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The fourth edition of Fat Chance! will kick off the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series. 

With four races in the series this year, including the debut of both the Vasa Fat Bike Race and Vineyard Race, Fat Chance! is the old-boy on the block now. While being four years old isn’t normally much a milestone, in the fat bike world, that’s nearly as old as it gets. Fat Chance! has always offered some exciting racing, albeit traditionally in very demanding conditions.

The first two years of the race featured a course the included pavement, a flat-out drag race that worked to punctuate a sinuous, winding route on what is now the Otter Loop at Crystal Mountain. That course is now a permanent fixture at the mountain, and one that Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing revisited a week ago at their Fat Camp training camp.

Last year, the course headed out onto the wooded, rolling terrain near the south and west end of the property, something that will be added upon in 2016 with a trip into the Betsie River Valley. Crystal’s grooming efforts have made the trails a true destination, and the forecasted snow this week should make conditions ideal on race day.

If Fat Chance! is already a tradition, than winning it is as well for Jorden Wakeley. He’s made the race his own, to be honest, although this is one of the deepest fields yet to toe the line. No one will be more eager to return to winning ways, after finishing third on the icy Farmhand Fat Bike race course in Cannonsburg this past weekend. Brad White, already nearing form before a trip to the Middle East, took the win ahead of Matt Acker who, it should be noted, finished on the exact same time as his beard.

Brian Geshel was fourth, and he is already confirmed to start alongside Acker and Wakeley at Fat Chance!, with the Traverse City crowd expected to join in as well. Ryan Kennedy and Jon Throop will lead the way for Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing, buoyed by Wes Sovis and Jeff Socia, along with others, in the Men’s Open. They’ll also start both Don Marsh and Keith Conway in the Master’s class, both of whom have their eyes on the long game as they vie for the Series title. Nick Wierzba looks to be the lead rider for Hagerty Cycling after a tremendous Iceman Cometh, while Rob Goepfrich, an staple of the fat bike race scene, will look to take the Master’s title by cleaning up the first event with a win.

The women’s race sees the return of a former winner in Danielle Musto and a former Series winner in Chelsea Strate. They’ll be up against it with Katti Krikke, who was just over a minute back Saturday to Musto at Farmhand. Strate will look to improve upon third, while Kim Thomas should be taken seriously if she’s on the line Saturday after fourth on the icy inclines of Cannonsburg this past weekend. Bear suit or no, Jenny Scott is always a treat to have on course and the last person anyone will forget about as the race hits the halfway point. Liz Belt will lead a full line-up from the revamped Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing women’s squad, including Janna Goethel, Stephanie Baklarz, and Aime Elve in the 90 minute race.

The course itself suits a rider comfortable riding in a pack. The 8.5 mile loop is mostly flat and wide, but if riders don’t have the horsepower, they won’t be in contact long. Should conditions deteriorate, look for expert bike handlers like Acker, Wakeley, Musto and Strate to wait to move late.  With an emphasis on shorter, more intense and competitive racing, the day should play out more like Mud, Sweat and Beers than last year’s Fat Chance!, and starting at midday, the changing conditions, tactics and pure luck with play a big role.

The start list could still grow, with registration closing on January 20 at 11pm.  Day-of registration is available for an additional $10.