On Saturday, September 15, eight members of the KÜHL Cycling Team lined up among 2,100 riders to weather the muddy course at the 36th Annual Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. In the days leading up to the race, the course was predicted to deliver scorching times, but when heavy rains moved in the night before, the race shifted into another gear entirely.
KÜHL cyclist Jill Cederholm recalls an early morning wake-up call consisting of heavy rain. It had been a season of muddy courses and post-race bike maintenance and parts replacement. But you can't control the weather, and despite the conditions, Jill and thousands of other riders eagerly lined up to tackle the course.
Cheq Fat Tire has a long, storied history. In 1983, 27 riders hit the American Birkebeiner trail for the inaugural race. By 1985, the race drew renowned pro cyclists to the starting line, and in 1987 the first international participants joined the ranks. Today, the Chequamegon 40 is capped at 2,100 riders. Combined with 1,000 riders in the Short & Fat 16, the sold out festival is the largest one-day mountain bike event in the Midwest.
KÜHL riders have attended this event for decades. This year, there were 8 riders lined up on a variety of bikes, including hard tail MTB, full suspension, and fat bikes. Scott Johnson and Ron Raymond even rode on a tandem this year!
Patti Schmidt-Iverson has loved dirt since her first Chequamegon 40 race in 2000. The race also holds a special place in her heart because she met her husband at Cheq, and the rest is history.
2018 was all about the mud, but Patti loved everything about her 19th Cheq 40. On her fat bike, she climbed the slimy Seeley fire tower hill and rode right through every puddle she encountered. Smiling and laughing the whole way, Patti encouraged others to follow her lead and embrace the mud. Fellow KÜHL cyclist Sara Kylander-Johnson did just that, finishing second overall.
Racers were in good spirits, uplifted by the droves of cheering spectators clad in waterproof clothing, hot beverages in hand. The espresso-flavored Captain Morgan shot at the pirate station didn't hurt either! With personal records tossed out the window, riders just enjoyed harnessing the energy and enthusiasm from their fellow riders.
Whether you're an avid recreational rider or a national level cyclist, Chequamegon Fat Tire is a must-do. Jill Cederholm finds the race especially rewarding because the event embodies the spirit of cycling, while giving back to the local and cycling communities.
In 1992, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival joined local business owners, cyclists, National Forest representatives and trail advocates to create the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association. CAMBA'S mission is to promote and develop the sport of bicycling in balance with the natural environment, and the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival continues to support CAMBA and other trail advocacy efforts. Learn more about the Festival History and join the fun on Saturday, September 14, 2019!