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