Driscoll wins Fat Bike Singlespeed Nationals; Haidet 25th at LUX World Championships
Several weeks after just missing out on the stars and stripes jersey at the US Cyclocross National Championships in Hartford, CT, Jamey Driscoll claimed the gold medal at the US Fat Bike Singlespeed National Championships after finishing second in the pro men’s division to Cole House (Broken Spoke) earlier in the day. In the pro men’s division, Driscoll missed the top step of the podium by a bike throw in what was a thrilling race to the line. Two hours and some equipment changes later, Driscoll handily won the singlespeed race.
The conditions in Grand Rapids, MI weren’t exactly prime for fat bike racing, as there was only a dusting of snow on the ground, so Driscoll, a Park City resident used to riding in extremely snowy conditions, made the decision to switch from five inch tires to four.
“In Utah I have the widest rims and the widest tires I can get my hands on,” said Driscoll. “I had the fastest stuff I could get, but at the same time it wasn’t so much about the equipment when it was like a road race on fat bikes. You know, they can’t promise anything – that’s why they call it fat bike nationals and not snow bike nationals.”
The racing in Grand Rapids didn’t attract the deepest fields, but Driscoll knew it wouldn’t necessarily be a walk in the park with the absence of more technical features and snowy conditions to create natural separation. Coming from a road racing background, Driscoll knew House would be a rider to watch. More of a darkhorse was Jordan Wakeley, who rounded out the podium in third.
“Cole House knows how to race a bike,” Driscoll said. “And I was told Jordan was a ‘danger man’ and super strong.”
When Driscoll made a move through the trickier turns midway through the race and opened a gap, it was Wakeley who did the work to close him down. Biding his time until the last lap, Driscoll made the same move through the more technical bits once again opening a gap to House, Wakeley and Corey Stelljes. This time it was House who put in the effort to chase him down.
“With a half lap to go, Cole made a move and closed on me so hard,” said Driscoll. “That was his one match of the day. He closed five seconds in the last 20 seconds of the race and got me in a bike throw. That was really, really depressing.”
After a quick modification to his bike to switch from 11 gears to only one during his two-hour window, Driscoll got redemption in the singlespeed race when he easily rode away from the competition to collect his stars and stripes jersey by almost two minutes over second place Stelljes.
“I was able to get a gap in the first lap and was able to build on that,” Driscoll said. “We only did four laps, which thank god because I was starting to crack pretty hard. You really appreciate gears when you only have one! The highest point to the lowest point wasn’t that different. If you were fresh enough you could crank over hills and then coast down. That made it kind of fun.”
After the recent birth of his daughter, Driscoll chose to forego racing at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships opting instead for a quick two-day trip to Michigan. Driscoll didn’t go back to Park City with the two jerseys he wanted, but he was satisfied with his decision to experience a different type of racing.
“The finish of the pro race was heartbreaking,” said Driscoll. “There are no guarantees in racing, but it was still cool to be that close. I’m sure no one was expecting fat bike racing to be that exciting. It was definitely fun.”
“And I was pretty happy to not be at worlds, especially when I heard how many times people flatted,” added Driscoll.
Photo credit: Dejan Smaic
Across the Atlantic, Lance Haidet lined up as part of Team USA for the U23 men’s race at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg. Haidet finished the challenging race in 25th covered in mud, exhausted and stunned by the insanity of it all.
“The race was pretty awesome,” said Haidet. “The crazy conditions, so much energy and a substantial amount of U23 testosterone made for a gnarly day.”
Overnight rain and slightly warmer temperatures on Sunday gave way to a little less ice but the still treacherous, muddy and slick conditions kept the riders on point all day. It wasn’t a matter of making mistakes, it was a matter of managing them.
“On literally every drop or off-camber section, riders were drifting and sliding every which way,” Haidet said. “It was actually pretty hilarious. I tried my best to avoid any major hold ups and was feeling pretty comfortable riding around 19th or 20th by lap two.”
As warmer temperatures softened up the track and racers pushed away the mud, hidden rocks and debris made their way to the surface causing a torrent of flat tires across the peloton that continued into the elite men’s race. And there was no discrimination. By the end of Sunday’s races, there would be a record number of flats totaling around 150 according to Belgian reports.
“Unfortunately, on the first drop after pit one I tagged a hidden rock with my front wheel causing my first flat of the day,” Haidet said. “It was probably the worst place to flat because the section of the course between there and pit two was pretty much either steep rocky drops, slick off-cambers or fast pavement turns. There were definitely a few moments when I thought was for sure going to stack It, but somehow I survived.”
“After getting a new bike, I made it about two minutes before the front flatted again, but this time it wasn’t nearly as bad since it was a slower leak and the course was fairly smooth and straight back to pit one. In less than a lap I lost about 15 spots and was definitely pretty down mentally.”
Although his morale had dipped, the college freshman wasn’t going to let bad luck be the tagline of his European trip.
“Being that it was the world championships and that I traveled all the way to Europe and missed the first two weeks of the semester, I forced myself to dig deep and make up as many spots as I could,” said Haidet. “From there I rode a pretty smooth and consistent race and ended up making back 10 positions.”
Of the 54 starters, less than half the field finished on the lead lap as riders were either pulled or were a DNF. Haidet was the last rider on course to officially cross the finish line. Although he gives himself credit for this achievement, the 19 year-old is already looking forward to writing a more positive chapter next year.
“I would like to think that I could have pulled off a top 20 result, which would have checked off one of my goals for the season,” said Haidet. “Given the circumstances, I think my ride was solid. This trip overseas has re-enforced what I have known my strengths to be, and has most definitely highlighted my weaknesses, but the motivation is definitely there to make next year a different story.”
Photo credit: Meg McMahon