With temperatures warming steadily throughout the week, the final event at Spring Series–the National Long-Distance Championship–was moved just over an hour north from its originally-scheduled location at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle to the Maine Winter Sports Center's other world-class venue in Fort Kent. The venue also hosted World Cup biathlon races in 2004.
The trails there were amply-covered with snow but equally soft and mushy, making the grueling 30km and 50km mass-start classic races even more immensely long and difficult.
Wendy Wagner leading the opening 10km classic race last weekend in Presque Isle
The men's race started at noon under a strong sun and spread out quickly after the mass-start, with increasingly mushy uphills and squirrelly tracks making it difficult to ski efficiently even for some of the best skiers. Kris Freeman later commented “I had to totally re-learn how to double pole out there.” Towards the end some racers in the top fifteen were occasionally breaking into a walk on a couple of the steepest and most chewed-up short hills, and a few skiers even stopped for several minutes to re-wax.
After a lap and a half on the 12.5km loop, a lead pack of eight skiers were staying tight and clear of the rest of the field. The pack consisted of well-established skiers including David Chamberlain (Atomic), Kris Freeman (US Ski Team), Justin Freeman (Fischer/Salomon), Chad Giese (Subaru Factory Team), and Dave Stewart (FSx/XC Oregon), as well as top up-and-coming college skiers Ben True (Dartmouth), Mike Sinnott (Dartmouth), and Jurgen Uhl (UVM.)
Freeman felt the opening pace was easy: “We were just walking for two laps. [On the third lap] I pushed hard up the last couple k's into the stadium. I wasn't looking around, I just put my head down and went. I looked up and the only guy that went with me was Chad, and on the last bounding hill Chad dropped off and I said 'This is the time to go' because it's such drafting snow. It's impossible to get away unless you have a lead to begin with.”
Michael Sinnott finished an excellent fifth ahead of David Chamberlain; Glenn Randall also stayed strong finishing seventh; then it was Casey Ward, Garrott Kuzzy, and Zach Violett filling the top ten.
Full results from the men's 50km National Long-Distance Championship: http://www.nensa.net/sched&result/2006/Men_SS_50K.pdf
Video footage from the men's race and post-race comments from Wendy Wagner, Kris Freeman, and other top skiers will be added to the new FasterSkier Multimedia gallery shortly along with more photos. Click the following link to browse Spring Series race footage, interviews, and photos: http://18.104.22.168/~fastersk/media/index.php
[***IMPORTANT NOTE: you must have QUICKTIME software to view the videos. If you do not have this program already installed on your computer, you can very easily (and legally) download it for free at the following link: