When the Borealis Fat Bike World Championships, which had called Crested Butte, Colorado, home for five years, weren’t going to be able to reasonably meet the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, that opened up an opportunity.
Andrew Zook, who runs the Geared Up bicycle shop in Pinedale, said his town’s Chamber of Commerce reached out to the race directors and essentially said, “Hey, we can put this show on.”
And so the 2021 World Championships call Pinedale home, starting Jan. 15.
“We met with corporate sponsors, the previous race director, and decided it would be a good move to have it here in Pinedale,” said Zook, the co-race director. “At that point we picked up the staff and started moving forward with it.”
The race in previous iterations has served as something of a festival for the fat biking community, with parties through the weekend. Race weekend will take on a slightly different look this year, with demos and fat bike cornhole on Friday, the race day championship running on Saturday and a group ride on Sunday.
The competition side will have three races, running laps on an 8-mile groomed track on a private ranch. The world championship race will be three laps (24 miles), the sport class two laps (16 miles) and the beginner class (8 miles).
The race will take place at the Green River Guest Ranch, and registration will begin at noon at the Sublette County Visitors Center on Friday.
Zook said that while some high-level fat bike races are more in the vein of endurance competitions, pushing north of 50 miles, this is in the style of a cross-country race. So far the expectation is for top-level competitors coming in from as far west as Washington and as far east as Maine.
“It’s a pretty wide swath of riders that are going to come compete in Pinedale to see who the world champion is,” he said.
And yet race organizers insist the high-level riders shouldn’t be a deterrent. Take, for example, Shalesa and Chase Harber, two Pinedale cyclists who haven’t spent too much time on fat bikes but will be taking a crack at the world championship race anyway.
“I’m just trying to ride as much as I can, as much as a mom that home-schools her kids can,” Shalesa Harber said. “But yeah, I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, because I haven’t competed in this specific race.”
Still, the higher end of her goal for the weekend could be to place, depending on the turnout. Either way, she expects the nerves to give way to a competitive outing, as they often do when it comes to endurance sports. No less something that carries the title “World Championship.”
“I’m going to do my best,” she said. “I’m going to try my hardest and train as much as I can.”
That’s the point Zook most wanted to get across to folks who might be on the fence about competing.
“The thing I try to make evident is that the world championship title scares a lot of people, because they think it’s an Olympic Trial event or something of that caliber,” he said. “But it’s really more an opportunity for people to get together, see a cool place and ride their fat bikes at whatever level they feel they’re in shape for.”
Really, the reason Zook said the effort was made to relocate the race to Pinedale was giving local businesses a quick jolt and showing fat bikers what Pinedale has to offer. Zook said the many groomed trails in Pinedale do not come with the usual intersection of skiers, bikers and dog walkers, which makes for a more pleasant outing.
Also, considering the pandemic nearly wiped the race out all together, Pinedale’s location and size made it the perfect fit in this odd year, he said.
“The thing we have an advantage over a lot of places for this year is the population concentration and also the riding availability,” Zook said. “But when you get down to brass tacks, it’s because we’re the ones who solicited the event.”