The Annual Rodrigues Sprints were held today in Craftsbury. The conditions were excellent, with abundant natural snow and some manmade snow to reinforce some of the high-traffic areas of the course. The scene was abuzz with the news from Sweden and the US Cross-Country Ski Team letting all the eagles out with an outstanding day at the sprints Ostersund. Many of the skiers were inspired by the performances of their heroes in the World Cup. A few of us remember racing some of those skiers in the Rodrigues Sprints in the not-so-distant past.
The weather was perfect for this event. Skiers could stay comfortable in the shelter of their warm-ups and did not need to run for cover in driving rain or freezing temperatures. The temperature held at about the freezing mark until around 10:00 a.m. when the sun appeared and warmed things up. It was enough to make the fast powder snow a little sticky. It was very noticeable, and times got slower as the day progressed. However, the rapid pace of the format kept spirits high.
The course was the Dino Hill FIS Course. Skiers started in the upper stadium and skied out Main Street to Six Corners. Here, they would descend to the bottom of Moss’s and make a hard left turn onto Bailey Hazen’s Return. They would climb as the trail narrowed before turning right onto Dino Hill. Here, the trail opened up again, and skiers took Lemon’s to Coaches Corner, another left into the dip to the Lower Field, and a climb up Teaching Hill to the finish sprint. A key strategy was not to attack the course early and save some energy to pop over the top of Dino Hill.
NWVE had several master skiers take on the youth-filled field. In qualifying, Tom Thurston set the pace for the club. As he crested the hill, a skier 45 seconds back in the interval start glided past before the finish line. Chris Burnham went out later in the field and put down a qualifier he was happy with. I set out shortly after and got passed by two skiers before making it back. Jessica was the only woman from NWVE and was happy with the ski-ability of the course, even if a little disappointed with her standing in the field.
The heats got underway immediately, and the day really got moving. Chris was a strong seed in the stacked Heat 7. He got underway with Farmer Lindemuth (MNC) and two UVM Women, Annie McColgan and Camille Bolduc. Chris started conservatively and was able to pass the field when it bottlenecked at the bottom of Moss’s. He had a clean line carrying his momentum and found himself with a bit of a lead. He advanced to Heat 6 for Round Two. Tom Thurston had a good position climbing Teaching Hill, but the experienced college skiers had a little more pep as they sprinted to the finish. Tom got bumped back to Heat 11 from Heat 10. My strategy for the day was to hold off on advancing until Round Two. I held back and tested the waters for Round, coming in third in Heat 17 and holding my position. Jessica had an outstanding first round. She took an early lead and steadily gained, winning Heat 19 by a wide margin.
Chris found Round Two a bit more challenging. He could not gain an advantage and got bumped back to Heat 7 for Round 2. Tom had a lot of cheers as he finished Round 2, holding his position. I stuck to my plan to stay at the back and rest until Dino Hill. I passed four skiers on the hill and hung on to second in Heat 17 to advance to Heat 16 for the Final Round. Jessica’s advancement in Round 1 proved similar to Chris’s. She got bumped back, with Gigi Graves (GMVS) demolishing Heat 18.
The Finals were very exciting, and all NWVE skiers had excellent races to the finish line. Chris took third in Heat 7 against most of the skiers he faced in Round 1. Tom held his position and had an excellent final sprint, holding off several skiers. I executed my plan, which was the same as Page Fieldhouse’s (GMVS). She had a good lead on me at the finish, with the rest of the field even more strung out. Jessica was at the front of her heat in the Final Round, looking strong as she crested Teaching Hill for the final stretch.
It was a great day for sprinting around the world! NWVE cracked open the brownie container for the first time this season and enjoyed a little snack before doing a little precovery ski for tomorrow. It should be interesting to see what the day brings.