Fat bike racers hard at work in the third annual Fat Freddie’s Bike Race and Ramble. Snowmachiners whirring up and down the trails. Even a classic skier flashing through the trees.
Different user groups could all agree on one thing Saturday in the Caribou Hills near Freddie’s Roadhouse, which is at Mile 16 Oilwell Road outside of Ninilchik.
“We’re all just here to enjoy the hills, you know?” said Seward’s Chaz DiMarzio.
The event continued to grow, going from 28 riders its first year to 46 last year to 48 this year, though 43 made it to the finish. Sheila Pollard, the race organizer and the daughter of Freddie’s Roadhouse owner Freddie Pollard, said more were expected but a race in Anchorage was shifted to this weekend, knocking out some potential racers.
Fat Freddie’s is made up of a race, which was 15.5 miles long and had almost 1,800 of elevation gain and loss, and the recreational ramble, which measured about 11.5 miles and also didn’t short itself on the hills.
Anchorage’s Amber Bethe won the women’s race for the second straight year, finishing at 2 hours, 9 minutes and 4 seconds, while Homer’s Catriona Reynolds was second at 2:59:07 and Kenai’s Julie Stephens was third at 3:06:18.
“It’s a fun community event,” Bethe, 44, said. “It’s a really different crowd than the Anchorage races. People are here to have fun.”
Bethe said it is neat to see the way snowmachiners support and appreciate the race.
“I asked snowmachiners for directions two times and they told me where to go,” Bethe said. “They were all nice and slowed down.”
Stephens, 57, has now completed all three Fat Freddie’s.
“It’s fun to bike with friends, and when it’s clear here, it’s absolutely gorgeous,” she said.
Stephens said she appreciated the way Sheila Pollard solicits comments on the event and makes improvements. A big improvement this year were large, color-coded signs for the race and ramble.
The Kenai resident also said it’s great to watch how the event is growing into the culture of the Caribou Hills.
“It was really cool that snowmachiners cheered for us in certain sections,” Stephens said. “Some were taking photos and they all were clapping for us.”
The men’s race went to Sterling’s Tyle Owens, 17, in a sprint finish against DiMarzio, 39. Owens finished at 1:41:08, while DiMarzio was at 1:41:18 and Brian Marang was third at 1:48:30.
The sprint finish was perhaps not as dramatic as it sounds.
“You don’t go too much faster when you stand up on a fat bike and sprint in the snow,” said Owens, estimating the two upped the pace by four mph at most.
DiMarzio won the Soggy Bottom 100 mountain bike race on the Resurrection Pass and Devil’s Creek trails in early August, while Owens was third. But DiMarzio focuses on skiing during the winter, while Owens is still faithfully riding his trainer inside. He does four hours Monday and works his way up to 10 to 12 hours for the week.
“My approach was to go hard at the start and see how long I could hold it,” DiMarzio said. “I held it until the end, when I lost to someone who’s actually been riding bikes.”
Owens surprised himself with the win. The two went back and forth all race. On the steep uphills, when bikes had to be run up the hill, DiMarzio would take the advantage because he still puts in trail runs around Seward. But on the flats and downhills, it was advantage Owens.
“I thought he was going to smoke me,” Owens said of DiMarzio. “I didn’t know how much riding he’d been doing but I knew he’d be fast.”
The Red Pedal Award went to Carl Kincaid, 57, of Sterling. Kincaid was third in the first Fat Freddie’s, sat out after back surgery last year, and came back this year to claim the trophy with the red pedal.
“I’ll add it to my collection,” he said.
Kincaid was just happy to be back on a bike and back in the Caribou Hills. He’s an avid racer at Tsalteshi Trails in the summer and said that bike culture there has definitely helped to fuel events like Fat Freddie’s.
About 25 years ago, Kincaid rode snowmachines in the hills.
“It’s a lot more fun up here on a bike,” he said.
Kincaid said riders would park in Clam Gulch and have to snowmachine all the way up. Things are different now with Oilwell Road. Racers from places like Kenai and Sterling were driving to Freddie’s in about an hour and a half.
“This is so nice with this place here now, and it all opens to this great playground,” Kincaid said.
1. Tyle Owens, 1:41:08 (1st men); 2. Chaz DiMarzio, 1:41:18 (2nd men); 3. Brian Marang, 1:48:30 (3rd men); 4. Mike Crawford, 1:48:48; 5. Nathan Kincaid, 1:50:46; 6. Amber Bethe, 2:09:04 (1st women); 7. Ryan Peterson, 2:19:56; 8. Sean Dunham, 2:32:19; 9. Bob Toll, 2:34:11; 10. Catriona Reynolds, 2:59:07 (2nd women); 11. John Iannaccone, 3:03:31; 12. Michael Gavillot, 3:05:08; 13. Julie Stephens, 3:06:18 (3rd women); 14. Tasha DiMarzio, 3:16:17; 15. Alicia Driscoll, 3:19:02; 16. Mary Simondsen, 3:19:17; 17. Kelly Sederholm, 3:19:44; 18. Christopher Alfiche, 3:31:16; 19. Jane Adkins, 3:37:19; 20. Cindy Miller, 3:37:20; 21. Taylor Jackson, 3:45:49; 22. Carl Kincaid, 3:56:24 (Red Pedal Award).
1. Joel Todd, 1:55:47; 2. Trevor Davis, 1:55:59; 3. Elijah Story, 2:01:05; 4. Hollis Swan, 2:16:15; 5. Chris Owens, 2:20:05; 6. Doug Armstrong, 2:20:29; 7. Simone Owens, 2:33:18; 8. Martha Story, 2:44:55; 9. David Story, 2:44:55; 10. Laura Pillifant, 3:03:33; 11. Ben Cheah, 3:04:27; 12. Megan Cheah, 3:05:10; 13. Joan Darnell, 3:05:37; 14. Sandra Grote, 3:07:47; 15. Deloma Howell, 3:25:06; 16. Mark Pollard, 3:25:08; 17. Tammy Farrell, 3:39:05; 18. Chris Stephl, 3:56:32; 19. Carmen Stephl, 3:56:48; 20. Twila Thompson, 4:13:04; 21. Ken Heaps, 4:13:06.