It had been about a year and a half since I was last in Cable, WI for the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 and seeing the looming presence of Telemark Lodge felt like coming home. It was good to see the old girl open again and that the rooms are updated and comfortable.
I’ve been coming to the Hayward/Cable area for bike events since the late ’80’s. I’d never have thought back then that we would be meeting up here to race bicycles in the winter! Thanks to fat-bikes now we can!
So, what about the Fat Bike Birkie? Well, it was billed as the largest fat-bike event on the world and with over 150 starters in the 45K race alone I don’t think we can dispute that. What brought that many fat-bikers to the woods of Northern Wisconsin? None other than a once-a-year chance to ride the World Famous American Birkebeiner Trail in all its groomed and packed glory.
The Birkie Trail is normally reserved expressly for cross country skiing but last year the organizers of the Birkie allowed a couple of tests by cyclists riding fat-bikes to determine the impact on the trail and found that there is very little damage from the fat-bike tires and so were motivated to put on the inaugural Fat Bike Birkie. Thanks for the opportunity, folks!
Race day temps were just below freezing at the start and the course had set up nicely over night. It was very fast! How did the race itself go? Well, I don’t have a blow-by-blow account but after shooting photos of the start a couple K down the trail I headed down the road to the turnaround at “00”. I hadn’t been at my chosen photo spot for more than a couple of minutes when Jorden Wakeley from Grayling, MI came steaming down the trail about 10 minutes ahead of schedule demonstrating what 2nd place finisher Jesse LaLonde described as “soul crushing domination”. Jorden was already 4-5 minutes ahead of LaLonde at this point.
After shooting the majority of the riders at the “00” turnaround, and knowing I’d have to hustle back owing to the faster than expected pace, I made my way to the start/finish just in time to see Jorden come across the line in 1hour 48 minutes and some change about 7 minutes ahead of 2nd place LaLonde and 10 minutes ahead of 3rd place Todd McFadden (Todd recently won the Arrowhead 135 by the way!). The remainder of the riders streamed across the line for the next 3 hours!
On the women’s side Danielle Musto from Grand Rapids, MI continued her domination of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series by wrapping up the season title with a solid 1st at the Fat Bike Birkie. Seems like 7 was the magic number as Danielle repeated the feat Jorden performed besting 2nd place finisher Diana McFadded by about 7 minutes while Kristy Henderson took 3rd in the women’s division.
There was also an 18K event with John Riley taking 1st for the men’s division while local Cindy Bijold took the women’s top honors.
You can see full results from all race divisions here – http://itiming.com/searchable/index.php?results=fatbikebirkie2013
How was the experience for the participants? Over all the operative word “fun”. I heard that word over and over again. Fun. That pretty much describes fat-biking in general. Add in one of the best maintained winter trails in the world and that just ramps it up another notch.
With the success of the first ever Fat Bike Birkie you can bet there will be an event next year. In fact, I’d expect the race organizer to allow a larger field next year but you’ll kick yourself if you miss out on a spot so keep you eyes on fat-bike.com to see when registration will open for the 2014 edition!
Below are a few select photos. Here are links to more photos:
Greg’s Photostream on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/gasmith/sets/72157632982336396/ (146 photos)