Fast conditions for make for exciting racing in California Gold Rush 50K
The Gold Rush has a long and storied history in the memories of top cross country ski racers from around the country. Sometimes referred to as the â€œSlush-Festâ€ in California, top skiers from around the country have returned home over the years with tales of ankle-deep corn snow throughout the second half of this 50-kilometer marathon-plus ski race.
The past couple of years, however, have put the kibosh on those memories, with the 2005 edition held during a major snowstorm, necessitating a major course change, and the 2006 race held in cold, blustery, mid-winter-like conditions.
This year’s race, held on Sunday, had great potential for a return to the old standard of warmth and sunshine, but a couple of factors helped make the course conditions into near-record speeds and hair-raising descents.
An 8 a.m. start combined with the new Daylight Savings Time meant that skiers were well off the course by the time the snow conditions slowed, and a fast, sometimes icy track kept everyone literally on their toes for almost the entire race.
The Gold Rush is also known for attracting some of the best racers in the country, as it is the culmination of the American Ski Marathon Series, and is still considered a large feather in the cap of the ultimate winner of this individual race. And this year, one of the most decorated U.S. skiers still on the national circuit made it his own personal playground, with Carl Swenson of the Subaru Factory Team finally tiring of the cat-and-mouse game of follow the leader, breaking up the pack with a vicious attack midway through the race and challenging everyone else to hold on to his pace.
Swenson, a three-time Olympian and 11-time National title holder from Salt Lake City, simply bided his time for more than 20 kilometers before letting it fly and skiing to an 11-second win over his nearest competitors, Adam Swank and Nikolai Anikin, both from Duluth, Minn. Swenson finished with a near-record time of 1:57:01, one of the few times this course has been skied in under two hours.
The top local male finishers were Tav Streit of Reno (seventh overall), the winner of the season-long Fischer Cup local race series, Carl Reid (eighth) of Palo Alto, fresh off his impressive Great Race and Junior Olympics races, and the ageless Rick Reynolds (10th) of Truckee.