More than 500 compete in fourth Melting Mann

Published 9:06 am Friday, March 24, 2017

JONES — More than 500 extreme bicyclists traveled to Cass County Sunday to participate in the fourth annual Melting Mann.

The Melting Mann is a dirt road bike challenge named after Mann Road located in Newberg Township, which offers a challenge of extreme incline, decline and intense turns.

This year with the temperature fluctuation and the early end to winter, the dirt road challenge lived up to its reputation, but added a twist of biking and hiking, as some riders had to resort to hiking to maneuver the muddy terrain.
On Sunday, bicyclists had the opportunity to travel a 2-mile route or a 32-mile route on various dirt roads throughout the county, which included some of Southwest Michigan’s most challenging and scenic dirt roads in Cass County.

“This bike challenge is unique as each course takes place on 90 percent gravel roads, which is a draw to those bicyclists who want to test their intensity and endurance,” said Mark Wright, co-founder of Heart Smart Events, LLC.

Because of the unique challenge that Cass County offers, the event continues to grow in popularity, with this year seeing an increase in tandem bicyclists and fat tire competitors.

This year’s challenge brought local riders from Michigan as well as from the surrounding states of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Iowa as well as bicyclists from Canada.

Heart Smart Events coordinates this event to promote healthy activities and to highlight the natural bike terrain in Cass County.

In bringing more than 500 bicyclists to the area, this also provides a boost to the county as these participants purchase gas, food, supplies and lodging in the area.

This year a portion of the proceeds of the race were donated to bike associations in the Michiana area such as the Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association, which provides trail maintenance at Dr. T.K. Lawless Park. In order to further promote local biking, bike advocacy, trail maintenance and economic development, additional proceeds were donated to League of Michigan Bicyclers and Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association.

“It was great to see international riders as well as competitors from additional states this year to enjoy the natural terrain of Cass County as well as the opportunity to interest visitors in what Cass County has to offer, said Jamie Stafne as co-founder of Heart Smart Events, LLC.”

This year’s winners were Jesse Kooistra of Paw Paw, with a time of 1:40:55, who takes the title of Melting Mann and Wendy Zamzow-Blumeri, of Adrian, with a time of 2:01:33, who takes the title of Melting WoMann.

These individuals covered 32 miles averaging 19 and 15.8 mph on this treacherous terrain.

Competitive riders also had the opportunity to register their race day in the new challenge series, MGRS or Michigan Gravel Race Series. Melting Mann was featured as the first race in MGRS, the newly formed competitive gravel road race series.

When the race was complete, riders, volunteers and fans were able to enjoy food and music, thanks to the many sponsors of the event, which included business sponsors spanning the Michiana area, from as far north as Grand Rapids and as far south as Fort Wayne, Indiana.

A special thanks to the Cass County Sheriff’s Department and Reserves, the Cass County Road Commission, the Newberg Township Fire Department First Responders, the Village of Vandalia, Moreno’s Sports Bar and Grill and the many volunteers who made the day a success.