Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet

I am pretty sure that my face is stuck in a permanent smile....as I just had one of the best weekends ever! 

Saturday night Evan and Brian from Marquette arrived at our place for the weekend and we were quick to make sure we took them to one of my favorite spots, the Fulton Brewery.  Those UP dudes are certainly a good influence in that I seem to always feel stress free around them and more relaxed heading into a race. We of course stayed up past midnight basking in the excitement of the festivities that lie ahead! 

This looks like a XC Ski bib eh?
Sunday morning came fast and soon enough it was RACE DAY! And for the first time ever in the history of the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival we were going to be racing on the exact same course as the Sunday skate skiers...Eeek!! I was ecstatic and beaming with anticipation.  After all, the race started only a few miles away from our apartment and finished literally less than a mile away in front of Lake Calhoun.  I love nothing more than big events and the City of Lakes Loppet is a massive one.  This race is also really unique in that it's route basically takes you right through the city! Who needs trees and trails when you have this urban paradise? Actually...this race course is about as city girl as I am!

Before the party started we had to fuel up, and that required a necessary stop at the Uptown Diner to slam down small pile of French toast.  I've recently discovered that French toast is the best pre-race meal ever (thanks Jason Lowetz!) For the record, I am seriously amazed at Evan and Brian's ability to take down massive plates of biscuits and gravy a few hours before a race and still live to tell about it!

It was so nice to be able to get dressed in all our our gear and only have a 10 minute drive over to the start.  Since Evan was in town we all loaded up Van Life with 5 bikes and 6 people and took to the start.  I was also super excited that my fav friend Lisa was also going to be racing her 2nd fat bike race ever...yeh!

When we rolled up to the start line there were tons of bikers and I could feel the energy almost exploding around me!  I knew it was going to be a fun day!  150 racers lined up for a sold out event and thanks to Evan and Isaac I was able to sneak up into a front row spot!   Tom snapped this shot and then soon enough we were off! 

I had about the worst start ever...slipped a pedal, fell into Evan and I pretty much almost caused a huge crash, thankfully we stayed upright and eventually I was smashing and working my way up the crowd!  Every race has it's own strategy and for this one my plan was simply to ride hard from the get go and really just lay it all out there. Go hard or go home yo!

Heading through the first couple turns I couldn't see any women in front of me, but I knew I had some serious competition behind me in friends Musto, Kristy, Jill, Martha, and Chelsea.  Racing off the front is still slightly uncomfortable for me as really I am the one deciding the pace etc.  Thankfully there were a lot of strong dudes around me and I really just tried to pace off them.  I was happy to find myself on buddy and sponsor Chris Balser's wheel as we headed up one of the initial climbs. The first part of the course felt like a roller coaster with basically zero flat sections as we went up and down the Theo Wirth golf course.  At this point I was nearly killing myself and about to scream "uncle" when finally the course flattened out and we were on our way towards the lakes! Power time! 

Photo Credit: Spencer Johnson (Sota Clothing)
I made a huge bid to catch an LCR racer (Jim) in front of me as rolled onto Brownie Lake.  We had a small headwind and I really didn't want to ride the windy lakes alone.  When we rolled through the channel towards Cedar Lake I saw Tom who was waiting for me with a hand up!  Except...wait here he was chatting away with someone with his back turned to me...I screamed "HEY!" and it's amazing how well that works as quickly he was hot stepping over to the thermo bag to grab my warm water bottle!  Thanks babe u are the best. 

I felt pretty amazing for most of this race and really hammered as best I could around the lakes...Jim finally put the screws to me on Lake Calhoun and I really suffered to bring in the last 300 meters.  Climbing the final climb and then rolling up over the flyover was probably one of the most exciting fat bike finishes I've been a part of.  There were fans cheering and announcers at the finish...it felt totally legit. I was so happy to cross the line first female for the 2nd week in a row!

Photo Credit: Christopher Cross
However the biggest highlight of the weekend for me was seeing my buddy Chris smile at the finish line.  Chris also known as The Bicycle Fit Guru is an ex pro mountain biker that has been battling an chronic lyme disease for 18 years. This was his first race back in nearly 12 years...a major milestone for him that I felt so blessed to have been able to be a part of.  I met Chris in 2011 when he fit me on my bike prior to Ironman CDA.  The truth is, if it wasn't for Chris's encouragement I probably wouldn't have made the leap into mountain biking. Chris has taught me the majority of my technical skills.  Chris you are the best, and it makes me so happy to see you racing again!

Congrats to all my fav cycling friends for making it to the finish line...and a big shout out to Chelsea for fixing a broken chain and still finishing 6th in the women's race!! Damn girl!

Huge thanks Penn Cycle and others for sponsoring this event, and even bigger thanks to all those unknown folks that stuck their necks out to make this race happen for our cycling community.  Being able to share a trail with skiers has certainly had it's understandable growing pains.  I feel forever indebted to those that's passion and communication has helped make this moment in history happen.  Trail sharing is still a work in progress but in the end I am confident the spirit of endurance sports will prevail!  Minneapolis you are an incredible city...thank you for an incredible weekend!


  1. Way to go, April! Keep crushing it! Agreed… so awesome that Chris was back out there racing, too!

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