This past weekends Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 was another dry, fast one and produced a somewhat of a surprise when Jesse Lalonde finished with a time of 2:11:49.7 and an average speed of 18.6mph. That's over 40 miles of XC ski trails, sandy, rutted, and rocky road and a bit of fire road climbing and decsending. Word is that the course has over 3000 verticle feet of climbing. I can tell you from experience, the only flat part of the course is the roll out from the pavement in Hayward, Wisconsin.
Sounds impressive and it is especially when you consider that it was done on a single speed 29"er geared 36 X 17!
Now the really odd thing about this all is that some people are saying, "big deal! the course wasn't tough. It must have been flat, there is no way that could have been a hilly course. " And so on, and on..........
So, let me get this straight. A guy beats 1300 plus folks, including a three time Tour winner, the first ever NORBA XC champion, Gary Fisher, and a bunch of really fast geared riders, and you say it's no big deal?!! A guy beats a course down that is host to one of the toughest XC ski races in the world and you say the course isn't tough?!! You say that the course must have been flat when in reality there is no where to recover, you are at redline the entire 40 miles!!
Okay, so what this really tells me is that most folks idea of what is "tough" isn't based in reality. What it is based on, I don't know, but it is a good question. Maybe I'll get to the bottom of that some day. I just have to shake my head sometimes in wonder.
My take on it is this: Sure, the Lalonde crushing of the 40 was spectacular and a triumph worth noting. The thing is though, the 40 isn't that far removed from what you might experience in a Pro Class/Expert Class XC event. It's just point to point instead of a lap format. Taken in that light, it's not so out of the realm of possibility that a single speeder could win it, given the right conditions. Having said that, it's my opinion that a point to point race is tougher than a lap event, because you don't have the luxury of getting to know the course. Everything coming at you is new on a point to point course.
So, I think the whole thing is super impressive and was well within the capabilities of a stellar single speeder like Jesse Lalonde. I know the course is tough, since I rode that event back in '96, so the naysayers can stuff it. Does it measure up to being what is considered a huge accomplishment by many folks? I don't think it really matters what we think, especially to the guy standing on the top step of the podium.
Congratulations to Jesse Lalonde.