The tremendously successful CXC FIS SuperTour Series hosted by Central Cross-Country Skiing, overcame everything mother nature threw at them to wrap up the four-week loop around the Midwest last weekend. The Capitol Square Sprints opened the series with a bang, as racers fresh from the U.S. National Championships converged on Madison, Wisconsin to compete in skate team sprints and classic individual sprints around the majestic State Capitol building. From there, skiers traveled north to Mt. Itasca in Colraine, Minnesota, and competed in two distance races held concurrent with the venue’s 100th year anniversary celebration. Next came three races at the famous Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin. Athletes competed in a classic sprint, an individual start classic race, and a mass start skating event at the home of the world’s very first World Cup, and the famous American Birkebeiner. It was during this week that the infamous Midwest Meltdown occurred, as temperatures hit the forties with baking sun followed by rain even at Telemark while it poured in the Twin Cities. While some racers left town when the warm front hit, those who persevered saw their faith pay off when the fourth and final weekend of the series, the City of Lakes Loppet, miraculously occurred as a result of a tiny snowstorm and hours of shoveling by dedicated organizers and volunteers. The sheer fact of the Loppet having gone off, despite a city that seemed barren of snow, made SuperTour athletes feel very grateful and lucky to have a capstone to the CXC four-week series.
Caitlin Compton, of the Subaru Factory Team and Go! Training, currently residing in the Twin Cities, reflected on the Central SuperTour experience. â€œI like the venues that were used for the series. Madison was â€˜crazy’, to compete in the middle of a city. The courses at Mt. Itasca are uniquely difficultâ€”you either love them or you hate them. Telemark is great. With all the nostalgia and history, it’s a cool place to race. The City of Lakes Loppet just felt like an accomplishment in that they were able to run it given the thin snow.â€ Compton also complimented the Central SuperTour format of having other races going on during the weekends. The Junior Olympic qualifiers, college races, High School, youth and citizens draw spectators and allow the entire ski community to intermingle and appreciate each other’s accomplishments.
SuperTour athletes who call the Central Region home are particularly appreciative of the series’ existence. As Compton explained, â€œIt’s a huge physical and financial advantage. Our country is so large, in order to be in contention, you have to travel so far. Having races at home gives us a break. There’s no travel or flying stress.â€ She also contended that it is critical for Nordic development for kids who live in the region to see the events and their heroes up close. Even as someone who has only lived in the Twin Cities for a year, Compton enjoyed racing in front of a hometown crowd. â€œIt was great to race in Minneapolis and hear all the words of encouragement from kids and parents.â€
There were some great winners in the Central SuperTour series. The greatest among them was probably Natasha Naryshkina. A 21 year old Russian citizen calling Madison, Wisconsin her home for this winter. Absent from the Fairbanks SuperTour and the Anchorage NRL Naryshkina got a late start to the season. After introducing the country to her name and her abilities at West Yellowstone, MT and U.S. Nationals, she returned to Central and all but owned the series. She took home gold in five of nine races, including the final two: the City of Lakes Loppet sprint and distance race. The closest thing Naryshkina had to an â€œoff-weekendâ€ was Telemark, where she only managed two silvers. Following the Birkie, Natasha will return to Russia for their National Championships.
Other women who won CXC SuperTour events include: Last year’s Champion Karin Caminesch (both sprint races in Madison), UAF student Johanna Turunen (Itasca skate), Canadian Shayla Swanson (Telemark classic), and MWCS/FSx Kate Whitcomb (Telemark skate).
The class of men’s competitors was Dave Chamberlain-Atomic. After being passed up for the Olympic team, Chamberlain arrived in Central and proved the best skier in the series. Skipping Madison sprints, he took home gold in four of seven races, as well as a single silver and bronze. His strongest weekend of the series was Telemark, where he took second in the sprint and first in both the weekend’s distance races. He appeared in similar form at the City of Lakes Loppet, winning the sprint on Saturday evening. Unfortunately, a stumble in the final meters of the 35 kilometer loppet race kept Chamberlain out of the top three on Sunday. Other men who won a CXC SuperTour event include: Olympian Chris Cook (both sprints at Madison and the Telemark sprint), Zack Simons-FSx/Sun Valley (team sprint in Madison), Justin Freeman-Fischer/Salomon (skate at Itasca), and Brayton Osgood-MWSC (City of Lakes Loppet distance).
With the Central series wrapped up, the next stop on the SuperTour is the Owl Creek Chase in Aspen this weekend. After that, watch for most of the SuperTour athletes to return to the Midwest two weeks from now for the American Birkebeiner. Following the Birkie, overall SuperTour Champions will be off to Europe to exercise the start rights they won for the final World Cup events. The SuperTour will complete the season with a series of races at the Maine Winter Sports Center for Spring Series.