2017 Series Kickoff at the Solstice Chase

Race Update by Jill Martindale

photo by 45NRTH

photo by 45NRTH

 

It’s been many months since the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series season opener, the Solstice Chase, took place in St. Croix Falls, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been re-living that race over and over again since we crossed the finish line last December! New for 2017, the race course took fat bikers out on the beautifully groomed Woolly Mountain Bike trail. The race began and ended at the Dalles House Restaurant and Bar, which was also new for this year’s race. The course, the temperatures, the volunteers, and the location all made for one of our favorite Solstice Chase races yet!

The night before the Solstice Chase allowed participants to pick up their race packets from the Dalles House, to snag dinner from the Restaurant, or to pre-ride the course. Snow slowly fell in big chunks from the sky and the course was in supreme groomed shape! The course drew riders out of town on a slight climb, through a tunnel under the expressway, and then dipped them into single-track into the woods. Short, punchy climbs, twisty single-track, and fun descents welcomed fat bikes as though the trail was built for 4”-5” wide tires! Pre-riding the course in the dark was a complete blast and the promise of more snow through the night meant volunteers would be out plowing and shoveling until race start. Thanks again to all of the volunteers for battling the snow to create the perfect fat bike course!

Race morning came quickly and it was really great to roll out of the Dalles House Hotel straight to the race start! We don’t think any race starts will be easier than this one! The race course was shortened just a hair because of the negative degree wind chill that greeted racers at the start line. The long-distance 42k racers (eligible for GLFBS points) took the line at 10am, with the short-distance 21k racers beginning at 10:15am. The snow had become soft in spots over the night, causing fat bikers to focus on their lines and to hike through other messier areas. All the fun of riding in the snow! 42k racers completed two laps before making their way back under the tunnel, downhill back to the Dalles House.

photo by 45NRTH

photo by 45NRTH



Cole House, from Wisconsin, came flying in as the first Solstice Chase finisher with a fast time of 1 hour 23 minutes! Cole ran the 45nrth Dunder and Flowbeist tires, and he claims they were the ticket to the top step of the podium! Jeff Hall of Minnesota cruised through for second step (1:25:36) followed by Jeffrey Young, also from Minnesota, for third step (1:26:40).

In the women’s field, we saw Jenna Rinehart from Wisconsin race into first place for the second year in a row (1 hour and 34 minutes)! April Morgan, 45nrth racer from Minnesota, fought hard for second place female (1:40:44). April described the Solstice Chase’s course as “soft and drifty” and joked about taking a few spills during the race. Sonia Pond, also from Minnesota, rallied not far behind for a third place podium spot (1:44:19). You can find complete race results here.


http://www.gopherstateevents.com/results/fitness_events/results.asp?event_type=3&event_id=0

Overall, we think this year’s Solstice Chase was a great way to kick off the winter season! We hope everyone is resting up over the holidays, because the second race of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series is rapidly approaching! New to the schedule, the Norpine Fat Bike Classic in Lutsen, Minnesota is January 7th! Be sure to check in on their Facebook page to see updates on race conditions. Course map, lodging specials, and the schedule are all posted online as well. We’re really looking forward to more groomed trail and to what race #2 has in store!

The Fatbike Birkie

Elite racers are called-up to the front.  photo by Scott Chambers

Elite racers are called-up to the front.  photo by Scott Chambers

The Fat Bike Birkie took place this past Saturday, March 5th in Cable, Wisconsin. The Birkie drew a record number of fat bikers this year, with over 500 cyclists taking the line for the 47k fat bike race. While the Birkie drew over 1,000 fat bike enthusiasts, it also drew those who were competing in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. In the men’s race, points were tight between Matt Acker and Jeff Hall, with whoever placed better in the Birkie being the deciding factor in announcing the winner of the series. For the women, April Morgan had a pretty good lead, but points were close coming down to the other four spots on the overall podium. We were definitely looking forward to the Fat Bike Birkie and to see who would be coming out on top!

The Fat Bike Birkie took participants along the famous Birkebeiner cross country ski trail just a few weeks after their huge ski festival. The start of the race differed from prior years, starting in downtown Cable instead of starting at the deserted Telemark Lodge just outside of town. Racers were separated in to three gates depending upon finish times from previous years and their race resumes. Gate one contained some of the top participants for the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series and other fast and well-known competitors, like last year’s Birkie winners, Jenna Rinehart and Will Ross. The huge pool of racers coming to participate in the Fat Bike Birkie definitely added to the suspense of seeing who would make it on to the GLFBS podium.

At the race start, hundreds of fat bikers took off in a neutral start out of town and towards the Birkie trail. It didn’t take long after hitting the trail to feel that the course was in pristine condition. The snow had been groomed perfectly, with just a few soft spots thrown in for good measure. Over 3,000 feet of elevation and a mostly hard-packed course had racers gasping for breath and racing hard to the finish line! Six aid stations and plenty of cheerers lined the 47k, making it easy for racers to grab nutrition and hydration at those areas instead of trying to retrieve and open items from their pockets or frame bags. The amount of work that the race organizers and volunteers put in to the race definitely showed!

The course took racers out on the Birkie trail along a flowing segment following the powerlines, and then out through the woods, climbing steep hills in spots and rushing down some fast descents in others. By time you made it back to the powerlines, you knew there wasn’t much left to the course before the finish line and hammered to get across that line!

In the women’s field, Jenna Rinehart took the win with a time of 2:02:20, nearly 10 minutes faster than her winning time in 2015! April Morgan placed second in 2:06:14. Sheryl Loan came in third female with a time of 2:11:39, just seconds ahead of fourth place Pam Nielsen who rolled through with 2:11:58! Danielle Musto rounded out the top five with a time of 2:12:55.

For the men, Will Ross snagged first overall with a time of 1:46:56, also nearly 10 minutes faster than his winning time in 2015!! Brad Bingham raced through to second place, only seconds behind Will with a time of 1:47:05. Adam Bergman was close behind Brad in third place with a time of 1:47:30. The big nail biter came between the next couple men, Matt Acker, Cole House, and Jeff Hall. In a sprint to the finish, all three of these guys came through with a time of 1:47:37 – with the 2016 Great Lakes Fat Bike Series championship going to Matt Acker, who came in 4th overall at the Fat Bike Birkie, in a sprint finish with a time of 1:47:37:17! Cole House rounded out fifth place on the men’s Birkie podium with 1:47:37:23, just ahead of the GLFBS second place champ, Jeff Hall, with a time of 1:47:37:43!

Full Series recap and place standings posted soon. Stay tuned to read the series wrap-up and to see the top male and female finishers!

45NRTH riders Chelsea Strate and Danielle Musto celebrate the series finale.  photo by Scott Chambers

45NRTH riders Chelsea Strate and Danielle Musto celebrate the series finale.  photo by Scott Chambers


906 Polar Roll

photo by Jenny Scott

One of the things that we love about the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series is the varying snow conditions that racers get to experience. Snow can transform any trail. The 906 Polar Roll took place this weekend in one of the most beautiful fat biking areas in the world in Marquette, Michigan, and racers experienced dramatic changes in conditions in just one weekend.

The 906 Polar Roll was part of the Northern Fat Bike Summit, and a lot of participants showed up to Marquette late Thursday or early Friday. Conditions were near perfect, with the course riding fast and hard packed. Race promoter, Todd Poquette, had kept an eye on the weather and warned racers that the weekend would call for milder temperatures and less-than-ideal trail conditions. Mid-afternoon on Friday it started warming up and began to rain. The rain and warm weather had wreaked havoc on the trail and the course became soft, rutted in areas, un-readable for some, and challenging for everyone. Some segments of the course were covered in ice, whereas road crossings soaked racers with wide puddles and piles of slush. Todd Poquette and the race volunteers did an incredibly job keeping spirits high and staying positive despite the conditions. Racers near the front had a huge advantage of hitting fresh trail, whereas people caught behind the long line of riders in the single-track would have a hard time passing and would come up against a continually crumbling trail that got more churned with each fat biker that passed it. The course layout for the 906 Polar roll encompassed every type of conditions you’d see in a whole winter of fat bike racing: groomed single-track, snow mobile trail, snow that felt like mashed potatoes, hard-packed snow, icy roads, hills that required pushing your bike up them, and descents that kept racers dabbing their feet to stay upright!

Another thing we love about the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series is the type of racer that shows up, toughens it out, and sticks with it. Todd shared some awesome stats on the race: in the 35-mile course 116 racers started with 104 finishers, and in the 15-mile course 171 racers started and 128 finished. That’s a great finisher’s rate! Participants persevered this weekend and endured some epic and incredibly tough course conditions. While we’re proud of the top overall men and women out on the course and we’re equally as proud of the finishers who stuck it out and hung in there for 8-9 hours. Great job, everyone!

In the men’s 35-miler, first and second place finishers, Jordan Wakely and Eric Thompson, sprinted through the 45NRTH arches with times of 3:15:58 and 3:15:59. Adam Bergman followed close behind with a time of 3:16:02. Former Olympian, Travis Brown, came in fourth with a time of 3:16:20, and Matt Acker, a familiar face to the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, finished in fifth with a time of 3:19:23.

April Morgan had a strong first place finish with a time of 3:59:10, followed by her 45NRTH teammate, Danielle Musto who came in with 4:12:42 on the clock. It was a 45NRTH sweep on the podium in Marquette, with Jill Martindale in third with 5:01:09. Anna Zawadski, who leap-frogged a lot of the course with Jill, finished fourth with a time of 5:12:10. Wendy Zamzow-Blumerick rounded out fifth place, her first time riding on snow conditions such as these, with a time of 5:19:43.

Fatbike Frozen Forty

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The 5th annual Fatbike Frozen 40 took off Saturday, February 13th in Maple Grove, Minnesota at Elm Creek Park, with temps below zero. It was so cold that zip ties and number plates were breaking as racers tried to put them on their handlebars! Held at Elm Creek Park in Maple Grove, Minnesota, about a half hour outside of Minneapolis, the Frozen 40 almost didn’t happen this year. Big thanks to Ben Welnak from Mountain Bike Radio for organizing this amazing endurance race; it’s definitely one of our favorites! 

The course is comprised of 100% groomed single-track, taking racers on one of the top rated fat biking trails in Minnesota. Fun to ride year round, this course is transformed in to a totally different animal to ride once it gets some snow! With a little more than 10-miles a lap, racers are challenged to ride 4 laps in order to compete in this event – making the Fatbike Frozen 40 the longest race currently in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. (Unless you argue that someone could ride over 40-miles in the 3-hour time limit that the Farmhand Fat Bike Race allots!) Elm Creek brings racers through hardwood forests, rolling prairie, twisty single track, and over several fun bridges. With somewhere around 1,000 feet of climbing after all four laps, the course changes every year due to the weather, often times changing mid-race after fat bikers make their rounds on the trail! 

The tire of choice for this year’s course seemed to be anything studded! A few days before race day, the course was treacherous with ice, especially in the prairie segments, on a lot of the turns, and on south-facing hills. Thanks to grooming efforts held prior to the race start, snow was shoveled on to the course in areas and the groomer broke up a lot of the worst ice build ups. -10 degrees Fahrenheit marked the start of the race, and racers were thankful for to ride laps so that they’d have the chance to grab fresh water bottles when their water had frozen!

Jeff Hall had a healthy lead on the rest of the field with a time of 3:41:14, averaging nearly 11 mph on the twisty, frozen groomed single-track! Dave Christensen snagged second place with a time of 3:46:14, while Jay Henderson took another podium spot this Great Lakes Fat Bike Series with a time of 3:48:24. Ian Stanford (3:54:48) took fourth and Dave Gray (4:00:02) barely rounded out fifth place, followed very closely by JP LaMere (4:00:28).

In the women’s field, April Morgan snagged yet another win in the series with a fast time of 4:14:30! Chelsea Strate battled for a well-earned second place with 4:35:21 against Pam Nielsen, who was close behind with a time of 4:36:46. Anna Zawadski found her way to fourth (4:40:43) with Anne Grabowski in fifth (4:53:20). 

With only two races left to the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, we’re anxious to see who’ll take this year’s big wins! While some series contenders showed up in the beginning of the series to make the podium spots their home, there are some late-comers who are strongly making their presence known. The 906 Polar Roll is next in the series in Marquette, Michigan, and we’re looking forward to seeing who comes out on top!

Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet

photo by Penn Cycle

photo by Penn Cycle

photo by Penn Cycle

photo by Penn Cycle

The Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet provides the chance to race fat bikes on the pristine, groomed Loppet Trail, which is normally closed to bikers. It’s only open once a year specifically for this race. This elusive Loppet course draws fat bikers from all over, which meant nearly 200 fat bikers would be lining up for the start of the 35k course. For a lot of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series racers, this was the second race packed in to a busy weekend of racing. The popularity of the City of Lakes Loppet meant that fat bikers from other disciplines would be also lining at the start, with fresh legs.

The Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet course takes racers through areas of Minneapolis, starting in Theodore Wirth Park, and ending a little ways south just past Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Park, finishing with a lap around Calhoun Lake. “City of Lakes” is no exaggeration – racers pass or cross over no less than 11 lakes in the entire duration of the course! A lot of the lake crossings can get windy, with soft snow drafts on the course, and an exhilarating feeling of racing on frozen water. Cooperative temperatures meant the course would be firm, and racers would see a little more elevation than the Whiteout; about 1,300 feet of climbing. The Loppet drew fat bikers with backgrounds in mountain biking or fat biking, but it also drew a strong field of racers who are typically seen racing on the road. This meant a powerful field to race on such a hard-packed and groomed course that at times felt like pavement.

In the men’s category, we saw Adam Bergman with his first win of the GLFBS, after placing 2nd at the Solstice Chase and the Iron Line, with a time of 1:19:54. The top three spots of the podium were incredibly close, with Jeff Hall in second with 1:19:55 and Matt Acker in third with 1:19:56! Eric Thompson came in fourth (1:20:18) with Sean Cooley in fifth (1:20:20).

For the women, April Morgan crushed her way to first with a time of 1:31:16. Pam Nielsen was hot on April’s trail, finishing with a time of 1:32:46, with Anna Zawadski coming in third with 1:34:27. Fourth and fifth place women, Abby Krawczyk (1:37:05) and Christina Ross (1:37:09) blazed in to the finish together with Kyia Anderson just seconds behind (1:37:17).

All of these close times have us biting our nails and watching results closely. One of the most exciting things about the series is that each race plays on different types of strengths. While the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout presented races with twisty groomed single track, the Loppet offered a power course that favored well for the folks who liked to hammer. Overall series standings are updated, and we’re excited to see what happens at the next Great Lakes Fat Bike Series race, the Fat Bike Frozen 40, at Elm Creek Park outside of Minneapolis.

Cuyuna Whiteout

The Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout has a lot of really great things going for it: super fun groomed single-track the tends to change each year depending on conditions, always ensuring an exhilarating ride. Tons of incredible volunteers. Medals and awards to overall male and female competitors, and to male and female competitors in different age groups. Their very own meteorologist and a race-day weather forecast. Fundraising efforts to help make the Cuyuna trails better that boast a raffle with awesome prizes such as a Salsa Bergrease X01 complete bike spec’d with 45NRTH gear. Lastly, a yeti. There is a yeti wandering around come race day, cheering and heckling, photo bombing, and trying to sneak his way on to the podium during the awards.

Conditions this year threw a few spots of ice at the racers, forcing them to choose their lines carefully and to handle the course with care in areas. The long distance for the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout boasted a 30k course comprised of 75% single-track and 25% double-track in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area in Crosby, MN, noodling around small lakes, weaving in and out of the woods, and climbing about 1,000 feet. With a recent snowfall, conditions were mostly firm and fast, and beautiful. All proceeds from the Whiteout go directly towards the maintenance and expansion of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails.

There were about 150 racers lining up for the 30k Whiteout this year, with about 100 lining up for the shorter 20k version, and one yeti, causing shenanigans. The neat thing about the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout was that it would begin the double-header weekend for a lot of Great Lakes Fat Bike Series participants, being the first of two GLFBS races in Minnesota, just 2 hours north of where the next race would take place in Minneapolis.

Knowing that the Whiteout was the start of a weekend of hurt, familiar GLFBS racers took the line, ready to duke it out with locals and Minnesotan power houses in the 30k.

In the women’s field, we saw another win from April Morgan, finishing with a time of 1 hour 36 minutes. Sonia Pond, in the first GLFBS race we’ve seen her in this year, took 2nd with a speedy time of 1 hour 40 minutes. Danielle Musto reeled in 3rd in 1 hour 44 minutes, just 11 seconds ahead of Pam Nielsen, who took 4th. Kati Krikke (1:46) took 5th. Fast times from some fast ladies!

More fast times in the men’s field. Jeff Hall crushed it to a win with a time of 1:27:14, with Matt Acker hot on his rear wheel with a time of 1:27:15. It was really close between third and fourth, with Jay Henderson with a time of 1:29:01 in third and Jeffrey Young finishing with 1:29:02. Mat Moore came in 5th with 1:29:11. Close times on a fun course, what a great race!