Oh, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday's miserable weather continued with high winds and downpours in the evening and early morning. I had a sleepless night worrying about what would be left or if the windstorm would leave too much damage for the race to be held. Fortunately, the Outdoor Center is positioned differently from our house, and the wind was not as significant there. Freezing was beginning to occur at 10:00 p.m. Dick Dreissigacker stated that "grooming is not an art, it is guesswork." Twenty minutes after the final pass with the groomer, things were set to go. Whatever they did, the course was prepped extraordinarily well, and skiers were delighted with the speedy conditions.
The conditions were packed granular on an icy base. Craftsbury worked the snow such that there was not much shearing of snow off the course. Turns stayed skiable, and the only real spot of shearing to the ice was on the steep pitch of Moss' Climb. The tracks remained intact, and it was a situation where the more they got used, the better they were, at least in my opinion. There was a significant amount of tree debris, but nothing too bad. It was like one of those spring days where you can go out and go fast.
The course was three laps starting in the Upper Stadium, down Teaching Hill, through the Lower Field, up Cabin Hill, down Wilbur's on to Lemon's. At Coaches Corner, skiers turned left down Denis', up Moss,' back on Lemon's to Coaches Corner turning left again to the Lower Field, then up Chip Hill to the Upper Field. A good loop with some nice striding for the first big classic race of the season. On inspection, Dino Hill was anticipated to be a trouble spot with loose snow and in direct sunlight, but most skiers did not seem to have any difficulty during the race.
Racing got underway with a 30-second interval start. The Men went first. Things flowed nicely, but it always seems that the start creeps up too quickly. Skiers scrambled with their wax; Klister of choice seemed to be working. Most going with a Universal, some with Violets, others with Reds and even Yellows. NWVE's testing went well, and the Wax Recommendation was the ticket. Upon comparing Guru Extreme 39 Hard and Swix Nero, it was decided to mix them for what was named a "mean and clean" klister.
Chris Burnham was the first NWVE racer to start. He was between Bates Nordic skier Eli Grossman and UVM's Bjorn Westervelt. His glimpses of Eli were fleeting as he powered through the course. Bjorn caught Chris on the second lap and set his sights on catching Eli. John Thompson was the next racer for the club. He made quick work of EMXC's Stephen Lake and spent the rest of the race in no man's land. John was happy with his weekend and is looking forward to some collegiate racing with Paul Smith's. Eric Darling was next up for NWVE. Having not skied at Craftsbury yet this season, he did not go with his top pair of skis. No matter, he picked up where he left off in his first race since the start of the Pandemic in 2019. Luke Shullenberger was chaced by EMXC’s Eli Gallaudet. Eli pushed Luke hard before overtaking him in the second lap. Luke's pace fell off a bit as his wax was not sticking the way he needed it to. He was caught by a few teammates and ended the race in a sprint finish against Jacob Tremblay (BFA). Neal Graves was the next out and did what he does. Cresting the longest climb on the course, Tom Strasser exclaimed that it was pretty even between him and Tom Thurston (who still had a lap to go). Neal picked it up, taking home the Masters Win for the day! Jonathan Rodd was in action on the ToKo recommendation. It worked for him until it wore off. The Yellow was not bad, but a little too soft for how abrasive the tracks were in places. He was chasing a ghost and followed by UVM's Greg Burt. Why Greg started so far back in the field was unknown, but he took third overall in the race. Perry Bland started his first classic race in some time. He looked good on course and encouraged everyone he saw. As he crossed the finish line, he got some big cheers and took the coveted "First Place with Suspenders" prize. Andre' Bolduc would do the same in the Biathlon later in the day with some sharp shooting to help. Stephen Wright thought it was a great day and had some legends to chase with Perry and Jim Fredericks (Craftsbury) starting right in front of him. He was able to catch both, but with Greg Burt 90 seconds up, it was out of sight, out of mind. Scott Magnan started behind a ghost and spent much of the race solo. He stuck to those who passed him and skied his last lap with a negative split. Thomas Clayton, Tom Thurston, and I rounded out the start order for the club and the race. Thomas made quick work of me as I got a little mixed up with some traffic on Wilbur's Corner. Tom Thurston overtook me in the same spot on the second lap. My skis were good; Thomas had the same wax and thought his were phenomenal. Tom had to work for his wax a little more than us but was moving along fine, especially with the prospect of Neal being nearby.
NWVE had two women race. Most of the Masters were at the end of the start order, except for Rosalie Wilson (Ford Sayre). She had the honor of starting between Olivia Cuneo (Bates) and Ava Thurston (MNC). Rosalie handled the pressure well and ended up third for the Masters Women. Carol Van Dyke (Stowe Nordic) started things out for the Masters Main Event setting the pace for Jessica Bolduc and Angeline Andrew (Ford Sayre), who followed.
There was some speculation about a matter not to speak of between an old rivalry with Carol, but it was felt there was a significant margin on that this time around. Jessica was able to pass Carol quickly but found herself fatigued from high skiing volume this week combined with four sprints the day before. Her skis were running good, but she was not feeling the pep of fresh athletes. After a contentious sprint competition yesterday, Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) was looking for a bit of redemption. She skied through many of those who started in front of her and hammered to the finish. Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) also had an excellent race. She played a little cat and mouse with Ford Sayre's Meg MacLaury. Meg pulled away on lap two but paid the price in lap three, where Trina was able to close with her steady skiing. Ann Burnham (CSU), Sarah Pribram, and Karen Alence (MNC) closed out the Open Racing for the day. Sarah had a great ski, and like Eric, could not believe how nice the conditions were. Sarah chased down a few skiers as she made her way around the course, keeping things exciting. She would end up second for Masters!
After the race, there was a brief podium ceremony. Yes, we are doing those again! NWVE faired very well, sweeping the Men's Masters and taking the Silver in the Women's Masters! Skiers enjoyed some brownies and took their time cooling down, a much different scene from the day before. Leigh and Joanie Mallory were volunteers and cheerers for the day. Leigh regretted not signing up after witnessing all the fun being had. Craftsbury did an amazing job hosting a stellar weekend of racing. Skiers were grateful for the opportunity and happy to be back racing again!