Stone cold killer Jorden Wakeley faced a second four-man sprint in a week, this time to cap off a stellar ride at the ControversiALE Fat Bike Race in Traverse City, Michigan. Just a few days removed from becoming the youngest winner ever of the Arrowhead 135, he made the trek to Timber Ridge to keep his winning streak alive at the SBFBS, and all but lock up a second points title in the process.
The women's side also hosted a long-range winner, with recent Tuscobia 150 champion Jill Martindale braving the weather to start Sunday as well. For Martindale, it was an exercise in focus; she held a commanding lead after one 10.5 mile lap, and had to stay calm and focused in single-digit temperatures to take her first SBFBS victory.
Weather was the story of the week, although conditions weren't anywhere near as bad as feared. Tremendous work by Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association groomers John Roe and Glen Ruczynski, and a special effort from Eli Brown, brought the course from quagmire to highway in under 24 hours.
The start loop in Timber Ridge was also much improved overnight, and as the parade lap wound back to head into the singletrack, it was Einstein Racing's Jason Lowetz jumping to set the tempo and possibly make the selection in an effort to setup teammates Ryan Kennedy and Chris Kushman. Wakeley was quick to follow, with UHC's Brad White the M-22 Sean Kickbush and Keegan Myers were also present and correct.
Martindale had a small gap heading into the trees, with Vigland riding with Hagerty teammate Andrew Nash for much of the day. The first lap was well under an hour, with a selection made on the two climbs that came just after the halfway mark. A lead group of 5 hit a 3km section of the Vasa, with Hagerty's Craig Webb dangling just off the back. White, Kickbush, Wakeley, Kennedy, Myers and DAN JANSEN! came through looking almost comfortable, with Lowetz paying for his early efforts.
Behind, riders were scattered in ones and twos all over the course. Riders who had gambled with very low tire pressure were looking for air, while the overambitious few over 4psi were scrambling to let more out. And everyone battled the cold, opting for poagies, warmers, inserts and even battery powered socks and gloves. No one was comfortable, although there were certainly faking it well. As riders called it a day after one lap, the leaders were already coming back through.
Myers and Jansen were on their own, as was Ryan Kennedy, the three riding behind the main back that now included just White, Wakeley, Kickbush and an incredible Chris Kushman. Martindale had eight minutes over Vigland, but the battle for the final podium spot was getting tighter, with Beth Collins slowly reeling in Michelle Howard.
Webb had the Master's race rocked, but Chris Hansen and Dave Hintz were battling hard behind. Dawn Cluchey, who entered the day just needing to finish to wrap up the Women's Masters, was keeping level pace with Collins and Howard.
The Short's Race was already wrapped up, with Dave Walston coming off the beaches of Jamaica for the win (his last ever in any shorter race) ahead of Josh Plowman (ditto). Liz Belt came up just a few seconds short behind Beth Mueller, with Andrea Mata third on the day.
That lead pack of four hit Timber Ridge for a crit-style sprint, with Brad White on the gas right from the turn in and for the final 999 meters. Just as the foursome hit the final, tiny rise to the line, Wakeley was level and then a tire-width ahead to take his third win of the series, with Sean Kickbush third and Chris Kushman fourth. Ryan Kennedy rounded out the top five, a little over a minute down after spending the last half of the race chasing.
Martindale, Vigland, Howard and Collins kept their finish order for the day in the Women's Open, with Vigland taking valuable points ahead of the final race, Beard of Zeus, on March 7. Webb took the win and the series lead, with Jack Kline rolling in for a rock solid second place ahead of Chris Hansen.
We'll have updated series standings finalized by Tuesday, and don't forget to get signed up for the circuit-style, Suds'n'Snow spectacle that is Beard of Zeus Fat Bike Race!