Hey, you gotta start somewhere. 3T / Q+M kicked off 2018 in the snow this past weekend, with Cody Sovis taking on the Fat Chance Fat Bike Race at Crystal Mountain.
It might give fat biking some context if this year’s Fat Chance Fat Bike Race, touted as one of the original obese-tired events in Michigan, is only six editions old. This wide-tire thing hasn’t been around forever, but in certain pockets of the Midwest, it’s become almost a religion; when the Iceman Cometh slides by, just about everyone north of Flint grabs their fat bike. With 3T still putting in a ton of effort in designing the most aerodynamic fat bike possible (“Sure we are.” – Vroomen) we’re going to have to give it a go on alternative steeds.
No matter the bike, I was #PUMPED to get the team on the proverbial board this year. Fat Chance isn’t an ideal course for me, but after sitting out the race for years, I didn’t want to miss it. With our other fat cyclist (no, really, that’s what they’re called) Sean Kickbush sunning himself in San Diego, I went for it solo.
I really like the format. It’s basically like a 90 minute crit or cyclocross race on a 1.6 mile course; when the clock hits an hour and thirty minutes, you’re done. If you go through at 1:29:59, you can keep going and get in another lap. It makes the last ten minutes of the race a math problem; how fast do you have to go to get in that ‘extra’ lap, or, how slow do you have to go to avoid it? In the past, I’ve seen riders round the final turn, look up…and immediately fall over because they don’t want to do another lap.
In another quirk of fat biking, the weather was too nice. Yeah, I know. With warm temperatures (above freezing, even!) there was a risk that the snow would get too soft, riders would sink in, and we’d all be running around the course. Luckily, the groomers did an incredible job keeping the snow firm and fast, and we were treated to a race with light layers of clothing. I even got to break out my San Remo skinsuit…with another thermal over top, too.
Normally, I’m peppered up and rocking for a race like this, but after feeling a bit under the weather for a week leading into the event, I wasn’t exactly hopping around at the start. While not a super-human climber, I can usually hold my own when things get vertical, and when I’m not feeling great I really try to take advantage of that. Unfortunately, this race at Crystal Mountain lacked any climbing aside from two small speed bumps. One day, they’ll let us finish on top of the ski hill, I’m sure.
That’s also what made the race extremely fast, with the lead group averaging 17 miles per hour. That may not seem blistering, but considering there have been fat bike races won with an average speed of six miles per hour, that ain’t nothing to sniff at. It’s fast enough to look like a criterium race, replete with some light elbowing, tires rubbing, and small gaggles of supporters whose vocal reassurances turn into bored clamor about thirty minutes in. At the end of the day, fast is really, really fun, and even when I was on fumes, it was hard to look really serious and try to hide my smirk.
Jorden Wakley went on to beat Brad White in a two-up sprint finish, and rest assured, there is nothing quite like a fat bike sprint finish. It’s like a road sprint, but slower. Okay, it’s like every bicycle sprint in the world, but maybe that’s poignant, too. No matter the tire width or course surface, you still have to have a little something at the end. I didn’t.
And so the season begins with a fifth place in the Men’s Open, which is exactly good enough to stay on the team, or so I’ve been warned. BIG thanks to Castelli this week for squeezing us into the best darn cold weather gear around, and to the great folks who put on the race.
You can check out the full race results here.