My Togwotee Winter Classic race report is late due to a little curveball that life threw at Michelle and I this past week...more on that later.
Pushtastic! The V Trail climb was a steady push.
I would have to say that this year’s Togwotee Winter Classic was my favorite of them all. This might sound a little crazy because conditions were not ideal. As I was driving from Victor to Togwotee early Saturday morning, it was steadily snowing and at times the snow was blowing sideways across the highway. I seriously wondered whether we would be pushing our bike right off the start line. This year was my favorite because of the people who brought a positive attitude to the event regardless of the forecast. In addition to locals, we had racers from Salt Lake City, UT, Casper, WY, and Montana!
I started this little event in 2008 because I wanted to share my Fat Bike passion. We had 8 racers the first year. This year we had 34 racers “pre-register” and ultimately had 24 racers take the start line. Can we hit 40 or 50 in 2013?
Since I had zero warmup prior to the start of my race I am going to jump right into the race report as well.
The usual suspects shot off the line like bullets along with a couple of new faces to the Togwotee Winter Classic. Bill Martin, Chase Beninga, and Adam Leiferman were keen to jump out with JayP and Fiddee Cent. In a surprise move, “The” Dave Saurman joined the leaders for a couple of miles until he decided that powder skiing sounded way more fun that riding a Fat Bike on this day and turned around. I was just behind the lead group working hard to keep them close and in sight.
Conditions were not ideal but at least we were riding. It snowed 3-5” since the trail groomers finished the night before. The wind in the exposed areas created drifts that were 8” deep so lots of quick dismounts & remounts required.
The zero warmup + 8,600’ elevation had my lungs burning immediately but after about 20’ I calmed down and my HR settled into my endurance race zone.
TIP: Bring multiple pieces of headwear and handwear on the bike so that when you sweat one out you can change into a dry piece.
Being out in front was an advantage because I could choose an untracked line on the edge of the trail where it was the most firm. This was my first race on the Big Fat Larry tires and I thought I had let plenty of air out but they still felt squirmy. I think I could have let another 1-2 PSI out and gained some stability. I ran the rear Big Fat Larry in reverse for extra traction and that proved to be a good move.
The CD Trail pops out into an open expanse about a mile before the V Trail intersection and once we were in the open the weather got wild. Blowing snow and flat light made it tough to see the trail so you simply had to follow the trail stakes. By the time I got to the V Trail, the lead group of three probably had 5-7 minutes on me but their tracks had already been covered up by the blowing snow. I broke trail as I pushed my bike up the infamous V Trail hill while comfortably cocooned in my softshell hood.
Once I crested the hill, I was on and off the bike every ten yards for the next half mile due to the drifted snow. I needed to quickly decide whether I would take the K Trail for the 35-Mile route or stay on the V Trail for the 25-Mile route. I really wanted to do the 35-Mile but I was the race organizer and I didn’t want to be one of the last ones to finish. I saw two tracks, JayP & Bill Martin, make the left for the K Trail while the other two tracks stayed on the V Trail. I chose the V trail.
The riding was very tricky and required a lot of upper body work to hold the bike on a line at the slow speeds and make the necessary corrections. This also made it tough to eat and drink while riding because you couldn’t take a hand off of the bars. I made it a point to eat and drink when I was forced to push.
About halfway down the V Trail I heard a bike bell ring behind me. It was Eric Greenwood from Salt Lake City. Eric was making it look easy and passed me as he rode a soft section that I was pushing. This motivated me to try and ride some sections that I might have otherwise pushed in order to keep Eric in my sights for the remainder of the V Trail.
My favorite part of the race was the treed section of the V Trail where we were protected from the wind and big snowflakes were falling straight down. We were able to easily ride despite 4-6” of new snow because of a firm base underneath and a lack of wind drifting. I remember thinking to myself, “This is just fucking cool” as I watched the big flakes fall and rode through a corridor of dense pine trees heavy with last night’s snow.
TIP: When you need a quick boost, grab a Reece’s...specifically, a dark chocolate Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup. If there is a more perfect snow bike “pick me up”, I have not found it.
Eric and I made a brief stop at the bottom of the long CD Trail climb to take in some extra calories. Ahead of us was six miles of mostly “up” back to Togwotee Lodge. I took off first and tried to create a little gap on the first climb because I knew Eric was killing it every time the trail went downhill. My strategy worked and I was able to hold Eric off by a couple of minutes but it wasn’t enough to catch big Adam from Casper, WY. My time of 4:22:00 was good for third place in the 25-Mile race and was actually a lot faster than I thought was possible due to the conditions.
Everyone had a big smile on their face as they finished and we gathered in the Fireside room for burgers and beers to celebrate a most-excellent day. I am proud of the group as a whole for being prepared to race in those conditions. Thanks again to everyone who came out!