After a weekend up north for Fat and Flurrious in Boyne City, the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series comes home for the 8th edition of the Ironfish Distillery Fat Chance Fat Bike Race.
One of the original fat bike races in the state, Fat Chance is nearing a decade of action in 2020, and it’s somewhat fitting that racers will be celebrating on what is just about the original course. In 2012, racers braved a blizzard and absolutely biting windchill. It was so cold that the timers were physically sitting on their space heater; if you were more than six inches away from it, it didn’t help even a bit. Luckily, this weekend looks to be much more hospitable with sun and temperatures into the mid-20s, downright comfortable after last year’s -4 degrees at the start.
The 1.5 mile lap offers maybe 18 feet of elevation, and if conditions are as good as expected, that means there isn’t much to break up the bunch. That often turns Fat Chance into a fat bike criterium, with a group of favorites playing tactics, traffic, and luck to split things up. With a few exposed sections, wind can play a roll, but it often simply comes down to the snow; lots of laps, lots of riders, and lots of horsepower can turn into one lane, or stay like a highway throughout the ten-plus laps race favorites often turn in. The best recipe is to be big, be strong, and be aggressive.
Last year, perennial winner Jorden Wakeley suffered his first lost at Fat Chance after coming up a whisker short to Matt Acker. The pair had slowly pared down a favorites group that included fat bike specialists like Rick Wetherald, David “Sunset” Scott, Paul Olson, and Nick Wierzba. On the women’s side, Susan Vigland finished with the ladies’ win and 11th place overall, and if she toes the line Sunday, she’ll enter as a big favorite. She’ll be up against the original Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series champion, Chelsea Strate, who’ll be swinging by in the 45NRTH van on the way back to Minn-E-so-Tah.
Looking at the start list, two names stand out aside from Wakeley, who is surely looking to get back to his winning ways. The first is Eric Langley, the Freewheeler racers who just sort of feels like a TC local. Langley has turned into a fat bike powerhouse, and he’s looking like a serious podium contender. Second, Kyan Olshove is fresh off winning the Farmland 5km Free-For-All Bike Race, confirming the talent we’ve all seen coming since he was in sixth grade. Each season, he takes another step up, and this winter is his time to confirm he’s not just fast for a kid, he’s one of the fastest, full stop.
You can get signed up for Fat Chance here, and make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the up.bike #AdventureHub which will be a handy spot to warm up.