CALUMET - After 26.9 miles careening through sand, dirt and rolling hills, nothing was decided in the Great Deer Chase 27-mile mountain bike race Saturday morning.
Tom Carpenter, of Marquette, and John Cowan, of Petoskey, Mich. were deadlocked together, not even separated by one full bike length, coming into the final stretch.
The crowd waiting at the finish line - composed of cheering families and those who had finished the 15-mile race earlier in the day - saw the pair several blocks away and gave a roar as they saw the duo competing for first place. Just about at that time, both kicked into their final sprint.
Tom Carpenter (left) edges out John Cowan right before the finish line of the 27-mile mountain bike race at the Great Deer Chase Saturday in Calumet. Carpenter, a resident of Marquette, won the race by two-tenths of a second. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
With both pumping as hard as they could, visibly draining whatever last vestiges of energy they had left, Carpenter pulled slightly ahead with about 50 yards to go and held that position to win by a two-tenths of a second margin.
Carpenter finished in one hour, 43 minutes, 24.5 seconds and simply slumped over his handlebars in celebration once he finally came to a stop. It was his first time winning the GDC in six entries.
"We rode the whole race together," Carpenter said of Cowan. "I just know him from racing and it kind of just ended up that way. We help each other on the course for some of the stretches you can draft.
27-Mile Mountain Bike (Men's): 1, Tom Carpenter, Marquette, 1:43:24.50; 2, John Cowan, Petosky, 1:43:24.70; 3, Colby Lash, Marquette, 1:45:20; 4, Matthew Colligan, Marquette, 1:45:31; 5, Jimmie Colflesh, Westland, 1:46:18.
27-Mile Mountain Bike (Women's): 1, Cooper Dendel, Marquette, 2:00:44; 2, Melissa Mabry, Westland, 2:08:10; 3, Adina Christian, Marquette, 2:12:34; 4, Melissa Eddy, Sanford, 2:14:35; 5, Mary Connor, Marquette, 2:19:03.
27-Mile Single Speed (Men's): 1, Christopher Schmidt, Houghton, 1:54:17; 2, Jeremy Pletka, Marquette, 1:58:46; 3, Bob Carpenter, L'Anse, 2:04:35; 4, Curtis Cline, Washburn, 2:04:47; 5, Eric Sundell, Marquette, 2:08:39.
27-Mile Single Speed (Women's): 1, Lori Violetta, Marquette, 2:17:13; 2, Valerie Foley, Rhinelander, 2:26:26.
15-Mile Mountain Bike (Men's): 1, Todd Tollefson, L'Anse, 1:02:21; 2, Evandro Ficanha, Houghton, 1:02:40; 3, Tim Corrigan, Lake Linden, 1:03:44; 4, Harlan Tollefson, Jenison, 1:04:49; 5, Matthew Wiita, Calumet, 1:05:22.
15-Mile Mountain Bike (Women's): 1, Marika Abbott, Atlantic Mine, 1:09:50; 2, Kathy Abbott, 1:10:30; 3, Christina Smigowski, Chassell, 1:15:10; 4, Allison Slavick, Cable (WI), 1:5:26; 5, Joan Rundman, Hancock, 1:15:57.
"And then at the end I just went for it, see what happens. Just trying to find a way. I've raced with him before so I know he is really strong, but today I found a way to get around him. "
Along with Carpenter, Cooper Dendel (Marquette) won the women's 27-mile mountain bike race. In the 27-mile single gear contest - which had nine entries for the U.P. single gear Championship race - Christopher Schmidt (Houghton) took home the title with a one hour, 54 minute and 17 second time.
In the 15-mile mountain bike track, Marika Abbott (Atlantic Mine) won in 1 hour, nine minutes and 50 seconds. Kathy Abbott (Atlantic Mine) finished second. For the men, Todd Tollefson (L'Anse) finished first with a 1 hour, two minutes and 21 second finish.
No other first place finish served up as much drama, however, as the Carpenter-Cowan finish.
Both competitors sat and chatted with each other for several minutes after the race, clearly looking forward to a rematch in the future.
"That is close," Carpenter said of the final margin. "That is really close. I have done this race a handful of times, this is the first I have ever won it, but yeah, that's really close."
According to Carpenter, the course challenges riders most in its constant difficulty. There are no long downhills to serve as a mid-race break.
"There is no rest, it is just constantly pedaling," Carpenter said. "There are no long downhills. For a lot of courses, like the (Keweenaw) Chain Drive in the spring you get some long down hills and can rest a little bit, but for my end, the pedaling the whole time with no breaks is the hardest."
Carpenter has done the race a handful of times before and plans on doing it a handful more in the future.
"Man that was fun," Carpenter said. "Just great trails. There are not to many places you can get 27 miles of single track like that without having any loops."