The Perfect Vasa: Two Days, Three Events, and BEEs Succeeding Across the Board
The 43rd Annual North American Vasa enjoyed two days of perfect winter weather this past weekend and offered up athletes some of the very best skiing and fat biking of the season. Saturday’s skate ski and fat bike races saw sun and perfect snow, and Sunday’s classic ski races fared equally well, if a touch more cloudy.
While the Fat Chance race in January kicked off the 2019 race season for a lot of fat bikers, the Vasa is possibly the biggest target of the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series. The size and organization of the race, not to mention the impeccable grooming thanks to Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, has ensured that the event has grown even while other fat bike races have died off in the past few years. With over 100 riders and plenty of talent coming in from out of town, earning the crown of King and Queen Vasa is no small feat.
After an icy section of the race was axed, changing the Long race from two 20km laps to four 10km circuits, positioning early on Logger’s Run, the wide section of trail before the singletrack, all the more crucial. Our BEEs were ready, and it’s a bit fitting that the race saw two locals, and two BEEs, take the titles. On the men’s side, Dave ‘Sunset’ Scott, who joined for the November/Decemvber block, picked up his first Vasa win after taking second in the race last season. Coach Susan Vigland cruised to the Women’s win, and the block has her in really prime shape. She said she just couldn’t get tired out there!
Josh Zelinski was the next BEE through in 6th place overall, with brother Jon in 14th place. Rob Goepfrich picked up some important Series points with 30th overall, while November/December BEE Chelsey Schlicht used her new horsepower and singletrack skills to slide home just seconds later for second overall. She’s now ensconced in the runner-up spot behind Susan after two SBFBS races, with two more dates still on the calendar.
Garrett Jenema returned to action and found the transition from mountain bikes to fat bikes a little tough, but a lot of fun. He’s been impressing each and every class in the Hive, and it’s always going to be fun to see him back on the bike for events like Beard of Zeus later this winter, once he’s had a bit of miles on wide tires.
Don Marsh has been enjoying an incredible winter in class and out on the bike, and Saturday’s age group win and high finish overall are proof that all of his hard work is paying off. He’s looking golden for a top ten in the final Series, with his favorite race, the Dogman Challenge, up next on February 23.
John Edingfield was just a few seconds behind TC legend Marilyn Kamp, with both riders coming inside the two and half hour mark. That benchmark was just a bit ahead of Birgit Conway who, suffice it to say, was happy just to keep some air in her tires! After flatting out at Fat Chance, getting in the full (and very tough) 40 at Vasa was a great way for B to get out there and stretch her legs.
For two BEEs, the fat bike race wasn’t the first objective, or the only objective, of a demanding Saturday. Earlier in the morning. Dan Novak started his Triple Threat Challenge (50km freestyle, 40km fat bike, and 34km classic on Sunday) with an impressive showing with 19th overall! While he did a wonderful job pacing all race long, he couldn’t quite contain himself and gave his pal Ken Dawson a nice sprint to the line after a solid three hours of skiing. A ways back, Coach Cody finished his first ski race, his first 50km, and his first age group podium with a time of three hours and twelve minutes, 27th overall. Nipping just at his heels was November/December BEE and his fiance, Sara Nestor. After winning the 50km Vasa in 2018, she was back on the podium in second place overall with a time of 3:19!
Marylin Kamp and Marc Brunette were both in action in the 27km ski race before hopping on bikes, with Marylin nabbing herself a podium while Marc Brunnette, who has barely had time to ski, still managed to threaten the two and a half hour mark before swapping over to pedals. Dan and Bridget Thuente both had great skis as well, with Bridget sliding in under 2 hours, a really strong showing!
Emma Schwab went for a quick (well, very quick!) 12km ski and a third place finish ripping off the skis and hopping into the 20km fat bike race! That, too, was fast…so fast that she won her age group and was the fastest woman overall!
Sunday morning might be a little more calm at the Vasa, but it’s just as tough. The 34km Classic events kicked off and saw Dan Novak in action yet again, and apparently with plenty left in the tank. The only person to ever finish the Triple Threat Challenge did it with style, capping off his weekend with third overall and a visit to the podium in a time of 2:06:44.
Scott Howard hit the line Sunday after spending much of Saturday in skis cheering on his pals. He posted a 7th place overall and an age group win in considerably more enjoyable conditions than he experienced at the frigid Noque two weeks ago. Jenn Brown, who has already had some top results at Noque and with a win at the White Pine Stampede, kept her incredible winter alive with 5th place women’s and an age group win Sunday as well. Dan Thuente and Sara Nestor also got in a second day of racing in the 16km, which had a really strong turnout this year.
In the SkiFatalon, Marc Brunnette finished up 4th overall, while Marylin Kamp took a big win on the ladies’ side. Dan Novak your Triple Threat Champ yet again, and there’s still a $200 award for any woman who completes that challenge in 2020!
A special nod to Brad Pauly, who bowed out of the 50km on Saturday. Brad has hardly had time to train outside of squeezing in his classes at BEE, and spent the week leading into the Vasa decidedly not skiing. Even with just a few trips to the trails this winter and only a run in the lead-up to the race, he still gave the Herculean task of skiing 30 miles and over 2,000 feet of elevation a go. It didn’t work out, but it takes gumption to give it a try, and that’s exact spirit every busy, hurried amateur athlete can admire.
We’ve got two BIG weeks in the Hive left before we hit the RAZOR Sharp Block, which will carry our athletes into spring racing with eight weeks. Running from March 4 through the end of April, this is the perfect block to get ready for Mud, Sweat, and Beers, plus all your favorite spring events!
Registration is now open to everyone, and spots are filling up QUICK! Reserve your bike right here.