The re-scheduled Michigan Cup Marathon race was held today under mostly sunny skies. A brisk breeze blew from the west, and at race start the temperature was about 18 degrees. The race was in doubt earlier in the week, as rain and warm temperatures had devastated the course. Fortunately, several inches of dry lake effect snow fell in time to create a very good freestyle track.
Many racers who had completed back-to-back 50K marathons were excited to compete in a shorter 30K event. There was a lot of second guessing which skis to use, as skis prepared with cold low-flouro wax seemed no faster than a warmer high-flouro mixture. The snow was dry, and had been blown by wind for 2 days, so those who gambled on the colder wax generally had faster skis.
The new course at Hanson Hills is beautiful yet challenging. The massive hills at the 3K mark are gone. Instead, the race headed south behind the toboggan hill, then headed east behind the ski hills. A long line of racers skied for position before beginning the first climb, a though hill that caused more than a few spiked heartbeats.
There are always skiers who don't want to wait their turn to climb, but a shout of "Hey buddy, I got here first!" forced them to back off. The downhills were very controllable, and the course is rolling and seemed to favor the strong climbers. The second 15K loop featured a long, difficult climb up the eastern ski slope.
The 30K men's race was won by Andrew Triebold with a time of 1:24.21. Defying the laws of aging, Cliff Onthank was inches behind, finishing at 1:24.22. At the finish line, Onthank exclaimed, "Andy got me by half of a foot. This was one fun race!"
The women's 15K race was also close, as Tracy Hardin (49:37) narrowly defeated Daniela Gebhardt (49:40).
Hanson Hills hosts a quality event. The grooming by Butch Stockton and the Hanson Hills staff is second to none.