The 6th annual US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship, the largest race of its type in the nation, was officially canceled March 15, 2020, due to COVID-19.
This site contains photos and press materials for the 2020 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship, including:
–2019 race results
– An interview with Shawn Spencer, Race Director
– An interview with pro-bikers Robert and Philicia Marion of Mt. Airy, NC, male and female elite winners in the 2019 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship
Nation’s largest fat bike beach race returns to North Carolina
March 27-29, 2020
An interview with Shawn Spencer, Race Director
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA – The US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship, the largest beach race in the nation, returns to Wrightsville Beach the weekend of March 27-29, 2020.
"The growth of the Fat Bike Beach Championship is directly related to the rapid growth of the leisure sport of fat biking,” said Shawn Spencer, Race Director. “It's an awesome sport, great exercise, and a fun way to explore the barrier islands in an environmentally friendly way.
"The Fat Bike Beach Championship is a race on the beach in front of our host hotel, Blockade Runner, at Wrightsville Beach. There are two events, with multiple age groups, plus a relay division. The two events are the 1-hour and the 2-hour races. We build a one-half mile loop course on the beach the morning of the event, utilizing the natural surfaces of soft and hard sand below the sand dunes. The two-hour racers will start at 2 PM this year, and the 1-hour bikers roll out at 4:10 PM.
"The 2020 course will be more natural. In 2018 the Corps of Engineers was dredging, and there were huge pipes we had to traverse. In 2019 we used a mini-excavator and dug some trenches and built some massive climbs over obstacles. This year we are going more ‘organic’ and utilizing volunteer labor to hand- shape the course. The course will be marked with sandbags and marking tape. Some unique dismounting options will be new for 2020.
"The race is dictated by the tides. When the tide is low, the bottom part of the course is packed sand, providing faster speeds, plus an opportunity for the racers to recover from the upper part of the course. Fat bike tires will go most anywhere on the sand, but they definitely roll faster and easier on the hard pack when the tide goes out. The soft sand is a grind. The longshore currents also cut into the sand and sometimes leave us with a sizeable drop off at low tide.
"We expect to see some returning champions this year. Rumor is that Robert and Philicia Marion from Mount Airy will return to defend their titles. They will definitely be the ones to watch in the professional field.
"Past champions say the Fat Bike Beach Championship is harder than the Leadville 100. The Leadville 100 is a 100-mile mountain bike race that starts above 10,000 feet. To have the Fat Bike Beach Championship compared to the Leadville 100 is quite a compliment if a hard race is what you are looking for.
"Alpha Mortgage is the Presenting Sponsor again for 2020. Without their contribution, the event would not be as substantial. Legacy sponsor Bike Cycles is responsible for the event organization, and our host, Blockade Runner Beach Resort, makes the race possible. With Waterman's Brewing and Rhino Demolition now on board, this year will be a super fun weekend.
"This year, we are hosting a sandcastle building contest before the race. The sandcastle event will be judged, with cash prizes awarded to first and second place. The sandcastles will be on the course as obstacles. The sandcastle contest starts at noon and ends at 3:45 PM.
"Charity is a great part of the event. This year, racers have donated fifty percent more, to date, compared to last year, for the Wrightsville Beach Foundation. We expect to have the largest donation for the foundation in the history of the event," said Spencer.
Returning champs seek repeat at Fat Bike Beach Championship
An interview with Robert and Philicia Marion
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC – Professional bikers Robert and Philicia Marion of Mt. Airy, achieved their goal of winning both elite titles in last year’s US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship. This year, the husband-wife team will seek a repeat performance in Wrightsville Beach, March 27-29, 2020.
“To ride across the finish line together, both as champions, was incredible, especially knowing how hard we worked for that moment,” said Robert Marion.
“It was a perfect day when everything came together for us – a dream come true,” said Philicia Marion. “To have us win again would be amazing. We did it last year, so of course, we want to do it again this year.”
The 6th annual US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship, the nation’s largest fat bike beach race, is on a seaside course in front of the host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort. There are two events, a 1-hour intermediate race, a 2-hour elite race, each with multiple age groups plus a relay division in the elite race. Early registration has attracted over 75 bikers from ten states.
“We build a one-half mile loop course on the beach the morning of the event,” said Spencer, Race Director. “We utilize the natural surfaces of soft and hard sand below the sand dunes. The competition will be intense in all races, especially the 2-hour elite race.”
“The Fat Bike Beach Championship is a challenging event that changes throughout the race,” said Robert Marion. “In the early laps, navigating the sand and determining the best lines can be difficult. In the latter part of the race, fatigue becomes more of a factor.”
“Especially if the headwind is against you on the shoreline,” added Philicia Marion. “The wind can help you or hurt you tremendously. If you drop off from a group, you no longer have a draft, and it costs energy and time.”
“My words of wisdom would be for the racers to eat their Wheaties,” said Zoe Worsham, women’s elite champion in 2017 and runner-up in both 2018 and 2019. “They’re not going to be building sandcastles on the beach; they’ll be praying for the race to be over.”
“It’s just hard,” said Spencer in 2019. “The elite race requires conditioning beyond any other type of sport, plus the mental fortitude not to quit regardless of your suffering.”
"This year, we are hosting a sandcastle building contest before the race. The sandcastle event will be judged, with cash prizes awarded to first and second place,” said Spencer. “The sandcastles will be on the course as obstacles. The sandcastle contest starts at 10 AM and ends at 1:00 PM.”
Most athletes will check-in on Friday at Blockade Runner to inspect the race conditions, according to Spencer. Vendors and bicycle industry representatives will be beachside before and during the races. The awards ceremony follows the races on the Blockade Runner beachside lawn and gardens.
Sunday features an optional 8-mile social-paced bike ride departing Blockade Runner at 7:00 AM.
The presenting sponsor for the 2020 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship is Alpha Mortgage. The designated charity is the Wrightsville Beach Foundation.
Read the complete interview with Robert and Philicia Marion:
Interviewed by Robert B Butler, North Carolina Press Release
We haven’t talked since last year’s US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship. Please bring us up to date on the past year’s highlights.
Robert Marion: We’re always riding or racing something with 2 wheels, whether it be dirtbikes or bicycles. Both Philicia and I competed in the AMA Virginia Championship HareScramble Series on dirtbikes this past year as well as various cross-country bicycle races, and several UCI cyclocross races.
Philicia Marion: We’ve raced across the South, as well as in California for the Sea Otter Classic, and more recently, we traveled to Washington State for the Cyclocross National Championships.
What was your greatest achievement this past season?
Robert Marion: Winning the US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship together in 2019.
Philicia Marion: Agreed.
What did it feel like in 2019 for you, as husband and wife, to win both elite titles?
Philicia Marion: It was a perfect day when everything came together for us – a dream come true. To have us win again would be amazing. We did it last year, so of course, we want to do it again this year.
Robert Marion: To ride across the finish line together, both as champions was incredible, especially knowing how hard we both worked for that moment.
We are happy to hear the news that you plan to race in 2020. Are you excited about the upcoming race in March?
Robert Marion: We are always excited about this race; Shawn [Spencer, race director] puts on such a great event that keeps growing year after year. We can’t wait to see what he has in store for us this year.
Philicia Marion: Yes. This is one of my favorite events we do all year.
Is your goal in 2020 to sweep the top titles two years in a row?
Philicia Marion: To have both of us win again would be amazing! We did it last year, so of course, we want to do it again this year!
Who are some of the other top contenders?
Robert Marion: Previous champions who return are always ones to watch because they know already precisely what it takes to win, But as the race grows, you never know who may come ready to take the title.
What attracts you to the Fat Bike Beach Championship?
Philicia Marion: What initially attracted me was the idea of racing bicycles on the beach. I’ve always loved the beach, so to be able to be out there for a couple of hours competing on a bike is great!
Robert Marion: What keeps us coming back is the excitement and the challenges that keep getting bigger and better.
Is the beach race a difficult one in the elite division?
Robert Marion: It is a challenging race that changes throughout the race. In the early laps, navigating the sand and determining the best lines are challenging. As the riders continue around the course several times, the “best” lines and “easier” lines may change. In the latter part of the race, fatigue becomes more of a factor.
Philicia Marion: Especially if the headwind is against you on the smoother part of the course. On the shoreline, the wind can help you, or hurt you tremendously. If you have any issues and drop off a group you are with, you no longer have a draft, and it costs energy and time.
How do you prepare for this race?
Philicia Marion: We have already started doing training rides on our fat bikes. The fit and feel of them are different than our mountain bikes or cyclocross bikes, so having that adaptation is essential for your muscles.
Robert Marion: We also are ramping up the training time to prepare for the 2-hour long event.
How does the fat bike championship compare to your other races?
Philicia Marion: This is the only race we plan to race fat bikes. It’s more like one of our dirt-bike races, where we do multiple laps of a course for a couple of hours. The mountain bike races we do are all a set number of miles, and usually, we finish those in less than 2 hours. So, it’s longer than our regular races.
What are your plans for the upcoming pro season?
Robert Marion: We plan on racing a variety of events, including cyclocross, cross country, dirt-bike racing, and possibly some gravel racing.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
None of this would be possible without the support of our sponsors. Big thanks to Cycleworks Bicycle Shop, Xpedo, Vittoria Tires, Canari Cyclewear, Finish Line bicycle care products, Orange seal Cycling, Kmc Chain, Rotor bike components, Velo Saddles, Rize Energy, Tifosi Optics, Schnelles Transport, Simon Says Cycling, Chamois Butt’r, and, folks like Shawn Spencer who do all the behind the scenes work to give us events like this where we can showcase our talents and sponsors.
Thank you, Robert and Philicia. Best of luck in Wrightsville Beach!
Shawn Spencer, Race Director
Robert B Butler, Communications | PR
Permission granted for reprint and redistribution – Shawn Spencer interviewed by Robert B Butler of North Carolina Press Release – Attribution is not required
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2019 Race Results:
Top five winners in each division:
Super Fat 2-hour Elite Race - Men's Division
Robert Marion, Mount Airy, NC
John Overton, Wilmington, NC
Nima Ebrahimnejad, Wilmington, NC
Neil Bray, Camp Lejeune, NC
Dariusz Tyborowski, Zebulon, NC
Super Fat 2-hour Elite Race - Women's Division
Philicia Marion, Mount Airy, NC
Zdenka Zoe Worsham, Raleigh, NC
Kim Bishop, Kingsport, TN
Jesse Piersol, Downington, PA
Maria Florian, Wilmington, NC
Really Fat 1.5-hour Intermediate Race – Men's Division
Bill Sessoms, Wilmington, NC
Adam Knierim, Hampstead, NC
Jeremy Cavenaugh, Castle Hayne, NC
Tom Verellen, High Point, NC
Ed Stilley, Wilmington, NC
Really Fat 1.5-hour Intermediate Race – Women's Division
Missy Grant, Wake Forest, NC
Deborah Hage, Cary, NC
Suzanne Tulsey, Oak Island, NC
Fat 1-hour Race – Men's Division
Peter Perry, Wilmington, NC
Lonnie Brooks, Raleigh, NC
Todd Bartholomew, Wilmington, NC
Kevin Charron, Waxhaw, NC
Christopher Garrett, Pleasant Valley, NY
Fat 1-hour Race – Women's Division
Nadine Petruccelli, Frisco, NC
Stacey Vaughan, Myrtle Beach, SC
Mary Gheen, Castle Hayne, NC
Mary Haley, Virginia Beach, VA
Margaret Pierson, Wrightsville Beach, NC