Stellar racing continued in New England this weekend as Craftsbury Outdoor Center hosted the Lost Nation Cup Super-Tour, and the New England Marathon Series got underway at the Freeman Frost White Mountain Classic. Popular Racing continued at both events with competitive fields enjoying some excellent conditions. The fantastic early forecast of a significant snow event was replaced with a gloom-and-doom mostly rain wintery mix; however, the storm never materialized over northern Vermont, and New Hampshire and pleasant conditions prevailed.
The staff at Jackson, led by Ellen Chandler, were as transparent about the situation as possible as the race approached. There was a good base but not much snow on top of it to work with. Confidence grew as the weather predictions improved, and before registration closed, an enthusiastic call to have the race was made. There would be modifications, but Jackson was able to uphold their reputation for grooming and event hosting excellence. There was evidence all over of the work done to prepare the course in time for the start.
As racers made their way to Jackson, their eyes were glued to the temperature in the car as well as the forms of precipitation stuck to tree branches. We saw temps stable in the low thirties and snow clung to trees in higher elevations with ice in the lower. As we closed in on Jackson, the snowbanks were high, and optimism grew when we arrived. Relieved with the ease of commute, we quickly got to work preparing skis.
Early tests of warm and universal klisters were conclusive, as were the trials of Zeros, though many were favoring klister as the Zeros occasionally had a premature release. NWVE tested Swix Nero due to a fair amount of tree debris on the course but ended up going with a final layer of Rode KM3 as it had a good bite and skied free. It has also never given us a reason not to like it.
The course utilized the starting area across the road from the Touring Center. A short double pole zone into a hard left turn and a double track. Racers were routed around the field back to the starting area and back out again to climb Yodel. Racers crossed Carter Notch Road over to the Eagle Mountain Trails and skied two laps. The race ended at the Eagle Mountain House as the cover on Yodel was a little thin to race back down to the traditional finish. While the course was significantly shortened, most people seemed satisfied that it ended where it did! The sun was out, and the temperature rose significantly, causing the tracks to become saturated in exposed areas. Most experienced a slowing of skis, so the race finished on a good note when faced with the alternative of doing another lap with increasing drag slowing the skis. Many did elect to take an extra lap for a cool-down — a testament to the good coverage and fun course.
The field lined up and was given a hopeful, optimistic, and enthusiastic blessing. The minute, then thirty-second warning was announced. It was evident that we have been conditioned to Amie’s Magic Watch at the Geschmossel, but this week’s countdown seemed to coincide with traditional time-keeping. Just as people relaxed from their starting stance, the command was given, and we were off. The first turn created a bottleneck, and an early skier snapped the handle off their pole. Silas Eastman (Unattached) opted to go back for the remnant of his pole and use it to get to the overflow parking lot where he removed his skis, leaving the course, to grab a spare from his car. He worked his way back through the field and into third place overall by the finish. Upon the second approach to Yodel, we turned right, given a supportive cheer by the volunteer, Ron Newbury (Mt. Washington), and began climbing. The field again bunched up, but this time it was a little cleaner. The field was starting to string out with no gaps developing yet. The climb up Yodel did change that, and by the top small groups had formed. It seemed most were climbing well, and it was a matter of fitness that separated the field.
The leaders had broken away with Eli Enman (NWVE), and Sam Evans-Brown (Concord) methodically pulling away. Behind them, Tom Thurston (NWVE) was having a good race. Tom was not able to hold the pace of Eli and Sam up the first climb, but his skiing was as good as his skis as he pulled away from everyone else. The first real pack chased from a distance. Nathan Moreau (CSU), Brian Lavoie (Stowe), Ben Taska (Unattached), and John Sakalowsky (CSU) broke away and began working together. David Herr connected briefly with the group as his skis were climbing very well but suffered a bit when they were slower on the flats and downhills. A deficit that could not be made up.
The next group had a few more of the master’s contenders, David Johnston (MNC) was skiing well after an impressive performance on Saturday in Craftsbury. Rob Bradlee (Wide Meadow) was also skiing very well with Stowe Nordic’s Chris Bean and Portland Nordics George Aponte Clark in his sights. Nat Lucy (Unattached) and Charlie Gunn (Blackwater Nordic) connected as a formidable force. Things became a little more dynamic as James Donegan (NWVE), Brad Clarke (BOC), and Denis Page (Nansen) mixed it up. Early in the race, they pulled Andy Milne (CSU), who always throws it down for the One Day Club Championship. As the course began rolling, other skiers made their way to this group. The top women Elissa Bradley (Ford Sayre) and Jessica Marian (Dirigo), were the first to bridge up. This shook things up as Elissa began driving the pace around mid-race.
Watching things unfold from a short distance Stephen Wright (NWVE) and I had some company briefly with Bob Burnham (CSU). Bob was climbing with ease while Stephen and I were racing a little more conservatively. Bob had previewed the course and tested extensively, which both seemed to be advantageous. He was targeting his teammate Ari Ofsevit (CSU), who eventually traded places with Andy in the pack ahead of us. Ed Momm (Gunstock) worked his way up to us and skied most of the first lap with Stephen and me before fatiguing on the second time up the Eagle Mountain climbs. Stephen’s Zeros would ultimately maintain better speed while the klister skis gradually slowed due to a minor accumulation of debris.
Emanuel Betz (NWVE) opted for crown skis and felt they were slow on the flats, but unbeatable up the climbs. In the end, with an uphill finish, they delivered. He skied much of the race with Robert Faltus (CSU) and Todd Taska (Unattached). Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) had quite a lot of company last week but had some space once the field got to the higher elevation trails. Victor Golovkin (CSU) and Rick Chalmers (Portland Nordic) were close to Trina. Still, the disparity in the size of these athletes created an accordion effect that prevented them from taking advantage of pack tactics on the roller coaster course. Kathleen Maynard (Unattached) and Ann Burnham (CSU) had a good race. Kathleen surged late, besting Ann despite continuous support from her son Jimmy who seemed to be cheering at every corner on the windy loop.
An M9 battle unfolded. Jud Hartmann (NWVE), Doug Armstrong (Mt. Washington), and Perry Bland (NWVE) raced in close proximity. Adding energy to the group was Amy Gunn (Blackwater Nordic) and Mark Lena (Maine Nordic). Jud was able to make a break; however, being it his 10th ski and the first race of the season, his fresh legs faltered with fatigue. He did manage to hang on and win for the M9s. Amy was next and with a cheer that Perry was right behind her, hustled up the final climb, holding off the rest of the group. Doug is another skier like Andy Milne that always has a good race in Jackson. Doug was not going to settle for third for the M9’s and surged late dropping Perry as they exited the field before the climb to the finish. He charged up the last hill, gaining on Perry with a display of unbeatable determination for the home crowd. Doug’s tactic was the same employed by the overall winner Eli Enman using the one-lane bridge to gain an advantage with less than a couple hundred meters to go.
Carol Van Dyke (Stowe Nordic) led what would be the largest pack of women for the day. Elysha Dyer (Unattached) Lisa Doucett and Kimberly Moody (Schussverein) finished, respectively. Carol was part of the defending team Champions; however, commitments cost Stowe two of their key competitors, and they were unable to field the squad that earned them a perfect score last year. Cipperly Good (NWVE) had a great race. The conditions favored those with finesse and superior technique, not to mention the Rode KM3. She raced harder this week and put quite a bit of time on Karen Alence (MNC) throughout the race after the initial climb up Yodel. She was also well ahead of Marathon Series Contenders John Wigglesworth (Drifter XC), Bruce Katz (Unattached), and James Drew (Craftsbury). Jody Newton (CSU) and Sara Mae Berman (CSU) joined Ann Burnham (CSU) to make a perfect team score. The CSU women dominated the field, with nearly half of the female entrants. Another proven strategy for success!
Racers slowly trickled back to the Touring Center to check out the results and change for the post-race lunch. Team scoring got underway, and age group awards were distributed. While there were nearly 100 registrants, complete team rosters were down significantly. Scoring rules were used to fill the team podium as much as possible and then went to the jury composed of the members of the Marathon, One Day Club Championship, and Master’s Committee Members to fill any remaining spots. For the Women, CSU fielded a team with a perfect score. Stowe Nordic was second and tied for 3rd were the remaining clubs in attendance. Scoring then went to the overall place, and Elissa Bradley’s Women’s Overall Win, put Ford Sayre over the top. On the Men’s side, Stowe Nordic’s addition of Chris Bean was key to securing 3rd. CSU argued a moot point, and regardless of the outcome, it would not have changed the fact that they earned 6 points. NWVE took the men’s race with a near-perfect score of 5. It is the second year in a row that these three teams have finished in this order. While NWVE’s racers had an outstanding day, in team racing, it can come down to a matter of who shows up. We owe MNC’s David Johnston, Craftsbury’s George Hall, and Stowe Nordic’s David Hosmer much thanks for winning their categories for which we did not field a racer! Eli, Tom, Jud, and James retained the men’s title for NWVE, while Cipperly carried the women to the third-place tie!
This excellent report brought to you by Damien Bolduc.