Race Report: ArcticMTB Trifecta

Race face = on
Race face = on

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.

"Now there is at least one bull moose on the trail today, so make sure your bells are on." Typical advice for an Alaskan pre-race meeting
“Now there is at least one bull moose on the trail today, so make sure your bells are on.” Typical advice for an Alaskan pre-race meeting

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.

Handlebar to handlebar racing
Handlebar to handlebar racing

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.

A loose, dusty, and fast ascent up the Hillside Trails of Anchorage
A loose, dusty, and fast ascent up the Hillside Trails of Anchorage

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.

The packed field of racers beginning their first laps of Alyeska
The packed field of racers beginning their first laps 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.

Weaving through the singletrack, riders stayed close for the entire event
Weaving through the singletrack, riders stayed close for the entire event

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.

Even with 30+ minutes of sufferfesting ahead, some of the riders managed to crack a smile
Even with 30+ minutes of sufferfesting ahead, some of the riders managed to crack a smile

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.

However, most riders did not make time to strip out of their kits and instead kept to pedaling
However, most riders did not make time to strip out of their kits and instead kept to pedaling
In pursuit
In pursuit

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.

When in doubt, air it out!
When in doubt, air it out!

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!

Ending the season with a bit of style
Ending the season with a bit of style

Be sure to check out ArcticMTB’s site and Facebook page for more info and to keep up on next year’s events!

Full Race Results:

Putting some distance between himself and the rest of the pack
Putting some distance between himself and the rest of the pack
Apparently these guys missed the memo that Alyeska trails are used for downhill races...
Apparently these guys missed the memo that Alyeska trails are used for downhill races…
No chairlifts were running for these guys, they had to earn their way up to the top of the mountain
No chairlifts were running for these guys, they had to earn their way up to the top of the mountain
This guy...
This guy…

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