March Madness

Let’s face facts-The month of March has always been a complete gong show when it comes to weather. It acts like a succinct version of the entire winter we have here in Edmonton; it’s so completely unpredictable, polarized and sudden, we sometimes just give up trying to deal with it and stay inside until summer actually arrives. When you think about having a fatbike race in the middle of March, you think that it will be mild in temperature, but there should be plenty of snow to ride on. That’s when the E-town weather punches you straight in the gut by giving you a 15 degree day just before the race followed up by freezing overnight temperatures. March, you are a fickle mistress.

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Ice was the theme of the day

When James and I were scouting out the trails for our third and final 45NRTH fatbike race, it was 10 degrees out. So when we rode out on the planned course, the snow was soft with plenty of grip with a few icy puddles so that emboldened us to give the go ahead for the race the next day.  It was still shortened due to the icy conditions of the descending chutes, but we where confident that the course would still provide plenty of fun for the racers. The race must and will go on, but then morning arrived.

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Mr. Hollywood on Ice (Photo: Alan Schietzsch)

All the soft snow turned to hard packed snow with a lovely layer of ice on top and the wet puddles froze overnight to glaring smooth but undulating ice trails. The entire course was either pavement or sphincter clenching ice. Whom would possibility want to race with these conditions? Apparently, 35 nail swallowing fatbikers/cyclists (one person on a Rocky Vertex with Ice Spiker Pro tires blew past me sending shredded ice in my face).  Sure, most people hit the deck once or twice or way more than that, but they all came in with a big smile on their faces. It was survival mode out there as you tried to keep the bike upright, then if you came off the bike, good luck standing back up to get on your bike. Kevin from the Edmonton Triathlon Academy was trying to stand up on the ice and commented to me, “I feel like Bambi trying to stand on a frozen lake”.

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(Photo: Alan Schietzsch)

On the one and only descend on the course, my bike went sideways and I plowed face first into the ground taking Nick down with me as he was right on my wheel.  I smashed my right knee to the ice in the process so I had to do a quick re-evaluation of my body parts before moving on. Nothing felt broken, but I was indeed bruised. We entered the lower trail to head back to the Savage center where we were blinded by the light reflecting off the smoothed out ice. I was moving so slowly I don’t think I’ve ever taken so long riding that length of trail in my entire life. With great relief, I made it back to finish lap one.

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“Bambi on Ice” (Photo: Alan Schietzsch)
On the second lap, I was riding with two new racers who never raced a bike race in their entire lives, and they were loving it. They were talking about how they would like to do more bike races in the future and how they were surprised about how friendly the experience was. If these two were the only ones who showed up for the race, I would still be happy and deem the race successful. Well, actually I’m glad that more people showed up so we wouldn’t lose money on the race, but I loved those two guys.

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Mark Racing with the “First Timers” Photo: Alan Schietzsch)
We wanted the last race of the triple-crown to be the best as Aaron from Quality Bike Products drove all the way to Edmonton to checkout and participate in our race, but weather is one thing you can’t control. We wanted 100 people to show up to race their fatbikes instead of 35, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier to see them all come in and talk about how challenging and fun the day was despite the conditions. I’ve been to races where people just complain about how crappy the course or conditions were, how cheap the payouts were, how there were not enough door prizes or there wasn’t enough food, etc. There wasn’t a single person who came to me, James or Mike and expressed any dismay or anger that we put on the race. Besides some bumps and bruises, most people were in a convivial mood. Especially Nick from Hardcore and Denis from Pedalheal who won Dillinger 5 studded tires, and because we received so many door prizes from 45NRTH, every racer got schwag to take home!
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Santiago took home the big prize – the Surly Krampus Frame (Photo: Alan Schietzsch)

Anyways, the Kokanee redbike gang learned a lot from these races. We will strive to put on a better set of races for everyone next year. Thanks to everyone involved with races as we truly appreciated the support.

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The Ice theme continues even on the couch

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