Two riders pull double duty and Brian Beckwith makes his 2017 debut at the Michigan Fat Bike State Championships.
Three riders were in action in three different categories on Sunday, with Grand Rapids slightly hung over from Saturday's Fat Bike National Championships. Still, a picturesque and lazy snowfall most of the day dressed up the same course that provided some thrilling action on Saturday to cap off a busy weekend.
It was Brian Beckwith first to toe the line for ERSB, his season debut for the squad. Beckwith entered the day hoping to find a baseline of his fitness as he builds for bigger goals down the line, but started out as aggressive as the team would hope. He tagged onto the back of the large Sport field as it ripped into the technical, rough opening mile of the course, and noted one of his highest heart rate values yet. He steadied into a pace and put in a strong effort for 14th place, a solid start to the season and the day for the team.
Next up, Jon Throop spilled to the line for the Expert category race. His green ERSB vest and Miami Spice Purple Bearclaw Bicycle Co. Balthazar were impossible to miss over the rolling landscape, and always near the front. He led a select group of three riders at the end of the first lap of three.
There was panic amongst those same spectators, however, when his green-and-purple livery was spotted a good thirty seconds behind the leaders at the end of the second lap. On the front of the chase with fourth place in tow, Throop was burying himself to get back in picture and stay in the hunt for a jersey. A crash had seen him go from off the front to off the back, but he wasn't about to relent. As the lead duo entered the final climb, in sight of the finish line crowd for nearly five minutes of long, grinding ascent, Throop was making quick progress. For a moment, it looked like he would regain contact, but he simply ran out of real estate, settling for a hard fought third, giving ERSB a State Championship podium.
The final of three acts for the team, Cody Sovis returned to Pro/Elite action in a small but strong field. It was very much a battle of equals, and of good spirits. An ominous start, Cody lost his number plate before the race, forcing timers to keep track of him manually, although it wasn't too hard to do. His legs, like his number plate, were missing, though he used all of his womanly wiles to stay in the race against last year's Beard of Zeus winner, Joel Polinski, M22's Tyler Weston, and Rick Wetherald.
It was a race thrilling enough for a television audience, and a treat for the sparse on-lookers privy to the action unfolding in the depressions and hillocks of Indian Trails. Weston, the Polinski, then Wetherald, then Sovis, and back and forth again, each rider took their swing at a home run attack. There was hardly an inch between them, although Sovis' two strongest attacks saw him gapped upon being caught, having to fight back into contact each time. Tired and knowing he would never win a sprint, his best chance was a long range attack at the end of the second lap, going strong from the very bottom of the finishing climb. It may have put the others on the back foot, but ultimately failed, and he was left hoping for mistake to go for the win.
There was nothing like a bobble, with the lead group even riding with a serious sort of levity through a gaggle of spectators mooning them with under a mile to go. Sovis entered the final climb last of the leaders and, unable to take advantage of any hesitation, stayed there across the line, with Joel, Wetherald and Weston comprising an exciting and memorable podium.
ERSB is back in action on the Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series front on Saturday, February 11 with the Vasa Fat Bike Race right at home at Timber Ridge.