NWVE toed the line in the first ever Craftsbury Nordic Sprint Doubleheader. The weekend was full of intense racing as well as some phenomenal skiing in between rounds. Saturday was the warmer of the days, and overnight rain transformed the snow. It remained cloudy, and temperatures dropped gradually throughout the day.
NWVE skiers were eager to get the racing season underway and met at our designated spot next to the main lodge. We set up our table and quickly got to work testing klister and skis. We went with the NWVE Wax recommendation and as predicted it seemed pretty easy to figure out. Rode KM3 is a great klister. A few went with Rex Gold, and Rode Rossa was in the mix as well. Camille and Jessica liked the KM3, and that was good enough for most. It also improved as the day went on.
The Sprint course has a very fast start out of the upper field to Six Corners. From here racers went down Moss’s Hill, crossed Bailey Hazen and then climbed Dennis’s Demise. This brings you into Coaches Corner where you return to the Lower Field and then finish in the Upper Fields via Teaching Hill. Most racers were thankful not to have their final approach be up Chip Hill.
Qualifying got underway and wrapped up quickly with the 15-second interval. Jessica Bolduc was the lone NWVE woman in the field, and she was joined by Master’s Kathy Maddock (Dublin) and Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic). Jessica and Kathy looked great finishing the lap, Sara was slipping a little but right in the mix. All Master’s women advanced to the Quarter Final Sprint Rounds.
Jessica was in Round 1 with Julia Kern (SMS T2), Rena Schwartz (Dartmouth) and Laura Appleby (CSU). She looked good as she set out unintimidated by the resumes of her fellow sprinters. As they returned Julia had a commanding lead followed by Rena and Laura, and then Jessica came up the hill with “the beautiful Classic Diagonal we love to see,” exclaimed NENSA Executive Director Amie Smith. Kathy and Sara also looked great in their rounds, but none of the Master’s Women were able to match the youth in this deep field to advance to the Semi Qualifying Rounds. They all seemed happy with their efforts, and it was a great start to the day.
On the Men’s side, NWVE had five racers. As with the women, the men found qualifying to be a bit of a shock. We are not used to the short, intense spurt that a sprint is, nor have we trained at all for it, but still most were pleased to have given it a go. Tyler Magnan was solidly in the top half, Chris Burnham was a few spots back mixing it up with Neal Graves (Stowe Nordic), new NWVE member John Thompson was right there and then me (Damian Bolduc) and Brendan Barden rounded out the field with fellow Masters Rob Bradlee (CSU) and Christopher Naimie (Bow).
Tyler, Chris Burnham, Neal, and John all made it into the Quarter Finals, and it was exciting to watch them go against the big guns. The were all pleased with their skis, wax, and performance. The field was fast, but all looked to hold their own with the big dogs. Tyler’s Quarter Final was fast enough to advance to the Semi-Finals by taking one of the lucky loser spots. This was a noted and impressive result for the M2!
Damian and Brendan would race in the “Queens Court” Master's Round with Rob and Chris N. A U16 Samuel Clark (Onion River) was also included. In preparing for the final many athletes were adding some “pepper” to their skis. I debated on if I should put a little “mustard” on mine and Tyler pointed out that I would be “pretty pissed with myself if Rob beat me at the line.” The decision was made and a light structure and some fluoro treated the bases. I did not change kick at all even though hours had passed with a lot of sun. Brendan and I set our plan for the final and before we knew it we were off. Samuel took things out fast, but by 6 Corners, Rob had taken the lead. I sat behind them down Moss’s and on the climb up Denis’ took advantage of their fatigue. I had the lead through the dip into the lower field and put in a strong kick up Teaching Hill to the finish winning the heat. Brendan held off Chris N. as planned.
We celebrated with a brief awards ceremony and took off to prepare for Sundays Freestyle Sprint.
Overnight the temps dropped into the teens, and it was expected that things would freeze solid. Upon returning, temps rose to the mid-twenties with overcast. The course was surprisingly soft. Trails around the rest of the center were very firm. Sunday’s race fields had nearly double the number of Saturday’s.
NWVE once again had a lone female in the Women’s race. This time it was Hannah Barden. Nordic Sprints were definitely something new to Hannah and she crossed the line in the qualifier smiling, thinking that it was not so bad. Her time was competitive, beating Brendan’s from the classic qualifier the day before, and she was looking forward to the heats. Sara Graves (Stowe) and Alex Jospe (CSU) were the other Master’s women in the field. Kathy (Dublin) was on coaching duty. Sara and Alex advanced to the Quarter-Finals while Hannah was moved to the Queens Court rounds. Alex advanced to the Semi-Final Round, happy with the result noting why she makes the juniors do intervals, and perhaps she might jump into a few more. Sara had a solid Quarter closing on Mansfield’s Sammie Nolan. Ava Thurston (Mansfield) was on fire and took her racing all the way to the Women’s A final. A very impressive showing for the high school freshman.
In the Queens Court sprints, Hannah had to race two times back to back. Brendan noted she did not look as fresh and happy as she did during the qualifier, but she was happy with the day and all the skiing she got in.
The racing went by fast. Especially for me. I miss understood a warning that athletes should arrive to the start 10 minutes early as 10 minutes until the start of the race. As I was taking off my warm-ups and talking to Neal he pointed out that I better get over the start. I looked over and they were looking for me.. I grabbed my skis and poles and ran making it to the starting wand one second late without my poles on. I took off and went for it. I eventually got my hands into the straps and finished about where I normally would have. A few mentioned that I have a lot of experience skiing without poles.
Tyler had another good qualifier placing in the top third of the racers. New member Thomas Clayton was right in front of Neal (Stowe), and Chris B. rounding out the Quarter Final spots. Michael Gaughan (Mansfield) and Luke Shullenberger just missed qualifying for the Quarter Finals in 31st and 33rd position respectively. A few more masters went for it in Qualifying including Steve Crafts (Mansfield), Jay Davis (Ford Sayre), David Johnstone (Unattached/Mansfield), Troy Howell, and Brendan.
In the Quarter Finals Tyler hung in with the leaders to the top of the hill. According to Strava, he had one of the fastest climbs of the day, but cresting the hill, he could not keep up with the driving pace of the younger athletes and fell back a couple of seconds. It is amazing how significant these minimal amounts of time are in a sprint, and as you are racing, you have to stay focused on not lose any time anywhere. I guess that is part of the allure of the sprints. Tyler placed 5th in his heat. Neal, Thomas, and Chris all placed 6th in their respective heats.
The Queens Court Sprints were held after awards for those that made the regular rounds and were a little more interesting as they featured an oil and water mix of Masters and BKL racers. Many opted not to wait for the end of the long day, but a few of us hung in there. I look forward to competing and know that a few are gunning for me so why not finish the day and let the chips fall where they may. Brendan was all in as well. Steve Crafts (Mansfield) stayed as long as he could before bailing in the Final Round to get back to Burlington. Brendan and I were thinking we were kind to the BKL racers, but the truth was that they had us whipped. Like Hannah we did back to back rounds, and our endurance helped us prevail slightly as we moved up in the standings. Brendan had the most decisive heat victory of the day.
There were many lessons learned at the first ever Craftsbury Sprint Doubleheader. It was a great event, and while I have avoided sprints in
the past, this format was actually a lot of fun. It has me thinking that in future sprints if I get in shape and have my poles on at the start, I might do OK. The thrill, focus, and intensity were all positive aspects of the experience, and because the course was so short, people did not have to wait around too long for me to finish! After day one, I thought that there was not too much strategy on this course, but in day two with the different challenges, I found there was a whole lot more to it.