Yep, it’s happening no matter what and you are more likely to get sunburned than frost bit. And that actually might be nice for a change.
The Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series gets underway this weekend with the fifth edition of Fat Chance!, one of the original fat bike races in the state and one that has been a fixture on the calendar as the first big tests of the season.
Crystal Mountain plays the role of world-class host, and for 2017, the course will revert to the original circuit used for the first two editions of the race. The Otter Loop is Crystal’s most used and best maintained trail, giving riders a 1.5 mile highway of fast, wide open trail with plenty of room to pass and a few high-speed turns that punish mistakes and reward smooth and consistent bike handling.
It’s a formula that has served Jorden Wakeley well over the years, at a race and on a course that he has made his own. While the women’s side has seen some big names take turns on the top step, including April Morgan, Danielle Musto and former Series winner Chelsea Strate, Wakeley has had a stranglehold in Thompsonville since the off.
With Wakeley now confirmed to race, it’ll be interesting to see where the challenge comes from in a large field with plenty of riders focused on scoring high by Series’ end. Last year’s Series winner Ryan Kennedy has been under the radar since Iceman, but is always up for a win. It’s a sign of the team’s depth that he’ll enter as co-leader with an on-form Jon Throop, who is not only looking at the SBFBS title, but is targeting US Fat Bike Nationals just a week later, with Fat Chance! serving as a well-timed test of the legs. They’ll be flanked by a strong squad, with Luke Tjosvold, Wes Sovis, Mike Walters, Brad Hochstetler, Tim Reicha and others for a deep Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing team.
Runner-up for the Series title last year and one of the most consistent and explosive riders, Nick Wierzba, is back to lead Hagerty Cycling, with Kyle Smith making his SBFBS debut. Their elder statesman, Hal BeVier, is already confirmed in the Master’s race, with Paul Olson, Craig Webb, Steve Andriese and Norm Licht all late decisions with just a few days before registration closing. BeVier has been spending in inordinate amount of time in the woods, which has been a blast for the fat bike community to have the ol’ pro putting in the miles.
Kyler Bradley makes his SBFBS this weekend as well, and word on the proverbial street is that he’ll have an immediate impact on the shape of the race. It’s going to be interesting to see how Kyler, Kyle Smith, Mike Walters and other riders can survive early and play a role in the finale.
Perhaps the biggest question mark comes on the women’s side, where former Series winner Susan Vigland is not slated to start as of yet, with the Hagerty Cycling team leadership falling to the ever-smiling Velvet Batteiger. She’ll be up against Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing’s Erin Reicha, who inherits some big expectations. ERSB has won this Series every season save one, with some of the most storied names in fat biking claiming a win each. Chelsea Strate, Stacy Smith, and Liz Belt have all tasted glory, and it’s now Reicha’s turn to try and bring it home.
Claire Reeves will make the trip north Saturday having already won the first edition of Winter Rush last on the opening weekend of January. She’s a solid bike handler with a strong engine, with her only weak spot being the inability to stay away during car rides of any duration.
Of course, the weather is as much of the talk as the riders, with temperatures forecasted to remain largely above freezing nearly every day heading into January 21. The race will go on, whether on grass or snow, with Crystal Mountain investing their time and tools to keeping the snow around as long as possible.