The Iron Line

photo by Jill Martindale

photo by Jill Martindale

Race #4 in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, the Iron Line held in Iron River, Michigan, decided to pair its annual sled dog race with a fat bike race! New this year to the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, this event was only in its second year ever to take off. With a smaller field compared to a few of the other races in the series, this fat bike race brought a lot of components to the game that will have its participants coming back year after year.

First of all, the course had fun elements comprised of groomed double track, gentle climbs, technically mushy climbs, descents, flat straightaways, and soft hike-a-bikes. You were led through local bike paths covered in snow, around Minnie Lake, and past local’s front yards where they cheered for the fat bikers. The snow was deep in spots, and taunted racers in some spots where they were asked to ride on the sugar-snow bike path while the smooth, paved road was only a few feet away. The course was split in to basically three parts: 1) the way out of town, 2) double-track around a lake, 3) re-tracing your route back in to town. Having the course split up this way made the race go by quickly and allowed for racers to hit the gas following the lake, speeding on the final stretch back to the finish.

The second reason why we loved this race so much? All of the dogs, of course! The Iron Line is in its fourth year as a sled dog race and who can resist a fluffy sled dog? Dogs were leashed up and heading out to race as fat bikers warmed up before the start. As the bikers were lined up ready to go, a few of them barked and howled , mimicking the excitement of the dogs. Many racers met and played with the dogs after both parties had finished their respective races.

Jordan Wakely gave race promoters a run for their money, threatening to roll through the finish line before they could be there to congratulate him with the overall win with a time of 1 hour and 42 minutes. Jordan came in ahead of Adam Bergman (1:44:17) and Matt Acker (1:44:48), who both tried hard to catch him.

In the women’s category, April Morgan claimed her first win of this year’s Great Lakes Fat Bike Series with a time of 2 hours and 4 minutes. Jill Martindale felt surprisingly fresh after just finishing her first Arrowhead 135 just four days prior to this race and came in second overall female (2:14), followed by Chelsea Strate (2:23), who made her way on to her third GLFBS 3rd place in a row.

At this point in the series, Chelsea Strate leads the women’s category, followed by Jenny Scott. Both women have participated in every Great Lakes Fat Bike Series race thus far. For the men, Matt Acker and Brian Geshel are separated only by 5 points. The next two races in the series, the Cuyuna Whiteout and the City of Lakes Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet, are back to back on Saturday and Sunday, giving us a better look at this year’s series contenders. Remember, each racer only needs to compete in three races in order to be considered for the GLFBS. A racer’s best 5 finishes will be counted toward the final series standings. Racers will be awarded an additional 15 bonus points for up to but no more than 2 additional events above the 5. Good luck, fat bike racers!

photo by Jill Martindale

photo by Jill Martindale

Fat Chance! at Crystal Mountain

photo by Chelsea Strate

photo by Chelsea Strate

The Fat Chance! fat bike race at Crystal Mountain was not only race #3 in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, but it was also the first of a 4-race series put on by Einstein Cycles and one of Michigan’s favorite brewing companies in the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series. Drawing from two different series, the Fat Chance! fat bike race had a lot of familiar names racing it and gunning for the top podium step. With a reputation as being a well-organized, super fun race, there was sure to be a lot of fat bikers excited for this particular race!

The long course at Crystal Mountain offered fat bikers a combination of groomed, flowy trail mixed with single track through the woods and plenty of sections that became mushy and turned in to hike-a-bikes. Racers were asked to complete two laps for nearly 19 miles with just under 1,000 feet of elevation. About 100 fat bikers toed the line for the start of the long course, with 35 in the shorter course. The shorter course followed much of the longer’s start and finish area, but with its course sticking closer to the ski hill. After all of these fat bikers with varying skill levels traversed the same area of trail, it’s no wonder those areas got soft! One of the best things about fat biking is the variable trail conditions, and those who were able to ride through these soft areas despite the footprints fared well with putting enough of a gap on their competition to stay ahead.

In the men’s long course, Jordan Wakely, seemingly on his home(ish) turf, came in first overall with a whopping time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, tailed by Matt Acker with a time of 1 hour and 18 minutes. Brian Geshel rounded out third place with a time of 1 hour and 22 minutes, followed by Ryan Kennedy (1:24), and Keegan Myers (1:26).

For the women, Danielle Musto came in first with a time of 1 hour and 34 minutes, followed by Kati Krikke with a time of 1 hour 41 minutes. With another repeat podium spot of third place for the women’s podium going to Chelsea Strate, just minutes behind Krikke with a time of 1 hour 44 minutes. Chelsea was followed by Liz Belt (1:45) and Kim Thomas (1:55).

In the Short’s race, Robert Richardson took the win for the men’s category while Ann Buerman took first in the women’s. Full results for the Fat Chance! fat bike race can be found here.

Brewery Vivant Farmhand Fat Bike Race 2016

Video by 2016 Men's winner, brad white 2016-01-17.

Race #2 of the 45NRTH Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand Fat Bike Race, rolled off January 16th at Cannonsburg Ski Hill with 3 hours of fat biking good times. This year’s race was sponsored by Brewery Vivant, with each of the top 5 in each category winning a growler fill from their brewery. 45NRTH and Grand Rapids Bicycle Company were also sponsors of this year’s race and brought with them swag and prizes, tents, hecklers, and race day volunteers. Big kudos to the Farm Team for organizing the race, building an incredibly fun course, and for building the first fat bike fly-over we’ve seen at a fat bike race yet! That fly-over was super intimidating, super steep, and super fun to ride! Placed at the base of the ski lodge, race day spectators, skiers, and snowboarders were able to watch as fat bike racers rolled up the front end and bombed down the back. We didn’t see much carnage, but photographer’s photo albums are still popping up on social media and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled!

The race started in two different waves. Solo riders took off promptly at noon whereas the duo category racers took off 4 minutes after. The starting line sent riders up a climb and in to some single track, which made up a majority of this year’s course. Michigan had seen warmer temperatures and milder weather leading up to race day, and a lot of the single track proved to be slick and icy for the racers! For the first lap, racers rode some groomed trail that they would see again towards the end of their lap, being led out to some softer snow to ride through the start/finish shoot and up the fly-over! From there, the course took you up Cannonsburg Ski Area’s new tubing hill (while tubers rode the tow and watched within arm’s reach of fat bikers grunting on the climb) and then immediately back down on the other side of the tubing hill. Mid-race, this climb became choppy as racer’s legs starting getting tired; Cannonsburg is known for being one of the most elevated local biking trails in the area. After a fast descent, you dipped back in to the woods for a shorter, less steep climb, and then you hit more single track. Temps were in the 20’s and a lot of the course was hard-packed and smooth with patches of glare ice on the roughly 4-mile course. Racers were challenged to do as many laps they could within the allotted time. As the 3 hour time limit wore on, some spots became less icy while other areas became icier, ensuring that each lap was a gamble! Fat Bikers with studded tires definitely had an advantage, although it should be noted that the top men and women finishers all rode non-studded tires!

In the women’s solo category Danielle Musto, now with her 5th first place shovel from the Farmhand Fat Bike Race, and her GRBC teammate Kati Krikke, dueled it out for the first and second podium spot with 5 laps each, while Chelsea Strate and Jill Martindale battled behind them with 5 laps for third and fourth. Kim Thomas brought the fight with 4 laps for her fifth place podium finish. It should be noted that Krikke received the fastest lap award for female finishers with a speedy time of 29 minutes and 50 seconds per lap!

Brad White and Matt Acker crushed it in the men’s solo category with 7 laps a piece for the first and second steps on the podium, with Jorden Wakely missing the time cut off by seconds and only having 6 of his laps counted. Brian Geshel and Rick Wetherald fought for fourth and fifth spot on the podium, only a minute apart, each with 6 laps as well. Brad put down the fastest lap time for male finishers with a ridiculous time of 22 minutes and 25 seconds in his 4th lap!

Roy Kranz had a three minute lead on the rest of the field in the solo men’s master’s category, followed by Mark Prium and Tim Stroebe. Top three men in this category each squeezed 6 laps in to the 3 hour limit. Hugh Smallwood and Brent Lockhart were the remaining two on the podium with a total of 5 laps a piece.

In the duo category, Scott Tencate and Jeremy Karel held their own with 6 laps, followed by Terry Sensiba and Dan McGraw, who also put in 6. Teams Adams and Hornacek, Bennett and Anible, and Kerr and Gray were third, fourth, and fifth, with a total of 5 laps a piece.

Only one week stands between the Farmhand Fat Bike Race, and race #3 of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, Fat Chance! at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. Thanks again to Farm Team Racing, Brewery Vivant, Cannonsburg Ski Hill, Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, and 45NRTH for sponsoring such a fun fat bike race in West Michigan and to all of the volunteers who helped make the race happen.