The 5th Annual Talkeetna Trio Fat Bike World Championships were held on Saturday March 11th, 2017 in the cozy Alaskan hamlet of Talkeetna, AK. Talkeetna is a 2.5 hour drive north of Anchorage. The town was formed in 1916 as a district headquarters for the Alaska Railroad. It’s an amazingly scenic small town that sits in the shadows of the Alaska Range and Denali, the tallest peak in North America. In spring and summer the town serves as the launch point for climbers heading up to Denali and surrounding peaks and it’s a tourist hot spot. The Trio is presented by Speedway Cycles, Fatback Bikes, and Backcountry Bike and Ski. Denali Brewing Company was the cosponsor. This year’s race was presented in memory of Mike Sterling Mike was a Talkeetna resident and a passionate summer and winter cyclist who passed recently.
The Talkeetna Trio is a fat bike only event (3.7+ tires), racers can choose distances of 20, 40 or 60 miles on a 20 mile course. The course presents rolling and challenging terrain with approximately 1,200 feet of climb per lap. The event is capped at 200 entrants. This was my first Trio, I’ve been wanting to hit this one up for the past couple of years but had scheduling conflicts. Not this year. Everyone I have talked to about the Trio raves about how great the course is and unanimously call it the biggest fat bike party in Alaska. The race starts on Main Street at Twister Creek Brewery, which is Denali Brewing Company’s local watering hole. The 40 and 60 mile racers started at 9:00am and 20 mile racers started at high noon.
The first mile or so is on road, which made for a good warm up. Shortly after leaving the road you’re greeted with some thigh burning climbs.
I flew over the bars on the first good downhill. I realized quickly that the course was getting soft in areas hit by sun. A few miles into the course you parallel a road on a power line; this section was not rideable, by most anyways. I pushed a good bit in the mashed potatoes. Eventually the course went back into the forest and I was back in the saddle. For a good 4 miles or so I was able to keep a good pace. The trail was spectacular, well packed and lined with birch and spruce.
About 10 miles in you get onto another power line, it was decently pitched downhill and was soft. I learned a new move here, the sit on your top tube, lock up the back brake, don’t touch the front brake, hang a leg out and hope for the best kind of move. By this point I had last count of the number times I had crashed.
After roughly two hours I reached the aide / alcohol station at the 11 mile mark. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but let’s just say some serious ass fun was being had (See Photo Below). A couple of kegs were onsite and plenty of Fireball. The who’s who of Alaskan Fat Bike racing was present. Greg Matyas, Jeff Oately, Heather Best, Tim Bernston, and Clinton Hodges III to name a few. They were just out for fun and doing the 20 mile, as the focus was on enjoying the stellar weather and pounding beers with friends. After 47 years of living I’ve found that I don’t do anything better when I’m drunk, especially ride a bike. Knowing I still had 9 miles of soft course ahead I opted for one cold Twister Creek IPA. I’m no light weight but I caught a nice buzz off that beer. I hung out for a half hour or so and decided it was time to forge on.
The course turned west and headed back towards Talkeetna. The rolling terrain was ever present. There were some seriously steep downhills and climbs that no one was riding up. Still the trail was beautiful. I was cruising along a ridge and rounded a corner to see Denali in the windshield, Alaska’s majesty at her best. It’s a real treat to catch a sunny day when you can see the whole mountain.
Towards the end of the race my ass was beat, I was really looking forward to getting back to the road and onto a reliable riding surface. I reached the road, stoked that the worst was over….but it was not to be; on the return you get routed back onto trails. I saw some people saying “F*%K It” and riding the road. I was in for the full experience so back into the woods for more soft trail, wipe outs, and pushing. It was short lived and I finally reached the finish line on Main Street. I felt a sense of accomplishment and an overwhelming urge to party my ass off. I had left free beer and whiskey behind and felt guilty for doing so.
The awards party was held at the Sheldon Arts Hangar. Denali Brewing Company catered dinner and more importantly provided all the suds you could soak up. I stuck with the Twister Creek IPA, one of my favorites. The Rabbit Creek Ramblers provided the live music. The course is amazing, well-marked, challenging, but not soul crushing even in the soft conditions. Greg Matyas said it was the second toughest Trio to date. If you plan to check out the Trio sign up early and book your room / cabin right away as lodging gets hard to find. Greg and crew put on one hell of an event. Thanks to all the volunteers that made the day so great. I’ll be back for certain. When I woke up Sunday morning and sorted through the haze that was my brain it felt like December 26th. I was sad it was over but I was glad that I have something to look forward to for the next 364 days. Much thanks to Ryan Greeff for sharing his photos. Ryan takes some of the best pictures I’ve seen, check out his work out on Instagram @akgreeff.
2017 Talkeetna Trio Results