Masters Racing was in full force today at Stowe Nordic's Crosscut Classic. NWVE and Mansfield showed their might in what looks to be the first of many showdowns this season. With the postponement of the Gunstock January Thaw to today, clubs had two options for races. NWVE sent a couple to the Guilford, but a majority opted to target the race closer our base in Stowe.
Conditions were as predicted: ample fresh powder, low temperatures, a light wind, and a bright sun warming the skiers. Temps remained in the single digits for the duration of the event creeping from the minus to the positive side of things. It felt much warmer to some athletes questioning if they should go to a softer wax. A shallow track (the tracker was not fully operational) was set in the fine powder on top of a base that can be measured in feet. The course climbed steadily before hitting two herringbone sections and then had a long descent before climbing again and another lengthy downhill that returned you to the stadium for a winding finish. It was a counter-clockwise loop that took the Peavey Trail, to Bear Run, onto the Burt Trail, up Bruce and back on Timberlane. Every wax was working in the cold powder, and after some testing, many went with the club recommendation of Rode Green and/or VR30 covered with Start Green Terva for kick.
Racing got underway with 15-second intervals. Everyone was generally mixed up, though the trend seemed to put younger athletes out first with those that followed increasing in age. Men and Women raced together, a dynamic I find leads to more polite racing overall. People were in good spirits and there were no major panics as the wax was easy to hit and conditions were not going anywhere. The semi-random start order led to a lot of action during the race with athletes reporting some good competition in the mixed traffic.
Even though the start order trended from younger to older, someone had to go out and pack the powder putting speed into the tracks. Drawing bib 301, this act of mercy was carried out by Leigh Mallory, with the honor of being the first starter. He was chased down by some young women including Ava Thurston (Mansfield) and Camille Bolduc. Meredith Mashtare made her first foray into club racing today, holding her own against some Harvard talent in the U20 Women’s division. After taking some chilly turns on the mountain early in the morning, Chris Burnham was psyched to change into his brand new NWVE uniform. He was chased by Patrick Cafferky, also donning the NWVE threads in a points race for the first time. Patrick was in his first classic race since high school. Kasie Enman received high remarks from Mansfield’s Jim Fredericks and Joann Hanowski as she edged that power couple by a few seconds for the first time. Kasie liked the first half of the race but was not as much a fan of the second half. Perhaps the Race to the Clouds is more her thing? Kasie was in the thick of NWVE with Eric Tremble starting just in front of her and Tyler Magnan right on her heels. Eric and Tyler had solid efforts, but the M1-2 division was strong with Ford Sayre's Joel Bradley taking the podium. I (Damian Bolduc) was the next out, starting between NENSA's Justin Beckwith, and Eli Enman. Because Eli caught me before my do not pass me before the 1km mark rule, I stayed in the track and made Eli go around me, 4km later Justin was more polite and yielded the track on the crest of a long climb to me. Eric Darling paced himself well and took advantage of some fast skis on the downhills in the second half of the race. He overtook Ford Sayre's Elissa Bradley and me with unmatched closing speed. Jessica Bolduc, Sarah Pribram and Jennifer Carlson were the next NWVE starters and would race together reversing their order for the finish and sweeping the FM3-4 category! All had strong races, but Jennifer would prevail in the final kilometers. Manny Betz and Jonathan Rodd had a similar race, Jonathan in his first race in two years after a hip replacement. Both overtook Ric Schaaf (Mansfield) who may have peaked too early in the season when he swept the NWVE 1 Mile Uphill Roller Ski Time Trial. Will he pull a Eugene de’Fallopian? Mixed into M5-6 division, the largest of the day by far, was NWVE’s Tom Thurston, who would ski through the field earning first in the division and Ed Hamilton who had a great result overtaking Ford Sayre’s Rick Powell and Bryce Wing, as well as Onion River’s Chris Bean and Mansfield's Rick Costanza to place a solid second place behind Tom. Also in the mix was Stephen Wright who had one of the fastest double poles through the stadium on his way to the finish and Mike Mashtare who was coming off a knee injury that set him back a bit in the fall. I am hoping to see more of these two over the rest of the season. While Leigh took charge at the top of the start order, Tim Cowan was towards the end of those who preregistered. Tim had a great race keeping company with Onion River's John Lazenby in a race to the finish. The M7-8 division was also stacked with the likes of Ford Sayre’s Chris Nice, Craftsbury’s Peter Harris, and Mansfield's Jim Fredericks. It is great to see the rivalries still going strong. Rounding out the start order was the DOR registrants, Luke Shullenberger and Kyle Darling. By the time that these guys started today, all of Leigh’s work of putting speed into the tracks had been taken out. Regardless of the disadvantage of obliterated tracks and loose powder these two sped through the course and were happy to check off the first race of the season and are calculating got the next one.
While it was another chilly race, no one minded as spirits were high for the first major race of 2018. NWVE and Mansfield are sure to be in the hunt for the club series lead with today's numbers. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out when the points are tallied. Special thanks to Stowe Nordic for hosting a spectacular race! I hope that it returns and permanently fills the opening left by the Bogburn as it moved to a weekend later in the season. It was great to see all the familiar faces from around New England enjoying the day and setting their sights on the Geschmossel!