WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH – Better known as “Fear the Beard” on the professional Cyclocross and mountain bike circuits, Robert Marion of Mount Airy looks to defend his expert division men’s title at the 2017 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship. Now in its third year, the competition returns to Wrightsville Beach, March 10-12.
“I was really excited and had never ridden on the beach until the day before last year’s race,” Marion said. “Race Director Shawn Spencer and his crew do a nice job mixing the course up with soft sand, packed sand and obstacles to keep the race very challenging and exciting.”
As an ex-football lineman, Marion picked up cycling to lose weight. Losing over 100 pounds and turning pro in only three-years, Marion found biking, discovered racing, and was hooked.
“When you’re 260-pounds playing football, you’re an athlete,” said Marion. “When you’re 260-pounds hanging out and watching TV, you’re just a fat guy.”
Currently, Marion ranks in the top-12 overall in Cyclocross in the United States and finished in the top-45 in last year’s UCI World Cup in Belgium.
Marion didn’t always compete with a long beard. As the man mane has grown in popularity over the years, Marion grabbed a sponsorship opportunity as his beard took on a life of its own.
“Right after I started racing it was pretty cold winter training in 25 degrees,” Marion added. “I was tired of wearing face masks and decided to quit shaving. With consistent victories in the top 10 in Cyclocross at the UCI level, one of our sponsors, Xpedo, coined the name and hashtag #FearTheBeard and it stuck from there.”
The 2017 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship begins with adventure-cycling clinics on Friday, March 10. Beginner, sport, and expert races get underway on Saturday with races of eight-miles, 16-miles, and 24-miles. A fat bike nature tour of uninhabited Masonboro Island will wrap up the weekend on Sunday.
With participants ranging in age from 14-67 years old, competitors from across the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, and as far away as Pennsylvania are scheduled to race this weekend. All activities originate from Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
“There’s nothing else like this race in the United States,” Marion said. “It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to getting back to this race and the beach.”
This year’s event benefits The Wrightsville Beach Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, improving and enhancing the quality and enjoyment of local islands, parks and recreation programs and amenities.
From sea to shining sea, there are over 100 Fat Bike races scheduled from North Carolina-to-California over the next two months.
What is a fat bike? A fatbike is an off-road bicycle with over-sized tires designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud.