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Escape The Hooved Man 2024

February 17th 2024 I set out early morning with the car loaded with my fat bike and gear for 3 days and 2 nights to attend the Hooved Man Bike Race and Festival at Big Eddy Lodge hosted by Aski Holistic Adventures. I honestly was a little nervous not knowing what to expect heading to a place completely cut off from the outside world lacking the common day to day things that we have grown accustom to like cell service, indoor plumbing, and the only power provided by generators. But sometimes we have to get a little outside our comfort zone and experience something new. So here I was driving 4 hours north east of Saskatoon, SK towards Cumberland House, SK where we would meet our hosts of the weekend, Michela and her family. Upon our arrival to the trail head two big wooden sleds hauled by skidoos would meet us which we loaded all our gear into to be hauled 14km to the lodge as a group of 20 or so of us would begin the weekend with a ride into the lodge on the same trail. The trail conditions not only to ride into the lodge but for the whole network were simply amazing. 

Cumberland House is Saskatchewan's oldest community. Population approx 2,000

Upon our arrival at the lodge we were all welcomed with open arms and shown to our assigned cabins. The cabins were simple but lovely kept warm with wood burning stoves which my 2 bunk mates and I kept stoked the whole weekend and comfortable beds with warm blankets. Once settled in and unpacked we met in the large common kitchen where we were treated to a moose meat lunch. It was amazing and hit the spot. We then toured the lodge grounds which included a large woodworking area, a sauna and of course the outhouses. Currently under construction is a new log cabin sauna which I can’t wait to see finished… maybe next year.

With our bellies full and knowing our surroundings, we all returned to our cabins to prepare for the weekend’s main event; The Escape the Hooved Man Race. The race would take place at night on a course that would have us navigating over 30km of grooved fat bike trails in the pitch dark winding through the North Saskatchewan River Delta. Prior to the race Michela’s father Sol, a world champion rower, told the story of the Hooved Man. No spoilers here, to hear the legend you’ll have to go to hear the story from Sol himself as me retelling the story wouldn’t even give it justice. 

It was a relatively warm February evening with temperatures in the -10 Celsius range. We had all drew numbers from a bucket to determine our starting order where we were released into the wilderness at 1 minute intervals. I would leave 10th with 9 riders ahead of me to chase and more to chase me from behind. I started with a burst of energy and excitement to get the speed up quick as I chased down the 9 in front. One by one I would catch them seeing a faint light up ahead giving me extra motivation and also the advantage of seeing more of the trail ahead allowing me to go a little faster. Not knowing the trail and the added challenge of racing it at night made for quite the adventure. The trail was well marked winding through the trees and onto the frozen river until we came to the climbing loop where the legend of the Hooved Man took place. The climbing loop had two climbs both short and the second had a considerably steep portion which all of us had to hike our bikes up. After coming down the last hill I could see there was only one set of tracks in front of me. I would eventually catch the maker of those tracks and be in the front with just over 5km to go. I was happy for this because the final stretch of the race winded back through the forest to the cabins and would offer less opportunities to pass riders than on the flat stretches of the frozen river.

Crossing the line I knew I had likely won making over a 9 minute gap over the people that started prior to me but would not know the official result until all the riders had finished. Finishing as the first rider also had the added bonus of getting first dibs on the hot sauna and gravity shower which I took full advantage of. Nothing better than a warm sauna and shower after a winter bike race!

The next day all of us met for breakfast prior to heading out on a group adventure to explore the trails we had raced the night before. We all tried our best with the added light of day to make it up the Hooved Man hill, some of us came close but none succeeded. Even with the added sun it was still colder than the night before so staying warm was a little tricky and I knew near the end of the group ride I was slightly under dressed so I pushed ahead at pace to get back to the warmth of our cabins wood burning stove and the nearby sauna. After warming up and having lunch I returned solo to the trails to do a bit more exploring prior to the awards ceremony where I would get to hold the famed Hooved Man Trophy… a hand crafted mini wooden fat bike. The evening ended with all of us socializing and enjoying hand made pizzas cooked to perfection in the outdoor pizza oven. Michela even went to the extra effort to make sure that there was gluten free crust available for myself and one of the other attendees. 

Sunday Morning we woke up to another sunny day this one warmer than the last. Some of the riders from Manitoba had to head back home so left on an earlier ride back to the parking area while the rest of us enjoyed one last group ride before packing up and riding out. 

This was a weekend I will never forget, I came for the race but stayed for the adventure and enjoyed it even more. The hospitality of Michela, her husband Leo, and her parents Sol and Renee was second to none. It was truly a blessing to be welcomed into the unknown with such caring and welcoming open arms. Thank you.

Mike with the Hooved Man Trophy


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