The snow might be lacking but the International Spring Series is moving forward with great nordic racing here in Grand County, Colorado. Rebecca Dussault of the Subaru Factory team, who is currently ranked # 1 in America, has been competing over here for the last couple of days along with the best cross country skiers from across the US as well as great skiers from Canada, Germany, Norway, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Russia.
The unbelievable warm temperatures during the past month have left the cross country ski venues with little snow to work with but that hasn’t stopped the volunteers and race organizers from putting on a world class event. The International Springs Series brings together skiers for one last competition before they hang up the skis. This
is the most elite level of cross country skiing Colorado has ever seen.
It has also attracted the highest level of skiers to the United States since the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The racers will be competing in 8 different races this week which will diffidently test the endurance of even the strongest skiers. To do 8 races in one week is almost unheard of in nordic racing. I'm sure some of the racers will be
struggling with the altitude also. All of the races will be at about 9000 ft. Another twist to the whole week of racing is that it will be run similar to a road bike stage race i.e., Tour De France. The racers’ times will be added together after each race so that there will be a battle for the overall yellow leader jersey throughout the week. At the end of the week the person with the yellow jersey will be crowned Grand Champion of the 2004 International Spring Series.
The racing got underway last Saturday at Devils Thumb Nordic center with a 5K classic race for the women and a 10K for the men. Rebecca knew that she was going to have her work cut out for her as she bolted out of the
starting gate. The 2002 gold medalist Claudia Kuenzel from Germany has made the trip over to compete this week. At the mid-way time split Rebecca was leading the race by 10 seconds. She kept pushing but towards the end of the 15 minute race she lost some of her steam and had to slow down just a bit. That gave Claudia enough time to take the lead and win the race by 9 seconds with Rebecca barley squeezing into 2nd place by one tenth of a second over Norwegian skier, Sigrid Aas. This was a great start to the week.
On Sunday everyone was greeted with fresh snow on the ground which brought
many smiles to racers and especially the organizers. The snow continued
to fall steadily through out the morning as the racers took to the trails
at Snow Mountain Ranch.
The race was broken up into two different techniques, a 5K classic first
and then a 5K skate about an hour later. Rebecca put in a strong effort
for the first portion of the race finishing in 4th, 29 seconds out from
the lead. For the 5K skate portion the racers started according to their
time back from the leader in the earlier race. Again, Claudia Kuenzel
from Germany had posted the fastest time so far. In the 5K skate, Rebecca
started out fast and caught the 3rd and 2nd place girls right away. She
tried to catch the German but she was too strong. Rebecca came close but
couldn’t reel her in. Towards the end of the race Rebecca’s teammate,
Katrin Smigun from Estonia snuck up on her during the final stretch and
out sprinted Rebecca for second place. Rebecca finished 3rd overall.