After some logistical setbacks, the crowd was treated to a bike handling clinic by Jorden Wakeley.
The first annual Fat Tuesday race broke the weekend mold, becoming the first mid-race week on the schedule for a long time. The start list was packed, drawing out the cream of the fat bike crop with the points series overall on the line.
The course’s grooming was put to a halt, leaving just a few dedicated folks to snowshoe the course with time running out. In the end, the loop, which totaled under one mile in length, was essentially one line with perhaps one or two places to pass. Certain sections were only rideable without any lapped traffic ahead, and after a lap, the course was littered with small groups just looking to get by.
From the gun, Jorden Wakeley and Jason Lowetz were off the front, with Chris Kushman and Ryan Kennedy, nearly the whole Einstein Racing squadron, pulling away from a bottle-necked start. Alex Vanias had a terrible start, stuck outside the top ten with slow traffic in his path. The Lion of Leroy battled all day to regain contact, pushing his way through the field in search of the leaders.
The women’s race was just as straight forward, with Einstein Racing’s Chelsea Strate taking a one minute lead in a five minute lap, and that was as close as the gap got all day. Settled in, Strate staved off the effort of Melissa Ryba, making her fat bike debut, and Michelle Ryan, whose steady pace brought her a well-deserved third place.
The Skinny Tire division was never in doubt, with OtS-kolot.com’s Kenn Pickel yet again the only main insane enough to give it a shot on the 29er. After a flat tire, he remounted to complete his full two hours and take the win. He’s obviously building fitness for the rest of the year.
The Duo category was the tightest of the day, with returning winners Cody and Wes Sovis taking heat from Dave Bucholtz and Specer Payne, along with John Ammond and John Leach. After the Sovis’ took a healthy :30 second lead on lap one, disaster struck. Wes was unable to clip in for five or six laps, forcing him to run much of the back end of the lap. The three teams took turns in the lead, with every squad making an appearance in the lead. At the hour mark, Ammond and Leach fell off the pace, with the Sovis’ dueling with the McLain’s duo of Bucholtz and Payne. It took a gutsy run by Wes Sovis on the third to last lap to give a gap, and it was enough to take the win. A very important Chapeau to Spencer Payne, however, for a special gentlemanly move late in the race. After a lapped rider took out Sovis with two to go, Payne waited, keeping the race together and fair. Chapeau, Spencer. Chapeau.
Wakeley kept the hammer down, weaving and avoiding the lapped traffic. He was forced to display some amazing bike handling skills, passing through six inch deep snow and slush when lapped riders wouldn’t get out of the way. Lowetz closed the gap in the middle of the course, but the Giant of Grayling was too smooth. Chris Kushman battled with a surging Alex Vanias to hold onto third, with Vanias taking fourth and Ryan Kennedy coming in fifth ahead of Mickey Humpula.