The Snow Crown Race Series kicked off its first race last weekend in Manitowoc. The Shelltrack race goes back to the beginning of fat bike racing in Wisconsin. It’s one of my favorite spots that host a race and it’s only a couple of hours away. The course is in a county park that’s nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan with a small creek that runs out into the big lake. The race and the Snow Crown Series have grown a lot over the years and this was the first time in several years that I’d visited or raced the Shelltrack.
Leading up to the holidays, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down with the Snow Crown Race Director George Kapitz for the Danger Gnome Podcast and that conversation brought back so many good memories that I decided to come up and race. At first, I thought that I’d like to get a three-person team together and ride in the relay, but the relay format wasn’t part of this year’s event..or last year’s event either. I didn’t let that damper my enthusiasm and I registered for the intermediate class. I would have rather registered for the beginner class because they rode one less lap than the intermediate but six laps ended up being the perfect distance.
I got there in time to see the beginners start and I hiked around the course taking pictures and getting the lay of the land. The course went right out to the beach and then looped around up and over a tall bridge fly-over. From there the loop went up and down the old dunes with plenty of climbing and descending back down along the creek through some old cedar groves and back to the start/finish. The lap worked out to be about 1.6 miles.
I warmed up and pre-rode a lap with a scenic detour out along the beach. Before the race, I gave George a hard time about the LeMans start and he reminded it was my fault that we had to run because I was the one that came up with the running start business way back when we used to make people take off their front wheels and run to their bikes rolling (or carrying) their wheel. It is a good way to spread out the field at the start of the race. The removal and installation of the front wheel used to cause all kinds of chaos. So I sucked it up and ran (or waddled) to my bike starting from the back of the pack. It took a little way into the course past a bottleneck at the bottom of the fly-over to get going and then it was all full-throttle trail riding.
I felt great and rode my laps with a side order of FUN! Everything went smoothly but racing has a way of pointing out that I’m not nearly as fast as I think I am (when I’m out riding solo). But that’s ok because it’s good to get a dose of reality every once in a while and it makes me happy just to be able to ride and not feel like death afterward. I did take a nice long nap after I got back home!
After the intermediate race, the start-finish area turned into a great big bike party in preparation for the expert/advanced race to start. As you can see by the pictures, there wasn’t very much snow on the ground at the event but the ground was frozen solid and I’m glad that I mounted studded tires for the race. I raced on a medium Rocky Mountain Blizzard C50 at the Shelltrack and I love the way that bike rips. I was running studded Dillinger 4’s at 9 psi and all systems were go as far as how the bike worked. I’m currently working on discovering how the slacker stance of the Blizzard handles in the snow for me. We need snow in the Big Whiskey. Please send us some snowflake-age. This didn’t turn out to be a really comprehensive race report or a very good test of how the Blizzard handles snow. I find it kinda difficult to cover a race like a reporter when I’m riding in that same race. Maybe that could be my excuse to go and cover races instead of riding in them. If you’d like to know who won each category or maybe where you placed at Shelltrack, you can check out all of the results HERE.
The Snow Crown folks run a great event. The vibe was competitive but still quite friendly. Registration was a breeze and there was plenty of beer flowing after the racing was done and lots of happy people! I got to try some Embark race fuel and talk with some old friends and meet some new riders too. It was a glorious day to be out on the bike! If you’re on the fence about racing, one of the Snow Crown Races would be a great place to put your toe in the water.