The first race of the 45NRTH Great Lakes Fat Bike Series took off on Saturday, December 19th in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin at Big Rock Creek Retreat. This is the third year that Cyclova CX held the Solstice Chase at the Big Rock Creek Retreat, allowing racers to warm up post-race with Café Wren pizza, soup, Surly beer, and chocolate milk in a large barn decorated with strands of lights and propane heaters. Despite the lack of snow, nearly 300 racers had registered to kick off their fat bike seasons with this race; which offered fat bikers a choice of distance – 42 or 21 kilometers. A lot of racers made their way home with swag from one of the Solstice Chase’s sponsors, 45NRTH; being rewarded for things like traveling the farthest for the race, volunteering to groom local fat bike trails, racing on HED wheels, or being a member of their local IMBA chapter. The fastest male and female finisher also each won $500!
For the 21k, racers would race one lap on the course, whereas the 24k racers would do two. Each lap had roughly 1,500 feet of climbing, with most of the course consisting primarily of service roads and double-tracks, with some fast descents, some rough bumpy segments, a handful of bridges, some sharp turns, and some beautiful scenery. Lots of critters live on the property at Big Rock Creek Retreat, and it isn’t uncommon for fat bikers to see deer sprinting across the course several times mid-race! (Watch out!)
One of the neat course features that the Solstice Chase offers participants is it’s “figure 8” design. At the beginning of the course, racers take off headed north and make their way quickly south for approximately a 7 mile loop before being brought back to the start for a quick view of the warming barn, refreshments, and festivities before being sent back our for another loop just a bit shorter than the first. Each lap was just shy of 13 miles. This course design is great because it offers spectators a prime location to cheer for their favorite racers, but also because it offers those racers a chance to grab a spare bottle before heading back out for more. With temperatures barely in the double digits for this year’s race, lots of bottles were freezing by time racers reached for them.
The shockingly cold weather, big climbs, and bumpy course conditions were definitely a jolt to the system for a lot of the racers, regardless of which distance they were doing! Temps have been relatively warm here in the Midwest and acclimating to fat bike season weather has been difficult for some. On a course that’s challenging in snowy conditions, this year’s Solstice Chase proved to be just as challenging without the white fluffy stuff and racers were finishing a few minutes faster than their times last year. In the 42k, returning champ from last year’s long course, Jeff Hall, finished in just 1 hour and 46 minutes! Second and third place 42k male finishers, Adam Bergman and Ryan Fitzgerald, were separated by just seconds of each other with a time of 1 hour and 52 minutes each. Jenna Rinehart finished 6
th overall and came in first for the women’s 42k with a time of 1 hour and 56 minutes. She was followed by last year’s winner, April Morgan, with Danielle Musto in third place.
For the 21k, top three male finishers were Adam Altman, Kurt Barclay, and Jesse Marzean. Top three female finishers were Rachael Jensen, Michele Basal, and Debbie Willwerscheid. Complete results for both the 21k and the 42k can be found here.