Late last week, I embarked upon my third visit to Alaska since I followed the pathway to becoming a fat-bike evangelist. Alaska is where fat-bikes were born and March in Alaska is prime-time for a fat-biking pilgrimage.
The first event that I put on my itinerary in Alaska was the Talkeetna Trio World Championships. Talkeetna is about an hour and a half drive north of Anchorage. Our Fatbassador to AK, Travis and his bride Lorrie are my hosts during my visit and we traveled up to Talkeetna together the day before the race. The Trio trail reports were looking quite promising and Greg Matyas and his crew had put in a jillion hours of grooming to get things ready for the event.
The Trio had two categories this year. Racers could choose to race either one or two laps of a 20ish mile groomed race course that starts in beautiful Downtown Talkeetna. I registered for the one-lap race with the goal of riding the course and having fun! Mother nature always plays a starring role in any winter fat-bike race and this year’s Trio was no exception. The forecast was calling for it to snow six inches a day starting early on the morning of the race. and continue through the end of the entire weekend.
We woke up to a couple of inches of fresh light snow on race day and we headed into town to fuel up at the legendary Talkeetna Roadhouse. We timed our flapjacks so we’d get to watch the two-lap racers start at ten am. Our one-lap race was scheduled to launch at noon. The streets of Talkeetna had been transformed into a real-life version of a snow globe. By the time our race started the snow had kicked it up a notch and it didn’t let-up for the entire weekend!
I lined up near the middle at the start and listened to Greg Matyas’s final race instructions, while big fat snowflakes floated down as I’ve seldom seen before. We’re talking surreal amounts of snow…or maybe a better way to put it would be visually stunning or magical levels of snowfall. While I waited for the start, I decided to flip my hood up and all of the snow that had collected in there cascaded over my helmet and down my neck. (so refreshing) Soon after that, we got rolling in about three or four inches of fresh squeaky snow over a solid groomed base. I went into the race with the goal to get to the mid-race party pit called Shangri La. With all of the snow, I had no idea how the trail conditions would hold up so I paced myself for a four-hour effort.
I brought my Fatback Corvus FLT (Ten Beers) with me for the trip and I’m running Terrene Johnny 5’s on HED 100mm rims. I really had no way of knowing what to expect however, my choice to go big with my wheels and tires turned out to be fortuitous. Big squishy J5’s hooked up really well out there and I was having the time of my life! Somewhere around the twelve-mile mark, I made it to Shangri La and took a break to hang out for a bit. While I was there, mi amigo Jordy Blackson arrived. He’d broken trail through big drifts on the river to get to the party. He described his ‘ride’ as doing 2000 lunges while dragging his bike along. His tale made me feel pretty good to have gotten to Shangri La with only one minor crash and fairly minimal hike-a-bike. I departed Shangri La knowing that I had about nine more miles to go. Travis had told me that the last part of the loop had some incredible views of Denali but with it snowing like crazy the views would have to wait.
Somewhere around mile fifteen I got into the soft snow off the right edge of the grooming going down a steep chute and went over the bars into the deep stuff. We’re talking a full one and a third somersault that left me with a face full of snow (again quite refreshing). I swam my way out of the deep snow with a little hand up from Ten Beers. Not too far up the trail, I stopped and helped another racer that needed to tie down their rack that had come loose. I changed out to a pair of dry wool gloves to warm up my cold fingers and that set me up for the last few miles to the finish. Nearer to the finish, there were five or six inches of fresh fluffy snow and it was showing no sign of slowing down.
I finished in about three and a half hours of riding time and I felt pretty good (fitness-wise) for the entire race. However, my Glee Levels were completely off the charts! I was literally in fat-biker heaven! I don’t think that I can find the words for just how happy I was to be there in that moment. I rode back to the cabin on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe how much snow had fallen since the start of the race.
We had time to chill and get cleaned up before we met up at the Hanger for the afterparty, awards and live music. There were delicious enchiladas and all forms of libation flowed freely. During the awards, Greg Matyas introduced me and handed me the microphone. (yikes!) I think that I said something along the lines of “What an incredibly great day that we all had out in the snowglobe and that The Trio was my first fat-bike race in Alaska and that I’d remember this day for the rest of my life.” A local band Artificial Intelligence played and folks danced and the good times rolled. Denali Brewing Company brewed a special beer as well as catered the food at the Hanger. I talked with a few dudes that I’d ridden with at the Speedway shop ride several years back and got to chat with Greg Matyas and Time Berntson for a while. When we left the afterparty there was over a foot of fresh snow on the ground. By the next morning, we had two feet of fresh snow!
Suffice to say that I’m incredibly grateful to everyone and everything that helped me get here. Grassroots events like the Trio are still out there if you know where to look. I feel pretty lucky to get to hunt down the best events like the Trio and share them with ya’all. You can learn more about next year’s Trio Here. Look for more from my visit to Alaska a little further down the trail amigos!