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With malfunctions, cold and darkness, Chris Kushman pulled through.

Jorden Wakeley’s attempt at going undefeated in 2013 came to an impressive and heroic end today at the Fat Camp! Fat Bike Race presented by Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series. Just five pedal strokes into the race, his chain exploded, and he was left making repairs while a bevy of fast dudes rode away up the groomed trail. Alex Vanias made his fat bike debut just hours after winning the 40km overall at the White Pine Stampede. That’s a cross country ski race, just so you know.

Also on the start line were the stars of Einstein Racing’s recent domination of the fat bike world championships. Jason Lowetz, Chris Kushman and Ryan Kennedy all returned, bringing aspirations of another all-Einstein podium at day’s end.

Lowetz took charge, dragging away Kushman, Vanias and Duo category racer Yours Truly over the first half of the lap. Behind, Ryan Kennedy struggled with dead lights and sections of deep snow, while Wakeley made frantic repairs back at the start line. The Giant of Grayling eventually got back on the lead lap, without any lights, and nestled in the pack with Kushman, Vanias and Lowetz.

Midway through the race Lowetz took a flyer, breaking up the pack and leaving everyone chasing his disappearing wheel. Vanias called it a day after losing a frozen contact, and Wakeley pulled shortly after, finally bowing out to cold and the complete lack of a head light.

The Women’s race was never in question, with Einstein Racing’s very, very Norwegian Chelsea Strate braving the cold and beating many of the men. Christina Peek returned and cashed in a second place ahead of fat bike debut Maddy Miller. Miller was also making her first appearance as Captain of the Hagerty-TOLaw U-25 team, and her podium was the second of the year for the youth development squad.

With a lap to go, Lowetz came through with just ten seconds ahead of Kushman, but the Silent Assassin was closing fast. The normally quiet, casual Kushman had fire in his belly and looked up at Lowetz with serious intent. Ten minutes later, the crowd went wild when Kushman emerged from the darkness, standing on the pedals and pushing across the line for a huge win. Lowetz came in second, with Ryan “Mr. President” Kennedy coming in for a hard-fought third, spending much of the day battling malfunctioning lights.

The Duo category format was switched to one hour per man, and Cody Sovis went full attack mode to start the race. He put in about two minutes a lap, and handed the bike off after an hour and six minutes to twin and Hagerty-TOLaw U-25 teammate Wes Sovis just two minutes short of putting the lap on. Wes took to his first time on a fat bike like a goose to the gander, and gave the squad the first win of the season. Marc “Gentlemen Prefer” Brunette and Spencer “The Man With The Built-In Nickname” Payne took second.

A very special chapeau to Over the Shoulder-kolotc.com racer Kenn Pickel, who was the only man brave or insane enough to race the skinny tire division. Amazingly, he still got 6 laps in, in spite of terrible conditions for a 29er and a flat tire! Way to go, Kenn, and may your name live forever in OtS-kolotc.com lore as the bringer of the team’s first win.

Full results up soon at 42-85 as always.

NMFBS returns on February 12 for Fat Tuesday! at the Grand Traverse Civic Center.