After coming up short in each of the previous three 50-mile Frosty Bottom races, Will Ross wasn't about to let Josh Chelf or Jason Lamoreaux deprive him of victory Saturday.
Ross, 26, fought off challenges by both men in the final 150 meters to win the race that goes from Kincaid Park to Hilltop and back.
Ross was in the lead when the three-man pack of fat-tire bikers hit the final hill on the approach to Kincaid on the Coastal Trail.
"Jason tried to pass me on the right and Josh tried to pass me on the left at the same time," Ross said. "At that exact moment we came around a corner and I could see the finish about 100, 150 meters ahead and I knew I would hold them off."
Ross won in 2 hours, 42 minutes, 21 seconds. Chelf was one second back and Lamoreaux was two seconds back according to race times, but the gap between Chelf and Lamoreaux was negligible.
Ross said he finished about two bike lengths in front of Chelf and Lamoreaux, "who were about a foot apart," he said.
Megan Chelf won the women's 50-mile race in 3:01:10, beating Laura Fox by more than three minutes.
In the 25-mile race that ended at Hilltop, the husband-wife team of Jamey and Amber Stull took the wins. Jamey won in 1:33:33, beating Brian Senez by 15 seconds. Amber placed fifth overall in 1:35:54, three minutes ahead of the next-fastest woman, Sheryl Loan, who was eighth overall in 1:38:59.
About 240 racers competed, with about 140 opting for the longer distance.
All of the winners and almost all of the racers were bikers. Ross said one skier and a handful of runners signed up, a reflection of this winter's trail conditions. There's been little snow but plenty of ice, which is great for fat-tire bikers but not so great for skiers and runners.
A light snowfall during the week didn't hamper conditions, according to Jamey Stull.
"Trail conditions are actually pretty good," he said. "Everybody was pretty stoked on how well the snow packed."
Temperatures were cold but not sub-zero, dipping into single digits at some spots. The wind was steady, said Ross, who down the stretch battled a headwind as well as Chelf and Lamoreaux.
Winning the Frosty Bottom has been a goal for Ross, who has come close in each of the past three years only to drop back on that final hill. He finished third last year, five seconds behind winner Stull, and placed fifth in 2014 and second in 2013.
"The last three years I hit that climb with the lead group but I've never been able to take it," he said. "This was definitely a big (goal) on my list."
Ross, Chelf, Lamoreaux and Brian Bonney rode together for much of the race, Ross said.
"We were riding single-file and pace-lining," he said. "We were working pretty well together."
Each man took turns leading, and then dropped to the back of the pack to let someone else lead. That way, they shared the burden of setting the pace and no one got to spend the whole race drafting. As the leaders neared the finish, it became a game of wait-and-see.
"From Westchester to Earthquake Park we were all kinda looking at each other, trying to get a feel for who looks the strongest," Ross said. "But no one made a move till that final hill at Kincaid."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing