MS

Saturday’s Beard of Zeus will put some fat bike diehards for a final showdown in 2015. We take a look at the women’s Open field before the big day.

Barring any day-of entries, Susan Vigland needs only to complete one lap to hold her lead in the series points chase. Simply rolling home, however, is nothing like her style. It will be a point of pride in herself and her team to go out with a bang, and Saturday’s Beard of Zeus circuit is almost perfect for her punchy style of climbing and ability to grind out the pace on the flats. She’s the odds on favorite, and certainly deserves that distinction.

Vigland will be flanked by teammate Michelle Howard, who will be riding with eyes on retaining second overall in the series. After two years of Einstein Racing success (by way of Chelsea Strate, now back in Minneapolis, and Stacy Smith, transplanted to New Mexico), Hagerty can now count not only a series win but a 1-2 to boot. Melissa Socia also returns to action, bolstering the Hagerati even further.

Those women will count Beth Collins’ finish on Saturday as the end of one era and the start of another. Beth Collins will move from Einstein Racing to Hagerty’s women’s team at the conclusion of the Series, and Collins will be looking to give one final surprise while in black and pink.

It’s not all Hagerty, however, with Leslie Hoffman entering as a series threat to the victory. She’ll have to shake and bake early and hope to divide up the Hagerty team in the opening laps, but after a strong showing at the Dogman Challenge, no one is counting her out.

Expect to see a fast race and an aggressive start as the women tuck in with the men’s field. Last year, Kim Thomas held an 11mph average on a course nearly identical to this, and with a slower incline cut from the final circuit in 2015, the speed could be even faster. It’ll feel like pavement after two 50km races in cold, blizzard conditions at Fat Chance! and ControversiALE.