The Defi Boreal ( www.defiboreal.com ) is a 100K Skate Ski Loppet that took place on Feb 26th, 2005. As far as event organizers are aware, it is the longest loppet in the world. Forestville is located on the North Shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, approximately a 3.5 hour drive from Quebec City, or 6 hours from Montreal. The nearest airport with scheduled commercial flights is Baie Comeau, a 1 hour drive North East in a rental car. The event is part of the Quebec Masters circuit and includes events such as the Keski 50K as well as the Tour Mont Valin 50K. The president of honour of the race is 3 time biathlon Olympian, Steve Cyr.
The inaugural race had 29 racers taking on the 100K challenge and another 16 taking on the â€œshorterâ€ 38K event. The race itself takes place on a long 100K loop through the Canadian Shield on very hilly terrain for the first half and then flat to rolling terrain in the second half. The ski track is actually a snowmobile route for the rest of the winter and a gravel rural road in the summer. For 364 days a year, it is off limits to skiers, but for one day a year, the local snowmobile club and local community, come together to make this loop accessible to skiers. For those who have never been to Canada’s â€œnorthern frontierâ€, this race puts you in close touch with the unspoiled beauty that the early pioneers and aboriginal population experienced several hundred years ago. Aside from the 8 aid stations manned by the local snowmobile club, there is little evidence on any human intrusion during most of the picture postcard route. This course is truly the closest thing to heaven one can experience during the rigors of a 100K event. The breathtaking scenery, surely made the distance go by quickly.
The event itself started at minus 19 C with a stiff 30 kph northwest head wind. The route would take the racers straight into the wind and on a long series of relenting uphill over the first 55K km. With a steep downhill at 55K, the racers found themselves in a long meandering river valley, gradually dropping back to sea level to the town of Forestville on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The return section was only interrupted by a few sharp hills whenever the snowmobile trail left the bank of the river to go over hills as the river bored its way through the odd gorge. During most of the final 45K the racers had a strong tailwind at their back, brilliant sunshine, and some of the most fabulous scenery east of the Rocky mountains.
Racers are notorious for starting races it an insanely quick tempo. Whether it is 1K sprint or 100K, the pace seems to be the standard turbocharged pace. Steve Cyr, 3rd in the Keski 2005 50K skate, and 3 time biathlon Olympian (including 8th at Albertville), was off like a bullet. Paul Tolomiczenko and Phil Shaw, both top 15 in the previous week’s Keski attempted to follow, but were soon spit out and rejoined Mike Dyon, a former 2:14 National Team marathoner in 4th place. Behind them a group of approximately 10 skiers worked together in a long train with hopes of breaking the elusive 6 hour mark, considered as the â€œgold standardâ€ for those attempting this distance. Cyr proceeded to chew up the course, going through the 45 K â€œhalfway pointâ€ over a half hour ahead of the pack. The organizers had made arrangements for racers to have special needs bags dropped off at the 45K point. It was there that, Mike Dyon, used Paul Tolomicenko’s â€œspecial needs stopâ€, to his advantage and pulled away. Phil Shaw, who recently roller skied across New Zealand, eventually fell behind Dyon. Tolomiczenko was unable to close on the leading trio. Steve Cyr, used his many years of elite ski racing fitness to pull away to a solid 20 min victory at 5:11. In his own words, he miserably bonked at 95K, but manage to shuffle in. Cyr was followed 20 min later by Dyon who had distanced himself from Phil Shaw, the third place athlete across the line. In 4th Paul Tolomiczenko came in. â€œI blew my race following the Olympian over the first 10K but it was worth trying, cause you never now how hard you can go unless you give it a go. Patrick Bellmaire rounded out the top 5 skiing the entire 100K solo.