When USA Cycling announced the first sanctioned Fat Bike National Championship, Sven and I decided that we would send someone there to cover the event, because it’s a significant milestone for fat-bike racing. We try to bring the coolest and most interesting fat-bike news, reviews, culture and events to our readers and both Sven and I, felt that Fat-Nat’s qualified. Soon after the race was announced, we started to hear members of the fat-bike community start to grumble about USA Cycling getting involved in fat-bike racing and folks with loyalty to the US National Fat-Bike Championship at the Fat Bike Birkie started to grouse about having two national championships on the calendar. We like to stay neutral in matters like this and support all types of events. We’d like to share an impartial race report from the USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships in the very same way that we’ve shared reports from dozens of other fat-bike races, which includes the Fat Bike Birkie. It’s a very interesting time for fat-bike racing and I think that we’ve only begun to see the kind of growth and the inevitable changes that comes along with that kind of growth. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we like and support every and all sorts of races, festivals, derbies, group rides and demos. If it puts people on bikes – we think it’s a good thing. The fact that we have two national championships , this year, is an indication of how popular that fat-bikes have become. It’s something that everyone in the fat-bike riding community will experience in some form or fashion in the near future. So without any further ado, here’s our report from the USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships at Powder Mountain, in Utah.
The Fat-Nat’s were held on Saint Valentines Day (February 14th, 2015) at Powder Mountain Ski Resort, near Ogden, Utah. Powder Mountain is an up-side-down ski hill at just around 9’000 feet of elevation that sit’s adjacent to a large snow covered mesa. The race course was a 6.2 mile loop on wide bermed and groomed snow cat trail, with some narrower groomed trail at the beginning of the climb. The climb was a two-tiered, gut buster that took racers back to the start finish with a short downhill to the line. The course had some really nicely formed jumps and bermed corners that reflect the ski-resort – terrain park background of the crew that set the course. Rebecca Rusch helped oversee the course construction, and she talked to us and gave us a full run-down about the course on our radio show #42 a few weeks ago. The course also enjoys spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the snow capped Wasatch Mountains. We had beautiful sunny and warm conditions for both the Friday, course pre-ride and Saturday’s races.
On Friday, I headed up the pass to the race course and met The Boo Crew. Adam Blake had just returned from a lap of the course and I got the opportunity to meet Amanda Miller and her husband Mark. Adam had brought Head Boo Mechanic Ben Castaneda up from Fort Collins to race in his age bracket on his Alubooyah. Adam also set a Boolossal up singlespeed for AJ Pedal Turner to race. Amanda was also riding an Alubooyah that Ben and Adam had razor tuned and made race ready. All Three AJ, Ben and Amand are Iowa Natives and ended up on the podium on Saturday.
Steve had the Borealis demo fleet on hand, with Fixie Dave in the pits as their team wrench slinger (and racer!) Borealis was a headline sponsor of the event and put at least a dozen racers on the podium on race day. Rebecca Rusch was on hand to take folks out for a pre-ride of the course and sign her new book. I also got to meet women’s pro Amanda Carey!
Later in the afternoon, I talked to Brad Bingham from Eriksen. We published a story about Brad’s gorgeous Ti Fatty last winter. We talked tires and conditions, and Brad’s secret weapon for race day was going to be Knards on 50mm rims. It was so nice and sunny, that everyone was hunting for sunscreen. The word going around the top of the mountain was that Ned Overend had clocked a twenty-four minute test lap for the 5K loop. VW was also a sponsor of the event. This is the first time that I’ve seen major corporate sponsorship at a fat-bike event.
Friday evening we met at the Slackwater Pub & Pizza with Team Boo, including the next Women’s Pro/Open US Fat Bike National Champion, Amanda Miller, her husband Mark. And mis amigo viejos, Adam, Ben, Glover, Roberto, AJ and Haylee! Ben and AJ were drinking Happy Camper IPA and I had something called Mutton Buster Brown Ale. Good beer can be tricky to find in Utah, but we managed to hunt some down. It even came in cans! There was live music that set the mood perfectly. They played a couple of acoustic zeppelin tunes that grabbed my ear. We had fun, but didn’t burn the midnight oil, because the next morning, we all had to be up on top of the mountain bright and squirrely!
The first waves for the Men’s, Women’s, Master’s, Junior’s and Singlespeeds started at 9:00 am on a beautiful morning. Temps started out at about the freezing mark, but they would rise to near sixty for the Pro racers at 1:00 PM.
The morning brackets all did two laps of the 5K loop. The morning races probably totaled a little over a hundred racers combined. AJ and Ben took third in their racess! AJ raced singlespeed and Ben was in the 19-29 age category.
Chris Stuart, from Park City took the stars and stripes jersey for the Men’s 30-39 age bracket. Chris also just won a Megalith fat-bike from State Bicycle Co. in a contest that we ran on our Weekly Dose of Fat – Radio Show, just one day before the race! Chris is on a winning streak! You can check all of the age bracket results from the Fat-Nat’s at www.usacycling.org/results/
After a lengthy intermission we all got ready for the men’s and Women’s Pro/Open divisions to line up for 3 laps of the course. There were about 18 riders in the pro men’s field and only four women.
Ned was all business at the line. He looked totally focused. Travis Brown seemed loose. We shook hands and he said hello with a big smile. I remembered from last year’s Nationals at Fat Bike Birkie, that Ned raced on a heavily modified set of Ground Control tires. Check out how short the knobs are on the center of Ned’s front tire.
I asked the race organizers if I could get a snow machine ride out onto the course and Race Director, Micha Rice, made it happen. I wanted to go out to the bottom of the downhill, where the groomers had sculpted two beautifully bermed curves that led into a little booter just before the trail narrowed and entered the woods at the start of the long climb.
On the first lap, at the base of the climb an elite group of about 7 riders were in the lead. When the men passed the second time around the lead group had dwindled to Ned, Brad and Travis.
In the women’s race Amanda Miller had a fat minute on Rebecca Rusch on the first lap and Amanda Carey was about 30 seconds behind Rebecca.
On the final lap, Ned kicked in the afterburners and put a gap into Brad. Travis Brown came in third, behind Brad.
In the women’s division, Amanda Miller Came in First followed by Rebecca Rusch and Amanda Carey.
Check all of the results from the Fat-Nat’s at www.usacycling.org/results/
With an elevation of 9000 feet, the venue at Powder Mountain favored folks that train at altitude. The podiums were dominated by riders from Colorado. Overall, the event was run very well and the location and course were top notch. This was a pretty intimate race setting. Fat-Bikes don’t seem to have caught on, out west, as wildly as they have in the Great Lakes. Due to the small turn-out, lot’s of people were asking me if this might be a ‘one and done’ for Fat-Nat’s and USA Cycling. At the time that we published this report, I hadn’t gotten a response from USA Cycling about their 2016 commitment, but we’ll update our report, when they let us know. Till then, we’d like to extend our hearty congratulations to everyone that came out to make this a great event!