GATINEAU, QUEBEC Greetings from the Great White North and Day One of the Keskinada Loppet. Stanislav Rezac continued his domination of the world marathon circuit today by cleaning up in the 52k classic race at the 27th running of the Keskinada. Tough guy Stan does not settle for the easy path, however. He raced and won the sprint competition last night, and he plans to challenge a tough field including Ivan Babikov in the 50k freestyle tomorrow. Last year, he won all three events here in Gatineau, then followed up with a 2nd in the American Birkie 6 days later. Canadian Kathy Davies was the female champion in the 52k classic.
For complete results: http://www.keskinada.com
Ok, that takes care of the serious reporting, read on for a skier's impression of the race:
My fellow Team TBS (Team TorbjornSport/SOLDA) member Meiko Hoemke and I realized only two weeks ago that we were both headed for the Keskinada (alone). Meiko is a fun loving/hard skiing German living in Salt Lake City and working (full time) for the US branch of Volkswagon Bank. He is a great guy to go to races with because his job “requires” him to drive cars like a VW Toureg or Audi All Road. Unfortunately, this trip was a bit outside comfortable driving distances, even in an Audi. I was still very happy to be rooming with Meiko, however, because my classic waxing expertise is just as bad as my classic technique, and Meiko has plenty of European klister experience. I needed a secret weapon to get through a 52k classic marathon.
I got the “green light” to head to Quebec back in January from my wife and usual racing partner, Karen. She had no interest in traveling to a race where, in all likelihood, it was going to be butt cold. I think our annual race trip to the Boulder Mountain Tour in Sun Valley has made her soft. Actually, I probably cry about cold more than she does, but I decided that a little suffering would be worth it if it made the kick waxing simple. With a few “clicks” I committed myself to the 52k classic, airline flights and a hotel reservation.
As I watched the daily ski reports in January from Gatineau Park (maybe the coolest urban park in North America? check it out: http://www.capcan.ca/gatineau/outdoor_activities/index_e.asp), my no brainer kick wax theory seemed to be looking good as the daily wax recommendation was jumping back and forth between green and blue. Suddenly in February, however, I was horrified to see mentions of rain and sleet mixed alternating with 0 F! Meiko came along at just the right time.
Fast forward to this morning: Karen was right after all. The low last night was -12F, and the temperature at the 9am start was just above 0F. Meiko was racing both the 25k classic (today) and the 25k freestyle (tomorrow). Unlike the Birkie, they start both short and long races together, and I lined up right behind Meiko on the starting line. It was pretty cool, because Stanislav Rezac was just a few lanes over to our right. Make that really cool. And speaking of cool, I would have gladly traded my hat for one of those uncool, but warm things that come down on the sides of your face like most of the local skiers were wearing. No cannons or anthems, just a simple countdown and we were off.
Meiko is a strong double poler, and he was along side Stanislav before he decided that there was no need to lead the race and tucked into a position in the first six or so. My job, of course, was to hang back a bit so I could properly observe the race and write this account. I did a good job of hanging back enough so that I could see the first group string out on the narrow climb that we hit at about 5k. Fortunately, after the climb we were on a wide gentle road, and even though I was doing an ever better job of hanging back, I was still able to watch the first group stretched pretty far up the road.
At about 8k, two skiers just in front of me executed a sharp left hand turn off the road. My cold blurred vision just caught the sign that indicated the split off for the 25k racers. Go Meiko – I wondered how many of the group in front of me had turned off? Suddenly, I was face to face with Meiko, skiing down the road at me. My crazy German friend had missed his turn (I probably would have missed it, too). Only last night at dinner he had told me a story about racing the Koning Ludwig Lauf (it is fun just to hear him say that) and doing the exact same thing.
The rest of my race went as well as I could have expected. My kick wax held up, and I double poled like a madman just to make sure my back was plenty sore enough after the race to qualify for a massage. I never saw another skier in my race again after 10k, but I ended up finishing 12th overall and I can actually tell my kids that I won my age group in a Worldloppet classic race! It will take them at least a couple of years to figure out that the Keski fields are a bit smaller than, say, the Vasaloppet.
And Meiko the crazy German? He lost about a minute and a half, got real mad, and skied back to the two guys that had turned off in front of me who were now leading his race. Then he dropped them and won.
The Keski is a great race. The course is a good mix of terrain, reminding me a lot of trails I have skied on in Upper Michigan. It is a Worldloppet, which really adds an international atmosphere. Yeah, I know the Birkie is also a Worldloppet, but (if you are from the midwest) you don't really feel like you are experiencing a different culture. I even fell for the Worldloppet Passport thing, and now have my first stamp. I am excited to someday earn the next one. I am also betting that Karen will want to go next time.
TBS Hoemke Two for Two at the Keski!
GATINEAU, QUEBEC Team TorbjornSport/SOLDA skier Meiko Hoemke of Salt Lake City/Germany won the 25k freestyle race on Sunday, completing a successful weekend after winning the 25k classic yesterday. At the time of this writing, the 50k freestyle was still in progress, but check here for full results: www.keskinada.com.
Hoemke’s wax choice was Solda HP05 over S-30 on a day with starting temps around 0F.
For more wax details and other wax reports see www.torbjornsport.com