Friday, January 23, 2015

Racing at Home

Stoked to be on my homecourt! / Photo: Neil Washburn
As I said in my last post, I love traveling to races! I'm going to go ahead and say the exact opposite in this post: I love staying home to race!!

After spending hours on the road and either staying at friend's houses or motels, it's nice to wake up in my own bed and to go somewhere familiar to race. Grand Rapids is super saturated with a bunch of different fat bike racing opportunities: in a good way!!! It's really amazing to live in a place where there is a different place to ride your bike every night of the week, no matter what the conditions... during the WINTER! Isn't this supposed to be the "off season" for bicycle shops? I have to laugh every time I think about that, because I feel like I'm busier when there's snow on the ground! With the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, Michigan Fat Bike Series, Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series, and a bunch of other weekly fat bike events like the Thursday Throwdown at Koetsier's Greenhouse... you don't have to go far to really enjoy riding fat! Plus, there's indoor spin classes at the Ada Bike Shop every Tuesday night, and plenty of gravel to ride if groomed fat bike trails aren't for you (but why wouldn't they be?) I'm beginning to sound like a super annoying record on repeat, but we are so lucky to live in West Michigan and so lucky to be surrounded by such awesome and ambitious cycling community members that organize stuff like this!

After traveling for the last couple of fat bike races, I was really looking forward to the Brewery Vivant Farmhand Fat Bike Race at Cannonsburg Ski Hill on January 10th. This was the fourth year in a row that the Farm Team had put on this race, and it's been incredible to see how this race has grown each year. The first year they held this race, it was at the Farmer's orchard off of Lake Michigan drive. I "raced" duo with a coworker and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard or fallen so hard while riding a bicycle. (I also wore my roller derby helmet!)
The inaugural Farmer's Fat Bike Race - 2011
Since then, the race has been held at Cannonsburg Ski Hill. There's beer, food, and snowboarders who look inquiringly at our giant tires. I love everything about this race! This year especially we had some incredibly hecklers! Some goofballs from Velocity USA came out with a boom box to pump up the jams, there was a yeti spotted out in the woods, and the best part about the whole race: lots and lots of familiar faces from Grand Rapids Bicycles! Big, big kudos to all of the new fat bike riders out there that had battled the ski hill for 3 hours - that trail turned to mush and that single track was hard! I made it out of the Farmhand Fat Bike race alive, but with bruises on my knees and thighs from whacking myself on different parts of the bike while dabbing downhill. My crowning moment of glory during the race? Cheering on Jenny Scott and making an awesome snow angel on the side of the trail as I tried to pass her. My boots got stuck in my pedals and I laid on the ground squirming while she laughed at me. It was awesome! I was still pretty exhausted from the Tuscobia 150 the weekend before, but I couldn't miss my favorite fat bike race of the year! So happy I didn't let my tired legs keep me from having a really fun time.
The Farmhand start / Photo: Neil Washburn
Yeti love at the finish line / Photo: Neil Washburn
Myself, Chelsea Strate, Danielle Musto, April Morgan, Kim Thomas / Photo: Tom Morgan
The next day after the Farmhand Fat Bike race was a Fun Promotions event at Pando Ski Hill. Another race less than a half an hour drive away from my house?! Yes! When I woke up Sunday morning and felt like I had been hit by a bus, I almost wanted to bail from the race... but that darn stubborn voice in the back of my head kept saying, "it'll be fun! it'll be fun!" Luckily, Danielle Musto and I had already agreed to race duo, so instead of riding through mush for 2 hours we'd each only be riding through mush for 1 hour! Plus, Chelsea Strate had partnered with Eric Fredrickson from Salsa to race against us. There's no bailing allowed when you wake up to a snarky text message on race day!!
Unlucky Chelsea crashed at my place all weekend
Pando was just as mushy as the Ski Hill. I was happy to have to ride up that ski hill only three times! Danielle and I were able to take first place in the duo category, with Chelsea and E Fred hot on our tails. My parents had made it out to Grand Rapids for the weekend, and it was neat to be able to bring them as my pit crew. I don't think I drank any water while I was riding, but they cheered, held my jacket, and were really excited to meet my fat biking friends. So glad they were able to make it!

Dad, me, Mom, Danielle, E Fred, Chelsea
Cuties on the duo podium!
I was also able to get a taste of the Thursday Throwdown at Koetsier's Greenhouse since I haven't had to taper down for a race this weekend. Last night was incredibly icy and I took each turn as gingerly as I possibly could, especially after hearing that Danielle had slipped around one of the corners! I found myself really wishing that I had put studs on my 45NRTH Dillingers; while simultaneously being super stoked that I had finally been able to get my Sarma Naran's built and put on my Beargrease. Now I see what all the carbon fiber ruckus was about!! Those wheels are F U N ! Lightweight, super snappy, little rockets on the climbs... those things are going to be awesome next weekend at the City of Lakes Loppet! Dan helped me set them up as tubeless, and that's a whole other fat bike thing I'm looking forwards to becoming more familiar with! Last year I was really nervous to go tubeless because I was afraid of the stan's freezing in cold weather, or of getting a flat and somehow having the fluid explode all over me and then I'd freeze and get hypothermia... seriously every wacky, asinine scenario played out in my mind about going tubeless on my fat bike! So far so good though. So far I'm sold! The bead lock on those Sarma rims is pretty stinkin' tight. I don't think I'll be having any problems. :)
How cool is it that we get to drink beers and talk about fat bikes inside of Koetsier's Greenhouse?!
That starting shoot was icy! / Photo: Michael Mielock
I'm not planning on racing this weekend and am really looking forward to finding some friends to do some local rides with. Sunday GRBC is hosting a group ride from the Fulton location at 11:30am, which should be a ton of fun because it involves some of my favorite coworkers, bikes, and brews. I've been holding on to my Brewery Vivant growler and freefill from the Farmhand fat bike race for this very occasion. ;)

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