Riding Smart in the Short and Fat

The Chequamegon MTB Festival will take place Saturday, September 14. Thousands of off-road bicyclists from across the country will take to the roads and trails throughout the Chequamegon National Forest to test their endurance and agility in the race's 37th year.

The main event, the Chequamegon 40, is a mass start event that travels from downtown Hayward, WI, over the famed American Birkebeiner Ski Trail, forest roads, snowmobile trails and other wooded lanes to the finish line at the Great Hall in Cable, WI.

The Short and Fat is a 16-mile mass start event that is the perfect introductory event for younger riders, those new to off-road cycling or those not ready to tackle the rigors of the Chequamegon 40. Each year, 1,000 participants are selected on a first-come, first-served basis to participate in this event on Saturday of Festival weekend. The Short & Fat race route utilizes forest roads, the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail and other backwoods paths on the way to the finish line at the Great Hall.

This year, there are a couple of changes to both events besides the name and logo. The Short and Fat will be starting and finishing at the Great Hall at the American Birkebeiner Start. The course will wind through the woods to loop back and finish at the Great Hall as well. As mentioned above, the 40 will also be finishing at the Great Hall. Previously, the races had both finished on the Telemark property. There will also be a change to busing—Busing is Saturday morning only! No post-event busing back to Hayward. You can find more information on transportation (and everything Chequamegon MTB Festival) at www.cheqmtb.com.

Short & Fat Tips

Chris has ridden the 40 about twelve times and has a half dozen Short and Fats under his belt. Despite the above picture, taken when demonstrating what not to do on the 40 course, he is meticulous at his race prep. In fact, remember watching him doing hill repeats to the finish at Telemark only days away from our son's birth (he got top 10 in the Short and Fat that year). Anyway, Chris prepared a short section by section overview of the course that may help riders new to the race.

Start: The new Birkie Great Hall start changes up things a bit right at the beginning. Rather than the former, fast pavement on Randysek Road, riders will immediately grind up the grassy and hilly of course Birkie Classic Trail. Make sure you have a calm, easy rollout so that you have power for the classic trail and power line sections to come (contributed by Egan after pre-ride). Try to seek out a smoother, faster line on the packed grass. Look ahead and always have an "escape route" on these climbs as other riders stall or bail off their bikes.  Avoid deep, unpacked grass as potholes or mud may lie in hiding.

After the initial anaerobic shock of the Birkie Classic, racers enter the Powerlines. Birkie Skiers understand the infamy of the Powerlines well. There is more room to maneuver here and the downhills are faster, but the climbs are steeper. Focus on avoiding others and getting to Randysek Road.

Here, we resume the old racecourse with the alternating climb-flat-climb rhythm the road is known for. Many feel it's all uphill. But it is not! There are actually only 3 climbs of real consequence on Randysek with easy and fast breaks between. Point being, keep a positive mindset on Randysek Road and always look for free speed between the uphills.

Camp 38 Rd: Narrow and fast. Be ready for rough surfaces at speed. Don't swerve abruptly as it will be crowded here possibly. Carry your speed downhill and up the next rise whenever possible.

Telemark Rd: Fast, wide gravel! Steady tempo; work with others if they look safe. Carry your speed downhill and up the next rise whenever possible (again!).

Timber Trail Rd: A bit of a grind and one particularly rude hill. Steady and sustainable climbing tempo is key. Recover on the downhills.

Birkie Trail: This is pretty tough. The first half basically stair-steps upward repeatedly, culminating at the top of "Big Bertha". Tired or new riders should plan on a possible hike up Big Bertha—it's steep, REALLY steep! However, things change for the better here. Big Bertha is the Short and Fat's point of highest elevation, shown at approx mile 9.5 on the profile below. Riders can now turn that elevation into speed on the way back down to the Powerline! Stay focused on a clean line as some of the downhills from here on are extremely fast!

Powerline to Finish: More repeating rollers. Speed here is elusive with the soft, grassy trail. Carry your speed downhill and up the next rise whenever possible.  Do all that you can to keep the tempo steady! New this year is a serpentine trip around the finish stadium. Everyone passes by the finish line and then heads back out for one last steep climb before screaming into a gentle downhill finish. You are now DONE!

Overall, the new route is a full step tougher aerobically, so plan accordingly. Note the "climb well and carry your speed themes." These are key. All in all, a very tough course, but fitness can overcome if well prepared. Refueling is not that critical unless you really need it due to the relatively short distance.

Short & Fat Elevation Profile

Chequamegon 40 Elevation Profile

Egan here (left). I love making maps, and I'm riding my first Short and Fat this year, so I decided to make detailed maps of the Chequamegon 40 and Short and Fat courses as well as the elevation profiles (above). To get the maps, download the following files and drag them onto your Google Earth icon. The mileage and aid stations are listed.

CHEQ 40.kmz


So, there you have it! Hope you read a few things that will make your Chequamegon 40 MTB Festival a huge success. And, if you're not riding, there's nothing better than seeing the 40 start from downtown Hayward—especially when they turn onto Hwy. 77 towards Rosie's Field. Come on out and support the 40 or the Short and Fat riders on Saturday. It's a Hayward tradition!