Last minute snow adds an extra element of adventure to the Fat Pursuit in JayP's Backyard series.
For 2017 the course of the 60km was changed at the last minute as conditions deteriorated and mother nature decided that fast groomers prepared all week needed to be replaced with a minimum of 8-12 inches of powder down low and several feet on the plateau. Given the 60km doesn't require overnight gear it simply would not be safe to run the normal route so a lap format out and back was chosen.
Difficult conditions were the theme despite the simplified course. With a mass start packing in a single fast line racers were forced to slog in deep snow if they left the skinny. Passing was extremely difficult with the single packed line. Any racer that slacked off for a minute would find themselves quickly stopped in deep snow on the sides of the track causing a pile up for the riders following close behind. For extra fun parts of the course traversed roads were cars had put shifting ruts in the ice the week before to help pull riders off their line as the unseen ruts tickled tires.
This was my first time out on a Fat Bike. Dan from Great Divide Cyclery was nice enough to let me borrow one of the shop demo bikes (I know right?) for the trip. The bike managed to make it there and back again with the protective stickers from shipping still attached. The only modifications required were moving the pogies, water bottle holders, and my Garmin mount over from my commuter bike. Oh and dropping the tire pressure to a comfy 4PSI.
Meanwhile Erin Woodrow was out enjoying herself on her capable winter race bike. While passing each other as I headed out on my second lap Erin breifly considered calling it a day and enjoying a pizza in the lodge instead of heading out for her final lap. But on second thought why cut out early when the sun was starting to shine through the clouds as the snow stopped and the traffic was finally clearing up on the course.
At the end of the day both myself and Erin managed to finish the entire 34 miles. This was a significant accomplishment given the 3am departure from Helena, a drive in near zero visibilty over unplowed roads, as well as the overall effort itself. In the end my ride accumulated a TSS of nearly 70% of my effort from the Butte 100 in July... with less than half the time on course. Thankfully it was a just for fun effort that kicked off the base miles season with a healthy boost to the lagging winter CTL.
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