24-hour course record no match for Fehrmann

Mike Campbell

Chet Fehrmann can go like the wind. Just don't give him pavement, a flat trail or comfortable terrain that would probably bore the man silly.

Winner of the last three Susitna 100s, Fehrmann elevates when conditions deteriorate. In February, then on skis, Fehrmann held off hard-charging biking wizard Peter Basinger in soft snow to snatch his third consecutive victory in the winter ultramarathon that matches bikers, skiers and runners.

And Sunday morning, he pedaled through rain-soaked slop to break the course record at the 24 Hours of Matanuska mountain bike race on the Kepler-Bradley trails in Palmer.

While the course was soft, the race record wasn't. Fairbanks cyclist Jeff Oatley set it last year when he completed 19 laps in the 10.3-mile course in 21 hours, 57 minutes, two seconds. That's the same Jeff Oatley who has won the Iditarod Trail Invitational in brutal conditions and who set a Fireweed 400 road bike race record of 19:56 in 2006.

Rain that started falling around 2 a.m. Sunday, making a slippery track uglier by the lap.

"It started off as fog and drizzle, but then it just started raining," Fehrmann said by phone on Monday. "A couple of hills were like a luge. You had no breaks and you were sliding down. I found myself on both feet sliding."

In the end, Fehrmann, who completed 21 laps in 24:22:02 seconds, topped Tony Berberich by about three laps.

In fact, he kept right up with the studly and victorious four-racer team of Anders Haugen, Leah Besh, Jeff Ellis and Jamie Haines, which completed 21 laps in 24:20:17 while trading off riders.

How nasty were conditions?

Tim Woody, the 15th-place finisher in the solo 12-hour race for men, wrote on his blog, Bicycles & Icicles, that it was "so slippery that even the best racers were reduced to pushing up the slimy hills."

"I'll be spending the next few days eating ibuprofen and drying out rain-soaked camping gear as I sort through all the mental detritus of the 24 Hours of Matanuska. Being a guy who abandoned in pain after seven and a half hours, one of the things that'll stick with me is the tenacity of some really tough racers."

Put Fehrmann at the front of that list. His 21 laps included about 1,000 feet of elevation gain per lap over narrow, root-filled trails as well as open dirt paths.

"The uphill was hardly ridable because every little root can make your tire slip out," he said. "But I think it does create more focus. You can't allow yourself to daydream. Maybe that's good; you forget how much pain you're in.

"Believe it or not, I felt good the whole race -- but I'm a little sore now."

He's not alone.

"It gets really demoralizing being soaking wet, eating mud and grinding away in the rain, so his new record is all-the-more impressive," said cyclist Greg Matyas of Speedway Cycles in Spenard.

Despite Fehrmann's dominance in challenging conditions, he does plenty of racing in more comfortable environs. He was ninth among expert men in the Arctic Bicycle Club's Kincaid Road Race last month. He was 25th at the 30-kilometer Sven Johansson cross-country ski race at Kincaid in February.

Fine results both, but perhaps the conditions were a little too, well, prissy.

After all, he won't even call this 24 Hours of Matanuska victory his toughest race. That was his first Susitna 100, contested in subzero temperatures amid a ground blizzard.

Heck, there wasn't a flake of snow on Sunday morning.

Reach reporter Mike Campbell at mcampbell@adn.com or 257-4329.

24 Hours At Matanuska

Ending Sunday at Kepler-Bradley trails in Palmer

Solo 24 Women -- 1) Julia Perilla, 7 laps, 18:05:22.

Solo 24 Men -- 1) Chet Fehrmann, 21 laps, 24:22:02; 2) Tony Berberich, 18 laps, 22:59:58; 3) David Johnston, 16 laps, 22:51:47; 4) John Lackey, 15 laps, 16:39:24; 5) Corky Still, 11 laps, 20:41:45; 6) Ethan Kopacz, 11 laps, 24:18:06; 7) Casey Fagerquist, 10 laps, 12:03:12; 8) Zack Huff, 8 laps, 10:36:15; 9) Brian Garcia, 7 laps, 9:58:37; 10) Al Mitchell, 7 laps, 11:47:31; 11) Chris Dock, 7 laps, 19:12:41.

Duo 24 -- 1) Petra and Darcy Davis, 17 laps, 23:09:18; 2) Henry Coleman and Charles Boespflug, 7 laps, 8:53:15.

Quad 24 -- 1) Anders Haughen, Leah Besh, Jeff Ellis, Jamie Haines, 21 laps, 24:20:17; 2) James Stull, Adam Miller, Will Ross, Dan Nordal, 20 laps, 17:08:19; 3) Jennifer Sees, Darrin Mason, Eric Sees, Becky Mason, 15 laps, 19:04:25; 4) Cal Smith, Joe Abbott, Wolf Brecheisen, Skip Fawcett, 12 laps, 21:59:41; 5) Maura Shea, Wendy Heck, Shelly Schwenn, Carlos Lozano, 8 laps, 12:11:28.

Solo 12 Women -- 1) Rebeccah Bieri, 10 laps, 12:13:21; 2) Jenny Hoeger, 10 laps, 13:07:02; 3) Julie Berberich, 9 laps, 11:34:24; 4) Jill Valerius, 9 laps, 11:34:24; 5) Heather Macomber, 5 laps, 8:39:02; 6) Jill Hodges, 5 laps, 12:25:07.

Solo 12 Men -- 1) Andy Pohl, 13 laps, 12:23:22; 2) Jason Hill, 13 laps, 12:25:24; 3) David Valdes, 11 laps, 11:24:30; 4) Mark Davis, 10 laps, 11:18:38; 5) Mark Smith, 9 laps, 10:55:27; 6) Nicholai Smith, 9 laps, 11:20:31; 7) Oscar Lage, 8 laps, 10:14:28; 8) Josh Berberich, 8 laps, 11:02:15; 9) Kurt Schaaf, 8 laps, 13:11:15; 10) Paul Pierce, 7 laps, 7:50:59; 11) Carl Smith, 7 laps, 8:13:29; 12) Russ Porter, 7 laps, 8:46:26; 13) Taig Hoeger, 6 laps, 7:39:55; 14) Rich Hum, 6 laps, 10:08:10; 15) Tim Woody, 5 laps, 7:19:18; 16) Tim Reinbold, 5 laps, 7:54:13; 17) Hen Huber, 1 laps, 1:18:23.

Solo 6 Men -- 1) Brent Borman, 6 laps, 5:11:16; 2) Mike Beiergroslein, 6:34:56; 3) Adam Looney, 7:19:20.