NWVE got the new year off to a great start skiing at the Annual BFA Alumni Citizens Race. Director Scott Magnan looked into his crystal ball and predicted the conditions would hold until the end of the race. He groomed over a day in advance, restricted access to the course, and requested shovelers. He knew the stadium would only tolerate one start and seeded the first four rows of the field. On all accounts, Scott was correct.
Overnight temps dropped below freezing at the Dickinson Farm, allowing the course to set nicely. Banners from the US Nordic Combined Trials at Lake Placid added a nice touch validating the significance of the BFA Alumni Race in the Franklin County Nordic World. If you have never done this race, you do not know what you are missing. It is an event stripped down to the essentials of racing. There have even been years where the presence of snow was questionable. We skied anyway.
Today the shovelers arrived early and began reinforcing the course on the corners; coverage was thin but sufficient. As the shovelers worked, they noticed that the course was not melting on top but from the bottom up. Scott needed to get this race started. There has not been a deep frost. The subsurface is a grassy meadow, so thin cover is not an issue. The shovelers called it good and began warming up. The snow was transformed with a crisp glaze on top. Beneath, softening snow, then grass.
The temps warmed to the low forties for the race, and a light mist began falling. As is tradition, the bulk of the field arrived with less than twenty minutes to spare. It was a lively crowd of alumni and the current BFA roster. The usual trash-talking ensued, and naivety of the high schoolers predicted a victor oblivious to who has been putting in some fast k’s this year.
The course was four laps in the first meadow. The loop was rolling with a series of tight S-turns. The ski track was comfortably two lanes wide though to go off track was to break through the crust into considerably slower snow. The finish was a quarter-mile drag race up the climb in the second meadow and through the third. It gained about fifty feet in elevation, and the sprint lanes were on a 10% pitch. A true VO2 Max test if you raced all out.
The five-minute warning was given, and people made their way to the start. The race veterans picked their spots, Scott filled in the gaps with the high school team, some brief instructions were given, and the race was on. We double poled to the Olympic banner, and then we could skate. It was a clean start, especially for the Alumni Race, and the field quickly sorted itself out. NWVE’s John Thompson took the lead and lured the varsity team out. Tyler Magnan (NWVE) and Brooke Hodgeman (NWVE) were also in the mix. Scott Magnan (NWVE) blasted off in the double pole zone and was right on the tail of the elite pack. I held back a little as I did not want to get tangled up or blow up with a race on the calendar tomorrow. Lydia Hodgeman (BFA) and Porter Hurteau (BFA) tailed their coach. Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) started well but yielded to the D1 XC Running Champion Loghan Hughes (BFA) early in the race. Loghan led out freshman Teddy Tremblay (BFA). Meredith Mashtare (Wheaton) skied with Jessica through the initial mayhem of the mass start. Not far behind, veterans Cipperly Good (NWVE), Jason Storms (Unattached), Perry Bland (NWVE), and Andre’ Bolduc (NWVE) set out in a pack to pick off the high school kids.
John dictated the race, driving the pace as needed to hold the lead. The BFA boys Ethan, Jacob, and Calvin, took turns attacking and were certain the Brooke would be the eventual winner. John raced methodically and was unphased by the attacks as he detected weakness in technique and pacing. Tyler stayed with the group and noticed he made the wrong decision on skis as his unreliable RCS’s bogged down. Brooke fell victim to not training quickly, getting winded on some of the sloggy uphills. Scott experienced the same fatigue after a fast start. I passed Scott and tried to hold my pace. Jessica got gapped by Teddy but passed Loghan after she fell. Cipperly dialed in good technique and was gliding notably better than her counterparts at the start. She led the way as her pack moved up through the field. Perry stuck to her as best he could. Perry’s new thing this year is skating so far. (We are on day one, and the Bogburn is day 8, let’s see what happens.) Andre’ hung on feeling the effects of an oatmeal breakfast.
Things seemed to settle, but the climb to the finish added an element of difficulty to the race. Most racers cooked themselves on the laps. Finishing a barnburner on a climb like this was not easy. John remained collected and dropped the BFA boys. Tyler mounted a futile comeback, gaining but unable to close the gap that had opened during the race. Lydia overtook Brooke and never looked back. I held my lead over Scott but could hear him closing fast on his trusty Atomic Beta’s. Jessica added to her lead over Loghan on the climb. It left Jessica a little miffed as she thought Loghan’s strength would be the finish. Cipperly pulled away from the group she led the whole race. Jason Storms had drafted Perry until he made a move on the climb, sealing the deal in the sprint. Andre’ would come in close behind, sprinting against Thomas Curry (Unattached).
People celebrated a great event at the awards ceremony. Timing and results were done by Mike Mashtare. No numbers required. He knew everyone in the field having coached all who participated over the last 40 years! There were many prizes, including Pecan Pies, Salsa, Pasta Sauce, and a dozen or so long sleeve 2013 VT State Championship shirts. Scott thanked all the participants, respecting the grit it took to come out and race on a day like today. No one regretted the decision. It was an awesome race!
Happy New Year!