Guest writer Dave Lunz, AKA “Puck”, wrote this account of the 906 Polar Roll Fat Bike Race which was Race 7 in the Great Lakes FatBike Series. Not your typical “this guy won the race and here is his cool bike” type-story, Puck takes us to the back of the pack where the event is all about the fun and experiences of the ride. Check it!
Puck and Chuck Bringing Up The Rear of the 906 Polar Roll Fat Bike Race
A few weeks ago I was forced to make one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, go to Mardi Gras or go to Marquette MI for the 906 Polar Roll Fat Bike Race.
Actually, the decision was kinda easy. I’ve been to New Orleans twice already and I’ve never been to Marquette and since it was just voted one of the top 10 trail systems in the country off to Marquette we went!! (Turns out I coulda done both!)
The weekend started out like most other race weekends, we rolled into town Friday night and stopped at the first bike shop (Quick Stop Bike Shop) we found to get some maps and ask about the local trails. At this time I wasn’t planning on doing the race, so we picked up some trail maps and asked for directions to the Blackrocks Brewery a local brew pub, more like a house, maybe that’s why we passed it three times, and one of the sponsors of the race to pick up Chads (Chuck) entry in to the race and to meet up with an Ironworker brother and Marquette local Tim Roman and have a few beers.
After a few beers and checking the weather it was now apparent that I would do the race and since I heard the long race was full I figured what the heck I’ll do the short race!
Turns out the long race wasn’t full and I was talked into doing the long race by one of the volunteers with the added bonus of more single track and starting an hour later.
A short time later Dia de Los Tacos taco truck pulled up so it was time to start fueling up for the race plus since we hadn’t really eaten all day food was long overdue, for some reason I don’t remember exactly what we ate but I do remember it was damm good and cheap!
After a few hours at the Blackrocks and some others eyeing up our prime seats at the bar we decided to check out The Vierling Restaurant and Marquette Harbor Brewery another local brew pub to sample some of their fine brews and as it turns out some fresh Lake Superior Whitefish and homemade clam and whitefish chowder, I wasn’t very hungry but I managed to find room for these!
Now that the food and beer coma was setting in it was off to the hotel but not before a quick stop at the local grocery store for race supplies (Jim Beam and candy) which came in handy cuz Chuck got a room with only one bed!
Saturday morning greeted us in mighty fine fashion, the forecast called for a balmy 18 degrees with no wind and plenty of sun, which of course I knew before registering, and since they had sub zero wind chills for quite some time this was awesome weather!
After coffee and waffles in the hotel breakfast nook we were off to the race.
As usual there was Metallica Kill em All blasting to get us pumped up.
We rolled up to the start line as the national anthem was being sung by a real live person, nice touch, and then assumed our place at the back of the pack where we immediately started making friends with the real people that were just there to have fun!!
The race was going fine till we left the pavement and immediately hit some really soft trail. Luckily, we saw firm trail off in the distance so we knew the hike a bike would be short lived.
After a few miles it was time for the first aid stop, one of five we would encounter, so it was time to start drinking, once they saw us crack a beer they immediately offered us some vodka soaked gummy bears and some fireball whiskey, I accepted the gummy bears but declined the fireball cuz the last time I drank that shit I got punched by a chick!!
Now it was off to the first section of singletrack which was well groomed but still a little soft but nothing 5psi couldn’t handle, the singletrack section took us almost all the way back to Ishpeming which was the first time I started thinking the race directors were a bunch of sadists!!
After hammering through the singletrack it was on to the multi-use trails that at times included snowmobiles. Two things crossed my mind during that phase was I wish I had a tow rope and I wonder how much I can get for my bike for trade-in on a sled!!
It was right about then that the hat trick of mechanical failures started, the power link I f’d up getting off and put back on knowing it would fail failed! I was carrying two extra so I was back rolling soon enough.
Shortly after that I broke a seat rail on the $5.00 seat I was pretty proud of scoring which I thought would actually be a good enough reason for dropping out but at aid station 2 after a beer and a shot and another cup of gummy bears and a doughnut I slid the seat forward to put the break in the middle of the clamp and was once again rolling!
It was all smooth sailing after that, mostly multi-use trails for a bunch of miles then some road with a nice hill to the next aid station, I decided to walk that hill cuz my quads were now screaming and it was actually faster to walk plus I got to use different muscles for a bit.
Once again the aid stop did not disappoint, more gummy bears, beer, whiskey, doughnuts and chocolate!!
Now it was time to launch into some of the best singletrack in the country, this is the reason we came here and I was actually feeling pretty good since we made the cut off point and had only 15 miles left to go.
Once entering the singletrack section I knew we were in for some great riding, I had seen video of this trail system and was completely stoked to actually be riding it.
The system has plenty of elevation changes leading into this massive berm section that was fast as hell which was made even faster after the failure of my back brake, I prolly crashed at least 10 times on the downhill turns using only my front brake, it took all I had, which wasn’t much to not get pissed but then I looked around and remembered where I was I was quickly over it!!
After clearing the singletrack we came across the last aid stop which promised us bacon but since we took so damm long getting there they were out but had plenty of beer and gummy bears and fireball for us, once again I declined the fireball!!
After having a few beers they finally kicked us out of the last stop, we were told there is only 5 miles to go and it’s all downhill from here, I was starting to really hurt and was told I can ride the road back but decided to stay on coarse and finish the race, like all good races they get you close then route you back out away from the finish to make you suffer some more, the third or fourth time I thought the race directors are a bunch of sadists!!!
We finally made it back to town and were told it’s only two more miles and all bike path along the lake with a slight head wind, I’m not sure what they’re definition of slight head wind is but it doesn’t match mine!!
I finally made it back to the finish area where I was presented with the choice of the technical section or the path, not sure why I bypassed the technical section but I’m sure it had something to do with no brakes and no energy.
Once I crossed the finish line, which was actually packed up by the time we got there I was riding so slow, I just flopped over! Fortunately, they still had some volunteers and the shuttle van to feed me doughnuts and drive us back to the Sploder at the start line where the whiskey and beer was.
After a nice long shower and some warm dry clothes it was off to the nights festivities, there was a ski and snowboard show right in downtown Marquette that we wanted to attend, again with the tough decisions, but we had to hit the Race After Party first.
We were immediately greeted by the ticket counter to buy beer tickets and proceeded to do just that.
We walked right past the food (for now) and made our way to the beer where we quickly started in on the local flavors they had available, once we had beer in hand it was time to check out the band, Everything Under the Sun is a local band which played a mix of original and well doctored covers, I will never listen to The Bad Touch by The Bloodhound Gang and Free Bird and not think about this band again!!!!!
Now it was time to eat, The Border Grill was using us as guinea pigs on some new menu ideas they were working on and they all were great, even the vegetarian ones!!
Now it was pushing 10pm and the band was done playing so it was time to head out, some ladies we met at the aid station, who for some reason we’re still talking to us, invited us to The Ore Dock for some more craft beers and live music. Far be it for us to decline so off we went! Sorry, I forgot the name of the band but they and the beer were really good again. For some reason they closed at midnight so it was off to Breakers Bar this time for Milwaukee’s finest, Miller High Life and a two piece band!!
Sunday morning hit us like an 18wheeler, the sub-zero windchills were back so we decided to get some breakfast and hit the road. After conferring with some locals they recommended the Coachlight Restaurant where it turns out they had a Yooper twist on Italian Sausage known as Cudighi that I just had to try.
Good times were had by all, Marquette is a great little town even though it’s the biggest in da U.P. on a great big lake. The people are more than welcoming and they know how to throw a party!
They know a little more now that Chuck and I told them of the enduro format we usually race in and said they will have to put one on!!
We did get tons of props for drinking the whole way and after we explained how we normally ride it all became clear to them.
Local Clubs and Pubs:
- Race Results
- NTN Singletack
- 906 adventure team
- Range Mountain Bike Club
- The Border Grill
- Blackrocks Brewery
- Ore Dock Brewing Company
- Event Page
- Series Site
- Dia de los Tacos
- The Vierling and Marquette Harbor Brewery
- Everything Under the Sun. The coolest band I’ve seen in a long time!!!
- The Coachlight Restaurant
- Photo dude – J.McCarty Photography
Local Bike Shops
- The Sports Rack
- Quick Stop Bike Shop
- Downwind Sports
- Lakeshore Bikes