TOWER — The most competitive winter, ultra cycling and running field ever seen got blasted this week by the season’s largest snowfall dumping 8-12 inches of heavy wet sleet and snow along the entire course over Minnesota’s scenic and hilly Arrowhead State Trail from International Falls to Tower.
About 135 winter cyclists (FatBikers), runners and skiers began the race early Monday with the final finishers crossing the line late Wednesday afternoon. Nearly two-thirds of the racers were eliminated by tough, snowy conditions with only 49 racers completing the 135 miles along the trail located just south of the Canadian border below Voyageur National Park.
The top three cycling finishers set a blistering pace from the start, then hung onto each others’ wheels for duration of the race as they traversed frozen lakes, snow-covered swamps, and rolling hills. The three racers largely beat the coming storm and deteriorating trail conditions at the end of the race. The fourth cycling finisher was almost 1 1/2 hours behind the three leaders. Todd McFadden of Duluth brought the winner’s trophy back to Minnesota, besting Alaskans and former Arrowhead Champions Jeff Oatley and third-place Kevin Breitenbach, finishing in a course record 14 hours, 20 minutes.
Wisconsin’s Parker Rios dominated the running field with an impressive slog finishing in 45 hours and 20 minutes followed by Minnesotan John Storkamp and Eric Johnson from Utah.
The Arrowhead 135 has been listed as one of the top 50 Best and Hardest Ultra Events in the world by several publications and this year’s race lived up to that reputation with first the mild temperatures causing most racers to struggle in a softening trail and then natures dose of sleet, ice pellets and heavy snow knocking down many fine athletes from 21 states and six countries.
Finish rate for the event was the second-lowest in nine years of the Arrowhead 135.