For the final event of the Central XC Skiing NorAm SuperTour Series, athletes had the opportunity to compete in the City of Lakes Loppet. While a week ago poor snow conditions and high temperatures looked as if they would force the postponement of the event, the Tuesday mini snowstorm in combination with heroic shoveling efforts by organizers and volunteers made the race not only possible but enormously successful as well. Warned to use rock skis or a “B-pair” of boards, athletes entered the event with relatively low expectations for course conditions. What greeted them on the trail was an extremely positive surprise, and all post-event talk in Calhoun Square centered on how much better the snow conditions were than expected. While certainly the skis did come out with some scrapes and dings, conditions were safe and provided for a fair contest.
The City of Lakes Loppet was the first SuperTour event of the 2005/2006 season to be contested at a major citizen marathon. For athletes who have been following the tour since Fairbanks in early November, the Loppet was a reintroduction to marathon racing and the “opening of marathon season.” From here the SuperTour moves onto the Owl Creek Chase marathon in Aspen, CO. Following, most FIS racing in the U.S. ceases until Spring Series, allowing athletes to compete in the Birkie and remaining marathon races. The Loppet was a good opportunity for the hardcore, road-weary SuperTour athletes to race among the citizen, junior, child, and recreational skiers that took part in the weekend’s events. It was a fun event.
Because of hard-packed, fast conditions, nine or so of the top SuperTour men skied together in a train from start to finish. While the City of Lakes Loppet course is surprisingly hilly and technical for an urban marathon, all the hills are short and steep, and thus not the sort that break up a pack. Given snow conditions, race organizers were forced to shorten the course from 35 to 28 kilometers. The course ended with a long sweeping loop around a lake before making a turn onto a snow-covered street (the previous night’s sprint course) for approximately 400 meters of drag racing toward the finish line. After 28 kilometers of skiing, the pack of men made the left hand turn off the water and sprinted toward the finish. Inside of 100 meters to go, Dave Chamberlain, Chad Giese, and Brayton Osgood, had the lead, with the slightest advantage appearing to go to Osgood. The remainder of the pack was no more than a ski length behind and barreling down upon them. In the final moments, as Chamberlain and Giese tried to find one more gear, one of two stumbled taking down the other. Brayton Osgood (Alpina/Madshus, Maine Winter Sports Center) remained clear and took the win. With Chamberlain and Giese down, Matt Weier (Atomic) and Dr.Adam Swank snuck in for second and third. The fall resulted in Giese breaking a pole. Chamberlain and Giese scrambled up to finish fifth and seventh, respectively. Alex Churikov (Rossignol/ Russian Style Ski School) slipped in between the two recovered athletes.
The elite and SuperTour women began two minutes behind the men, a start position that prevented turmoil at the start, but did cause the occasional challenge as packs of women caught up with and tried to get quickly and cleanly around wave one men. While the women’s race had a good strong pack of more than ten early on in the hills of Wirth Park, it splintered into chunks before leaving the park. Four women emerged as a lead pack fighting for the win: Erin Hood, Anna McLoon, Karin Caminesch, and Natasha Naryshkina. According to McLoon, “The women did a good job working together and trading off the lead.” As the four got onto the lakes near the end of the course, McLoon accessed the situation around her, and finding herself among standout sprinters realized her best option was to “really go for it.” She explained, “I figured the only option I had was to really wear them down on the lakes.” McLoon took off in V2 and open-field, and could tell that the others were working hard as they refused feeds that were offered. Hood fell slightly off the group, but Caminesch and Naryshkina hung on. The race came down to a three-way sprint on the final boulevard. The results replicated the previous night’s Sprint with Naryshkina (Rossignol, Russian Style Ski School) proving herself the top sprinter over Caminesch (Rossignol). McLoon (Atomic) was third. Erin Hood (Alaska Pacific University) and Caitlin Compton (Subaru Factory Team, Go! Training) were fourth and fifth, respectively.
While not part of the SuperTour, the City of Lakes Loppet also had a classic division. Jon Miller, a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, where he skied on the team, took the men’s title, while Josie Nelson and Margie Nelson (both of the skinnyski.com team) came across the line to share the victory in the women’s competition.
It was a great day at the races!
Photos by Paul Phillips/Competitive Images