Our good Bud and owner of the Broken Spoke Bike Studio in Manitowoc Wisconsin, George Kapitz, has been racing fat-bikes for a while now and was good enough to send us this report from the Tuscobia Ultra in Northern Wisconsin.
General Information about Tuscobia Ultra
The Tuscobia Winter Ultra is a human powered run, bike or ski event held on the Tuscobia State Trail in Northern Wisconsin… in the middle of winter (read – on snow/ice/slush covered trails). Participants can compete in the 150-mile, 75-mile or 35-mile event.
All distances are what we would call semi-supported. This means that we will provide food/soup and your drop bags will be available at the checkpoints, and you are free to purchase anything from local businesses along the trail while you race. But there is not to be any other outside help, crews, or pacers. Racers may help racers.
My first Tuscobia Winter Ultra 35 is in the books. My goal for the Tuscobia was to race SMART. Being a 35 mile snow race, it is very important to be prepared. I’m typically the person that shows up to a race with the bare minimum of bike, shoes, helmet, let’s go. For this race I used my Revelate Design frame bag and tank bag. In my frame bag I packed an extra tube, patch kit, Topeak Race Rocket MT pump (compact 7″ pump that has a hidden hose so you’re not pumping on the valve), a bottle of Fizz and a bottle of Perpetuem and a bag of beef jerky (that wasn’t planned). In my tank bag I packed a multi-tool, a Bonk Bar, Endurolyte pills, and a gel pack. I have serious leg cramping issues when I hit the 25-30 mile mark. I wanted to make sure I didn’t cramp, so besides my two bottles I used my 50oz Camelbak filled with water. For clothes I dressed pretty lightly, since the temperatures were in the low 30’s and wind at 3-5mph. I wore a base layer top/bottom (Smart Wool top) and my kit over that. For shoes I wore my Louis Garneau LS-100 shoes and for head gear I wore a Giro Ambient headband with Giro Hex Helmet. I typically use Bar Mitts, but opted to wear Giro 100 proof gloves.
Before the race I checked out the condition of the snow and rode it. If you’re new to snow riding or racing it’s always important to know the condition of the snow before the race. Air pressure is vital when it comes to riding snow. Since the groomed snow trail was soft, I brought my front Dillinger down to 5psi and the rear to 6psi. A little lower up front will help with steering and a little higher in rear because most of your weight is over the rear.
For the 35 mile race I entered we started at Ojibiwa Park and would bike back to Park Falls. A simple GO! was said and we were off!
The start of the race was pretty interesting. There were riders fish tailing and going from one side of the trail to the other. Apparently they were riding too high a tire pressure or had less experience in soft conditions! I was dialed for PSI. Sweet. I slowly made my way around riders not wanting to put a foot down, because it’s never easy to get going again once you stop in soft snow.
Shortly, I found myself in the lead pack of 4 (Justin Piontek, Eric Stanke, Shane Veldhuizen and myself). We were all in sync and the pace was fast.
About 2-3 miles into the race the pace was a tad bit too fast for me. I knew from past experience, pushing myself at this pace, my legs would blow up at about mile 25 with 10 still to go. I decided to slow it down and ride at my pace. Ride smart. I knew going into the race they awarded to 3rd place. I figured with no one insight behind me, I would have 4th locked up. My goal at this point was to keep a steady cadence and hope that I catch back up to the pack. I kept relaxed, enjoyed the serenity of the trail, took some pics, and routinely drank my water.
About 15 miles I started to get that stomach bonk feeling. So I stopped for a stretch and got at the beef jerky I packed along. Man! That jerky hit the spot! I was at 20 miles now and the course was draining me. It was the low tire pressure at this point. The trail firmed up a bit and I made the decision to stop and add air. I add about 2 psi to the rear and left the front alone. Perfect. The bouncing up and down went away and I started to average 2mph faster.
I pulled up to the last check station at mile 25 with my 2 bottles just about empty and my Camelbak completely out of water. Lucky for me, the volunteers had water and they refilled my pack back up. I was feeling good. 10 miles to go and the snow was fast. I made it up to 33 miles and I had to pee! I looked back and saw no one in sight. I figured I could afford to stop… Until right then I saw a black figure way down the trail, I thought I was seeing things. Nope. It definitely was a rider. I slowly picked up my pace, making sure not to over do it. I caught up to the black figure and it was Shane! I pulled up next to him and I could tell he was on fumes. He was out of water and I gave him one of my bottles that had some Fizz left. We rode together to the road and I wasn’t sure if there was going to be an epic battle to the end.. I was ready. Once we hit the road, I put the head down and mashed to the finish not looking back. I was stoked! I ended up with 3rd place! Riding smart paid off!
Thank you to all the volunteers and race director Helen for putting on a great race! I’ll be back next year for sure.
You can see all the results for the 35, 75 and 150 races here.
Congratulations, George! Thanks for the report!