Bradyn Lange sprints to a win at the Chequamegon 40
Riley Amos and Alexey Vermeulen complete the men's podium; Keegan Swenson's ride is riddled with crashes
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In a game of complicated tactics and shockingly muddy conditions, Bradyn Lange sprinted to an impressive win at the Chequamegon MTB festival in 2:05:54 with Riley Amos and Alexey Vermeulen rounding out the podium in 2:05:55 and 2:05:57, respectively.
The Chequamegon 40 course covers 39 miles of punchy hills, grassy fields, and swaths of gravel. While riders expected a fast, dry course on Saturday, a huge storm broke over the area an hour before the race, completely changing the course into a gigantic mud pit. Riders who normally stay on their bikes were suddenly crashing in corners and even walking up some of the muddiest and steepest hills.
Lange, at 23, is the youngest rider in the Life Time Grand Prix series and said he was not expecting to win a race this season.
“Payson [McElveen] and Keegan [Swenson] both fell with 15 miles to go and me and Alexey [Vermeulen] reconnected with them. We caught Cole [Paton] and Riley [Amos] and then saw the front moto. I was like, ‘wait, this is the front of the race right now, holy crap!’ And then I was in second place heading into the last two corners and Keegan had a tiny gap on us. He slid out in the mud and fell and I found myself in the lead.
“I thought ‘what do I do now?’ I’ve never been at the front of one of these races at the finish. I was shocked but realized that now was my chance and I better go. I just risked it all in the last two corners and ended up winning. It was such a happy moment for me.”
Lange added that he hasn’t had an amazing performance at any of the Life Time Grand Prix races this year.
“It was a big confidence boost for me to perform in this stacked of a field.”
Swenson, who leads the Life Time Grand Prix after a commanding season of wins, finished fourth after a number of crashes and mechanicals forced him to repeatedly pull back up to the front group.
Swenson had a small gap going into the final corner of the race and slid out in the mud, when Lange took the opportunity to sprint for the win, followed closely by Amos and Vermeulen.
After crashing, Swenson finished just fourteen seconds behind Vermeulen.
Amos finished just one second behind Lange.
“I was so lucky because I was one of the only ones who didn’t have any issues like a dropped chain or a crash,” the 20-year-old said. “I had at least 10 close calls, but I never actually had an issue and was able to keep on the wheels.”
Adding to the chaos of the muddy conditions, different riders had different approaches in terms of their bike choice.
Pete Stetina, who finished seventh on the day, chose to ride the Canyon ATB Gravel bike with drop bars and Fox’s new gravel suspension fork. Alternately, Payson McElveen, who finished fifth, chose the Allied BC40, a full suspension mountain bike.
Most riders opted for a hardtail mountain bike, including the three riders on the podium.
“This isn’t really a cross race or a mountain bike race, it’s just a bike race,” Stetina said.
Chequamegon, a storied race founded in 1938, is the fifth of six races in the Life Time Grand Prix series. Both Lange and Vermeulen will add these results to their Grand Prix standings.
Vermeulen is holding second in the Grand Prix, with Cole Paton, Peter Stetina, Russell Finsterwald, and Payson McElveen just a few points behind.
Even with the series points still up in the air, Vermeulen said he trained his focus on the day.
“I decided to focus on racing my bike today, knowing that the rest will come,” he said. “I knew that if I focused too much on the standings I would have ridden a different race. I’m very happy with my result from today, it was so epic out there.
“It became almost survival in a sense, of how well can you pace yourself and not miss gaps. It’s just so fast that the minute something does open, it’s pretty much impossible to close it.”
Vermeulen, who is from Michigan, said he felt at home racing in the Midwest and that the huge crowds were a highlight of the day.
The Life Time Grand Prix will wrap up with the 100-mile Big Sugar Gravel, in Bentonville, AR on October 22, 2022.
Full men’s pro results here