Like much of the Nordic World this winter, the Michigan Cup race series has had a rough start, with four cancelled race weekends. There just has not been snow at the race venues. For added snow challenge, the â€œhome snowâ€ for daily training has been only a rare treat. Of course, rollerskiing went far into the winter season, and that gets a little stale after a time, especially after the time when we thought we’d be skiing on snow.
Last week began with a blanket of snow over much of the region, yet towards the end of the week it became evident that it wasn’t enough snow in the right places. We had a Classic race scheduled for Saturday at the Garland Resort in Lewiston, MI. They had enough snow to roll a skate lane, but not enough to set a track. However, the day was saved by volunteers and a venue change to XCHQ in Roscommon, who had just enough snow to set a shallow track.
The Michigan Cup series is comprised of two types of events. We include many of the loppet type races, or ski marathons that are sprinkled throughout our winter season, and the rest of the races consist primarily of Michigan Cup racers only, though not exclusively. These races are usually put on by Nick Baic, who does the race planning & organization, registration, age group cutoffs, timing, scoring of finishers at the finish line, final ranking of finishers, awards, kids races, separate junior event and scoring division and sometimes he even brings him own grooming equipment and grooms the race course ! The guy is an amazing one man band, and as you can imagine he doesn’t even take the chance to race, with all those duties. The Garland race weekend are two of the races that Nick does, so a great shout out to Nick Baic for all that he does in order to keep the Michigan Cup skiers (Juniors, Seniors, Masters, and kids) on the snow with bibs on, doing what we love to do.
â€œThe Garland Gripperâ€ as the Saturday classic race is called was two loops, totaling 11.1km officially. The snow was cold, around 14 to 15F, and great quality snow. Nick had organized an interval start, which is rare for the Michigan Cup, and was very well received by the racers. The course was flat enough that at least three skiers elected to use their skating gear. Denny Paull won the race on classic skis, and he used his skating poles to completely overpower the largely Double Pole course. Upstart Jesse Smith was 14 seconds back in second place, racing the Seniors as a high school senior (perhaps an OJ, but I don’t know that for sure). Hugh Pritchard came in third behind â€œThe Boy.â€ I skied my brains out for an 11th, with which I could not have been more pleased. Junior girls top 3 were Hannah Ciesla, Kaitlyn Patterson & Caterina Gulledge. Junior boys top 3 were Mac Brennan, Elliot Putman and Ross Williams. Senior women top 3 were Emily Flynn, Gussie Peterson & Jean VanDam. Everyone I spoke with was grateful for the opportunity to finally race. Good moods were all had by all.
â€œThe Garland Glideâ€ was a surprise 16km skate race on Sunday. The surprise was being out there racing for 16km, not that anyone complained. The biggest hill there was on a par 4 as the fairway dropped in elevation away from the tees, and of course we played the course not only using winter rules, but also backwards on that particular hole, in order to utilize the â€œclimbâ€ (liberal application of the term). Otherwise, the â€œupsâ€ were just a few steps up. The â€œdownsideâ€ of such a course profile is a near total lack of downhill recovery glides in a race where skiers were on the throttle for 45 minutes or more, but that only adds to the fun, as the cost of entry is the same for 11km or 16km of racing fun.
Jesse took second again, with Steve Kuhl in front by a nose, and Hugh again in 3rd place, with Denny Paull solidly in 4th place. I was really pleased with an 8th place, but moreso just elated to have had the opportunity to race again. Junior girls top 3 were Hannah Ciesla, Kaitlyn Patterson & Emily Westerman. Junior boys top 3 were Brendan Baic, Kyle Endicott & Mac Brennan. Senior women top 3 were Emily Flynn, Gussie Peterson & Karen Dawson. After a good lunch, the race volunteers even put on a race event for the younger kids, complete with finishers medals around their necks.
I think it’s safe to say that we all forgot how much fun it actually is to race.