The Craftsbury Super Tour Weekend culminated with the Main Event - the Henchey Zak Cup Citizens Race at 4:00 p.m. Some joked that headlamps would be required. But the star-studded race checked off all the boxes, including many that the Super Tour could not.
Here are just a few:
A historic course that racers aspire to compete on
A majority of the field that did not find it necessary to preview or know the course
A World Champion Mountain Runner
A guy who has coached more champions than he can count and is not done yet
A person who spent the afternoon planting onions
V-board, Arrows, Pine Boughs, Whiskers, Fencing, and Following Your Gut course markers
An Olympic Mountain Biker
A World Champion Snowshoer
A Cross Country Skiing Olympian
Junior Cycling Phenom’
Ava Thurston’s Coach
Ava Thruston’s Dad
Ava Thurston’s Dad’s training partner
World Loppet Medalists
People who spent the weekend volunteering
The Trent Reznor of Nordic Skiing
An entire field fully prepared to throw it down and have fun doing it
And the list goes on
To say the least, the Henchey Memorial Super Tour brought out the best from the first race to the last.
In these writeups, we celebrate the community of citizen racers rooted with remarkable people that support and maintain the sport as a life-long activity to enjoy. A huge thanks goes to Craftsbury Outdoor Center for recognizing the importance of the many aspects that create a supportive and vibrant culture. They provide unparalleled access to the best skiing globally, whether a first-timer or a seasoned veteran. Each person can enjoy all that cross-country skiing offers with purpose here. NENSA has played a big part in this as well as developing the future of the sport while keeping the community strong.
So, conditions today were slightly warmer. Friday’s foot of snow had a chance to settle, and the packed powder was firm and fast. Temperatures hovered in the mid-teens, the wind was undetectable, and the afternoon sun was low in the sky. The trails were groomed perfectly, as we have come to expect at Craftsbury. The snow held up fine throughout the day and still seemed freshly groomed despite the punishment it took from several elite fields and a day of skiing.
The course followed the first half of the Super Tour Loop out of the Upper Field, out Main Street to Six Corners. It then turned onto Lemon’s, making the u-turn at Coaches Corner to go down Denis’ then up Moss’ and out to Eleanor’s. Skiers went down Eleanor’s to Lower Bailey Hazen and made their way onto Ruthie’s. They climbed Ruthie’s and then had a bit of recovery on the return. They finished by hopping onto the Race Loop and taking the Cabin Cutoff (avoiding Screaming Mimi) went up Wilbur’s through the Lower Stadium, up Teaching Hill, and into the finish sprint lanes in the Upper Stadium. The course has a little of everything and a lot of fun.
Racing got underway with the weekend’s director and Chief of Course, Ollie Burress, giving some brief instructions, a short and long description of the course, and a subliminal message to the field that it was on. Ollie had changed from his pink hat to his blaze orange hat, a warning that he would be a skier to contend with. Skiers got underway in lanes and clamored for position as they headed through the dip on Main Street. By Coaches Corner, an elite pack had already gapped the field less than half a kilometer into the race. Skiing up Dino Hill, a skier in a Caldwell Sports V-2’d the whole thing. I thought, “Amy is killing it this afternoon.” It turns out Amy was not racing, but Lea Davison (Unattached) was crushing it in the Caldwell kit.
The elite pack consisted of Ollie Burress (Craftsbury), Gaelen Kilburn (MNC), Adam Terko (MNC), Chris Burnham (NWVE), Thomas Clayton (NWVE), and Eli Enman (NWVE). They drove at a fast pace, but Ollie skied away from them. The chase group revolved around Kaitlynn Miller (Bowdoin), with Rob Riley (Gunstock), Eli Gallaudet (EMXC), Kirsten Miller (Unattached), and Tom Thurston (NWVE). This group skied hard, but the gap with the lead group slowly widened throughout the race. Not far behind, Tim Van Orden (Unattached) was pacing a contentious race for the Women’s Bronze Medal. Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) had the initial advantage, but Lea Davison (Unattached) closed and overtook the bronze position on Ruthie’s climb. Sara Falconer (MNC) and Greta Kilburn (MNC) were working with Dain LaRoche (Unattached) in his big red suit but just could not maintain contact. James Donegan (NWVE) was also right there hanging on to the ride for as long as he could.
I was chasing solo, unable to bridge but worried about challenges from Nick Laurence (Holderness) and David Johnston (MNC). My skis were good today with some Star products from Caldwell Sport! Danielle Winslow (MNC), Daniel Schmidt (MNC), Dunbar Oehmig (MNC), and Steve Crafts (MNC) were battling with Ed Hamilton (NWVE) with eyes on David Johnston just ahead. The group would string out, though Steve put in a late surge to close on Dunbar, who sprinted to hold position. Kasie Enman (NWVE) raced wisely, outpacing Jeff Palleiko (Gunstock) and Jamie Willsey (NWVE) as they closed on the finish line. Rosalie Wilson (Ford Sayre) loved the race and competition. She skied with Brian Sprague (MNC) and watched as Kasie’s long-distance fitness gave her the upper hand on the taxing climbs in the final kilometers of the course.
John McGill (Onion River) was psyched to learn the course would be on Ruthie’s minutes before the race. He skied well and held off a hard charge from Tomas Masterson (Ford Sayre) and fellow cyclist Brett Rutledge (Boulder Nordic). Brett previewed the course and was a little concerned with the unrelenting climb up Ruthie’s, but in the end, he was thrilled with the event. Jessica Bolduc (NWVE), who spent the whole weekend in the elements on her feet making sure the Super Tour went off without a hitch in various volunteer roles, was a little fatigued going into the race. She felt better than her result showed but yielded a couple of spots on Ruthie’s Climb. Neal Graves (NWVE) has been dealing with back issues that erupted on the first steep pitch of Ruthie’s. He had to stop but figured there was only one way back and limped it in for the second half, finishing using one pole.
Mariah Cleveland (Ford Sayre) and Perry Bland (NWVE) rounded out the field. Perry finished with big hugs from his grandchildren and enthusiastic cheers from the race staff - what better way to end the weekend!
However, the day was not over. After months of planning and long days of racing, the Super Tour Event wrapped up. While cooling down, the skiers got to see the crew’s efficiency taking down the course and restoring the tranquility of the Outdoor Center. One might think that this would be done in exhaustion, and perhaps it was, but there was laughter, snowmobile lessons, groomer flybys, and continued energy. Mother Nature had the last say in closing the day, treating participants with a spectacular Craftsbury Sunset with oranges, reds, and violets over the Greens as they made their way home.