It was a relatively big weekend in the skimo world with athletes competing overseas at the Tour du Rotur in Italy, and on this side of the Atlantic at both the Pan-American Ski Mountaineering Championships at Lake Louise and the gnarliest cross-country ski race out there, the Grand Traverse in Colorado.
USA and Canada Race News
Pan-American Ski Mountaineering Championships – Lake Louise, AB – Mar 23-25:
With top US athletes currently spread out all over the world Lake Louise still attracted a strong group mainly coming from Colorado and Montana. The Canadians were out in full force for both men and women.
Make sure to check out our link to full results as there were also Junior and Cadet categories.
Vertical race – Friday:
The men’s race was a tight affair most of the way as Rory Kelly (USA) was only slowly building his lead over Eric Carter (USA but living in Canada) and current Canada’s fastest skimo athlete Nick Elson. Peter Knight (CAN) came in fourth after putting in a strong showing.
In the women’s race, coming off a fresh win at Shedhorn the previous weekend, Sierra Anderson took a dominant win over Michela Adrian and Jaime Brede (all from USA). Fourth went to the first Canadian Michelle Roberts.
> Full results – vertical
Sprint race – Saturday:
Saturday’s sprint race attracted less athletes than anticipated yet still provided for a great event for the resort skiers. All top favorites cruised to the finals without much problems.
The men’s finals featured a strong pack of six and delivered an exciting race. While Nick Elson took off right from the start and build about 10sec lead by top of the boot-pack, the rest was swapping back and forth. Eric Carter was able to away by the top transition and then hold on to second place while Rory Kelly just held off Chris Carr (USA) for third. Travis Brown (CAN) and Jon Brown (USA) took 5th and 6th respectively.
The women’s final featured a similar script when Kylee Ohler, Canada’s top skimo athlete the last few years, went on a mission and convincingly won. The battle for second was a bit tighter with Michela Adrian coming ahead of Sierra Anderson at the end. 4th went to Lori Ann Donald (CAN), 5th to Jaime Brede (USA) and 6th to Martha Burley (CAN).
The junior and cadet categories delivered great spectating as well and provided an insight into the talent pool in both countries.
> Full results – sprint
Individual race – Sunday:
With great weather and good racing temperatures it was time to take on a big and technical course the organizing committee laid out throughout the best terrain of the Lake Louise Ski Resort – over 1700m vertical spread over 5 climbs and a distance of over 20km to cover.
The first 30min of the men’s race was quite close as the weekend’s familiar trio of Rory Kelly, Eric Carter and Nick Elson was keeping things together. However, after the first descent, long time training partners, Carter and Elson started to pull away and kept building their lead even when breaking trail – they know how to do this very efficiently. They tried to break each other on the last ascent yet both failed so everything was to be decided in the last descent. Skiing together, Elson took a pretty big fall so Carter stopped to check on him. While Elson was fine the two decided to it was safer and more fair to finish hand-in-hand to tie for first. Kelly was able to secure his third place despite the closely following Peter Knight who put in another great performance.
In the women’s race, all eyes were on Sierra Anderson, Kylee Ohler and Michela Adrian – the first two being favourites on paper. After 2h 20min of racing the difference between the winning Andreson and second Ohler was only 1min 47sec, although, Andreson was in the lead the whole way. Third place went to Adrian who stood on the podium on each of the three days.
> Full results – individual
Grand Traverse – Crested Butte, CO – Mar 24:
The following recap was sent in by Nikki LaRochelle, who represented USA at the 2017 World Championships. Thank you very much Nikki!
After weeks of Crested Butte having clear, sunny skies, a storm rolled in on Friday – the day before the midnight start – forcing race organizers to switch the course to the “Reverse” format to mitigate potential avalanche danger. This course profile is similar to the proper course, with climbing 6,000 ft on a 34 miles long route.
Conditions on the course were variable – once racers exited Crested Butte Ski Area, they traversed through East River which had very thin coverage and plenty of grabby sagebrush. Luckily, the snow bridge creek crossings were intact and the snow quality improved as racers ascended up Brush Creek to the Friends Hut aid station. Just past this checkpoint, athletes ascended up towards Star Pass and then turned around to descend back down Brush Creek. This made for tricky downhill skiing as there was two way traffic in a dense forest with fast conditions. Once racers navigated this low angle descent, they had to skate and eventually run down Brush Creek Road to the Upper Upper trail which circumnavigates the south side of Mount Crested butte. Here the conditions were exceptionally thin and athletes had to decide between skinning and running. There were extensive dry patches along the way making this decision a tough one.
The race was led from start to finish by the men’s team, Cam Smith and Sean Vanhorn. These guys were on fire and seemingly untouchable by the rest of the field. Teams in second through fifth place were back and forth for the first half of the race but ultimately spread out after the descent from Star Pass. Laird-Sullivan team were able to make up major time in the second half and were able to overtake Greydanus-Jordan for second at the very end of the race. The co-ed team Brad and Nikki LaRochelle was in the front pack mix the first half of the race and settled into fourth for the second half. The women’s team Smith-Susla won uncontested with the second place women’s team 32 minutes back.
The following recap was sent in by Cam Smith, who also represented USA at the 2017 World Championships. Thank you very much Cam!
Crested Butte has had a tough winter. We are close to record low snowfall. Most of the lower elevation sections of the course were totally dry. But as luck would have it, the biggest storm of the season came in the day before the race. 2.4in of SWE fell at backcountry weather stations, forcing the course to be “reversed” back to Crested Butte. The course was in surprisingly good shape given the weather. Organizers and volunteers did a great job. We were on skis for about 32 of the 35 miles, and despite the challenging weather they were able to mark things very well. We did do a fair bit of trailbreaking at the front for most of the race. Since the course was flatter than normal we felt comfortable taking it out a little harder than we otherwise would.
We were at the front right away and nobody came with us. So we just kept moving at a pace we thought was sustainable, which ended us giving us a sizable lead for most of the race. We made a point not to look over our shoulders so didn’t know the next team was 1 minute or 30 minutes behind us. We knew that no matter the lead if we let up or made a mistake the teams behind us would be happy to take advantage. The highlight of the race was skiing back down the two way traffic. We were cheering for the uphillers while they were jumping out of the way and cheering right back. It was a pretty neat race experience. I even saw my sister on her way up, as well as other friends out completing their own races.
The GT is an amazing community event, it’s so cool to see your friends and neighbors out on course. Even though you’re deep in the backcountry there are folks out cheering your names in the middle of the night. There are hundreds of people preparing the course, organizing the event, and giving up a night of sleep to support the racers. It really brings the community together which is a big part of why we love the race so much. The volunteers and race staff are the real heroes of the weekend.
> Full Results
NE Rando Race Series Finale – Bromley, VT and Sunday River, ME – Mar 17 and Mar 24:
Contributed by East Coast SkinTrack.com Correspondent Jonathan Shefftz. Thank you Jonathan!
On March 17th the NE Rando Race Series returned to Southern Vermont for its fourth of five USSMA-sanctioned races. Bromley provided conditions that were the perfect antidote to the rapidly diminishing snowpack at the NE Rando February 24 race at Berkshire East, MA following a week of temps in the 60sF and even 70F, followed by the groomer-fest at the SkimoEast March 3 race at Jay Peak VT. Instead, after over six feet of snow during the first half of March, Bromley served up descents of cut-up powder interspersed with some tight moguls.
The approximately 5,000 feet layout started with a loop around the edges of the resort boundary and then three cycles of an inner circuit comprising a full skin, short ski, short boot, and full ski. Milan Kubala took his second NE Rando win of the season, followed by Abe Meyehofer and Alex Nichols. For the women, Katie Vadasdi also took her second NE Rando win.
In the age classes, for Masters, Race Director Jonathan Shefftz took the win, ahead of Cameron Chalmers and Thomas McHenry in third, while Barbara Tardiff took her second win of the season for women. Stratton Mountain School nordic racer Asa Chalmers took his second win of the season for U17. Alaskan nordic racer Canyon Tobin took the U20 win while also just barely missing the Open podium an shocking the entire field by leading the first ascent … on regular touring gear, all borrowed!
The season wrapped up on March 24 at Sunday River, Maine: by far the most expansive course layout in the East, starting at one end of the resort, zig-zagging up and down the lower mountain to the other end, then finally working its way back by zig-zagging up and down the upper mountain. Almost all of the 5,600 feet of vertical comprised steep tight bump runs.
Ed Warren took his second NE Rando win of the season, followed by Jan Wellford and Brian MacIlvain (“fresh” from the Pierra Menta). Whitney Withington smoked all of the bump runs to take the win over Jen Downing. Race Director Jonathan Shefftz won for the Master’s.
> Full Results
International Race News
Tour du Rutor – Italy – Mar 23-25:
After coming off a very strong showing at Pierra Menta where they placed 10th, we were all awaiting how will the team of John Gaston and Tom Goth (both USA) fair in another famous European stage race. Tour du Rutor takes place every second year and is always attended by many very fast teams.
Here’s a very nice video from the second day:
Racing between the top 3 men’s teams was very close every day and ultimately the overall differences were small. Italian’s Michele Boscacci and a yound Davide Magnini won by only 3min over their countrymen Matteo Eydallin and Nadir Maguet who had another 3.5min over over a French team William Bon Mardion and Xavier Gachet (3rd at recent Pierra Menta as well). Tom Goth and John Gaston had very even placing every day (11th, 10th and 10th) to score another top 10 result at a prestigious European skimo stage race. Congrats!
In the women’s race, it was the recently crowned European Champion Axelle Mollaret (FRA) partnering with Jennifer Fiechter (SWI) to take all three stages and ultimately the overall with about 6min over second placed Italian team Alba de Silvestro and Katia Tomatis (Axelle Mollaret partner at Pierra Menta). They had a significant gap over third placed Lorna Bonnel (FRA) and Severine Pont Combe (SWI).
> Full Results
With the skimo racing season coming to a close soon there are still a couple of events worthwhile considering. Check out our calendar and hop on the start line for one more challenge!