The CXC Team capped off a great early season racing tour with two more wins this weekend at the 2002 Olympic site of Soldier Hollow, Utah. They have now dispersed to their respective homes to enjoy Christmas with their families but will be back on the race scene January 1-7 in Houghton, MI for Senior Nationals.
By Friday the snow had melted from Soldier Hollow and the hills were brown. All that was left was a 2km loop that had a good base of man-made snow to sustain it. On Saturday the women raced five laps to complete their 10km and the men raced 8 laps for their 15km race. The trails were hectic with so many racers on the course at once but all of the CXC competitors: Garrott Kuzzy, Brian Gregg, Bryan Cook, and Caitlin Compton, managed to stay strong and focused to pull off good races.
Kuzzy had the best race on the men's side, finishing 7th (1:40 back of the winner, Kris Freeman) in an extremely competitive field. Kuzzy posted the fourth fastest time for an American as the Canadian National Team had several top men racing. Cook and Gregg also skied well, placing 28th and 30th, respectively. Gregg was the top US U23 competitor. Cook commented, "The Zeolit bases on our Salomon skis, combined with Fish's awesome waxing, made our skis wicked fast today."
Before the race, Compton predicted, "There's going to be a lot of girls out on the course. I am going try to catch as many of them as possible; catch up to someone, pass them, then chase down the next girl." Her strategy paid off as Compton posted a blazing fast time of 26:36 setting a standard that only one other woman could come close to (Tasha Betcherman, INDi2010, in 26:43), everyone else was more than 50 seconds back. This win further secured Compton the SuperTour Overall Leader and Distance Leader's bibs.
In Sunday's Individual Classic sprint races, CXC Team was represented by two athletes, Bryan Cook and Laura Valaas, but they represented well! The heavy snowstorm and colder temperatures allowed them to race on Toko hard wax instead of klister, although it did make the tracks soft and, in some places, nonexistent. Cook raced the prelims well and qualified for the heats in tenth. He landed in a competitive quarterfinal with Andy Newell (USST), Dave Chamberlain (MWSC), and Anders Haugen (Rossignol). The group was all together coming over the biathlon bridge into the stadium when another skier's ski snapped Cook's pole. His misfortune bumped him back to last in that quarter, 13th place overall.
Valaas had better luck, skiing all three heats without mishap. She won her quarterfinal and semifinal and then went up against Amanda Ammar (Canadian Nat'l Team), Kristina Strandberg (Subaru Factory Team), and Tara Whitten (INDi2010) in the women's A Final. Valaas went out hard and put the hammer down on the first hill, dropping the other women. She maintained her lead to win the A Final by 13 seconds, her fifth consecutive victory in a sprint race this season.
Valaas said after her race, "I didn't mind if the other women drafted me out of the stadium, I just wanted to have a gap by the top of horseshoe hill so they couldn't draft on the long downhill into the stadium. The plan was to leave them in my wake like I was our Lake Express High Speed Ferry. By the high point on the course the race was mine!"
The CXC athletes racing in Soldier Hollow look forward to rejoining their other two teammates, Andre Watt and Matt Liebsch, for the next series of races in Houghton, Michigan at Senior Nationals January 3rd, a 5/10km classical race.