IMBA Club Interview: Woolly Mountain Bike Club in St. Croix Falls, WI


Some of the Woolly Mountain Bike Club's world class single track in action at their annual Woolly MTB Race.

I've recently had the pleasure of getting to know Keith Velaski and a few other folks from the Woolly Mountain Bike Club in St. Croix Falls, WI.  This is a passionate crew of mountain bikers dedicated to building and promoting world class mountain bike trails in the St. Croix River Valley.  Click HERE for the full scoop on these great trails.

This group has diligently been working at creating a world class sustainable mountain bike trail over the past several years, recently became an official IMBA club, and as of late has been turning a lot of heads!  I caught up with Keith and was thoroughly impressed by what they have accomplished as well as their work ethic and goals for mountain biking in the region.  Enjoy!

Frank L:  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Keith! 
Keith V:  My pleasure, really.

Frank L:  We appreciate your efforts and dedication in creating a world class network of Mountain Bike Singletrack in St. Croix Falls!  To start with, how long have you been involved with these trails?
Keith V:  Since the beginning in 2006.  I moved to this area from Bloomington in 2002.  I used to live 7 blocks from the River Valley Trail, and rode it all the time.  I was really surprised to find such a lack of trails out here after I moved.  I figured the terrain around here was just begging to be ridden.  I was so desperate to find trails out here that I would stop and question people if I saw them reading a cycling magazine in the store.  I finally wandered into(now closed) Gravity Lab where I met and befriended Mark Fisk and his brother Matt.  Those guys took me out to some stuff that was really fun, but totally "unofficial".
Woody McBride gathered us together in 2006 and suggested we put on a race to try to promote the area.  It was that year that we started building on some private land in town.  Steve Litzkow is the name of that landowner.  He has a Bed and Breakfast (Wissahickon Inn) on 40 acres that is still within the city limits.  Steve is a guy who used to race bikes back when Bridgestones were (still are, btw) cool.  He is no longer able to ride, but still loves to be a part of the race.  The Woolly wouldn't be half the race it is without his support.

Frank L:  How many people are involved in building and maintaining these trails?
Keith V:  All of the above names, but additionally; Matt's wife Alicia, Charlie Strantz, Kent and Sally Lundholm, Ryan Lee, Jon Sutton, Paul Smith, and my sons; Carson, Doran, and Luke. 

Frank L:  If someone wants to become involved in helping out with trail building or maintenance, who should they contact?
Keith V:  Send a note to us on either our website: www.woollyrace.com or through our Facebook page.  We will be announcing trail building dates on morcmtb.org as well.

Frank L:  I've heard rumors of plans to build even more single track this Spring, to be ready for the June Woolly Race.  Is this true?  If so how much new trail will be ready for the June event?
Keith V:  Yep!  That is tough to say.  We are a pretty ambitious group, but we also have families and careers.  I will promise more new trail, but I'm wise enough not to commit us to something we might not be able to deliver.

Frank L:  Also big news is the fact that the Woolly Bike Club is now an official IMBA club.  From a trail building perspective, does this change your trail building philosophy or do members of your club have prior IMBA trail building experience?
Keith V:  The philosophy is the same.  We try to "do it right, do it once", so we follow IMBA's guidelines fairly closely.  Last summer was a true test.  This area just got HAMMERED with rain, but the only repair we had to do involved clearing downed trees and branches.  We didn't have any areas washout at all. We are really proud of that.

Frank L:  Tell us about your favorite section of single track on your trails.
Keith V:  There is a section that Mark, Matt and Alicia built last year that is awesome.  It starts with some tight twisty corners then opens into a really fun downhill with a banking turn.  Next, you climb up into a stand of oaks before you shoot down another little hill right through a big patch of ferns.  It is a really fun section through a really beautiful part of the woods.  

Frank L:  I hear there is some legitimate slick rock up there...
Keith V:  Well, there IS some, but we still have to get approval to use it.  You know how that goes.

Frank L:  What is your preferred bike setup for these trails?
Keith V:  Run what you brung!!  I have ridden it with a full rigid bike, and a full sus bike.  Both are awesome.  For the SS crowd, think Lebanon Hills, or East side of River Valley Trail.

Frank L:  Are there any recurring group rides on these trails that people could join you for?
Keith V:  Not yet...

Frank L:  This June, the 5th annual St. Croix Valley Woolly MTB Race will take place. This event seems to have consistently grown over the years.  What do you attribute this growth to?
Keith V:  Well, we use social networks to spread the word, we hand out flyers and stickers at Penn Cycle's Thursday night races, but I really think word of mouth has been our best advocate.  We get a lot of positive feedback from the racers.  We honestly love doing this, and I would like to think it shows.

Getting kids on bikes:  Part of the Woolly Club's vision in action at the kids race as part of their annual Woolly Race!
Frank L:  What is your vision for this event in moving forward?
Keith V:  We have 2 visions; One for the race, and one for the trails.  We would like to see the race continue to grow to the point that we have to limit the numbers.  We don't know what that number would be; but I can speak for all of us when I say we are more interested in Quality than Quantity.  We take a lot of pride in putting on a good race.
As for the trails, we envision a system that will not only be a destination for people from out of town, but something that will inspire more people locally to get out and ride.  The number of people who live locally and ride mtn bikes is not a large number, but there has been nothing to foster that growth until now.  We have talked about guiding school groups on some trail rides to introduce the local youth to mtn biking.  There is a lot of potential.  This area is amazing if you like to be outdoors.  The scenery is breathtaking, there are hiking/running trails galore, the St. Croix is a GREAT river to paddle or fish on, we have Trollhaugen and Wild Mountain within about 10 miles of each other.  I could go on and on.  I love it here, and feel fortunate to be able to raise my kids in such a special place.

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