Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Aftermath.

I can't recommend removing wide swaths of flesh with pavement as an effective weight loss strategy.
I can recommend the Tour of Fairbanks as a great way to spend four days.
It's just a different experience than you get in Anchorage. The roads are different. The terrain is different. The faces are different. All in a good way.
The organizers did a lot of things right with this edition that made the whole experience much better than last year. Certain things were out of their control, but they adapted well to the challenges they faced and put on a great stage race.
A list of highlights:
  • Balanced Fields. Compared to last year, the fields were much more balanced in terms of ability, which made for a tighter fight for GC. A lot of this was due to the people that signed up to race, but grouping them like they did made it a fight right down to the last day.
  • Non-Chip Timing. While I usually cite their use of chip timing as a positive, it was far too large of an expense for the field size we've seen over the last couple years. The timing they used was more like what we see in Anchorage, and thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers it worked well, and I expect that they'll only get better at it.
  • Organizers. This is a good group, and they worked tirelessly to pull this one off. No matter what was thrown their way, they responded well and did their best to made it a positive experience for all of the participants. I'm sure they'll take the lessons learned this year and apply them to make next time around even better.
  • Courses.
    • You could say I wasn't a fan of the prologue course, even before the race started. Once I became intimately familiar with it, I was even less thrilled. However, it was a last-second replacement because of forces out of their control. When you're dealing with permitting and all other sorts of dynamics, sometimes you have to make imperfect decisions. Add this one to the "lessons-learned" pile. I'm fairly sure that next year's prologue course will be better.
    • Not being much of a climber, I wasn't crazy about last year's uphill finishes, but even a fatty like me has to admit Friday morning's Sky Ridge Road Race was a pretty good course, if a tad on the short side. With a bunch of hours between it and the UAF crit, we could have stood another 30 minutes or so of racing. Well, maybe not me...
    • The UAF crit course is a fun venue. There's natural places to play tactics, moving up or squeezing people out without being dangerous, and just enough terrain to keep things interesting. My perception may be due to my success there, but most people seemed to enjoy the stage. The only thing that would make it better would be a little more traffic control around the parking lots, but everything I saw went really well. The campus police seemed really supportive, and that's always a relationship that's good to have.
    • Globe Creek/Wickersham Dome is the best road race venue I've seen up here, hands down. This is the first time I've been dropped and ridden it alone, but it just reinforced my perceptions of the course. Hiding isn't possible. The climbs are long enough to be selective, but not so much that it's a pure climber's course. The wind and weather can dramatically change over the race. Splits in the pack are the rule rather than the exception. The strong win and the rest are sorted appropriately. It's a strong shot of reality, and you can't ask for much more out of a course.
    • The organizers mixed it up this year, having the time trial act as the deciding stage instead of the road race. There was no marking of the competition or sitting on wheels, banking on the time cushion built up through the previous stages. You threw whatever you had left in the tank at the road. I didn't have much to throw. I'd never finished a stage race with a time trial, but it definitely had a lot of people chewing on their nails until the end. The course itself was an out-and-back on the same road as the previous year's prologue, and starting/finishing at the awards venue (which was close to UAF for us out-of-towners) made for a tidy way to end the Tour of Fairbanks.
My body may disagree, but to be honest I don't have a lot of bad things to say about this edition. The issues I had with last year's Tour of Fairbanks were mostly resolved. The categories decided their own pecking orders, and didn't influence other groups. When you arrive at the final stage and several contenders are still within striking distance of each other, it makes for better racing.
A return to the Ester prologue might be the biggest request. While it's essentially a hill climb, it's not steep enough to put the diesels out of contention. It's also long enough that you feel like you've actually done a stage instead of a VO2max interval.
After that, maybe swap the crit and the time trial around. With a hill climb time trial and a hilly-if-short road race, this would level things out going into the queen stage for the diesels. Having the crit on Sunday would still allow for a compact-format race before the awards ceremony, and maybe ensure the UAF buildings/parking lots are less occupied.
Wow. That's all I can complain about. Crap, I'm slipping. I guess I could whine about how far Fairbanks is from Anchorage, and how it would be nice if they just moved the city closer. They'd probably get more Anchorage racers.
So, although I cry a little each time I get up from a chair or walk down stairs, this year was a lot of fun. I'll do my best to be back next year and bring a big group with me, as long as they're slow and overweight.


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