Fat Tire Festival | Race Recap
Photos | Kate Austin Photography
20th Annual Fat Tire Festival Race Recap, Downhill & Super D
Pack the bags, the food and the bikes. It’s race time again! This rounds destination is located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the 20th Annual Fat Tire Festival. The festival would hold 4 events. Short track, XC, Super D, and DH, the latter two disciplines held on the popular brand new downhill trails. The course of action for me over the weekend would consist of first the Downhill race in the morning followed by the Super D later that afternoon.
Being my first ever Fat Tire Festival, I didn’t know what to expect. I quickly found out that this venue was no joke. Food trucks, team tents, Monster Energy, bouncy houses and places for riders to have lunch were all present neatly tucked into the base of the downhill trails, and very close to the finish line. Awesome setup. It was almost as if the organizers have done this nineteen times before!
After scoping out the venue, it was time to kit up for downhill practice. The track would be DH 3, a rider favorite black diamond trail consisting of huge, fast bike park style berms, jumps on the upper half followed by high speed, high consequence (more on that later) rock gardens thrown in on the second half followed by the iconic table top double into the finish line. An awesome race course that would reward clever line choice and an eagerness for leaving fingers off of the brakes. That morning I got two mellow practice runs in to see the condition of the track. In short, some berms were slightly looser and more dusty than before that would require more vigilance to stay rubber side down, but other than that it was very similar to what I had seen riding a couple of weekends prior.
After a rider meeting at the start of DH 3 it was time to start sending riders on their runs. The vibe is positive at the top, and people are looking forward to getting down the hill. In the start hut it was time to focus and get ready to sprint out of the gate. Race organizer and shredder, Brian Fawley counts down 3…2…1… go! Fast forward about 3 minutes and I feel happy with my run, hold a slow down coming out of the bridge just before the finish. The results show me fifth in my class. Not bad, but I knew I had more in the tank. Luckily I still had Super D later in the day to redeem myself. After the race it was time to eat lunch and spectate the final riders coming down at the steepest rock garden on track. We witness a combination of close calls, crashes and successful attempts through the chunder, luckily everyone coming out in one piece.
Super D Race
Heading out for practice it is immediately apparent that this course would be a lung buster. The course starts with a very tight corner followed by a traversing, punchy transfer climb where it drops into DH 4, the entrance of a steep climb up to the hub where we would drop into DH 5, an intermediate downhill trail consisting of fast berms and rock sections near the bottom. Upon arriving at the top for the riders meeting it was a unique mix of lycra and baggies, something not common for the usual enduro race attendees like me. I knew then that to do well, it would be a full fledged sprint up the climbs to compete with the fitness levels of some really fit riders. Out of the start was a full on sprint to the first climb. Going up I felt fast and efficient, but nearing max heart rate, the next climb would be a challenge. Wheezing after the second climb, I drop into stage five. I feel as though it is the fastest I’ve gone on this trail, then I found the edge of the trail and got spit off the side and crashed. I came into the finish happy though because I gave my best effort and ended up second overall after the times from the DH and Super D were added up.
After the race, time was spent lounging at the massive sitting area at base camp where the food truck was serving, most notably, pulled pork BBQ fries. The perfect recovery formula. After all the racers were done it was time to head to Chelsea’s, a rustic restaurant in Eureka Springs where there were highlights of all of the past Fat Tire Festivals from 1999 on. Pretty cool. Results were excellent for team Gravitas with Lucas Byrne taking the win in U17 and the second fastest time overall on the day on the Downhill, Garrett Hubbard managed 3rd combined DH and Super D, I managed 2nd combined DH and Super D, Steven Byrne got on the box in 3rd in Downhill, Jaxon Byrne managed 8th in his class, Andy Wiseman in 11th and Nicholas Byrne had his run end early because of a broken chain in the downhill. All in all, a solid weekend and excellent event.
None of this would be possible without our awesome and supportive sponsors. Oven and Tap, Mojo Cycling, Bike Rack Brewing, Visit Bentonville, Kimberly Homes Inc, American National insurance – Rusty Cramer, Greater Bentonville Chamber, Skratch Labs, and OZ Trails.