Written by Kevin Ryan Thursday, 15 February 2018 00:00
On Saturday, February 10th, I participated in the first annual Snowmageddon fat bike race held at the Bethel Inn Resort, in Bethel, Maine. The race was organized by Barker Mountain Bikes and Bethel Village Trails. The organizers were smart and in their description of the course said it would be subject to change based on trail conditions. If the snow was packed, the race would be mostly on singletrack. If the snow was not packed, it would consist primarily of cross-country ski trails. As (bad) luck would have it, and despite serious grooming efforts, most of the singletrack was too soft to ride. The course ended up being four laps of a three-mile loop mostly on the ski trails, with one section of groomed singletrack.
Riding in soft, rutted snow is not one of my strong suits, and I placed myself in the second row back at the start line. I should have started farther back. The start of the race was a bit chaotic with about 25 people trying to stay upright in soft snow. My start was so slow in fact that most racers got away from me right away. I did eventually get going, though, and passed a few folks early on.
Riding the course consisted of me trying pick the best ruts to stay in, and occasionally getting off and running some of the singletrack or the one hill on the course just before the finish line. Passing other racers was dicey at times as it was easy to lose traction and have the bike change course, or just slip out from underneath. Singletrack conditions were deemed unfavorable for the last two laps, so the course was re-routed on ski trails around it.
Even though conditions were not ideal, I enjoyed the race due in part to friendly battles with two other racers. For the second and third laps I jockeyed with a younger rider - Jake Inger, I believe. Every time I thought I put some distance between us, I heard his loud hub behind me. He ended up pulling away from me and finished several spots ahead. I also rode for some time with Bikeman teammate Colin Johannen. I thought I had him, too, but he caught up on the last lap and pulled away near the finish line, riding most of the hill that I had to run up.
I ended up coming in ninth out of 25. After the race, the organizers provided lasagna at the Inn, which was a great touch. After being out in the elements for over two hours, it certainly was nice to sit in a warm dining room and discuss the race with other participants over hot food.
Despite the less-than-favorable snow conditions I still enjoyed this race and plan on attending next year’s, which hopefully won’t coincide with the Sugarloaf race (as it did this year). I have yet to race when fat biking conditions are perfect, but maybe one of these years…
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