as we really compacted so much of the planning into a single week…..Moving the race to May had its good and bad points…the good being that we didn’t have to weed wack and mow for half a day…the bad…more water on the ground. I think I prefer the latter myself. It was a long day friday of marking the course and some minor TM, but this year we had a much bigger crew so it was much smoother. 

Anyway, I wake up at 4am the morning of and remember that I dont have a freezer full of ice cream to deal with this year…SWEET. In fact all I had to pack this year was cones, 5 gallons of gas for the generator and a bike…and some riding gear. 

The race.

I really…like REALLY did not want to race yesterday. The set up the day before, the mothers day operation flower bed operation, 4am wake up….The running around morning of…I am never in the mindset to race…..I mainly do it because this is usually the downtime for my duties at our races…(set up/tear down) so if im not racing, id probably just be standing around eating all day. So I got dressed, rode around…and at the end of the day…riding stewart is just never not fun…so I just take off slow and ride around.

Soon as the efforts hits, feel how tired I am…I remember like 10 min in I had that feeling like when I dont sleep the night before and im nodding off at my desk. But oddly enough I think im hanging in ok….catch up with Matt, Roger, DT and Rich W and manage to keep them all pretty close. This goes on until the bigger climb where I start falling off… Then on the downhill a wet root causes me to loose my rear wheel momentarily and I wash out. Recover from that but by the end of lap 1 I’m tired and just not into this effort today…. I decide to call it a day…

Then I come thru the start finish and decide to keep going…. I find if you just start the next lap, you will keep going just bc… So I ride with @Dave Taylor thru bear and into Windsor where I mentioned to Dave that I wanted to hammer the camp trail bc it’s fun.. So I go around and rip thru camp… Near the end I nearly catch back up to Matt…..

Soon I find myself alone and I just start cruising. I’m tired but I felt good enough to finish…run into the occasional endurance rider here and there but all is pretty quiet. With maybe about 20 minutes left @BrianGT3 catches up to me and passes. This wakes me up and I decide to hang with him for the remainder of the race….When we got to horse i decided to take a pull and see if I could go run down Ben Williams before the finish….which I got close to but did not. In all I was actually pretty happy with that effort for 2 reasons.
1. I stuck it out despite REALLY wanting to quit
2. my laps were surprisingly consistent 

Afterwards I had myself a chilidog, guilt free…Chatted with the crew and enjoyed the rest of the day thanks to @MadisonDan @Glenn Rides After 4 PM CST @Ryan.P and @MissJR taking on what I refer to as the SHIT DETAIL. Unmarking the course….I have done this detail at I think every race since 2011….This year I only had to go ride around with @shrpshtr325and @pooriggy picking up arrows, tape and cones. Wow that was an awesome and pleasant surprise, huge thanks to my teamies for relieving me of that task. 

@capedoc set up in my favorite jump spot where I ended my 2017 SSAP campaign….