The Craftsbury Spring Classic was held on Saturday. It was the second major classic race of the season, with the first being The Prospect Vermont Cup which took most masters by surprise and was not well attended. The Craftsbury Spring Classic brought in many more masters and was one of the most "normal" high-level races of the season.
The format was Men skiing 10km and Women skiing 5km, both with a 30-second interval. Age division breaks between waves were minimized. The course was the traditional Craftsbury North Race Loop that has been in use for decades. Skiers welcomed the return to almost regular racing as it provided that community and inclusive feel that is so important to sport. In this case, the different cohorts were still separated, but we could still reasonably see each other. In the Men's race, there was even a little overlap due to it being two loops.
Conditions were the talk of the day. I arrived to see the groomer Eric Hanson wrapping up his inspection and asked, "how much speed they left in the course?"
He replied, "all of it. We are down to the boilerplate leftover from the rain; there are places where the 400 could not even set a full depth track!"
I found this intriguing and told him that “I have three-foot snowdrifts in my driveway he is welcome to have.”
“Ah, the snow catcher, we used to set up fences in Strong and Dustin Fields to capture the snow and truck it to the center," he said.
While I trusted the feedback, I had a pair of test skis prepped and plenty of time, so I set out to do my inspection.
So the rain earlier in the week had solidified things, but we also received two accumulations resulting in five-inches of light powder. On Wednesday, I had skied 35km when the bottom of the tracks was icy, and the new powder was fresh. It was true that the new snow was compressed, but it was plenty workable to my satisfaction. I really only need a trace of new snow on cold days. My decision was made - hard wax all the way. Temps were barely over the double digits, and the tracks were only going to get better. I used hard wax binder, then a Guru Green layer, a Ski*Go Blue layer and another Guru Green layer.
After my inspection, more skiers arrived, and their consensus was to use violet klister. I just was not seeing it. I am sure that it provided a very positive kick, but this course has so much easy striding on it with a few steep pitches that at race pace, people will herringbone anyway. Plus, a lot of tree debris could accumulate in the klister and slow the ski down later in the race. I was happy and was not going to change a thing and was so confident that I left it on Jessica's skis too. Validation came when Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) was informed that people were using klister, and she went cross-eyed and asked, "why would you even think that was a possibility on a day like today?" It is nice when the most decorated racer in the field agrees with you.
Zach Caldwell (Caldwell Sport) was out testing stuff as well. He is very open about what he is using and rattled off some letters and numbers he was running. I think he understands that since he is testing virtually custom stuff, it is not like anyone will run back to their box and use it. Plus, the application is a significant factor, and nobody does it like Zach. He did offer to prep my skis for me, but I declined. He had chased me up Teaching Hill on a test, and with what I am tuned into (listening to skiers ski), I could tell I was getting what I wanted more easily. I told him what I had on, and he replied, "that'll work." So, it was a day where everything worked and what you put on your ski had more to do with confidence and the acceptance of what you are going to do on a course at race-pace.
For the Spring Classic, the Men raced first. There was a small break between the Juniors/Senior skiers and the Masters. This allowed for some guaranteed overlap as the younger racers skied through the stadium into the Masters's starting lap. Not by much, but enough to offer some excitement. Ten Masters registered for the race, and Sanjay Arwade (Amherst Nordic Ski Association) got things going. Sanjay has been spending the winter here and training with the Craftsbury Masters. As he got underway, he was chased by Brayton Osgood (Dartmouth). Brayton was the top Master for the day, bettering the next one by 90 seconds. Tom Thurston (NWVE) chased Brayton; he fell in with some Senior skiers keeping pace with them. Tom went on to take second for Masters. Manny Betz (NWVE) was next in the order. He had changed hard wax to klister and was interested to see what the result would be. He had a solid race though he lost a little on the second lap. He felt it was good to get a race effort in and noted, like many, that he lacked in the race fitness department. It is amazing how much racing impacts your fitness. Lukas Adamowicz (MNC/Senior) raced in with thethe Masters. Lukas was a nice addition to the field and pushed Manny a bit. Scott Magnan (NWVE) entered his second race of the season. He seemed to be locked into marathon pace and could not get his heart rate going on the courses challenging climbs. I chased Scott and had a great race. I was happy it was a classic technique and set out to be a testament for hard wax. I was able to keep the SMS skiers that lapped through in sight for longer than usual and noticed I was in the tracks a lot more than them and gained a little back on Moss' and Screamin Mimi. Dunbar Oehmig (MNC) started behind me. He has been a steady presence for MNC this season and took second in the M6 division. Mark Isselhardt (Craftsbury) was back in action. He has been enjoying the racing in Craftsbury this season and is a fan of the classic technique. Mark chased down Dunbar and Scott and had Manny in sight as he closed in on the finish. John Witmer (NWVE) was the final starter for the Men. He is not as much of a fan of the classic technique but decided to get another race in for the season since he would be around for some biathlon clinics anyway. John was happy with his result and thought his skis were working well. He updated me on all the changes in Lake Placid and was excited for some of the future Biathlon competitions bound to be held there.
As the Men's race wrapped up, the Women were warming up. The 5km race started with the U16 Boys and then the Women's field. Thirteen Masters Women raced with a couple having their first start this season. A few of the Masters' women were mixed in with the rest of the field. Those being Caitlin Patterson (GRP), Amy Caldwell (Caldwell Sport), Audrey Mangan (Craftsbury) Rosalie Wilson (Ford Sayre), and Anna Schultz (Craftsbury). Caitlin went on to win, though by only a third of the margin she took the last race in. Audrey had the upper hand in the coaches' battle this week. Camille Bolduc (Craftsbury) was able to maintain her status of finishing ahead of the coaches again. Amy had her work cut out for her, starting right behind Caitlin but just ahead of some U14 talent. She was able to hold off a hard charge from one contender as they raced to the finish line. No such luck for Rosalie. Though there was no break in the women's action, eight spots were reserved for the Masters women at the end of the order. Kicking things off for the women was Gina Campoli (Craftsbury). I believe this was her first race of the season and maybe longer due to a series of injuries. At the start, Gina and Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) traded barbs with who would catch who on the course. Ellie Bouffard (MNC) then led off the Mansfield contingent. Ellie and Karen Allence (MNC) have joined forces all season, posting a significant number of points for MNC and may push them over the top for the second year in a row in the Club Series with the remaining races this season. Karen was all about klister during her warm-up but compromised with Oslo for the race. Trina broke the MNC start list streak and quickly set out to chase down Gina, who she caught on Screamin Mimi. Allison Holm (MNC) felt good coming off the highlight of the season at Hard’ack the weekend before. Rounding out the start order was Tiffany Teaford (Unattached) and Jessica Bolduc (NWVE). Tiffany and Jessica would connect early in the race. Jessica was so focused on catching Tiffany that she did not realize she had crested Moss’. She wondered where the second half was as they made the turn to Kirby’s (wax tech must have hit it this week). Tiffany would hold Jessica off until the final hill near the cabins, making for some good results for both skiers. Tiffany remarked she had an excellent race and that Jessica could not pass her until the end of the course. Ellie was happy with her race and noted she took the bottom three podium this week.
After the race, skiers went about cooling down or heading home. Many went on to enjoy the trails for many more kilometers. It was fun to see everyone and even catch up a little as we crossed paths, warming-up and cooling-down. I even ran into some old friends I have not seen in years as skiers took advantage of the ideal conditions. The Spring Classic was a great event, with more racers feeling comfortable with toeing the line!