Weeks ago when I signed on for this event I said to myself, Wow, this should be pretty cool. Racing on snow with other fast dudes that got caught by the fatty bug which has exploded exponentially this Winter. That of course brings us to this past Sundays race in Gorham NH. It’s my belief that just a couple of years ago there would not have been nearly enough folks that owned fatty’s to conduct a race of this sort.
What a mix. Steel, carbon, aluminum, and carbon. Everything was on display. The rule was 3.5″ minimum tire width. That was clearly not an issue for these race participants.
As the race drew closer. I found myself playing things out in my head. Four laps of four miles. Wait a minute! Who the heck has been riding their fatty’s more than 12 miles at a time? Heck, Stratham Hill is only doing 30 minute heats. Sixteen miles at race pace and the race filled up in only a couple weeks? I’m not sure folks thought this one through. I factored laps for this one to be thirty minutes at least. Yep, two plus hours in the saddle at race pace pushing tires 2480g mated to 1700g of rims and top it off with some 900g inner tube weight! You get the picture. It’s the rotational mass. Now add in the time of year, a negative two degree starting temperature, and gusting headwind and you’ve got yourself a real winter fat race!
Driving North on 93 at 5:30AM watching the outside temperature going down, my only thought was of frost bite. Minus 15 coming through Franconia Notch. Yep, I’m going to freeze. Temps upon arrival were just below zero. Clothing selection. 45 North FasterKat shoes, wool socks, Pearl Izumi fleece leg warmers, Gore Windstopper bib tights, base layer fleece lined long sleeve race jersey, Gore Windstopper jacket, Gore Windstopper Baclava, Pearl Izumi lobster gloves, two packs of hand warmers, and one pair of foot bed warmers. Tire choice with a fat bike is so critical as is the pressure you run. I chose the stock 127 TPI Huska Du’s. They’re light at just 1240g each and roll pretty well. Of course what you gain in rolling efficiency you loose in grip. My only other option would have been to have left my 27 TPI steel studded wire beaded Dillingers that I’ve been running on for the 16 miler. I opted for the race tire and wondered about my decision the whole drive up.
Getting dressed in the passenger seat was like watching a NASA astronaut getting ready for a space walk. Heat cranking, one item at a time, taking care to seal up any gaps in the layering. In the end it was just the tip of the nose with exposure. So how does one warm up in Arctic like temps? Well, you don’t. I rode up the first climb to the turn into the woods. Came right back down and doubted my bodies ability to force blood into my extremities. I’d soon find out my fate.
Luckily the race officials didn’t let us stand around too long. I ended up leaving my hydration pack on the picnic table since it was frozen. The smart guys either had insulated bottles or hand ups. I have no idea how anyone can eat either. Taking the lobster glove off or trying to get something from a pocket or opening a wrapper would have been a disaster. So for me it had to be 2 hours of survival.
I took the outside line. Since everyone considers themselves “advanced intermediate” I knew I had to get positioning in the top 10 into the first single-track downhill section. Gauvin, Rowell, Starrett, Carver, Rumsey, Littlefield, Nelson, Seib, and myself. So this of course isn’t your run of the mill bike race. It’s snow, ice, wind, climbing, narrow bridges, quick transitions and virtually no flat sections. Rumor has it Starrett flatted. If so that had to have happened in the tiny brook crossing where I rimmed out 3 of the 4 laps. Once through the first section you begin a small climb where I moved past Rick Nelson. You continue up the longest double-track section before taking a left hander and hitting some fun downhill action. The climbing isn’t over though as there was a nice series of uphill switchbacks. It was here where Seib pulled over due to block (frozen) hands. At this point, I was starting to calculate my position. I was figuring fourth or fifth spot. Plenty more single track from this point on, handling skills would be key here. Following Ryan Littlefield, we hit a raised bridge with a built in lefthander. Ryan lost his front tire and crashed out. From here I hooked onto and would spend a good portion of the rest of my morning racing for 3rd place.
I began lap 2 with Ryan Rumsey and Forest Carver. We rode the next 7-8 miles together. Forrest was killing the DH sections with his monster truck tires. I did my best to get away on the switchback climb, but he wouldn’t go away. Finally, the elastic started to stretch. I began my fade off Rumsey’s wheel on the way to the high point of lap 3. Carver was still turning over what looked like 5″ wide tires and went with him.
I could see them just ahead. There was still another lap to go. No water and 4 miles left. Lots of gear work would commence. Big ring, little ring. By lap four you knew the course. You knew the right line, and I knew where the last quick uphill was that required momentum due to a large ice sheet. I spun out and ended up running it lap two. With about 1/4 of a mile to go all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere Ryan Littlefield appears behind me. I was all set at that point to coast into the finish. The icy sections were coming up so it was again game on. I accelerated and started taking some risks. Loosing my line and frantically overshooting some corners. I nailed the last quick uphill and emptied the rest of the tank to the finish line. Looking back there was no threat of a sprint finish on fattys, but I Guess that would have been pretty cool. I finished the race in 5th spot on the day.
Heck of an event which I’m guessing will grow in 2015. it was well organized and I have to say the chili afterwards was so good! Especially since it was served in real bowls with real stainless steel spoons. This will be one of those memorable races for me. In my opinion, a true mountain bike course with all the fixings. Add in the super adverse conditions and longish course for a January race and you’ve got your Winter Moose Brook Classic. “If it was easy, then everyone would do it” Race Results here