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

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By Tony Gorman
For the Star 

Fat bike bash brought over 100 racers to Valdez and its vertical challenges

Valdez Adventure Alliance-hosted event attracted riders from Valdez and the state

 

April 11, 2018

Tony Gorman photo

Fat bike racers took over Valdez last week – including an event at the Small Boat Harbor.

Last week's Chugach Fat Bike Bash was a big hit with enthusiasts and spectators alike.

In its third edition, the Valdez Adventure Alliance-hosted event attracted riders from Alaska and other parts of the nation. The weather conditions were the best yet that organizers had seen in the young event's history.

"Given what this spring has been like, it was the best weather conditions possible," Valdez Adventure Alliance co-founder Lee Hart said. "We will stick with the first weekend of April for the event. We think it's be a good season-ender for Alaska-sort of fat bike racing circuit."

Over 107 racers competed in the several races over the course of three days. Enthusiasts also attended clinics lead by pro-riders Leigh Bowe and Lindsay Bowe, who also competed in the races.

Hart believes the Bash has great potential for growth in future events.

"The potential for growth for this event is probably the strongest of any event we have. People have bikes. You learn how to ride a bike when you're kid. So, it's not that foreign," Hart said. "We think once people from the Lower 48 start to see the footage from the Super Fat Downhill from Thompson Pass that they will be interested in coming here for that event."

This Year's Bash focused on women. One of the goals was to attract more women to the event with the idea of the city becoming an adventure destination. Most of the clinics were led by women and organizers were pleased with the turnout.

"We got the turnout we were hoping for and they loved it," Hart said. "Even our more seasoned veterans appreciated that it was a more female friendly event."

The Bash kicked off on Friday with a fat bash bike parade. It was followed with the Ursa Major Harbor Race. In two sprint laps around the Valdez Small Boat Harbor, Nathan Betz took first place followed by Sampey in second, Bowe in third place.

On Saturday, riders competed in the 11.8-mile Cross-Country race which spanned from the Valdez Glacier Lake to the Airport Parking Lot along Airport Road. Tim Stephens took the top spot with a time of 1:02:17. Amber Bethe raced to a time of 1:02:30 to finish second in the race. Later in the evening, twelve racers battled slushy conditions in the Hoodoo Downtown Downhill at Meals Hill. Jill Simek came out victorious with a time of 8:05. Bethe turned in her second runner-up finish for the season with a time of 8:30. Laurel Brady was third with a time of 8:38.

Tony Gorman photo

Fat Bike lovers clocked in many a mile last week during last week's bash.

On Sunday, riders placed their bets on the Mineral Creek Poker Run. Racers collected cards along the Mineral Creek Trail. Sandy Johns ended up with the winning hand. She took home $75 from the winners' pot. Paul Pleiss took home the second prize of $50. Shannon Irish finished third place and was awarded $25. The Bash closed out with the Thompson Downhill Super Fat Downhill. The course was held on former World Extreme Championship venue Loveland. The course length was a 1.75 miles with a 2520 feet elevation drop. Dorian Granger of Fairbanks won the event's signature race with a time of 3:14:19. Bowe took placed second with a time of 4:55:15. Rich Loftin of Valdez raced to third place finish with a time of 5:21:10. Sampey came in fourth with a time of 5:44:54. Belz placed fifth with a time of 6:05.00.

The success of the Super Fat Downhill is what defined this year's Bash and stayed true to the event's roots. Instead of focusing on long-distance races like more fat bike events, organizers wanted to showcase the downhill aspect of the sport because Valdez is considered a vertical town.

"We're known for steep terrain," Hart said. "We felt like it was appropriate to challenge people to test the boundaries of fat biking on steep ungroomed natural conditions on the slops around here."

After this year's success, Hart says that the Valdez Adventure Alliance will continue to use its current format. She said organizers don't expect to make any changes to the next event.

 

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