AJ Turner threw down in the single-speed category at this year's Fat Bike National Championships and earned himself some stars and stripes. #championkitten
With a mid-west upbringing, and some prior Fat-Bike racing results - I had somewhat of a pressure/pedigree to uphold for my fellow Iowans at Fat Bike National Championships. After a 3rd place finish at the Single Speed race the prior year (2015) - A similar placing, if not better, had to happen. Also - loads of fun were to be had, as this is fat-biking, after all. Smile machines, I call them.
A good friend lent me a bike on the Monday prior to the race. That night, it was built, ENVE-ed out, washed, waxed, and dialed. The Midwest-Thunder-American-Muscle-Thigh man in me said, “Mash for Cash – Push a big ol’ gear – 34x17”. Worst case scenario, I would just run up the hills. One quick test ride on the race course Wednesday night, and I was ready to rip.
Saturday morning, I caught wind that a Pro CX racer and multiple national champion had registered for the Single Speed race as well. Race went off, and sure enough – he was near the leading end. I sat on, then jumped ahead of him at the single track portion of the race, and got a small gap on him leading into the climb. We yo-yoed for the entire first lap, and I was a bit frantic that he’d be hard to shed from my wheel on the final (2nd lap). Coming out of the single track into the less steep section of the climb – I put in a good dig, and saw I had about 100 yards on him. Dammit – Now I REALLY have to keep digging and capitalize. Some tough mental talk to keep the wheels from coming off kept me ahead through the first lap. Into the downhill of the second lap, I relaxed a bit and shook out my very heavy legs. Putting my head down, and grinding out a painfully big gear on the steep climb on the second lap - I focused on myself and continuing to ride the line of suffering, but maintaining. 500m from the finish, I started smiling, realizing I was about to be a national champion. I might have done a wheelie. It's still a bit of a blur. Rolling across the finish, I went a bit more loopy and lost my lunch on the finish line. My competitors rolled in nearly 4 minutes later.
Eventually, my legs gave out and I had to be walked to my truck where I proceeded to eat 5 Clif bars, drink a bottle, and then pass out in the bed of my truck for an hour. A friend swung by, awoke me, and drug me down to the awards ceremony to get my stars and stripes jersey. I don’t remember much else of the day – I got home, somehow - and today I feel as though my hamstrings were beaten by a gorilla. I’m just now realizing that I’m the national champion in what is probably the most obscure national championship of cycling category ever.
// AJ Turner