Gordon and Torbjorn’s road-trip to Devil’s Thumb Pursuit Race
Gordon Lange and I have often talked about trying some new races in order to get new challenges and different competition since it can â€œget oldâ€ racing the same faces on the same courses every weekend.
Last week we were both able to free up some timeÂ and decided to go and race the Colorado Pursuit Championship at Devil’s Thumb, Colorado – right outside Winter Park. Here is our trip report:
Ahh – the open road
Â The Drive
By noon on Friday my Ford Windstar was loaded up with all our skate and classic gear, as well glide and kick waxes for both the classic and the skate events, and off we went.
We decided to drive East on Highway 40 through Utah on the way to the race and drive West and hit Interstate 80 in Wyomingon the way back in order to make things interesting.
The drive is approximately 8 hours and goes first toward Steamboat,Coloradoand from there over Rabbit Ears Pass toward Winter Park. Â That road takes you through some unique countryside with numerous scenic rock formations and several beautiful mountains. It’s a road with few towns, desert type high country with lots of wild life like deer and elk.
A very scenic road trip
It also goes through areas where large quantities of dinosaur remains were found including the town named after such discoveries — Dinosaur,Utah. A stop at the museum is highly recommended. We also suggest a visit to where they are actually still digging up bones outside town. Very interesting and fun for the whole family.
I was doing most of the driving and Gordon’s job was to â€œride shotgunâ€, take photos we could show you, our readers, as well as yell out: â€œdeer!â€ or â€œelk!â€ when they were about to cross the road. We saw hundreds of these creatures and they were often eating next to horses and cows in people’s backyards.Â Â
Roadside Service — The good, the bad and the ugly
Road-trips make it possible to rank the service at places like The Pancake House, Joe’s Diner and hundreds of other establishments with more or less appropriate fitting names on this 450 mile stretch.
Our lunch of Belgium Waffles, bacon and eggs in Roosevelt was excellent; the waitress was nice and polite, answered all questions with a smile, refilled when appropriate and received a 10 in our ranking and a decent tip.
Dinner close to Winter Parkon the other hand was â€œthrown or launchedâ€ toward us from 6 feet away by a retired sumo wrestler, all questions were answered with one word and we were clearly ignored for refills. The appropriate name for the establishment should have been â€œWorst Food in Coloradoâ€ since Gordon’s Rib eye steak was still alive and my pizza was like two inches of badly melted old cheese. In addition, lots of smoke and lame Viagra jokes at the neighbor table gave this place a 1. The tip was given accordingly. Yes we know that we should have chosen different food the night before the first race but that was pretty much the only choice at 9PM. The good thing about visits like this is that you really appreciate places that â€œgive a damnâ€ and service as well. Â
Our criteria for choosing a motel room.
Having roomed with Gordon numerous times we know that we have to accept each other bad habits and weird routines. I like to watch TV until I fall asleep and so on and I don’t mind falling asleep with the lights on. Gordon seems to accept this so I’ll be nice and not mention his habits.
Â We both agree about the following when choosing a motel room: Two separate beds – no discussion, HBO and ESPN. We found one room that met these criteria at $85/ night in Granby about 15 miles from Devil’s Thumb. Not cheep but its winter season and weekend rates.
The room had its flaws. The outdoor temperature dropped to -18 overnight and the heater next to Gordon’s bed was working overtime and sounded like a 747 getting ready to take off. The only setting that made the room warm enough was full blast — taking the indoor temp to about 80F. Turning it down or off dropped the temp to about 32 in less than 15 minutes. We didn’t need a cooler or refrigerator for milk or anything else — just put it on the floor — it was ice cold.
On the way to the first race I asked Gordon if he wanted to move to a different motel for the next night but he was now so focused on the race that he could care less. â€œI’m here to race — I don’t want to think about itâ€
The Skate Race at 8500 Feet/2600 meter
The first race was 10K skating, individual start at11AM. The temperature at 8 AM was -15F and we saw no reason to test neither wax nor structure. We knew it was going to warm up some but the snow was still going to be dry and cold. We had seen that many times before for example at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. We spent three weeks there waxing for that type of snow – every day!
We both waxed up two pair of skis and waited to the last hour before start, skied a little on both pair and then picked the fastest pair. We had great glide. Go to www.torbjornsport.com to read about our wax choices for the weekend.
Quick – guess which kind of wax Torbjorn and Gordon used
At race start it had warmed up quite a bit. I t was still cold, but sunny and no wind. I doubt that anyone of the about 140 participating racers had problems with the temperatures.
The course profile was light rolling and very appropriate for the altitude — about 8500 feet! I always smiled a little when I read in Scandinavian newspapers about the extreme altitude the Olympic skiers had to endure and overcome at the Salt Lake games Â – 1700-1800 meter, less than 6000 feet! Every race in the Wasatch citizen series is at that altitude or higher.
In the first race Gordon skied a good race and ended up 3rd overall and I was a little disappointed with 6th overall since I beat Gordon handily two weeks ago in ParkCity. Overall not bad for two 46-year olds since no one over the age of 40 beat us. The winner was Wolf Wallendorf, last years NCAA champion, originally from Germany.
I could clearly feel the altitude during the race – after 5-6 minutes of racing my muscles were slow and despite feeling good and healthy I just couldn’t â€œget up to speedâ€.
I asked altitude expert Dr. Jim Stray Gundersen if Gordon had an advantage over me since he grew up at altitude and I grew up at sea level but he explained that since I now have lived at altitude for many years it’s more a genetic thing. Some people will simply perform better at altitude than others.Â
After the race we skied around a little and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and trails at Devil’s Thumb – we can highly recommend them.
Skiing at Devil's Thumb
Â Jumping Jack Flash and Satisfaction
Gordon was pumped up after the race and beating me for the first time since January last year. On top of that he was looking forward to the evenings “Live from New York” Rolling Stones concert on HBO- his favorite band. When we dove up to Winterpark that evening for dinner I had to guarantee that we would be back before 8PM— The start of the concert.
We made it home at 7:58 and the concert was on — all 2.5 hours of it. One old hit after another: Angie, I can’t get no Satisfaction, Jumping Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter — Gordon was in heaven and pumped up to the point that I would have had no chance racing him at any altitude tonight.
Gordon got plenty of satisfaction from the Stones concert
And guess what – after the concert he found his favorite Western movie on TNT — Josey Wales Outlaw with Clint Eastwood – no wonder he complained the next morning that he hadn’t slept well. He was just too jazzed up. Â
The Classic Race
The 15K classic race course was tougher than the skate course and had one killer hill at about 4K that was as tough as anything you can find on a World Cup course.
Gordon started 25 seconds ahead of me and at 4K going up the main climb I was within 15 seconds of him and less than 10 seconds behind 4th and 5th place. They were â€œwalkingâ€ up the steepest part of the climb right in front of me and I was sure I was going to catch them. But no — Goodnight Irene — I made it over the top — down the hill but had nothing to give approaching the next uphill. Slow motion from there and in. That fat lady had already sung the blues — for me it was over!
Gordon was at one point clearly in second place by maybe as much as 10-15 seconds but was overpowered by a couple younger, stronger double-polers on the last 5-6 K and ended up in 4th overall while I was 6th overall. We were 1st and 2nd in age 40 and over. We considered that pretty good and might come back again next year and see what we can do better – knowing what to expect in terms of terrain and altitude.
Overall a very well organized race that is absolutely worth putting on your list for races to do next season.
The King of Double Poling — Mike Grenshaw, US Disabled Team
The best performance during these two days was un-doubtly Mike Grenshaw in the 15K Classic race posting the 5th fastest time of the day! Mike has a leg amputee above the knee, using an artificial steel leg.
Mike Crenshaw (left with Gordon) is double pole king
Neither Gordon nor I suck in classic – in fact we both won Masters National Championship the past seasons in both skating and classic. Last year I posted the fastest time of the day regardless of age at Masters in California. Well today I was beaten by one minute by Mike and he was only 3 seconds behind Gordon.
Mike is supposed to be an incredible double poler – but I didn’t know he was that good! I’m sure we skied faster than him up to the high point but from there on he most have skied faster than anyone except for Wolf Wallendorf the overall winner.
Way to go Mike — good luck at the World Championship later this year. I bet you’ll do well!
Don't speed in Rand, CO
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mari StorengÂ — age 25-30 —Total time 1.25.17
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Camilla Brinchmann — age 25-30 — 1.28.42
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Maria Wik — age 25-30 — 1.30.32
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Carolina Barthelson age 25-30 — 1.31.02
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Karen Waeschle age 40-45 — 1.33.20
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sue Griffith age 40-45 — 1.38.03
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Wolf Wallendorf age 25-30 — Total time 1.14.29
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Peter Abraham age 20-25 — 1.19.00
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Stephen White age 35-40 — 1.19.05
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Gordon Lange age 45-50 — 1.19.16
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â James Reed age 20-25 — 1.19.59
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Torbjorn Karlsen 45-50 — 1.20.34 Â Â