ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage’s Dylan Watts and Fairbanks’ Melissa Lewis led an Alaska sweep in the men’s and women’s 50-kilometer skate events of the 2011 Tour of Anchorage ski marathon on Sunday, March 6.
In the men’s race, the 26-year-old Watts’ finished in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 1 second, edging Anchorage’s Mark Iverson by 25 seconds. Two-time Olympian and two-time Tour of Anchorage winner James Southam, 32 of Anchorage, finished third at 2:15:42, outlasting Bart Dengel at 2:15:45. Watts trains with the Alaska Pacific University ski team in Anchorage and finished third in the Tour of Anchorage in 2010.
The 40-year-old Lewis avenged her near-miss in 2010 when she finished second in the Tour by schooling young skiers in Sunday’s women’s event, clocking a 2:44:19. Anchorage’s Rachel Steer, 33, was second at 2:45:11, followed by 20-year-old Montanan Rebecca Konieczny at 2:45:18.
More than 1,500 skiers participated in the 2011 installment of the annual Tour of Anchorage, which is often America’s second-largest cross-country ski marathon (Wisconsin’s American Birkebeiner is annually the largest). The race begins in the Chugach Mountains and its foothills southeast of Anchorage, passes through the heart of urban Anchorage, then ends in the woods in West Anchorage at Kincaid Park, which hosted the U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Championships in 2009 and 2010. Each year, the Tour is comprised of 50-K, 40-K and 25-K skate and classic races.
Sunday’s Tour of Anchorage was lit by clear, sunny skies and temperatures that climbed into the 20’s. Due to recent winds and a lack of fresh snow, trail conditions were at times solid and slick, at other times soft and slow.
This year’s Tour of Anchorage field did not include America’s Olympic Nordic superstar and Anchorage’s hometown sensation Kikkan Randall, who is currently competing in the World Nordic Championships in Oslo, Norway. Fellow Olympian and Alaskan Holly Brooks was also competing in Norway. Two-time Olympian Lars Flora, who owns the Tour of Anchorage 50-K record with his 2:06:12 in 2000, is also racing in Norway.