05 March 2017

Alaska Fat Bike State Champs 2017

Saturday 4th March saw the final round of the 2016/17 ASS (Abominable Snow Series).The turnout was a little lower than I was expecting however. I am guessing this was due to some riders being out of town for a race down in Homer, some racers preparing for the Tour of Anchorage (5th March ski race) and other racers recovering from the Iditarod Trail Invitational which took 3+ days for all the riders.

The course

The course was made up of around 1.4 miles of multiuse before a right turn onto some ripping singletrack for around 3.4 miles before re-joining the multiuse trail where the lap started again. The passing opportunities are limited on the singletrack. You are basically relying on the good will of the person in front of you to let you pass at the ski trail intersections. 

My Race

I lined up at the start along with the front pack again and we were off. Knowing the course and how positioning would be very important I ensured I pushed my pace on the first time down the multiuse trail to gain a better position going into the singletrack. As we entered the singletrack I was sitting in 6th place, following Tom who I have been riding (aka "training) a lot with.
Tom with me following him - PC Nathaniel Bannish

Taking things seriously as ever - PC Nathaniel Bannish.
We continued on the singletrack and I was feeling good. Tom ran slightly wide on one of the corners and his front wheel slid out, fortunately I was able to brake in time and not hit him. This slight delay meant that we had been dropped by Jamie and John who were running in 3rd and 4th place. Tom is a quick descender and singletrack rider and we were quickly back up to warp speed and chasing after Jamie and John. A little further along the trail Tom managed to wack his head on a low hanging branch which took him off trail. At this point I passed him and continued the chase to Jamie and John. Much to my surprise I caught them up as we rejoined the multiuse trail.

End of lap 1 singletrack - PC Robb Christenson

Then disaster for me, reaching into my frame bag I pulled out my bottle to get a drink, at the same time I managed to pull out my buff and it dropped into my lap first then to the right and into my derailleur.  I had no option but to stop and remove it whilst Jamie and John pulled away from me,  along with Tom and Owen, well shit that wasn't in the plan.
This is where one of my other riding (aka "training") buddies, Andy, saved my race. He was a little behind us coming off the singletrack but rode with me and dragged me back up to Tom and Owen who had passed me whilst I was fixing my bike. 
We entered the singletrack and continued our chase of the two 9:zero:7 riders in 3rd and 4th place.
Back on the tail of the 9:zero:7 riders end of lap 2, yet again I'm waving to a camera
- PC Robb Christenson

As we rejoined the multiuse trail we had caught them up again but Jamie and John are very quick on the multiuse trail and promptly dropped me, again! Once again Andy saved me and helped me bridge back up to Tom and Owen, between the four of us we bridged back onto John and Jamie. I knew my only chance to beat these guys was to get ahead in the singletrack and hope it stuck but I had given it 100% on the mulituse and was wasted. 
As we entered the singletrack I lunged and managed to pull in behind John and Tom. I got to recover a little on the first singletrack climb, I guess everyone was working just as hard as me. Before we crossed the third ski trail I asked Tom if I could go past him, thankfully he said yes, now I was on John's tail. I made the same request before the next singletrack trail and John also let me past. After passing John I was going a little faster than before and on a slightly different line and almost hit some trees. I was now sitting in 3rd place.... 
Given how Tom, Owen, Andy and I had caught up with Jamie and John on previous laps I was confident I would be able get a little time on John on the singletrack, I needed this though as he is very fast on the multiuse trails.
At the bottom of L-train I had put some time into John and Tom, I managed to slightly extend this on by the bottom of Good Greeff, to around 10 seconds - well until the climbing started. That is where my legs decided no Nick, you have used your allotted power for today. As we came off Good Greeff, there was no time difference..... great I am thinking its going to be a sprint finish. My only choice was to ride as fast as I could and hope something happened. I channelled my inner Jens Voigt and pedalled my arse off. 
By the end of the singletrack I had put in around 2 seconds though I didn't know this (strava fly by is a great tool). I pedalled as hard as I could to the finish where I reached my maximum heart rate on the race. Looking at the replay I finished around 5 seconds ahead of John who had not had the best exit from the singletrack.  I held on for 3rd place my best placing in an ASS race expert category. 
Sprinting for 3rd place - PC Robb Christenson

Podium picture - PC Robb Christenson


I had a great race there is no doubt about it, 3rd place is more due to some of the faster riders not being there however, I have improved my speed and I am closer to the top riders now I think. 
I wouldn't have done nearly as well at this race without the assistance (drafting and encouragement) from Tom and Andy you both saved my race and I can't thank you enough for that. 
Note to self, put items you are not going to use (gloves and buff) in a different place to the stuff you are going to use like a bottle. Racecraft 101 failure. 
I have been riding, ok "training" with a bunch of really fast riders to try and improve my speed on these short course races. Clearly its paying off. Thank you Andy, Tom, Megan and all the other riders in that group who push me to my limits and beyond sometimes, (yes hitting that tree really hurt). 
Team rides with Revolution are also starting to pay off, getting to ride with my teammates is always fun, hopefully we will continue this throughout the season. 

Strava or it didn't happen?


Thanks to Chain Reaction Cycles for putting on a great series. I know it must be a hassle with all the permits and working on the courses especially given the course conditions can change so rapidly due to weather. Once again the ASS races have been fun to participate in. 

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