Frigid Fat Chance Kicks Off 2019

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Frosty, fast racing kicked off 2019 Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series, with big wins from Acker and Vigland.

The smarter of us stayed in bed, while the bold made their way to Crystal Mountain. With temperatures at the start line sitting at a single degree, the 2019 edition of Fat Chance presented by Iron Fish Distillery was always going to be memorable. It was fitting that photos of the 2013 race popped up this morning, perhaps the only other event quite as cold, albeit that year’s race was buffeted by winds so strong they shut down parts of M-155 due to white out conditions.

Instead, this morning’s race saw sunny skies and nearly perfect snow conditions on Otter Loop, but with a pervasive thick cold that enveloped the riders derisively trying to ‘warm up’ before the 10am start. Seeking to keep his perfect streak alive at Fat Chance, Jorden Wakeley was on the line early alongside Matt Acker, Nick Wierzba, Dave ‘Sunset’ Scott, Eric Langley and a slew of other regulars, plus Rick Wetherald and Paul Olson.

The women’s race was headed by previous SBFBS winner Susan Vigland, with Chelsey Schlict, Cindy Duby, Arianne McNamara, Kamie Wade and a dozen other contenders toeing the line and tucked into the first few rows of racers. At the gun, the first lap was extremely fast, with Wierzba, Acker, and Sunset all forcing the issue early. It was a group of just seven riders in the Men’s event still in contention after one lap, while Susan Vigland already found herself well ahead of a chasing duo of Schlict and Duby.

On a course with perfect snow conditions and plenty of room to pass, it was only a short section of singletrack and lapped traffic that broke up the many groups that formed, fell apart, and then found space to coalesce yet again throughout the 45 and 90 minute races. Wierzba was the first victim, clipped off trying to pass lapped traffic, as was a super-human John Duby. Eric Langley lost ground only to spend four laps clawing his way back onto the lead group late. It took a full 20 minutes for the race to begin to settle into shape, and the sizeable Master’s chase group, led by Rob Goepfrich and Jim Jackovatz and featuring a half-dozen riders most of the day, offered some of the most exciting racing.

With a lap to go, it was a quartet still in the mix for the overall win. Acker was playing it smart; after spending much of the day on the front, he had settled into third and fourth wheel and left the pace setting to Paul Olson, who had the Master’s win wrapped up. Sunset, too, gave a long dig, but it was always going to be a sprint between Wakeley and Acker. When the red (now white with frost) beard came through from distance, Wakeley looked ready and able to rev past, but he never quite found the gear to come around.

With Vigland taking the Open win (it’ll be switched in the results, as she was listed as Master’s), she’s well on the way to another SBFBS title with the North American Vasa just a few weeks off. She won’t have it all her way, and the miles of singletrack certainly suit Chelsey Schlict, who was second on the day. Lexxie Mapes spent the entire morning riding solo and picking off rider after rider, and her third place finish was one of the hardest-earned rides of the day.

Cindy Duby will lead the Women’s Masters after the first event, just ahead of Amelia Hasenohrl and Singletrack Sister’s Kami Wade.

On the Men’s Master’s, it’s Paul Olson who has started off his 2019 campaign the strongest, though John Duby has to be noted as the ride of the day. He spent much of the race leap-frogging groups after a rocky start and dropping plenty of strong riders in his steady surge to the head of affairs. Twice he found himself just a few bike lengths from rejoining the lead group of Wakeley, Acker et al, only to have accelerations up front pull the groups away. Leaping away from the Master’s chase group with 1km to go turned out to be a brilliant move for Jim Jackovatz, who barely held on ahead of Rob Goepfrich and Kris Sands, who round out the top five.

In the team, Dan Ellis led the way with 9th place in the Men’s Open and earning himself a fair claim to Susan’s packet of complimentary saltines, if both chose to indulge in Crystal Mountain’s free post-race chili. He started strong and chose to settle in late, still picking up plenty of SBFBS points to set him up for the rest of the season. Andy Weir made a very bundled-up debut for squad, so much so that team management didn’t even recognize him until after the race. He finished up 13th in the Open class, while Tim Bottrell opted to stay home and watch Point Break for the 101st time.

This Friday, you can meet these stars in person and maybe even look them in the eye at Friday Night Lights’ Father Fred-donating, singletrack-shredding ride…we MIGHT even have a group ride the full 27km Vasa lap, just to get pumped for the second race of the series. You can get reg’d up for Round Duh here.

A big thanks to up.bike for bringing the trailer, tent, and heaters; the #AdventureHub was the only thing that wasn’t freezing out there, and yet also the coolest place to be. We also gotta give some propers to Martin Harris and Josh Westhouse for making the drive up and sporting the Velo City Cycles colors, and a nod to Rick Wetherald, who drove up through a blizzard to be here.

Full results are up here.