Kerkove rolls through the Fat Pursuit 200-Mile in record time

Kerkove rolls through the Fat Pursuit 200-Mile in record time

No more than 5 days into the young 2018 season, Team Topeak-Ergon has chalked up the first win of the season at the Fat Pursuit 200-Mile. Over the the last 4 years, the Fat Pursuit has become the premiere winter fat bike ultra race in the Lower 48, often being a spring-board for the grand daddy of them all, the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Jeff is no stranger to the Fat Pursuit having competed and become successful in the 60k and 200k distances in 2017.

“Signing up for the 200-Mile event took a lot of nerve calming on my end. 200-miles is a long way on any bike....no matter the time of year. On snow, it might take 3 days or more. There are so many unknowns or guarantees with these kinds of events. You have to be ready for a very very long haul on the bike,” said Jeff.

On Friday at Noon, roughly 40 determined souls left the start line under unseasonably warm sunny skies to cover the 200-mile course through the Yellowstone Ecosystem.

In the opening 17-miles of the event, 4 riders which included Jeff, made a split from the rest of the field. Although warm, conditions were holding firm and speeds were fast. The 4 riders took turns breaking trail and setting the pace. It was at about mile 20 that Jeff soon found himself riding solo off the front.

“I was riding a comfortable pace. I told myself prior to the race to keep a light effort on the pedals, no burn in the legs....it's going to be a 30+ hour day on the bike.”

Riding alone, Jeff would tick away the miles as the sun set. For the next 14 hours Jeff would pedal and navigate the course in the dark of night.

Aid 1 came at mile 80, roughly 8 hours into the race. Here, all racers are required to stop and boil water with the stove and pot they chose to carry from the start. This is a requirement of the race organizers. Beyond mile 80 the course becomes very remote and the ability to make water is a survival skill should things go south. If racers cannot boil water at Aid 1, their race is over. Jeff made quick work of the water boil. He was able to complete the task and refuel for the push to Aid 2 in 15 minutes.

Jeff pushed a steady pace through the night as temperatures dipped down to 15ºF. His pace was timely as he was staying one step of the weather that was moving in.

“We all knew weather was to move in on Saturday, so it was crucial to keep moving forward to stay on top of the good trail conditions. I was fortunate, the trail didn't slow from fresh snowfall until the last 30-miles.”

Jeff would cross the finish line with a time of 23 hours and 58 minutes. It would be another few hours before his next competitor would join him at the finish.

“I'm super stoked to take the victory for myself, the team, and sponsors! This race went as good as a race can go. Every once and a while you have those days on the bike where everything just clicks. The Fat Pursuit was just that! I felt like I was getting stronger as the race got longer,” stated a smiling but tired Jeff.

All photos by Mike Riemer / Salsa Cycles. More photos available by emailing the team.