After a cold-induced delay in competition the Tour de Twin Cities continued on Friday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a classic sprint at Wirth Park. In conditions more amenable to racing, Mike Sinnott (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) and Jennie Bender (Central Cross Country) took home the titles in stage three.
Sinnott edged out Torin Koos (Bridger Ski Foundation/Rossignol) and Reese Hanneman (Alaska Pacific University) in second and third, respectively, for the stage win.
Friday marks Sinnott’s first SuperTour win of the season. Most of the men’s field, when confronted with sugary snow and a course whose hills were either flat enough to double pole or too steep to stride, made the decision to use skate skis in the qualifier. Sinnott was second to Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Enduracne Academy) in the prelim, and for the heats made the unique decision to remain on skate equipment while everyone else switched to striding.
“I was the only one to do it in the rounds and it paid off,” Sinnott said. “It gave me more speed at the finish line.”
The win, which comes just two days after Sinnott’s 29th birthday, gave him plenty to be happy about. Bad luck in the mass start last weekend tripped him up in the final stretch, so he was pleased to put the negative experience behind him.
“It was kind of nice, I’m happy with the way the race went,” he said. “I was a little bummed after the last stage where I tripped over myself in the last 100 m and lost out on the podium, so it’s nice to rebound and get some momentum.”
Koos, in second place, said he wavered on the edge of choosing skate skis but ended up going with, at the very least to avoid accidentally gliding in a herringbone.
“This turned the hills into deep sugar,” Koos said. “There was no way to ski through it — you just had to herringbone. I would have much preferred to stride. This negated any advantage a skier who used wax had today. So why use kick wax, you say? Well, it’s pretty hard to not get that extra little skate when you’re herringboning without wax, so I played it safe and went with wax.”
Though it ended up being the wrong call for the win, Koos was fairly satisfied with second place — “It probably wasn’t the best decision to win today, but second isn’t too bad a result, no?”
In third, Hanneman was happy with a podium. On the narrow Wirth Park course he said it was crucial to move around people before the bottlenecks in the trail, as it wasn’t possible to herringbone double wide up some of the hills.
“There were two short steep climbs that were pretty dang steep, but I had been able to run them in the distance race,” Hanneman said. “I thought that we would be running them today, but the tracks just got super blown out and it was total sugar, so we all had to herringbone… I had to get behind Mikey on the last climb because there wasn’t room to try and pass, so then that kind of set me up as just in third for the finish.”
Though he’d been gunning for the top of the podium, he was satisfied with third.
“My goal was to be on the podium, and I knew that I was capable of winning, so I was just hoping to play it right and be able to use my strengths,” Hanneman said. “I did that for the most part, so it was a fun day.
“I also want to say thanks to the volunteers for working out there all day and for giving us a chance to race heats.”
Pat O’Brien (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) finished fourth behind Hanneman, Karl Nygren (Central Cross Country) was fifth and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (BEA) took sixth.
In the women’s race, Jennie Bender (Central Cross Country) kept on rolling with a win in an A-fanal filled with APU skiers. Kate Fitzgerald (APU) took second and Lauren Fritz (APU) was third.
The women’s field was too small to take on a full 30 athletes to the heats, so they contested only a semifinal and final round. Bender said this made for one of the most relaxed sprint days she’s ever been a part of.
“There were like 19 or 20 girls total,” she said (a close guess — there were 18). “From how crazy it was last weekend, it was just a shock to come in Friday and be like, ‘Wow, no one’s here.’ All the SuperTour athletes just hung out in a tent.”
Bender had been hoping to win the first classic sprint on the schedule since her U.S. Nationals victory earlier this month, but knew competition from the likes of Rosie Brennan and the rest of APU would be tough.
“It’s really anyone’s race, you never know what’s going to happen or how you’re going to feel,” Bender said. “I definitely was hoping to be on the podium today.”
For someone who has been gradually regaining fitness from an illness-plagued summer, another win was further confirmation that she’s headed back to full fitness.
“I still feel kind of out of shape, but I feel a heck of a lot healthier,” Bender said. “I can’t really say I’m not back at this point. I think I have a better mentality after this summer, that’s been helping me for sure. I don’t know what my body is doing; I’m hoping I can race myself into shape a bit more and that this continues.”
Bender won by skiing “way out in front,” in Fitzgerald’s words, so the race came down to a fight for second between a slew of APU women.
“The course had a lot of turns and transitions so it was easy to either sneak around people or get totally boxed out, and I ended up on the good side of that today,” Fitzerald said. “I feel very happy with today’s result. The conditions were a little tricky and icy and it was easy to get into panic mode and ski franticly so my goal for the day was to ski strong and relaxed.”
The race for third was also close. Fritz sat in fifth for most of the A-final behind Brennan, Caitlin Gregg and Fitzgerald and thought she wouldn’t have a shot at the podium, but managed to come by all but two skiers and out-lunge Brennan for third in the final meters.
“I thought I didn’t have a chance because I was getting blocked everywhere,” Fritz said. “But since Fitzgerald, Rosie, Caitlin and I were all still in a clump I managed to grab an empty lane on the far side and get by everyone except Fitz, and Rosie and I lunged for third.”
Though the sugary conditions made for difficult skiing for everybody, most athletes were grateful for the chance to race sprint heats at all.
“The [organizers] made a good call delaying the race until today because the beginning of the week was nasty cold, and today was in the upper-teens, although there was a brisk headwind in the stadium,” Fritz said. “Kudos to the race volunteers who were willing to help out today and the OC for letting us do full heats instead of just a qualifier.”
Rosie Brennan took fourth in the A-final, Caitlin Gregg (CXC) took fifth and Clare Egan (CGRP) finished sixth.