Flying Moose Classic
Over 100 cross-country skiers kicked off Super Sunday at the Flying Moose Classic in Bethel, Maine. While the preregistration numbers looked low, there was a late surge, and several day-of-race sign-ups pushed numbers slightly above average. The Bethel Outing Club did a great job hosting with Nonstop Nordic injecting a little new energy into the event.
As they crossed New Hampshire into Maine, skiers traveling from Vermont saw wide-ranging temperatures. Temps dropped to as low as nine degrees at Joe's Pond and steadily climbed, reaching as high as thirty-six degrees on the outskirts of Bethel. The temperature upon arrival was 32 degrees and was sure to rise. Skiers evaluated the conditions and got right to work prepping their skis.
Bethel received no new snow in the last bit of weather. There was a lot of transformed snow, and off the groomed path, nice soft snow under the crust. It was going to be a klister day, but initially, the Start Beta Race M21 kicked on par with Rode KM3. You could get by with it, but Rode Multigrade Klister and Guru Extreme 39 gave a little more bite. The tracks were firm to start. During warm-up, it was clear that they were going to soften under the sunny skies as melting was taking place. Some covered their klister with a violet or M21 wax which seemed superior for as long as it needed to be.
The course was similar to last year's, with a lot of flat sections and gently rolling terrain. There were two sustained climbs - one at the 5km mark to the height of the course and another at the lap/finish area. This course also features nearly 5km on an out-and-back trail giving skiers plenty of opportunity to monitor their progress. It is fun to have a chance to see everyone in the race.
Skiers hustled to get ready for the race. It seemed that many did not leave enough time to be prepared fully. Former NENSA Executive Director Pat Cote (Quarry Road) had been waxing skis for everyone else and did not have a chance to try his own as he lined up in the back of the field. The same went for George Aponte Clark (Portland Nordic). While they had plenty of testers, it is still a little uncomfortable to go to the line on a klister day without at least trying your skis. But so it was for many.
The field lined up in what had to be the worst self-seeding of the season. People did not mind it too much as it was a beautiful day, and there were plenty of kilometers ahead to enjoy. The start was relatively clean until the first little uphill, where things accordioned, and a few fell. Notably was Todd Taska (Unattached), who spread across the tracks forcing people into a herringbone in a narrow skate lane beside him. Others fell soon after, as did I around the mile mark, trying to get on George's tails. Pat was long gone.
Wax issues for some presented early. What worked in fresh tracks could have been better for Jim Fredericks (Craftsbury) in the glazed tracks. Jim stepped aside, waiting for a little more space to deal with slippy-skies. Skiers made their way over the first significant climb, and the field spread out on the first long downhill. Skiers then entered another wooded course section where the trail wound around on some gentle rollers. Jonathan Rodd (NWVE) and Dhyan Nirmegh (NWVE) cruised through this part of the course leading a long train of skiers.
Slowly, the gentle rollers became a sustained climb that separated the field further, and those who may not have had the best start could move. David Herr (unattached) and Tyler Magnan (NWVE) took off on this climb. Stuart Kremzner (Blackwater) was not climbing well but was sticking with JoAnn Hanowski (Craftsbury). Cresting this climb, I found my stride overtaking several skiers.
Peppered in with the masters were several high school and a few collegiate athletes. Chris Burnham (NWVE) elected to double-pole the race. He found that poling up the climbs was not so bad. He also thought that his skis were not as big of an advantage as he had hoped, as he could not ski away on the downhills from those that kicked up them. What bothered him the most was the monotony of double-poling and a lack of variety. "Having a little break would have been nice." Chris stayed with the leaders for most of the race and finished third.
Dennis Page (Nansen) had an excellent first lap. Once all the 12km racers pulled off, he had a tougher go for lap two. Sarah Pribram (NWVE) had a similar experience, as there was much less traffic for lap two. David Herr and I caught Sarah early in the second lap and looked ahead to Stephen Wright (NWVE). Stephen had good skis but lost kick as the sun warmed the snow. It was not a unique experience as most of the field struggled with diminishing grip.
Tyler continued to move up, hoping to keep pace with Pat, but it did not last as Pat only skied one lap. George worked his way up to Kirk Siegel (BOC), and the two raced each other, pulling away from Tyler. Tyler overtook Ingrid Miller (Bowdoin) and put a little distance on her in the final lap. As moisture leached into the tracks, the skis slowed. Tyler found himself powering through these slow spots looking for the next shaded area where the tracks were still speedy.
David and I worked together until David’s kick was more effective than mine as we chased Stephen up the sustained hill. Stephen was holding it together with good technique. David was able to bridge, but Stephen had more power in the flats and just enough grit up the final climb to keep a gap on David. I got to watch from a distance.
Stuart’s skis were fast, but he paid for it on the climbs. Fortunately for him, his skis normalized with much of the field as others lost kick on the second lap. He was able to catch Sarah and use his size advantage on the I-95 section of the course to move up a couple of spots. Sarah skied it in and was the top woman in the Masters Division. She was excited that the blue team glitter propelled her to win a Cabot Penguin at the awards ceremony!
Nirmegh and Jonathan played a little cat and mouse for lap one. Jonathan was convinced he lost all his wax early, and Nirmegh’s skis kicked to the end. Jonathan and Nirmegh kept pace with Ian Blair (BOC) until a couple of Portland Nordic skiers, Zeke Zelonish and Henry Morrison, picked up the pace. Ian wisely let Zeke and Henry pull him along until he made his move in the final kilometer of the course. On lap two, Nirmegh pulled away from Jonathan and worked on reeling in fatigued skiers.
Christopher Naimie (Bow Nordic) and Todd Taska (Unattached) battled for the first lap. Chris had an impressive second lap while the wheels came off for Todd. The volume of double poling must have suited Chris just fine. Seeing Todd struggle over the last climb, it was apparent that he left it all on the course, including his klister!
Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) had some reservations about entering the race. She had tweaked her back earlier in the week, and things like walking down steps were a project. The back-breaking amount of double poling on this course was not disclosed to have her decide to race. Ultimately, it was the perfect remedy for whatever was ailing her. She was delighted with the beautiful day to ski and the great company of the Flying Moose participants.
One of the most senior participants skied nearly even splits with one of the youngest. Bruce Katz (Unattached) undoubtedly helped Graecen Jepson (Portland Nordic) with pacing for the long haul. Bruce has been out in force, completing the NENSA Marathon Series.
Cipperly Good (NWVE) has been struggling to connect with her new classic skis. Results have been intermittent with them, but the kick zone has been challenging to dial in. While most skiers had good kick for at least half the race, Cipperly slipped. Upon closer inspection after the race, it was determined that her skis are quite difficult to compress. Cipperly had waited until the last minute to register as she had not fully recovered from the Caribou Bog. She signed up for the two-lap race and went for it, putting another 60 points on the board for NWVE in the Club Series with an age group win!
After all was said and done, Steve Grimaldi (Unattached) finished with a bit of fanfare. Although a distant last place, he passed through the Salomon arch with a hard-earned goal achieved. He begrudged that a few were waiting for him, but they gave him the ovation he deserved for closing out the 2023 Flying Moose Classic!
We had a fantastic time in Bethel skiing the Flying Moose Classic. This race, in particular, has evolved into a unique celebration of skiing, drawing a diverse field of skiers. It has the perfect blend of competitiveness, recreation, and community, showing how vibrant the Nordic skiing community across New England is.