The first running of the King Vasa Fat Bike race is a little over a week off, but it’s pulled in some heavy-hitters for its debut.
On the heels of a legendary Noque weekend, the first installment of the North American Vasa with fat bikes is certainly looking to capture some of that excitement. Races like the Birkie and Noque have pioneered the inclusion of fat bikes, but the Vasa has caught on quickly, and the big platform has drawn out a number of fast fat bikers. It’s a start list of a high quality, and should be an absolute show for those on hand to watch.
The Fat-Athalon component is also interesting and a first. Entrants have the chance to take on the 27km ski in the morning before taking the start later in the afternoon for a lap of the same 27km circuit. It could shape up for a testing day, with the combined times dictating the first ever winners in the combined classification. The big favorites for this are the Hagerty duo of Steve Andriese and Craig Webb, both of whom have been training with both efforts-on a single day- in mind. Keith Conway, of Einstein Racing, has big ambitions as well.
The fat bike race itself will be the return to racing for the 2014 Fat Bike World Champion Jorden Wakeley. He’ll be back in action after his win at Noque, though he’s admitted that his true aim is in the Birkie, an important stepping stone in his quest to repeat as Great Lakes Fat Bike Series winner.
He won’t be completely unchallenged, and as it is at nearly every fat bike race, Einstein Racing is fielding plenty of options. The team was 11 of 39 racers at Noque last weekend, and they’ll be a massive contingent at King Vasa. They’ll be led by the third and fourth place finishers from Noque, Sean Kickbush and Jason Lowetz. They’ll be supported by Dave Walston, Rob Goepfrich, Nate St. Onge and Jason Whittaker. Whittaker had a mechanical at Noque and will certainly be in the thick of things next weekend. Chris Kushman returns after a great ride at Fat Chance!, and behind Lowetz and Kickbush, is the team’s best hope to put another rider onto the podium.
With Webb and Andriese perhaps a touch tired, they may call on Brian Hofstra to pull the day. It’ll be interesting to see how seriously riders and teams take the combined title. There’s the option to work for a single rider to defend the lead from the ski, but if time gaps are big enough, it’ll be wide open.
Ken Blakey-Shell will be back in action looking for a podium place and he’s a likely candidate to be ensconced on a step by 4pm. Thomas Klaver and Chad Schut will be in with a shout as well.
The women’s race will be between Arianne Whittaker, the Einstein racer third at Noque, Beth Mueller and Karen Wright. Whittaker is the favorite on home turf, and it will be her last fat bike start before leaving for a altitude training camp in Arizona at the end of the month.
More on King Vasa later on, including Strava info and a conditions report heading into the race.