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The Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trail in Farmington Connecticut

Mountain biking is not typically thought of as a spectator sport. The Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic however was a great deal more spectator friendly then most trail races. Especially in light of the day's heavy rains chances are you would have been substantially wetter and colder having to traverse the circuit on two wheels. The course was roughly 4.7 miles in length and it wound around a quiet lake that shimmered with each rain drop and through conifer lined trails that were typically not observable, but if you wandered into the drenched woods you could witness the spectacle of athletes sporting loads of mud, with their bodies steaming in the cold and for the most part brooding in a silent trance, focusing on their line. Huddled spectators, sheltered themselves from the rain under picnic pavilions while cheering family and team members on as they passed.

Breaking loose from the gates: The storm explodes from the start gate and begins ferociously eating up trail

Before the races kicked off, Pedal Pushers Online had a chance to speak to a few of the folk involved in organizing the races. As we've come to expect the mountain bike set to be, they were cordial, welcoming and all too happy to answer questions about the race and the course.

rule"
The site of the race was the Winding Trails Recreation Association, a Not-For-Profit association whose mission statement includes dedication to family, preservation of the environment, and strengthening the character of the people that they serve. The proceeds from the race were destined to provide free day camp services for some of the region's needy children but, the giving didn't stop there. According to Scott Brown this is the ninth year for the Fat Tire Classic which had been the largest XC MTB Race in the Northeast raising funds for the camp which has been in operation since 1947. Serving 460 kids per 2 week session, it is accredited through the American Camping Association and it offers 4 sessions for kids three through thirteen. It draws its campers from Farmington and surrounding communities and the sessions are free of charge to families meeting certain financial needs standards. Member owned the association focuses on providing outdoor activities such as fishing derbies, roller hockey leagues, skiing, youth soccer and baseball.

Rain Delays: The muddy unforgiving conditions caused big splits in the peloton. Some riders could bridge the gaps while others suffering frm mechanicals got stuck and lagged behind

Race services and support were provided by another charitable Not-For-Profit organization, Root 66 Racing. a race support organization providing a race series here in the Northeast. Jill Logan explained the philosophy of the organization and the charitable focus of their efforts. By supporting and underwriting a race series of nearly twenty races their aim is to excite renewed interest in the sport of mountain bike racing. Through their support of the race producers they insure a well planned event by providing guidance and material support. Any profits generated are dedicated to underwriting bicycles for the Channel Three Kids Camp in Andover Connecticut. Although the camp has had a mountain bike race course there for some time and has sponsored races, it was only recently discovered that they did not own any mountain bikes to operate the trails with during camp times. So this year Root 66 is dedicating itself to remedying that situation.

rule"

Back to the race... Dick Lutz the NORBA National Commissar and official for the race outlined the schedule of events, Kids Race, First Timers, Beginners, Sport, Expert and Professional classes were all held throughout the day. Normally drawing 700 riders, the weather definitely reduced attendance but, those who were there rode for the glory! Dick stressed the inclusiveness of the racing in the Northeast, pointing out that nearly all the races in the Northeast include a first timers race, something you won't see as often out west. He commented, "Fun that's what its about... when I first started doing this everybody would come with their family, mother, father, kids, family dog, bar-b-que grill and just have fun.

Wash and Ride, day-long heavy rains left a river that flooded the trail adding a cold, wet obstacle to get through



The races proceeded with divine rhythm orchestrated by the officials. The rain continued unabated and some of the sections of double-track transformed themselves into lakes, smaller and probably not as deep as the 80 acre lake outside the lodge but, there was no way around them and through them the riders plunged. Proceeding up the double-track and around a hill to double back through a singletrack that was well groomed and nicely drained, this all leading to the track's plunge into the woods and down to the level of the lake through a steep greasy downhill singletrack.
Wash and Ride, day-long heavy rains left a river that flooded the trail adding a cold, wet obstacle to get through

All who entered this torture track of pain experienced its wrath. Many nervous riders applied the brakes on their way down and each that did rapidly plumented to the trail's edge becoming another obstacle for the riders behind them. Those more tenured to trail racing, found a Zen place and hovered over the bike, relaxed, no brakes, weightless into the corners of the snaking, snarling, muddy, downhill single-bike lane.

A quote from Steve Witkus

Gary: We are here with Steve Witkus of Team Peloton brought to you by Domino, first place winner of the Sport Class Age Group 40-49 race, Congratulations on your win Steve, so you told me that you like this kind of weather?
Steve: Yes I like the rough weather for ridin'... If there is a big wind, or if there is rough water and things I love it! It just gives me the incentive to keep goin'.

I took off in the beginning, got the hole shot, looked back and said, "I can follow this course on my own." I didn't look back the whole way, I just kept passin' people and just figuring I'd slow people down by passing the juniors and stuff along the way. I knew they couldn't get around them. The more people I passed, the harder it would be for some of these other guys to catch up to me.

On the Course: A lady rider makes her way down a muddy dwn hill while the pack chases Steve (The Leader) to make up time on his wide lead.

Gary: So your strategy was to go out hard, keep on going, and not let anything get in your way?
Steve: That's right, it's the first mountain bike race i've done since, psshaaaw, probably 1990? And I've been to a few Cyclocross races just trying to get back into it again. I'm 42 years of age this year, I just started a family, built a house and all that stuff, and I just wanted to get back to my roots where I came from back to havin' fun again.

Gary: So now let's talk about the cyclocross background.. Hurt ya? helped ya?
Steve: It helps you for sure. Learning to struggle through the pain and things like that. When you're going through tough terrain and then just doing a lot of biking over the years, Enduro's with New England trail riders, with a motorcycle through the woods in the rough weather, you learn to catch your line and hold it. The line is key.

Gary: You know that back slope where you come off down into the lake there. How'd you handle that one?
Steve: I took one foot out of the pedal and used it like an outrigger coming down the hills. I used the rear brake as much as I could. The disc brakes help out a lot in the wet weather.

Gary: Now I heard some people saying that most of the people who DNF'd because of brake problems were riding disc brakes. Now what do you think about that?
Steve: Well that was the first time I used disc brakes and I don't believe that would be the case, because in dirt bike riding you run with disc brakes all the time and they last the whole race with no problem.

Gary: Now were you on the bike the whole way, or did you use the cyclocross trick and pick up the bike and run with it?
Steve: I ran a couple of hills but only because I had a rock stuck between my chain ring and my frame or something preventing me from coming out of gear right. The last lap was a little rough. But I got through it ran up the hills, fixed it an jumped back on again.

Gary: So a little technical anomaly, fix it and off you go again, Well it sure was fun watching you out there today. I don't know how much fun it was to be out there racing today.
Steve: It was a blast, I felt sorry for you guys standing around watching. It was great to get out and do something today.


Of Age: Riders of all ages competed on the same course making for interesting trail sparring. The result must have been educational for all that were involved

The trick to excelling in this race was a fast jump off the line, keeping up the fervid pace, aggresive riding in the double-track and confidence in the technical single-track. All this and a little luck in less then optimal conditions spelled glory for those who were there to reap it and agony for those denied victory's sweetness.

The Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trail in Farmington Connecticut

Mountain biking is not typically thought of as a spectator sport. The Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic however was a great deal more spectator friendly then most trail races. Especially in light of the day's heavy rains chances are you would have been substantially wetter and colder having to traverse the circuit on two wheels. The course was roughly 4.7 miles in length and it wound around a quiet lake that shimmered with each rain drop and through conifer lined trails that were typically not observable, but if you wandered into the drenched woods you could witness the spectacle of athletes sporting loads of mud, with their bodies steaming in the cold and for the most part brooding in a silent trance, focusing on their line. Huddled spectators, sheltered themselves from the rain under picnic pavilions while cheering family and team members on as they passed.

Breaking loose from the gates: The storm explodes from the start gate and begins ferociously eating up trail

Before the races kicked off, Pedal Pushers Online had a chance to speak to a few of the folk involved in organizing the races. As we've come to expect the mountain bike set to be, they were cordial, welcoming and all too happy to answer questions about the race and the course.

rule"
The site of the race was the Winding Trails Recreation Association, a Not-For-Profit association whose mission statement includes dedication to family, preservation of the environment, and strengthening the character of the people that they serve. The proceeds from the race were destined to provide free day camp services for some of the region's needy children but, the giving didn't stop there. According to Scott Brown this is the ninth year for the Fat Tire Classic which had been the largest XC MTB Race in the Northeast raising funds for the camp which has been in operation since 1947. Serving 460 kids per 2 week session, it is accredited through the American Camping Association and it offers 4 sessions for kids three through thirteen. It draws its campers from Farmington and surrounding communities and the sessions are free of charge to families meeting certain financial needs standards. Member owned the association focuses on providing outdoor activities such as fishing derbies, roller hockey leagues, skiing, youth soccer and baseball.

Rain Delays: The muddy unforgiving conditions caused big splits in the peloton. Some riders could bridge the gaps while others suffering frm mechanicals got stuck and lagged behind

Race services and support were provided by another charitable Not-For-Profit organization, Root 66 Racing. a race support organization providing a race series here in the Northeast. Jill Logan explained the philosophy of the organization and the charitable focus of their efforts. By supporting and underwriting a race series of nearly twenty races their aim is to excite renewed interest in the sport of mountain bike racing. Through their support of the race producers they insure a well planned event by providing guidance and material support. Any profits generated are dedicated to underwriting bicycles for the Channel Three Kids Camp in Andover Connecticut. Although the camp has had a mountain bike race course there for some time and has sponsored races, it was only recently discovered that they did not own any mountain bikes to operate the trails with during camp times. So this year Root 66 is dedicating itself to remedying that situation.

rule"

Back to the race... Dick Lutz the NORBA National Commissar and official for the race outlined the schedule of events, Kids Race, First Timers, Beginners, Sport, Expert and Professional classes were all held throughout the day. Normally drawing 700 riders, the weather definitely reduced attendance but, those who were there rode for the glory! Dick stressed the inclusiveness of the racing in the Northeast, pointing out that nearly all the races in the Northeast include a first timers race, something you won't see as often out west. He commented, "Fun that's what its about... when I first started doing this everybody would come with their family, mother, father, kids, family dog, bar-b-que grill and just have fun.

Wash and Ride, day-long heavy rains left a river that flooded the trail adding a cold, wet obstacle to get through



The races proceeded with divine rhythm orchestrated by the officials. The rain continued unabated and some of the sections of double-track transformed themselves into lakes, smaller and probably not as deep as the 80 acre lake outside the lodge but, there was no way around them and through them the riders plunged. Proceeding up the double-track and around a hill to double back through a singletrack that was well groomed and nicely drained, this all leading to the track's plunge into the woods and down to the level of the lake through a steep greasy downhill singletrack.
Wash and Ride, day-long heavy rains left a river that flooded the trail adding a cold, wet obstacle to get through

All who entered this torture track of pain experienced its wrath. Many nervous riders applied the brakes on their way down and each that did rapidly plumented to the trail's edge becoming another obstacle for the riders behind them. Those more tenured to trail racing, found a Zen place and hovered over the bike, relaxed, no brakes, weightless into the corners of the snaking, snarling, muddy, downhill single-bike lane.

A quote from Steve Witkus

Gary: We are here with Steve Witkus of Team Peloton brought to you by Domino, first place winner of the Sport Class Age Group 40-49 race, Congratulations on your win Steve, so you told me that you like this kind of weather?
Steve: Yes I like the rough weather for ridin'... If there is a big wind, or if there is rough water and things I love it! It just gives me the incentive to keep goin'.

I took off in the beginning, got the hole shot, looked back and said, "I can follow this course on my own." I didn't look back the whole way, I just kept passin' people and just figuring I'd slow people down by passing the juniors and stuff along the way. I knew they couldn't get around them. The more people I passed, the harder it would be for some of these other guys to catch up to me.

On the Course: A lady rider makes her way down a muddy dwn hill while the pack chases Steve (The Leader) to make up time on his wide lead.

Gary: So your strategy was to go out hard, keep on going, and not let anything get in your way?
Steve: That's right, it's the first mountain bike race i've done since, psshaaaw, probably 1990? And I've been to a few Cyclocross races just trying to get back into it again. I'm 42 years of age this year, I just started a family, built a house and all that stuff, and I just wanted to get back to my roots where I came from back to havin' fun again.

Gary: So now let's talk about the cyclocross background.. Hurt ya? helped ya?
Steve: It helps you for sure. Learning to struggle through the pain and things like that. When you're going through tough terrain and then just doing a lot of biking over the years, Enduro's with New England trail riders, with a motorcycle through the woods in the rough weather, you learn to catch your line and hold it. The line is key.

Gary: You know that back slope where you come off down into the lake there. How'd you handle that one?
Steve: I took one foot out of the pedal and used it like an outrigger coming down the hills. I used the rear brake as much as I could. The disc brakes help out a lot in the wet weather.

Gary: Now I heard some people saying that most of the people who DNF'd because of brake problems were riding disc brakes. Now what do you think about that?
Steve: Well that was the first time I used disc brakes and I don't believe that would be the case, because in dirt bike riding you run with disc brakes all the time and they last the whole race with no problem.

Gary: Now were you on the bike the whole way, or did you use the cyclocross trick and pick up the bike and run with it?
Steve: I ran a couple of hills but only because I had a rock stuck between my chain ring and my frame or something preventing me from coming out of gear right. The last lap was a little rough. But I got through it ran up the hills, fixed it an jumped back on again.

Gary: So a little technical anomaly, fix it and off you go again, Well it sure was fun watching you out there today. I don't know how much fun it was to be out there racing today.
Steve: It was a blast, I felt sorry for you guys standing around watching. It was great to get out and do something today.


Of Age: Riders of all ages competed on the same course making for interesting trail sparring. The result must have been educational for all that were involved

The trick to excelling in this race was a fast jump off the line, keeping up the fervid pace, aggresive riding in the double-track and confidence in the technical single-track. All this and a little luck in less then optimal conditions spelled glory for those who were there to reap it and agony for those denied victory's sweetness.

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