Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pedaling in POWder at the 28 Below

One thing you need to understand about the Black Hills, is that the hills hold snow.  Even with the exceptionally dry winter we had, and no snow on the ground in town, there was more than enough snow in the high country for Fat Biking at the 2016, 28 Below.  This year was the 3rd Annual event, and even though the race takes place in mid March, so far 2 out of 3 races have been full on winter events!!  In all actuality we tend to get some of our biggest storms of the season in March, and this year was no exception!  With the race set to take place on Saturday, the snow started falling on Thursday and didn't stop until the race was over.  Due to the fact that the state Groomers had already called it quits for the year with the low snow, we decided to bring in a 30 inch groomer to pave the way for riders.  We spent all day Thursday and Friday out grooming, only to have it dumped on and covered with 5+inches of fresh snow by race day.  
Futile grooming
Due to the fresh snow, and what we knew would be tough riding conditions, we made the call to shorten the course.  Instead of turning onto the 7 miles of powder covered Trail 3a, we opted to stay on Wagon Canyon road, which was a 2 mile stretch on a gravel road, with much less powder.  From there riders would reunite with the course, and slug it out through the snowy forest.
Riders head up the Wagon Canyon Reroute.
Back on Course, Snowmobile Trail #3 climbing to Cement Ridge.
The race started with 57 riders toeing the line, at 8am Saturday morning, and temps in the low teens.  In all everyone had a great time even though most riders water tubes froze up instantly, and there was a lot of hike a bike through the soft, new powder that covered much of the trail.
When in doubt let air out, was the theme of the day.
The 28 Below race, is the only permitted event in the Black Hills that takes place on groomed snowmobile trail.  It consists of a roughly 30+ mile lollipop loop, with an out and back on a spur trail up to a fire lookout called Cement Ridge. 
Cement Ridge Aid Station.

The first sign of blue sky as riders leave Cement Ridge.
The fire lookout is around mile 18 and makes for a great aid station, as the views from this refuge gives riders a 360 degree view of the surrounding forest.  But being out in no man's land, it isn't an easy task to get our volunteers up there.  Luckily we have some of the best volunteers and friends a race director could ask for, and they always manage to make it to the top in time to serve up some of tasty Rachel's homemade chicken noodle soup.  This year they used a 4x4 and blazed through 5+ inches of fresh powder, with the boys white knuckling up front and the girls squealing and cheering in the back as they slid, jumped and sped their way to the top.
Thanks to Kirk Munro's mad driving skills and Legend Air Suspensions
beast of a vehicle, for getting staff and supplies safely to the top!!
Once up top they began to set up camp, but soon realized they forgot the soup pan back at the cabin!  As Christian was about ready to heat up the garbage can lid and start the soup a boiling, Heather made a quick phone call (Cement Ridge is the only spot on course with cell reception) to fellow Ridge Rider Brian Stampe.  That set in motion a series of events that got a pan to the top, and the soup to a near boil, just in time for the first rider to roll in.  Now that's teamwork, dedication, and one helluva group of good friends and volunteers!!  As the day progressed the Jameson and Crown Royal bottles were emptied, the soup was devoured, and every rider was treated to some of the best hospitality this side of the Rockies.
A steamy shot of Jameson will heal what ails ya!

Bacon drop at Cement Ridge!
The racing itself was close as riders vied for position, letting out pressure, trying to find the best line, often crashing in the soft white powder, and growing some beautiful white frostaches and ice-beards.
In the end local rider Zach Stone took the podium with a time of 2:50:42, followed closely by another local Nate Keck, just a minute behind.  We had six ladies finish the ride this year with Aubry Hoard taking the win in a time of 3:47:34. 
Second Place Women's, Paulette Kirby finishes with a smile.
Zach Stone takes the win!
The after party, hosted out of Spearfish Canyon Lodge, is a great venue as the race starts and finishes right out the front door.   There was plenty of beer from our local brewers at Crow Peak Brewery, some live music, and food for all the racers to enjoy.  The prize table was also overflowing with some great schwag from all of our sponsors, and everyone ended up with a prize off the table.  Equal cash was awarded to the top 3 mens and women's overall, and Quarq even gave out a Fatbike Powermeter valued at $1200, to the overall fastest rider of the day!

Zach Stone takes home the Fatbike Quarq Powermeter!
Top 3 women take home the cash!
To add a little fun to the race this year, we held an on course Easter Egg hunt.  48 eggs were filled with candy, a slip of paper that riders could redeem for a prize, and were scattered throughout the course. Prizes included Salsa Water Bottles, Sram hats or socks, Acme coozies, RMS care packages, and various other items donated by our AWESOME sponsors.  The Golden Egg was found at the top of Cement Ridge, and had the special prize of a Four Deep down tube bag from Dirtbags, for the lucky winner.  We even heard someone found an egg in the Cement Ridge outhouse!  You just never know where you might find an egg.
Golden Egg Found
This year's 28 below was a challenging ride that tested riders endurance and their will to hike-a-bike.  We hope everyone had a great time, and maybe learned a few lessons on the challenges of winter riding.  We look forward to seeing everyone back next year for the 4th annual 28 Below Race/Ride/Tour.  Pedal POWer!

A special thanks to all of our awesome volunteers, and the sponsors who help make this race possible. 

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