Unseasonably warm temperatures moved in a day before the race, decimating the season’s snowpack. A look up the mountain on the morning of the race revealed lots of exposed rocks and grass on some of the advanced ski terrain. The only upside is that at least temperatures would be comfortable, unlike the bitter cold I’d experienced each of the previous 4 years racing at Jay Peak.
With an international field of 18 people lined up at the start at the Nordic center on a narrow trail, I just tried to stay to the edge and avoid a broken pole or getting stampeded. A group of 6 quickly separated from the rest of the field including Josh F, 4 Quebecois, and myself. These guys were using full race gear and skin suits which isn’t all that common in the Northeast. Besides Josh and I, another competitor, Daniel P., was also on the Hagan X-Race. He was entered in the PDG last year but the race was unfortunately cancelled just before his start group.
Over 2 miles and 25+ minutes later, we finally exited the XC trails for some climbing. The group of 6 had strung itself out and I was able to put a 50 second gap on Josh who had also distanced himself from the other 4. There was very little downhill traffic coming at us as the trail was closed because a winch-cat lost control, slid down a steep section of trail, over the cat track, and perched itself in some trees. (Even with the winch, the cat couldn’t get back up to the trail and was only freed by cutting a swath of trees down the mountain allowing the cat could drive out.)
Unlike previous years, the course was fairly well marked with signs placed on bamboo poles. The wind had turned some of these signs causing some confusion and many people to miss the left-hand turn to the summit. These people took a somewhat longer route with less vertical but rejoined the course shortly after the missed turn.
After one challenging descent of Kitzbuehel on big soft bumps, the rest of the course was groomers and low angled climbing followed by lots of skating to get back to the XC trails where some gliding, poling, and more skating ensued. After opening up an initial gap on the first climb, I didn’t see anyone for the remainder of the race. I had my first clean race at this venue (familiarity with the mountain certainly helped) and was able to pull off a repeat victory. Josh came in around 4 minutes behind and then a pack of 3 finished within seconds of each other 9 minutes later. Daniel just edged out the other two so it was a podium sweep for the X-Race!
No races on the calendar until the end of January where one could potentially do 3 races in 2 days. Burke just recently announced a new event the morning of the 26th, Daniel P. organizes what looks to be a great event at Orford, QC in the evening, and then the NE Rando Series opens up its calendar at Berkshire East on the 27th. I was on the Berkshire course this morning and the ascent route is in great shape. Just an inch or two this week and it will be a very fast skintrack!