10 February 2018. Grand Rapids, MI. Fat Bike Nationals.
Fat Bike Nationals was humbling. Deeply humbling.
Friday, February 9th, pre-ride day, brought many inches of fresh snow (on top of the already present many inches of snow), setting a foreboding stage for a season-long goal.
After letting the snow stop, and allowing ample time for a few ruts to be ridden in, I headed over for a more in-depth pre-ride of the course. To say it was difficult would be an understatement. Disrespectful to the term difficult.
Imagine 7” of fluffy, dry, white snow falling on top of 5”-6” of fluffy, dry white snow that is already resting on top of ice and frozen trails. Any other winter activity - snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowboarding - it’s called Champagne Powder - and people seek it out with a vengeance. Fat bikers, however, welcomed this additional snow on top of the existing snow, with many four letter epithets as the difficulty of the race was becoming increasingly clear.
A 3 mile loop with 350’ of climbing was quickly turned int into a 2 mile ride with 1 mile and 300’ of climbing while running with a fat bike.
Friday night brought hope for a solid groom, some temperature variation to freeze the course and provide a solid foundation for Saturday’s race.
Hope, as we know, is not a strategy.
Saturday morning dawned with giant, fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky in mass quantity. There was still hope, however. It was just mixed in with a deep seated knowledge that today was going to be an incredibly difficult day.
Upon arriving at the course, half of the hope arrived with mer. There was a very solid groom put in by a tireless team at Cannonsburg Ski Hill in Grand Rapids. Kudos to the entire team there as they were working around the clock to make the event memorable for everyone.
You might have heard the sound from wherever you were on Saturday afternoon.
That was the sound of me (and many other racers) running into an absolute brick wall that is beautiful, fluffy and peaceful until you try to ride a bike on it.
The racing simply tore through the groom on the first lap and turned the entire course into the equivalent of a winter sand pit. A beautiful sand pit, but a sand pit nonetheless.
Tire pressures were tested and adjusted throughout the race. Lines were tested. Everyone’s patience was supremely tested. Trees were hugged as ruts washed out leaving riders (myself included) scrambling for some way to keep the rubber side down. Nothing seemed to work except the realization that we were all going to be doing a lot of running after the first lap.
Just under 2 hours later, Fat Bike Nationals was in the book. A struggle (to say the least) resulted in a 9th place finish.
Tonight, as I settle in to watch some hoops and attempt to recover, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here and have enjoyed this event. I’m hopeful that I’ll have the opportunity to participate again next year - if to do nothing more than say thank you, again, to all of the people at Cannonsburg and Winter Rush who made that event possible.
I’m sure, in the coming days, the fun factor of the race will increase as vivid memories of the difficulty of the course fade, too.
One thing is for certain, it won’t ever be forgotten.