Flagstaff rider takes 3rd in Canadian fat bike race, meets polar bear, wolves

Riding in the snow is second nature for Flagstaff native Ryan Geiger (FRM Factory Racing). Being bitten by a wolf on the butt isn’t. Neither is hanging out with a polar bear.

But on Geiger’s trip to Quebec, Canada last weekend for the Mahikan Fat Bike Race, he experienced all of it.

“I was petting one of the smaller wolves in the pack when the alpha came up,” Geiger said. “I think he didn’t like what I was doing, so he bit me right on the butt.”

Geiger, 20, was flown out to the race by his team and sponsor to compete in the Saguenay and Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec against riders from France, Brazil and Canada.

The fat bike race involved two courses in two days – an eliminator circuit on a frozen lake and a cross-country race on a 3-kilometer long snowmobile path with deep powder for a total of 25 kilometers.

With temperatures as low as -5 degrees and a wind chill, Geiger made his way into third place in the eliminator race, which was similar to a crit, but on a

frozen lake with fat bikes. The last rider each lap was pulled. Miguel Martinez of France topped the podium, and Canadian fat bike champion Christian Gauvin took second in that race.

Gauvin said he had food poisoning the night before and Geiger and Martinez encouraged him to do the race the next day.

“I was not thinking to do the race, and [he] and Miguel share [with] me good vibe[s] and pushed me to do it,” Gauvin said. “I was surprisingly strong. Their good words give me power. [Ryan] finished the race with a smile. He [has] a good attitude and i hope to cross him at other races.”

Geiger crashed in the cross-country race the next day but managed to hold on for fourth.

“Crashing on the fat bike was totally fun,” Geiger said. “After the first few crashes you just had to start laughing. It was just a cycle of crash, laugh, ride hard for five minutes, repeat. Just like crashing in powder on skis or a snowboard, usually it’s not a big deal. The toughest part can be digging yourself out.”

Geiger and the riders also received a special treat – meeting an area indigenous tribe, getting a private tour of a zoo and flying over a frozen lake in a helicopter.

At the Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien, Geiger was able to see a polar bear up close and visit with a pack of wolves.

One of the zoo staff had become very close to a pack of wolves, which allows him to take small groups to meet them, Geiger said.

“They by no means were tame,” Geiger said. “They growled and were constantly fighting for dominance in the pack even when we were around them. We stood around for awhile until they were comfortable enough to approach us. They then became pretty friendly once they realized we weren’t a threat.”

But one of the wolves thought it would be a good idea to keep Geiger in check by biting him on the butt.

“One of the scariest things I have experienced,” Geiger said. “I am glad people were able to push the wolf off quickly. A couple teeth broke the skin but no medical attention was needed.”

Geiger, who has worked at Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff since age 11, started racing mountain bikes when he was 12 at a Mountain Bike Association of Arizona race at Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff. He’ll continue to ride for FRM Factory Racing this year on his mountain bike.



Sarah Muench