The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Tony Gorman
For the Star 

Fat Bike Bash returns to Valdez this week, showcasing a growing sport

Event is for pros and newcomers and features classes, races and a few spectacles

The website for Valdez Adventure Alliance features a number of exciting videos and photos of the group's past events.

The Valdez Adventure Alliance started the Chugach Fat Bike Bash a couple of years ago to showcase fat bike riding, the great outdoors offered by Valdez, and Executive Director and Co-Founder Lee Hart's love for the sport.

"It just started because I love biking and you know a lot of the bike events for fat bike riding are these long-distance suffer fests," Hart said. "You know a thousand miles here. A couple hundred miles there. You know, long distance rides."

That's when Valdez Adventure Alliance decided create the event with a Valdez feel to it.

"Valdez is known for vertical. So, I wanted to combine fat bike and vertical that we have her to showcase just our terrain." Hart said. "So, what I kind of did was design the event. I planned the each of the components of event to show the prettiest parts of Valdez."

After working with the city, the Port Valdez Company, and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Valdez Adventure Alliance is able to bring a third edition of the Bash. This year, organizers have decided to put an emphasis on women. Hart got the inspiration from recent events and her experience in the heli-skiing business.

"It's sort of my reaction to the #MeToo Movement and doing something proactive and showing women empowering women through mountain sports," Hart said. "I first came here for heli-skiing. About 99.5 percent of the clients are men. Like why is that? Why aren't women come here?"

She hopes this year's Bash will attract more women to Valdez.

"It's not the man-cation destination. We're also girlfriend getaways. Also, a fun place to play in the mountains," Hart said.

This year's event will feature women pros from around the state and the nation. Two Colorado-based pros will be running clinics. Liz Sampey, who rides for the event's sponsor - Fat Back Bikes - brings seven years worth of experience in adventure mountain bike racing to the Bash. Recently, she circumnavigated the entire island of Puerto Rico. She will be leading a Bikepacking Basics Clinic that focuses on preparing for long distance and overnight backpacking trips. The other featured guest is Leigh Bowe, who is a downhill racer. She has competed in the Enduros bike race. She will be leading an Intro to Gravity Racing clinic that will feature her strategies in downhill riding. For those who aren't experienced in fat biking, there will be a Fat Biking Basics Clinic.

Even though the Chugach Fat Bike Bash is focused on women this year, all fat bike enthusiasts are encouraged to come out - especially locals.

"We know there's about 30 people with fat bikes in town. We want to see every one of them at every one of our events. They may not be interested in them and have time to do all of them. But, the events first and foremost are fun and showcase how beautiful Valdez is. And we're picking out the most fun things you can do," Hart said. "You don't have to be an uber-competitor. You don't have to be stressed out if you're going to be first second and third. Just come out and fun."

Photo courtesy Levitation 49

The event kicks off at Friday, 6:30 p.m. with a Community Family Bike Parade at the Valdez Harbor. There will be several races throughout the three-day event. After the Community Family Bike Parade, the Ursa Major Harbor Race and Street Party will take place. It's a sprint race where competitors will ride two laps around the harbor. The Revelate XC race will be held Saturday morning. The route starts at Valdez Glacier Lake and ends at the end of Airport Road. Later that evening, Downtown Downhill at Dusk will take place at Meals Hill. The final race is the Mineral Creek Poker Run on Sunday morning. There racers collect cards at various checkpoints along Mineral Creek. The top three winning hands wins from the pot of money collected from the entry fees.


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