Summer tends to fly by pretty quickly up here in the northern part of the globe, and this season was certainly no different. The Arctic MTB club hosted its 3-part end of the season extravaganza recently, and riders from all over south central Alaska came to celebrate the conclusion of another great series of races. The Trifecta takes the place of what used to be the Alaskan State MTB Championships, and offers racers one last shot at glory with three distinctly different events, requiring riders to have a well-rounded repertoire of skills if they want to take an overall win.
The first event took place at Anchorage’s Hillside trail system and was affectionately dubbed the “Anti-Enduro” by some. Easing yourself into the race series simply was not an option, as the steep climb up the Spencer Loop was a challenge for even the strongest of heart and lung.
A total of 56 racers lined up on a beautiful Alaskan summer night and waited eagerly for the official countdown to begin. With only one lap of the hillclimb course, riders had to be decisive and commit themselves to the grueling climb up the Spencer Loop course. The instant the race official said the word “go,” the entire field was locked in a full sprint, with newly-airborne dust billowing from the competitors’ tires. As the cross country trail narrowed down to a winding path through the woods, riders jockeyed for position and somehow avoided any contact (Alaskans tend to be polite, friendly people) and filed up for the grueling ascent. Over the next 2.34 miles, racers were stacked wheel-to-wheel, gaining position only when the rider ahead’s legs faltered. At the end of the race, the victors were Will Ross, Megan Chelf, Chris Wrobel, Ellie Mitchell, Jason Slemons, Brooke Therrien, Cadence Stull, Tom Peichel, Garrett Alderman, Maeve Nevins, Will Corbridge, and Amber Bethe.
After a much deserved day of rest, the town of Girdwood was overrun by the colorfully-kitted and their knobby-tired race machines. A question often asked by cyclists up here in Alaska, “why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot?” was answered by the race organizers, who planned two challenging events at the Alyeska resort for Saturday. First on the agenda was a cross country race utilizing a combination of trails and service roads that led riders up the steep face of Alyeska.
While the majority of the course demanded that riders keep their heads down and pedal, there were a number of technical sections to allow riders to give their legs a brief respite and instead put their bikehandling skills to the test. The first to cross the line at the morning’s event were Will Ross, Megan Chelf, Dane Tudor, Ellie Mitchell, Chris Cavanaugh, Jessica Thompson, Keelay Wright, Cadence Stull, Tom Peichel, Karl Lavtar, Maeve Nevins, Will Corbridge, and Amber Bethe.
Not wanting to let the riders off easy, the last event of the 2015 season was a so-called “Dirt Crit,” which, at first conjured up images of what could become a fairly-boring loop around some flat terrain. However, not all crits are created equal, and what’s exciting for roadies doesn’t translate over to the masochists who prefer their cycling off the pavement. Using some of the initial (and lung-searing) course from the morning’s event, racers then descended through the rocky and rooted singletrack, finishing with a booter to send themselves airborne, back down to the start and finish line.
Sticking to the criterium format, the novice and intermediate classes raced for 20 minutes + 1 lap while the experts endured 40 minutes + 1 lap, which meant that there was certainly opportunities to practice pacing strategies. For one rider in particular, a winning strategy was to stop just shy of the timing lights and strip down to his bibs. Whether this was for maintaining a pace or to please the rowdy crowd that had gathered at the Sitzmark grill, we may never know.
Once the dust had settled after 30 and 40 painful minutes, respectively, the winners of the Dirt Crit were Dane Tudor, Ellie Mitchell, Chris Cavanaugh, Jessica Thompson, Cadence Stull, Chris Schutte, Will Corbridge, and Amber Bethe in the Novice and Intermediate categories, with Will Ross, Megan Chelf, and Tom Peichel taking the top positions in the Expert class.
While the mountain bike races are over, riders are already looking forward to getting their next fix. From what I’ve been told, the ‘cross season is pretty rowdy up here in the 49th state, so expect to see some mudslinging coverage coming here shortly!
Full Race Results: