By Steve Meurett and Evan Larsson
The rookie and the race director. Two essential partners to make any race a success. You can’t have one without the other. The race boss dictates keeping the ducks in a row, “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed while the rookie brings unbounded enthusiasm to a race that could be bogged down in dog eat dog competition. True-races are about racing, but no rider will return unless its fun and there is a successful consortium between the head honcho and a new race patron.
Each have a different perspective entering race day. As the Sweaty Yeti race director, I try to not forget my years in the saddle endlessly following course markers and if rarely, ever stepping onto a podium. I did it for the run and the challenge. Come race day-most of the work is done, with a blast of a shotgun, all I want to see is smiling faces and perhaps epic snotcycles by race end. When the cars clear out of the parking lot, I want to know my crew did everything we could to give racers their money’s worth and hopefully return.
The rookie’s day just starts when landing at the trailhead-so many unknowns and excited anticipation. Evans account of the ‘Yeti here is exactly what I’d hoped riders would experience visiting Levis Mound. A hand numbered plastic plate zip tied to the fatbike bars, a slap on the back from your teammates and 3 hours later you’re glad you made the effort.
What follows are two accounts of the Sweaty Yeti-one from the race’s chief executive,recounting the facts and successes of running a race, the other by the neophyte racer, who brings eagerness, intensity and passion to the packed singletrack course. Both-just what all races need.
Sweaty Yeti by Steve Meurett
A perfect storm-The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude. It’s the only word I can use to describe the 2015 addition of the Sweaty Yeti at the Levis Mound Trail. The race doubled to over 100 riders this year as a result of a lot of things coming together. Perfect mid 20’s temperature, a firm groomed snow base, an influx of many more fatbikes in the winter riding scene, and a race that is maturing in its fourth year as a go-to event for fat fun.
The Sweaty Yeti still clings to the enduro format, born from a time when few riders owned fatbikes. Riders needed to be on teams of like sized people who could share a bike. Drafts were made for riders and solo racers were unheard of. That has changed in 4 or 5 short years and yeah, no one is saying fatbiking is a fad any longer. Solos now outnumber teams as the racing clientele shift to more serious riders from warm weather months. The ‘Yeti strives to keep things as fun as possible, not placing too much emphasis on the top winners, but more on treating everyone to a fun day. Ample door prizes, good food and craft beer along with an expertly prepared course seem to bring the riders back and smiling afterwards.
That’s not to say competition wasn’t on the agenda. The Sweaty uses a 3 hour, 3-4 mile lap format and top fatbike racers from the Mid-West dominated. Top Twin Six dog Jesse Lalonde dropped by for his first Yeti and from the gun took the lead and held it for 11 laps in 2:51 covering 37 miles. Perennial Wisconsin Fatbike Series winner Justin Pointek scooped up second place 3 minutes later also with 11 laps, while Pete Brueggen turned in 10 laps prior to the 3 hour mark. Adding to her string of undefeated races, Wausau’s own Jen Barden dominated the Yetette field ticking off 9 laps covering over 30 miles. Amanda Mann followed with 8 laps and Lori Sable with 6 for the day.
Open teams still are a favorite for race day, and some last minute tossed together clans came out on top. The Eau Claire duo of Dustin Marsh and Nathan Long scored the win with 11 laps and 2:57, followed by solos turned teammates Scott Cole and Mike Wenzel riding 10 laps in 2:53. 2 minutes later Jeremy Staff and Patrick Menton rolled in also with 10 laps.
Sand Creek Brewing Company provided sixpacks of craft brew for the top dogs and Sweaty Yeti pints and bragging rights round out the winnings. Door prizes from Sand Creek, Sandstone Ridge Winery, Bar Mitts, 1Up USA, The Sports Den kept the crowd at the trailhead a bit longer. Boo Bicycles donated a sweet Alubooyah frame as a raffle prize and participants responded by snatching every ticket available providing funding for the trail club. Byron Morton took the prize and is now responsible for creating a respectable build for the race next year!
Great food provided by volunteers had the entire Levis Mound chalet filled to the brim for social hour and story telling. At this point race organizers could breathe a sigh of relief-a great day, good racing and fun prevailed once again, guaranteeing the Yeti will return.
Sweaty Yeti 2015 – A first timers, slightly inebriated, perspective – By Evan Larsson
I always get a little anxious about a race. I know it’s all for fun and that chances are I’m not going to be first out of the gates. But the sweaty palms, the about to board an airplane feeling that leaves you asking yourself, “should I try to go pee again?” always hangs in the back of my head. We, being my teammates Rob and Julio, take the turn into the parking lot and vehicles are already finding that street parking is your only option. Well, I’m here.
Walking into the Chalet I’m greeted by very warm and spacious environment, even with the masses it was easy to find the registration table and we all got ourselves checked in. With plenty of space available I posted up on a bench near a window that overlooked the last section of the race course. On the opposite end of the room, tables have been set up with a variety of foods, snacks, and beverages for your pleasure. Wisconsin peoples sure know how to throw a race!
Our host, Steve Meurett, called a racers meeting and everyone funneled out to the starting line where most have their machines in a line ready to tear up this freshly groomed course. While everyone paid attention, I was busy getting pictures, and staring out towards a bright blue sky with a backdrop of green tree tops that is truly something I never get to see in the Chicago suburbs. It was beautiful.
A shotgun blast ripped through cold crisp air with a “POP”, signaling the beginning of the race, and the first wave of riders took off! It was a Le Mans style start having the racers make a turn about 100 yds away and then back to their bikes. Some ran, some jogged, but everyone made it back to the mass of bikes and took off down the first stretch accompanied by cheers and shouts of encouragement. Everyone was rooting for everyone and I was among them hooting and hollering. Rob decided to take the first leg, which I appreciate due to the massive amount of hardware that holds my left leg together. Running just isn’t my thing…
After about 10 mins, the lead racers started to pass the ever cheering crowd. The course was about 3.6 miles and it was laid out well. How it swooped along the beginning so that spectators can give everyone a bit of motivation for a brutal looking climb that awaited the racers. Julio was getting himself prepared by taking a swig of some fine bourbon he brought and I was looking out to give him a heads up when Rob was on his way. Some tagged and some yelled at their teammates to go, I even saw one rider smash into his awaiting partner with speed causing them both to hit the ground. All were okay and with that the second set of riders, including Julio, left the comforts of a warm fire, cold beer, and entered the course.
The minutes clicked by quickly and I knew my time had arrived as Julio came into view. I threw my jacket down, took a snort of whiskey, and watched as he made his way through the flagged off pit area. Looking down the stretch of snow covered field I wondered what awaits me, and then the tag was made, I’m off.
Leaving everything behind, the crowd, the noise, the fire, I took off with the sun beating down on an open course as the racers have spaced out quite a bit. The first corner hits you with a steady climb and a blast of cold wind to your face. The sun warms me for only a brief moment as I enter the forest’s shadow. Upon entering the single track the wind dissipates, I’m left in a world of sweeping turns and velcro snow.
I move across the trail like a ninja but keep my focus on what lays ahead. My heartrate rises and I feel my senses sharpen as I blast around each corner. The sensation of speed increases as the trail narrows. Small moments of rest come from climbs that give me just enough time to relax my mind until I race down another hill, skippin and dippin the whole way. This is awesome!
I arrived at the halfway point to the sound of cheers and encouragement being shouted at me, but all I could really think about was the climb that awaited. I dropped gears and settled in for a long spin up this hill.
As I approached what I thought was the end, I was met by a right hand turn that lead to the actual top. I said, “god damn that was a climb”, but before my cursing could continue the trail dipped sharply and suddenly I was flying downhill at speed. The acceleration was amazing as wind whipped across my face, my tires barely holding onto the line I was struggling to maintain, it was a tremendous rush, and I couldn’t help but let out a “WOOHOO!” As the single track opened up I could see the Chalet, I knew my lap was coming to an end. I pushed hard into the pit area where I could see Rob running to his bike. With a solid fist bump I tagged him and he was off again.
Putting my bike down, I was greeted by Julio and a bit of bourbon. Looking around at the other racers and spectators, they had these smiles that stretched ear to ear. We were all having the time of our lives and I almost forgot that this was race and not just some gathering of fatbike enthusiasts. These are my kinds of people. Everyone having fun, everyone enjoying each other’s company.
Using the bathroom hand dryers I de-sweated my face, helmet, and upper body. Sought out some chicken noodle soup, cracked another beer, and went back out to the raging bonfire waiting for my turn to come again. What a weekend!