March 2003 -The Great Race – A Huge Party!

FasterSkierMarch 4, 2003

Welcome to the Great Ski Race!

Well, here is another “Road trip with Torbjorn and Gordon”
This time we went to “The Biggest Little City in The World” –Reno,
Nevada to participate in The Great Race, a 30 kilometer point to point race
from the famous Lake Tahoe – over the mountain – to Truckee for a total of about
30 kilometer.

The Town
We flew in to Reno on Saturday March 1st in the morning the day before the race.
Reno is a miniature Las Vegas with all the glitter and neon lights you can imagine
in an international gambling town of this magnitude. The drive from the Reno
to the race start, up in the mountains of California, is only one hour and we
had decided to stay in one of the big Casino Resort Hotels downtown –
this was, after all, a “boys trip”.

Ahh, the biggest little city on Earth!

At the rental car check out we really wanted a convertible but it was snowing
lightly so we settled for a Subaru Outback AWD. The hotel choice was The Nugget
– not our first choice – but first choice was sold out. We had bad memories
from staying there several years ago – not only did our friend Hans Martin have
“really bad luck” testing his skills playing cards – he also “lost”
his new leather jacket – not his shirt, but jacket.

Any way we arrived at 10AM and by 1PM we had done it all: The $9.99 “all
you can eat” buffet – shrimp and crab legs included, spent our “gambling
budget” and watched the qualification round in the hotels Slot Tournament!
We were very impressed of how many times per second people in their eighties
could hit the slot machine to change the symbols. Old fashion “pull the
wheel or handle” is out – now – you hit. About 100 people were “competing”
in this qualification round and only one elderly gentleman was helped by paramedics
and wheeled him out to a waiting ambulance when the excitement took control
– only one out of 100 – that’s good odds in Reno!

Well, we decided that slots are not for us – either now or when we retire from
working, ski-racing or both. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent
partly in the pool and Jacuzzi and watching NBA basketball on one of the many
screens in the Sport book – that my kind of fun!

Departure was set for 6AM the next morning so we rounded out the day and went
to bed around 9PM by renting a pay per view movie: Catch me if you can
– great movie but we both fell asleep so I have to rent it some other

The Race
Five kilometer of easy rolling terrain is followed by 10 kilometer of solid
uphill, 5 kilometer of downhill and 10 kilometer of gradual downhill followed
by a few short uphill with a steep 200 meter full downhill style finish –
In my opinion a truly great course since you need to be good at everything to
do well – good endurance, downhill technique and technique sprint skills
at the end.

The start area of the Great Ski Race

Gordon and I had followed my advice from last years race where I suggested that
the weather is predictable enough for people with several pair of skis to wax
at home which we did – one pair with warm Fluorocarbon and one with a
colder option. From our wax line, SOLDA, this meant Warm Flour and HPO5. All
we needed to do when we arrived in the morning on race day was to brush the
skis and test to decide which pair to choose. The night temperature low was
in the mid teens and at start time it was around 30F and sunny. Both options
felt good so now it was more a question about choosing the skis with a fine
or courser structure/grind. The conditions and grooming was perfect.

Torbjorn brushes his skis out before the race

Pat Weaver (Atomic) skied away from the pack on the climb and won the men’s
division comfortably ahead of “Der Alte Fox” himself – Jon Engen 
– who inched himself in front of a couple of his younger teammates.

Katerina Hanasova (Factory Team) won the women’s race ahead of Suzane
King (Atomic). Team TBS did well with Kent Murdock in 5th and Gordon Lange in

Gordon enjoys a beer with race winner Pat Weaver after the race

The Struggle
I was, in my opinion, on my way to a pretty good result myself but had some
bad luck! Let me give you my entire “war story” and battery of excuses.

My strategy was to start easier than I had done in the past and feel good and
strong going up the climb. I stuck to my plan, skied relaxed and easy the first
5K was in 11th place at the beginning of the climb seeing Kent Murdock that
ended up in 6th place right in front of us. My spot to “crank it up”
and see if I could catch skiers in front of us was a big right hand turn about
1.5K up the hill. Gordon knew I was ready to make my move when I, right before
the bend, asked him how he was doing.
Several times before this I had had some problems with my pole-straps the were
sliding out from the handle but I thought I had been able to push the knob that
holds the straps in tight again – well I hadn’t – right at
the bend – my spot to go hard – the right strap came out and while
I was trying to fix that – now skiing uphill without poles the other strap came
I stopped up and tried to fix it – was passed by 6-7 skiers and decided
to not give up but continue without straps.
The section to the top where I knew there was a chance to get replacement poles
was 8K – not the easiest when you can’t put your weight on the poles,
can’t push and let you hand go and have to put your thumb on top of the
pole and hold a very tight grip and so on for 8K – try it – it’s
not easy! It was really frustrating only being able to ski with less than half
upper body and arm effort since this slows down your legs as well.

I was actually pretty happy that I didn’t loose more than 1-2 minutes
to the group I had been skiing with. At the top I borrowed some loaner poles
that was too long and had touring baskets and hard to go fast with. I ended
up in 17th place – knowing that I should have been considerably higher up today.

Gordon took a photo of me after the race that clearly showed how bummed I was.
I decided not to use the photo for this article since it described my disappointment
and not how I feel about the race – which is great! Great post race party with
lots of food, a good band and lots of happy and tired skiers – we’ll
be back next year!

The post-race party is always great.


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