FatDuro fat bike enduro race report

Pioneering a new type of racing in Donner Summit, Lake Tahoe area.

Fat Bike Race Coverage
FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Racers at the summit, ready to start stage one. Photo courtesy of TimeYourRace

The inaugural NorCal FatDuro was scheduled for February 19th. As the date approached, we sat in the middle of a week-long storm that dumped stories of snow, causing mud slides and road closures all over the region. With conditions and weather sub-prime for the fun event we had envisioned, we elected to reschedule the race to April 9th, hoping for that bluebird day everyone could enjoy. Thank God we did! While some riders were off grinding gravel, chasing UCI points in SoCal heat or suffering on a long road race, dozens made the trek up to Donner Summit to race fat bikes on mountains of snow.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

The ASC Training Center Stadium featured dual finish chutes into a single timing point for all stages. Photo courtesy of TimeYourRace

Working closely with the staff at the Auburn Ski Club Training Center (ASC), we developed a course change from the original three loop format. Riders would kick off the race with an untimed climb up to 8,000ft and then set off on a DH run back to the lodge for stage one. Two more loop stages awaited before final results would be tallied.

Thanks to Mike’s Bikes, Paco’s Bike & Ski, and Scott Sports, there were sixteen fat bike and plus bike demos available to participants at no charge. Several racers had never ridden a fat bike previously, and were extremely grateful for the chance to try out this new method of fun.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Jason King trying to keep the 23lb Specialized Fatboy Carbon from floating away before the start. Photo courtesy of Justpedal

“Even though I don’t have a fat bike, and have never ridden in the snow before, I was able to do a fun event that combined both, was able to demo a bike for free, and the event was really well run too, felt very supported.” – Jason King (Team Lost Cost Brewery), Expert Category overall winner.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Cody Dynes elected to demo a Scott Spark 710 Plus bike, which worked well on the snow with low tire pressures where the surface was firm. Photo courtesy of Justpedal

With the diligent grooming efforts from ASC, the inclusion of plus tire bikes was possible. A handful of riders took advantage of this and brought their own or took a demo out on the course. Under race day conditions with mostly firm snow, there seemed to be only a slight disadvantage where traction was needed during climbing. (Think of it like allowing mountain bikes in a cyclocross race.) However they had to constantly be searching for the firmest surface where the fat bikes would glide over anything.

“I think the benefits of the plus tires on the snow were felt in the harder packed/groomed snow, where it had less drag than the fat bikes. The downhill section was also a benefit on that bike (Scott Spark 710 Plus) having the suspension and dropper post. With the skinny tires, I felt bravery was rewarded on that bike downhill. It was definitely more squirrelly and avoiding the center of the trail at all cost was a must. Whipping it into the corners was a blast! I felt the drawbacks of those tires vs a fat bikes would be the thin line between running very low pressures for traction and getting a flat tire. I definitely could feel the rim bouncing off the snow. It wasn’t until letting air out on the climb that morning that I could barely ride when there was any incline without digging a 4″ rut. All in all, I’d say the draw backs equal out with the benefits.” – Cody Dynes

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

The opening transfer stage was a 1k’ climb that was complicated by a lack of oxygen. Photo courtesy of Justpedal

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Racers completed the opening transfer well under the estimated 40 minute schedule, allowing for photos and time to take in the beautiful scenery. Photo courtesy of TimeYourRace

Racers began the first timed stage in mass starts by category wave. We felt this would be more exciting than individual starts, given the trail system is all wide groomed swaths of packed snow that would allow for close racing. The racers certainly enjoyed it, with every racer completing the stage with a smile on their face and debriefing the events that unfolded in the stadium. Despite the few small climbs in the stage, the fastest time down would be set by none other than downhill legend Mike Galeoto with a time of 8:13.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Mike Galeoto piloting his LaMere carbon fat bike to the win on stage 1. Photo by William Dunkum

Racers enjoyed a little down time in between stages with a chance to grab a snack from Clif, stay warm in the lodge or just hang out in the stadium. I took the opportunity to head out for a quick lap on the short loop to make sure course markings were dialed and to check on the snow conditions. The trails at ASC are all on rolling terrain, so there’s no open valley slogs but every short climb is energy sapping at altitude. Snow conditions were still quite good overall, but there were unpredictable soft spots due to the recent storm and it was beginning to warm up into a beautiful spring day. With that, I made the decision to cut the lap counts, putting everyone on the long course for just one lap (instead of three for experts and two for sports), and reducing the lap count on the short loop by one lap. It’s always a tough call to change the race format, but I felt this would maintain the fun attitude, stay truer to the enduro format, and keep the race from turning into a long slog sufferfest. The feedback we received from racers regarding the change was positive overall, with just the more seasoned riders and endurance-focused wishing for more time on course.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Racers starting their 2nd stage of the day. Expert and Sport on the short loop and Beginners on the long loop. Photo courtesy of TimeYourRace

Expert leader Mike Galeoto suffered a flat rear tire (valve failure) on his first lap on the short loop, handing the lead over to Jason King who would take the eventual win after both remaining stages. Most racers enjoyed the long loop and its more varied terrain compared to the short loop, especially the long twisting descent into what the XC skiers refer to as “The Black Hole.”

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Racer Grant Taggart on a demo Scott Big Jon climbing out of “The Black Hole”. Photo courtesy of Justpedal

“ASC is SO COOL for supporting such an event at their place. The trails were nice and we felt ‘welcomed’ to be there.” – Jason King

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Kari Sumner celebrates the overall finish. Photo by William Dunkum

“This was an excellent, well organized event that was a great value as well! Everyone involved in the event was helpful, nice and contributed to making this low stress and highly enjoyable. Having access to demo bikes at no additional charge, including a long sleeve T-Shirt, beer, lunch, and podium prizes made this the best bang for your buck race I’ve done in a long time. I’ll definitely come back next year!” – Adam Havner, 4th place Expert.

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

Racers left with smiles for miles after a fun and unique day on bikes. Photo by William Dunkum

“This was such a fun event! Heart rate through the roof with equal parts laughter and Good times – trying something new is so worth it. I don’t think I have ever had that many people cheering for me as I had a lock on last place!” – Chris Patterson

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

FatDuro, what a fun day! Riding bikes and playing in the snow. This was my first time riding a fat bike… so much fun! I can’t stop telling people about it!” – Veronica Mickelson – Photo courtesy of Justpedal

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

After the race, participants relaxed in the ASC lodge and enjoyed a “Fat Sausage Bar” with gourmet brats and trimmings from Pro chef Jeff Anderson. Photo by William Dunkum

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

You can’t help but smile when riding a fat bike, especially after trying to ride through three feet of powder at downhill speed and cartwheeling. Race Director Clint Claassen had some fun after the race was over. Photo courtesy of TimeYourRace

FatDuro Enduro Fat Bike Race

The trail system at Auburn Ski Club truly is a winter wonderland. Photo courtesy of Justpedal

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