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The Silver Fox Trot

There was something in the air at Rikert Touring Center today. The first major arctic blast of the season successfully delayed the race one day, but it could not stop things from heating up at the Annual Silver Fox Trot. After a little over a day of bitter cold temperatures, the full sun warmed the stadium, and ski prep took place glove-free! The ambient temperature reached twenty and felt much warmer, but the snow remained squeaky cold.

Skiers traveling to the venue passed through varying conditions. As we made our way through the Granville Gulf, I pointed out where we crossed over some of the headwaters for the Winooski and White Rivers. Jessica pointed out that there was not as much snow in the woods - as we climbed the Middlebury Gap, that changed.

The day began with several BKL races opening for the main event. It was great to see all the aspiring skiers out doing their thing. I remarked to the GMVS Coach Colin Rodgers how nice it was to see what was going on, and he agreed, not so much because it was skiing, but that all the commotion of the day was normal. All abilities were competing; jumps were built; there was even a popular penguin slide on a patch of ice next to us. People were enjoying winter!

The postponement of one day turned out very favorable, although the conflict with the Craftsbury Scramble was a disappointment for a few. With the alternative being another cancellation, no one was complaining. Everything had a chance to be prepped, making conditions spectacular. MNC Coach Adam Terko noted that the course held up well and did not have the top surface shearing off to an ice base, as has been the case in the past. While a couple of corners did get swept out, it was still possible to get an edge on the subsurface.

The course for the Masters Race was the first and second loop the Rikert’s Homologated Racecourse. Skiers took a cutoff near the top of the second loop, sparing them a punishing steep pitch and the most technical downhill turn on the circuit. So, there was a downhill mass start, then a climb, a fun downhill into another climb, and then another fun downhill into a short climb to the lap/finish area. Skiers completed three laps for a short 7.5km race.

Competitors finished their warm-ups and assembled at the starting line. Self-seeding was questionable. The first row seemed to have it right, but then things got somewhat out of order. Wisdom may have played a role for some who wanted to avoid a bottleneck at the tree line. Others may be out of practice, and some may have never had a mass start of this nature before. Regardless, pre-race instructions were given that no one could hear over the creaking snow underfoot. Those in the field took our cue from the frontline when they went into their starting stance, and soon we were off.

The start went relatively smoothly. There was a bad accordion effect right off that bottlenecked into a crash on the first downhill. The first half of the field was clear, but the second half was not and had to slow significantly, with some coming to a stop. On the first climb, things bunched again, and the sound of poles snapping could be heard. A couple more pileups sent skiers off course, into a double pole, or to another stop. The top Masters were clear of this and in an aggressive race.

Jake Hollenbach (NWVE) set the pace early on, perhaps confident with his last win at the Hard’ack Challenge, where he took all the speed out of the course for the rest of us. Eli Enman (NWVE) took a more conservative approach staying off the back of the elite pack. Chris Burnham (NWVE) was also in the mix, feeling strong with the skate technique. Adam Terko (MNC) fought his way through the field, having arrived at the start on the late side of things. He swiftly moved through the pack and found his place without too much disruption to those he was overtaking.

Joel Bradley (Ford Sayre) found himself between two big packs hoping to pick off those that could not maintain the driving pace of the elite field. Thomas Clayton (NWVE) was at the front of a talented chase group. He had support from Adam Groff (Ford Sayre), Tim Van Orden (Unattached), and Nate Laber (MNC). As the race progressed, the youth in this group extended their lead, gapping the Masters. One U18 in this group got around Thomas, but the rest will have to wait for another day.

Alex Jospe (SMS) had a clean race skiing away from the rest of the women in a pack of junior boys. Jessie Donavan (Unattached) returned to ski racing for the first time in years to take an impressive second place overall for Women as an M4 on her home course. Eric Darling (NWVE) had a good position among talented skiers, including David Johnstone (MNC). He skied conservatively and tried to stay out of the way. Ed Hamilton (NWVE) and Stephen Wright (NWVE) were wise to get out in front of the commotion at the start of the race. Stephen remembered a chain reaction set off by a skier who knew better on the first bridge crossing a few years ago and did not want to repeat that. Bob Burnham (EMXC) was also right with them skiing strong. I missed the window on the start getting cut off by some U16’s as Amy Caldwell (Caldwell Sport), and Sarah Pribram (NWVE) skied away from me and Elissa Bradley (Ford Sayre). Skiing was not easy in the main field as there was an age-related disparity in risk-taking. There was a lot of action in the field deep into the race. It is to be expected on a short course with fast-ish conditions. I took a patient approach over a reactive one, as did Elissa, waiting for things to spread out a little before moving through the field.

Jamie Willsey (NWVE) gauged off me at the start but ended up stopping in one of the early bottlenecks of the race. Such was the way for much of the rest of the field. Bruce Perlow (FMN), Jessica Bolduc (NWVE), Brian Sprague (MNC), Rosemary Shea-Cobb (MNC), Kasie Enman (NWVE), and Alan Cote (Unattached) had a solid group of Masters that eventually established some more refined racing. They had their strengths and weaknesses but generally were not infiltrated too much by the junior skiers after lap one. Slightly further back, Colin Tindall (Keewaydin) skied with Tricia Groff (Ford Sayre) and Gabriel Brookes (Ford Sayre). After that, and the departure of the U16’s in the 5km race, Masters Jesse Norris (Ford Sayre), Andres Torizzo (MNC), Clare Franco (Unattached), Andy McIntosh (FMN), Kathy Kjelleren (NWVE), and Perry Bland (NWVE) rounded out the field.

It was a dynamic race through and through. Skiers were constantly in action, with very few finding much reprieves from the clutches of the field. At the front, youth prevailed. Jake cracked on his final lap, failing to take the speed out of the course but succeeding in taking the speed out of his skis. Eli Enman passed him at the start of the third lap along with Chris Burnham. Adam Terko picked off racers the whole time, working his way onto the first page of results.

Thomas Clayton had a consistent day as the driving force in the chase pack. Eric Darling was a little too polite, costing him some positions. Elissa and I moved up a few spots but were under constant attack from some junior skiers that prevented us from hitting our stride until the third lap when we skied it in with Sarah Glueck (Ford Sayre). I did catch Bob Burnham on the last lap. He took one look at me and dropped me. Bob used everything on the course he could, tucking in the tracks on the first loop’s downhill, marathon skating halfway up the second loop. He was skiing strong, and I had nothing to counter with by the time I caught him. David Johnstone had to bail to avoid a crash on a blind turn at the end of the second loop. He avoided going over the edge of the course with the others but did not regain the places lost with the fall. Ed and Stephen worked together to the finish line. Sarah Pribram was psyched to hold off Amy Caldwell. Sarah has been stringing together some great results this season. Once the field spread out, Kasie was on the move and closing Jamie, who had Stephen and Ed in his sights. Jessica and Rosemary changed places throughout the race as Rosemary was skiing the downhills with more confidence. Jessica eventually got the upper hand on the last major climb. Kathy and Perry skied in to win their divisions.

There was nonstop action in the racing at Rikert today. There was energy not seen in some time that young and old appreciated. Perhaps they were relieved not to be freezing after such a chilly start to the day, or maybe it was the thoughts of the fun to be had with the impending Nor’easter on the way. Or was it the full moon rising over Breadloaf? Of course, none of it would have been possible without the hard work of our hosts, Ford Sayre, and the staff at Rikert Touring Center. Their expertise led to a phenomenal day enjoyed by all in many ways!


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