13 March 2017

If in doubt, let it out!

11th March 2017 saw the 5th running of the Trio Fat Bike World Championship. The race is put on by Backcountry Bike & Ski and Speedway Cycles. This is one of the last fatbike races of the season (the last in south central Alaska) and has a great atmosphere and after party.
This year was my 3rd time riding the event. The last time I did this event it was -17F at the start line. This year it was a pleasant 19F and quickly warmed up to over 30F once the race started. For my riding pleasure I decided it would be great idea to ride the 60mile version (three laps).

The course description

The race starts in downtown Talkeetna. It follows the road out of town for around 2 miles before joining a snow machine trail. The road section is a false flat but after joining the trails we almost immediately start to climb. After around 2 miles we rejoin the road network for a short period before taking a snow machine trail that parallels the road. This trail undulates with a climbing trend and we eventually pass a communication tower where the trail widens and continues to undulate (with a climbing trend) until the powerline trail. Here we drop down on a narrow trail (1 snow machine wide) to the river and the roughly halfway aid station at around 11.8 miles into the lap.
After the aid station we continue on a narrow trail up a couple of killer climbs but mostly enjoying an undulating trail (feels like more down than up) through the woods with great views of Denali. The final 3.5miles of this trail  have a definite descending trend back to the only two way section of the course. This is only around 200 yards though. We cross a road to enjoy around 1.5miles of singletrack before rejoining the road network at around mile 19.5. Here we complete the loop back into town and either finish our race or go out to complete more laps.

My race

I lined up on the front row along with a couple of my teammates. 
Rolling out from the start.
The pace to the first trail was relaxed, I even took the time to take a few photos. 
Behind me

Looking ahead

As we joined the snow machine trail the pace picked up a little and before long, as we started up the first climb the pace was definitely hot for me.
On the second climb I saw one of the lead riders (David Arteaga) was stopped and appeared to be struggling with a mechanical. I pulled over and assisted him in freeing his chain which had jammed between his crank arm and chainring. Soon we were back riding and it wasn't long (around 5 miles according to Strava flybys) before I caught back up with Matt and Laura who I was riding near before I stopped to help David. Unfortunately Owen, James, Nico, David, John and Jason had escaped me here and I wouldn't see them again all race.

Trail conditions can and often do vary when racing a multi lap format race. For myself and everyone the conditions did change drastically especially for the final lap. This years deterioration was due to the low temperature at which the snow fell, this meant that in spite of multiple grooming efforts the snow didn't consolidate well on certain sections of the trail.

Lap 1: The course was good however a few of the steeper climbs were not rideable but everything else was pretty solid.

Lap 2: The course was still in pretty good shape however as the temperature increased the snow became a little greasy. Airing down helped and once again the majority of the course was rideable.

Lap 3: Errrmmmm... It got significantly worse for around 3 miles. I had aired down to around 4psi by this point and even that wasn't getting me through. However once we passed the communication station the trail improved for the next 5 miles it was only my tired legs holding me back really. Into the aid station the trail was soft and it was just a case of being patient whilst passing the 20mile racers, that theme would continue to the end of the race.

Me, Laura and Matt riding on lap 2
- Photo Credit Tim Berntson

Same section of trail lap 3
The best thing about the Trio though, is how relaxed the event is. The aid station is getting to be legendary. As I was well out of the running for the top places I figured it would be rude not to stop and partake in the festivities on my final lap. I was only there for 10min but that was enough time to grab a beer and soak in the atmosphere.

Aid station, just a few bikes - Photo Credit Ryan Greeff


Floating Unicorn and fat bikes in overflow....
Photo Credit Ryan Greeff

Cheers Jordy!
After leaving the aid station I completed the course not forgetting to stop for a Denali selfie.
Huge mountain.
I finished the race in 7hrs 5min (Unofficial time and 8th place overall, 7th Man) 
Lap 1 took 1:55:14
Lap 2 took 2:15:43
Lap 3 took 2:53:26
And I am totally stoked with that.
Could I have ridden any faster? possibly.
I am still working on nutrition on these longer rides especially at higher pace. The good news is no cramps this time though I did feel a few twinges. I am sure I didn't eat enough on lap one to let me maintain my speed on lap two but this is all work in progress. Lap three could have definitely been faster on a couple of sections. Not stopping for a beer would have also cut around 10 min from my lap but I wouldn't have had as much fun out there with that attitude. One thing is for sure I am glad I stopped for a beer and chat with my friends who were working at the aid station.

Once again a huge thanks to Amanda for taking care of Fiona and Mort so that I could race. I couldn't do these silly races without your support. You are one in a million baby! 

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