A crew of just under 150 bikers straddling cycles with large, rugged tires packed together in front of a renovated barn north of St. Croix Falls on Dec. 20, waiting for a gunshot that would signal the start of the 2nd annual Solstice Chase.
The event consists of two races, 42 and 21 kilometers respectively, that take place on “fat bikes,” cycles made especially for riding on snow.
Fat bike tires are filled with relatively little air, about 6 pounds per square inch (psi), event organizer Frank Lundeen explained to the crowd as racers assembled at the starting line. The low air pressure increases the already wide tire’s surface area, giving it more grip and allowing cyclists to roam the paradise that is Wisconsin in winter.
At the gunshot, racers pedal past spectators and into the woods on a (thin but thankfully present) layer of cold white at Big Rock Creek Retreat. The Solstice Chase kicks off the world’s biggest race series for bikes of this type, the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series.
Lundeen, who runs Cyclova XC in St. Croix Falls, calls the event “much more than a bicycle race – it’s a community festival and a celebration of winter.” And festivity was certainly in the air, with a spectator-friendly fire pit, music from local DJ Woody McBride, and food and drink from Cafe Wren.
The host venue has over 1,500 acres of scenic forest land, with many miles of trails used seasonally for mountain biking, cross country skiing, hiking, and birding. The Solstice Chase race was one of the first events to make use of the 150-foot long, 2,500 square foot barn, built in 1925, that has been undergoing extensive remodeling to serve as a convention/wedding/celebration facility.
Solstice Chase podium results:
42K Men’s race: 1-Jeff Hall, Farmington, Minn. (1:50:56); 2-Brandon Moore, Prior Lake, Minn. (1:50:58); 3-Josh Bauer, Richfield, Minn. (1:52:00)
42K Women’s race: 1-April Morgan, Hopkins, Minn. (2:13:04); 2-Danielle Musto, Grand Rapids, Mich. (2:14:20); 3-Megan Burr, Minneapolis, Minn. (2:16:47)
21K Men’s race: 1-Eric Odem, Maple Grove, Minn. (1:04:21); 2-Adam Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis. (1:04:34); 3-Stuart Bensons, Shafer, Minn. (1:05:29)
21K Women’s race: 1-Kyla Anderson, St. Cloud, Minn. (1:18:40); 2-Janis Ray, Eau Claire, Wis. (1:31:14); 3-Ann Buerman, Pinckney, Mich. (1:32:34)