Inaugural fat bike endurance race to debut near Steamboat
January 9, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For Steamboat Springs resident Jon Kowalsky, it was as if the trails in North Routt County were begging for a new endurance race, but this time involving the growing sport of fat biking.
Registration is open for the inaugural endurance fat bike race, named The Bear, with options for a 50-mile and 105-mile course.
Racing will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3 at Hahn's Peak Roadhouse across from Steamboat Lake.
"It's been a lot of fun to plan," Kowalsky said. "It's so grassroots."
Kowalsky got into the sport of fat biking about seven years ago when a family member hooked him up with a bike from Salsa Cycles.
"I think I got one of the first fat bikes in town," Kowalsky said.
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He began racing a few years later and has competed in the grueling Fat Pursuit endurance race in Idaho.
Last winter, he began riding the trails more in North Routt, which are maintained by the local snowmobile club.
"North Routt is just so beautiful," Kowalsky said.
The 105-mile course has 9,957 feet of elevation gain and crosses into Wyoming. The 50-mile course has 4,649 feet of elevation gain.
"These are pretty stout numbers even for a mountain bike race," Kowalsky said. "We've racked our brains to make this safe and fun."
It is difficult to estimate how long it will take racers to complete the courses.
"It's so variable based on course conditions," Kowalsky said.
He said the the short course could take four to five hours to complete under fast conditions. If racers are greeted with harsh winter weather, it could take up to 15 hours.
Racers, especially on the long course, who will be riding through the night, need to strategically plan what gear to bring.
"It's pretty remote out there," Kowalsky said. "It's not like we're doing a lap on Emerald."
Medics will be on the course, and racers will need to carry satellite communication devices.
With a month until race day, Kowalsky is pleased with the registration numbers so far.
"I thought a healthy number would be 20, but we have 25," he said.
With help from sponsors, the registration is affordable at $125 for the long course and $75 for the short course.
"I really wanted to keep it more attainable for people that wanted to try it," Kowalsky said.
About two-thirds of the people signed up live outside the Steamboat area.
"From as far away as Iowa," Kowalsky said.
Complete details about the race can be found at thebearfatbike.com.
People interested in volunteering can contact Kowalsky at email@example.com.
Crossing the finish line
The Fat Pursuit fat bike race in Idaho again challenged two Steamboat residents this past weekend.
This year, Graham Muir and Kellie Nelson both completed the 200-mile race.
The duo participated last year for the first time, but brutal winter weather with temperatures that dipped to -40 degrees kept them about 25 miles from the finish line.
The temperatures this year were more bearable.
"It was different, but it was still hard," Muir said. "A bit of snow going into the second day, which slowed us up a lot."