For First Time, Snow Fat-Biking Recognized By UCI

The first snow-based fat bike race recognized by cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, took place last weekend in Switzerland.

Gstaad snow bike festival uci class 2 stage race 1
Image by Nick Muzik © www.NICKMUZIK.com

Snow-covered trails, 2,500 meters of climbing, and glacier-filled views compose the 100km Snow Bike Festival’s three race stages. Founded in 2015, the Snow Bike Festival held its third competition January 19-22.

For the first time, the Union Cycling Internationale (UCI) accredited the event as a Class 2 Stage Race. It’s the only snow-based bike race recognized at this level.

Fat biking was born as a fringe recreational pursuit popularized in places like Alaska and Minnesota. The wider tires and new bike types opened up snowy venues to two wheels.

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Despite local races and nationally-recognized ultra events like the Arrowhead 135 and the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the UCI has never before taken fat biking this seriously. The designation of this past weekend’s race is a nod toward the maturing of the sport.

Because of its infancy, there is no “Snow Bike” category among UCI cycling disciplines. You can find the Snow Bike Festival race under the mountain bike calendar of events with over 16 other Stage Two races from around the world.

gstaad snow bike festival uci class 2 stage race 2
Image from the 2017 Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad, Switzerland captured by Zoon Cronje for www.zcmc.co.za

UCI Accreditation

The Union Cycliste Internationale recognizing Europe’s Snow Bike Festival as a Class 2 Stage Race is a leap in the advancement of fat biking and snow biking legitimacy.

The UCI is the sports federation that oversees international competitive cycling events. It governs the World Championships, the Tour de France, and is affiliated with the Olympic Committee. The cycling disciplines it classifies are mountain biking, road, and track cycling.

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“The more interesting the event is for professional athletes, the more people will participate and therefore the attractiveness for sponsors and spectators increases,” said Martin Bachofner, director of tourism for Gstaad Saanenland.

Also, the UCI classification increases prize winnings to over $7,000. This year’s winners include Nicola Rohrbach, who finished first followed by Florian Chenaux and Sascha Weber respectively.

Europe’s Winter Festival Of Snow Biking

Outside of the three stage cycling competition, the scene holds a larger winter festival with an Eliminator Night Race and an Expo.

For at least three more years, Gstaad will be the location the Snow Bike Festival. So expect more snow biking action on the international scene.

UCI class 2 stage race snow bike festival
image by Nick Muzik © www.NICKMUZIK.com

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Midwest born, Nate Mitka started with Gearjunkie after a short stint as “intern”. An advocate of all outdoor activities he’s developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.

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