Series points classification will come down to the wire at Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series finale.
There’s absolutely nothing wrapped up in the NMFBS‘ final standings with the final race still on the horizon. After three races spanning back to January 20, there is still time for the overall titles to change hands in both the Men’s and Women’s races.
The hilly, fast and well-manicured course at Timber Ridge will be an amazing setting for the final battle of the fat bike season. Last year, over 60 riders made the trip, and this time, the early March start date ensures an awful lot of snow at Marsh Ridge. Expect some changes to last year’s course, with the elimination of one key climb turning the race into a faster, less selective circuit with the off-chance of a group finish actually somewhat possible.
In the Men’s race, series leader Chris Kushman (Einstein Racing) needs to stay consistent. He’s been on the podium at every race, including an emphatic win at Timber Ridge to start the month of February. Unlike Jorden Wakeley and Jason Lowetz, both of whom are nipping at his heels, Kushman’s meticulous and smart preparation have got him through without incident so far. Wakeley’s eighth place at Timber Ridge knocked him into second in the points, though his big win at Fat Tuesday brought him back to within 5 points of the lead. Ryan Kennedy’s consistent riding has put him third place overall, less than a point behind Wakeley and still within easy reach of the win. Kushman must finish on the podium to keep the title, especially if either Wakeley or Kennedy are with him on the steps.
Interestingly, it’s Jason Lowetz in fourth place who may play spoiler. He’s been second twice now in the series, with a flat tire knocking him back to eleventh at Fat Chance. Now looking for a place on the podium, his result at St. Fatty’s Day will dictate much of what happens overall. If he finishes ahead of Wakeley, Kushman or Kennedy, that rider will almost certainly lose their chance at the points win. For Kushman to win, he must hope to finish ahead of Wakeley and Kennedy, or that Lowetz and another rider, perhaps Alex Vanias, finish 1-2.
The Women’s race isn’t a forgone conclusion, either. Despite winning every race so far, Chelsea Strate’s 47 point lead isn’t safe if she doesn’t make the start line. Instead of the normal 50 points, St. Fatty’s Day is worth 75, giving second place racer Christina Peek the open door to take the overall win. If Chelsea can show up and score almost any points, her win would be safe. Perhaps the most interesting battle might be for the third place spot. Melissa Ryba is not yet confirmed and would be the likely second place racer on the day, should Strate race. If Ryba isn’t there, Michelle Ryan would have to fend off her daughter and rising phenom Maddi Miller for third in the final points standings.
You can find out more about the final race and the points series at www.nmfbs.com