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Fat Chance!, Farmer’s Fat Bike Race and the Noque World Championships serve as a Murderer’s Row of fat biking to kick off 2014. 

This weekend’s Fat Chance! Fat Bike Race at Crystal Mountain serves as the launching pad for the fat bike season in earnest. While the Winter Rush races have already been in progress, and the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series had its first race December 21, January is packed with events that will call out some of the big guns of fat biking racing.

Fat Chance! serves as race numero dos of the Great Lakes Series and the first for Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series, which creates a unique chance to see the fast men and women from both on the same start lines. Back from his victory last season will be Jorden Wakeley, with Ryan Kushman, Jason Lowetz, Sean Kickbush and Jason Whittaker expected to try to keep the win in house from 2013. However, Evan Simula, a Yooper making the trip, will also be a big challenger. He’s one of many riders drawn to the race for Great Lakes points, as is Scott Chambers. The dark horse of the day is Ken Blakey-Shell, one of the most experience fat bikers in the state, with tons of time in the saddle and great preparations.

Chelsea Strate is confirmed for Einstein Racing, leading the way for an Einstein team that has put special emphasis on the fat bike contests, especially on the women’s side. She’ll be flanked by Stacy Smith and Beth Collins, with Arianne Whittaker also hopping in to contest. They’ll be up against fat bike legend Danielle Musto, who is the overwhelming favorite and a dominate racer on 4″ tires. It will also be the racing debut of Jaime Kemp in the two hour solo race.

Beth Collins will be the favorite in the Women’s 45+, though Dawn Cluchey is certainly a solid challenger. Craig Webb will race the Men’s 45+, with teammate and Chevy Chase lookalike Peter Worden looking to give Hagerty the top two steps of the podium.

The course at Crystal Mountain suits riders like Wakeley, Webb and Lowetz. There’s 300 feet of elevation gained on each 3.74 mile loop, but it comes gently with no gradient exceeding 6.9%. It’s a course where power is king, and small mistakes will add up. The circuit will again hit the snow covered pavement for the start/finish, making it a fast run in and in easy view of spectators and the bar, which is convenient.

The full scoop on the course is available here.

The results of Fat Chance! should be a good preview as to who will claim the rainbow stripes of Fat Bike World Champion in January 25.