Over 1000 brave skiers from age 5 to 75 rose at dawn today to face the challenge and the cold of the 23rd annual Banknorth Craftsbury Marathon. By the 9 am Start, a pale January sun was shining on Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, but temperatures remained in the single digits for the duration of the event, and a bitter North wind howled on the open hilltops and blew loose powder into the classical ski tracks. But the grooming was impeccable and spirits were high as 150 volunteers worked relentlessly to keep both racers and recreational touring skiers warm with hot drinks and tasty snacks. Flagging racers fueled up on Fig Newman’s, Hammergel, and Smartfuel sports drink, while the tourers stopped for warm rolls, pea soup and more treats at gourmet feed stations sponsored by local inns.
The men’s 50 km race proved a fierce battle between some of the nation’s fastest skiers. Patrick Weaver of Team Atomic/Alpina was looking to uphold his 2003 Marathon title, and surged away from the lead pack with 5 km to go to win in a time of 2:52:08. Weaver, a former Olympian and National Champion, described the hilly course today as “hard… cold… and slow,” but admitted he enjoyed the scenic Vermont experience, gliding through open fields with vistas of the Green Mountains. “Hands down, Craftsbury is the best classical Marathon in the country,” said Weaver.