Eagle’s Karen Jarchow wins fat bike title
January 28, 2017
EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley has a new world champion. Eagle resident Karen Jarchow, of team Topeak-Ergon, crossed the finish line as the women's winner of the 2017 Fat Bike World Championships on Saturday in Crested Butte with a time of 2:04:02. Fifty feet past the finish, Jarchow fell to the ground and held her head in her hands.
These first raw moments of her recovery were paired with her thoughts of "holy s—, I did it," but she said it was a heartfelt surge that really brought her to the ground.
"That last lap was really emotional," she said. "It hit me on one of the last climbs — I kept looking down at that sticker."
The sticker reads #NATESTRONG, and it sits on the left side of the handlebars of her German, full carbon, 4.8-inch tire Canyon fat bike.
"I just know he'd want to be doing this," Jarchow said of friend Nate Picklo, who recently passed away after losing his battle with cancer. "That's what Tara and I always talk about — that it hits you when you're on your fat bike. He had the fat bike to do it this year, and I really lost it on the last lap."
Jarchow and all the elite racers took five laps, each 6 miles in length. The course was on a wide Nordic track, and the past few extra cold weather days in Crested Butte made for a pretty firm and fast course. Jarchow's fastest lap was her first, clocking in at 23:22, and she stayed pretty consistent throughout the race and only slightly slowing down each lap.
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She finished top 10 overall in the race, and clinched the world title from last year's women's champion Amy Beisel. Beisel was second place this year, 13 minutes behind Jarchow.
At the 11 a.m. race start time, the temperature was hovering below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and by the end of the race it had warmed up to just hit double digits. While sunshine and rigor helped to keep the racers warm, fingers and toes are always tough to keep toasty in snow biking. Jarchow came into the race worried about the negative temps, but she actually ended up removing her jacket during the race and said she didn't really have big issues with her feet or hands.
"I was nervous about the cold," she said, "but I did a lap before the race in all my layers and I got really warm halfway through, so I thought I would be OK."
'Fun and silly and squirrelly'
Jarchow has always had a rule for herself to never race in the winter. She's broken that rule now, although Saturday was only her second-ever fat bike race. She said she plans to keep on-snow racing minimal, however.
"I actually don't like racing in the winter at all," she said. "I find it such a good time to focus on staying healthy and to focus on training days and switching it up a bit, and not really worrying about racing too much."
Now that she has a lightweight carbon fat bike, Jarchow has been out riding on snow more than ever before.
In a phone interview two days before Saturday's race in Crested Butte, Jarchow said that while she has been preparing for the race, it's been a different sort of training than she usually does.
"What I'm finding with fat biking is that it is so fun and silly and squirrelly that it doesn't really hold the same weight," she said in comparison to summer riding. "I'm not going into this weekend like I would be going into a mountain bike race in the summer."
That being said, she shared that getting on the bike a lot was one of the best things she did do to prepare. Jarchow has also been training twice a week at GOAT Training in Edwards, making her noticeably stronger.
"A lot depends on your gear," she added, "your tire pressure and being able to read the snow. Also, a lot comes down to the snow conditions, like whether or not it's a packed trail."
In snow biking, one lap on a course could be firm, followed by a lap that's rutted out and that takes double the time.
"It can be a huge slog for sure," she said. "I think it's a big advantage being lighter weight because I race with my tires at three-and-a-half to four PSI (pounds per square inch), and that just gives me a lot more flotation when it comes to variable conditions."
Saturday seemed to be ideal conditions for Jarchow as she swept her field, and Nate the Yeti was right there on her handlebars the whole time.
And how will she celebrate?
"It's straight to the desert for me," she said.