Plunging temperatures, driving snowstorm in 25mph winds...this is what fat biking is all about, right? The second race of the series ushered in a New Year with an all-new look this season, that of an all-out blizzard.
The temperature hit 25 degrees as course finalization was underway at 6am, but that was the balmiest point of the day. As the sun rose, the temperatures dipped, but more frigid was the wind. The feel of the air was into the single digits as riders took the start line.
It's become almost a tradition at Fat Chance! to race in the most brutal of conditions. The first year, the mercury never went about 14 degrees, and last year it only reached 18 at the warmed point of the day. 2015 added strong winds that buffeted riders in the open parts of the course, though it did little to stop the day's leaders.
Jorden Wakeley, entering with a shiny new Number One race plate as series leader, wasted no time in seizing the initiative. He was a full two and a half minutes ahead after just the first of four laps, and as he settled into an unrivaled rhythm, the race behind slowed as attentions turned to racing for second place. It was Evan Simula and Sean Kickbush willing to make efforts, with Kickbush looked to hold a shot at the series title, entering the race one point down. No one was bringing Wakeley back, and a chase group of six was established that included Simula, Kickbush, Ryan Kennedy, Chris Kushman, Craig Webb, Steve Bartzen, Dan Jansen, Don Cameron and Brian Geshel.
Not even in the picture was Matt Acker, who was barely holding his place in the top twenty after the first lap. Amazingly, Acker clipped away on the second lap to make contact with the chase group and then slowly dice it to pieces. Acker, Kennedy, Kushman and Jansen were the last riders to really have something in the tank, aside from Wakeley, who was nearing a double digit lead with a lap to go and simply riding on his own level.
The women's race was an in-house affair, with 45North teammates April Morgan, Danielle Musto and Chelsea Strate ultimately dividing up the podium, though it was down to a gutsy ride from Strate to nip series leader Susan Vigland on the very last lap for third place. April Morgan smirked her way to a four minute margin of victory, clipping through the debris of the day and never once looked stretched. Tara Jansen was fourth, with second placed series racer Kim Thomas taking as many points as possible in fifth.
The Master's men may not have known heading it, but it was a day that might go far in deciding the series title. New faces Don Cameron and Jeff Wittbrodt brought some aggression to the pack, and they went 1-2 ahead of Craig Webb. A strong podium spot for Webb and three spots clear of series leader Chris Hansen means 'Webb Corp' is certainly back in the picture in the points standings, which are released Tuesday. Webb's Hagerty teammates Steve Andriese and Paul Olsen were next over the line, with Hansen next, and Dave Hintz in 7th. Hintz picks up a few points and still has eyes for a podium finish in the series with two events left.
Dawn Cluchey rode unopposed in the Women's Masters, though she had last year's Master's winner Beth Collins in her sights for much of the morning. Cluchey can seal up the series with a finish at the ControveriALE Fat Bike Race on February 1.
The Men's Open blew to pieces in the final lap, with Matt Acker completing an amazing comeback to ride into second place just seconds ahead of Ryan Kennedy. THAT Dan Jansen slid home fourth, with Sean Kickbush holding on for fifth and some valuable points ahead of his series rivals Jason Lowetz (9th) and Rob Goepfrich (14th), who were admittedly off the pace in the bad conditions. Mike Powers also rode a great race just ahead of the diesel engine that is Chris Kushman for sixth and seventh, respectively.
Full results, including lap times, are available via Endurance Evolution.
How hard was the race? Check out the Strava of second place Men's Open Matt Acker.