It seems strange, but up until last weekend I had never raced my fat bike. The Fat Bike Birkie is one of the largest races of the winter in the northwoods of Wisconsin, and the races in the Hayward/Cable area always have a super good vibe to them. My sponsor, Freewheel Bike, also happens to be a big supporter of the event. Even though the Birkie was a low priority race in terms of training I still wanted to perform. I backed my ride time down a few hours for the week hoping for snappy legs. I was lucky enough to get an updated version of Rad Bicycle Co.'s Grizz a couple of weeks ago and that would be my race rig. I outfitted it with carbon bits from Whisky, studded 45N tires and a SRAM XO1 kit.
Race day started at 3:45am. I mainlined some coffee and was on the road by 4. The early morning pilgrimage is almost routine at this point. Traffic is light and the drive uneventful. A coffee refill at Alley Cats in Spooner usually gets me through. My tire choice had been weighing on me all week. Prior to the course change announcement I mounted a set of Dillinger 4 studded tires. After the course change they said studs were not needed. I considered swapping a set of Husker Dus back on but went with my initial gut reaction. After 2 minutes of warming up on course I knew I made the right decision. While a lot of the course was frozen dirt there was a significant amount of ice. Even with studs I was sliding around a bit. Temps hovered in the single digits for the morning. Add in wind chill and you have some interesting race conditions. I opted for a full 45N array of clothing: Wolvhammer boots, Sturmfist 4 gloves, and Stovepipe hat. Freewheel had me squared away on the rest of my race kit. I anticipated being a bit overdressed but it ended up being just right.
Heading to the start line I felt ready to rip. I hoped the training that I have done would get me through with the lead group. As the gun fired and I was swallowed up by the pack my lack of speed was quickly evident. I drifted my way into the lead group by mile 3 only to get derailled as I went down hard on a patch of ice. I was back on the bike quickly hoping to bridge up until I realized my hanger was bent. I faked it for another 5 minutes before my chain launched, forcing me off the bike for a quick repair. I chased a few more minutes and eventually linked up with Bjorn Selander. We spent the next 2 laps chasing each other around the course and riding down anyone who had fallen off the lead pace. With two laps to go I lost Bjorn and spent the last fifty minutes suffering alone. The Birkie hills were taking there toll. I continued to ride steady to roll in 13th. Of course, I hoped for a better result but in hindsight it is about the result I should have expected. Maybe I could have hung with the leaders for a few laps but they were much stronger than I am at this point. It was great to see some of my friends from Madison and have them post strong results. Onward and upward. I'm thankful to have a rest week this week and then it's back to some serious base miles for another month. Next up is the Ragnarok 105, a staple in the MN gravel classics.