A hot, humid day in Jericho, Vermont saw the first NENSA summer rollerski series come to an end with a challenging 12k freestyle race at the Ethan Allen Firing Range. The course consisted of four 3k loops of excellent skiing terrain â€” fun downhills, steep climbs, and rolling flats, this course had it all. With 70 participants, the field was by far and away the largest of the series â€” and there was no lack of quality. Andrew Johnson, Dave Chamberlain, and Eli Enman were the big names toeing the line in the men’s race. The women’s race featured biathletes Haley Johnson and Beth Ann Chamberlain, Dartmouth’s Elsa Sargent and Sara Studebaker, UVM’s Carina Hamel, and the interminable Dorcas Wonsavage of Alpina.
With such a large field, racers were started at one-minute intervals, heading out on a course made somewhat slick by the previous night’s rain. The top seeded competitors in both events raced on matched rollerskis donated by V2, literally taking the equipment variable out of the loop.
Andrew Johnson, wearing bib 1, set the time to beat, completing the 12 kilometers in 27:05. With second starter Enman having an off day, it was looking as though Johnson might go unchallenged, taking his second straight victory after an opening day loss to the US Ski Team’s Kris Freeman. But late registrant Dave Chamberlain was lurking back at number 45. With Johnson long warmed down, Chamberlain hammered out of the start to challenge the leader.
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Dorcas Wonsavage flies to the finish (Photo: Patrick Coffey)
Said Wonsavage after the race â€œI’d never had a chance to ski the Jericho rollerski course, and I am impressed with the serious terrain it offers in such a short loop. I was very excited to see so many skiers come out and take advantage of the race â€” everyone seemed clear on how it fit into their own training, their own level of experience and fitness.â€
Van Genetchen’s 9th place finish, coupled with her two earlier victories, was enough to give her the women's overall title. Andrew Johnson took top honors on the men’s side with two victories and a 2nd. NENSA program director Stuart Kremzner was extremely pleased with the inaugural summer rollerski series. â€œOverall the series went great for it's first year. They were very well run events, which is important for any first year series, and the last race showed us that there is strong demand for a well scheduled race.â€ Kremzner is already planning improvements for next summer â€” hopefully adding an additional September event, cash prizes for winners, and the top 30 men and women all on matched skis.
“Our goals with the series are multi-fold” says Kremzner. “We hope to diversify Nordic skiing so that we can interest a larger group of people in the sport, have summer evaluation opportunities for Nordic skiers, create summer events to maintain the important ski community social network in the off-season, and create an event series that effectively eliminates the competitive advantages of equipment.”
Series winner Van Genetchen sees the races as a great complement to summer training. â€œI think the roller ski race series is a great way to test yourself and push that high end in the summer. Skiers have a relatively short season, so most of the improvement comes during the summer.â€
Wonsavage agrees, saying â€œWith the matched rollerskis, xc skiers can now use these races as an honest test to check their fitness against their peers. I hope we'll see more rollerski events in the future.â€ She also sang the praises of the new boots â€” â€œAndrew Johnson, Topher Sabot, Robert (Duncan) Douglas, and I raced in the boots. Considering the 86F temperature and 90% humidity, it was the boot of the day. Especially when I looked at the older boots most skiers use for the summer, it looked like they were skiing w/ down jackets on their feet, while we had on our while we had on our surf shorts.â€
â€œWhat is significant about this boot is what it doesn't have â€” a lot of the insulation, waterproof features, and cuff material necessary for a winter boot. Instead, the ventilation in the toe box area and the open ankle offers key “air conditioning” for those rollerskiing in the heat of the summer.â€
The race was followed by a biathlon clinic, put on by Ethan Allen Biathlon Club, and a NENSA coaches clinic, led by Andrew Johnson and Stuart Kremzner.
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Men's podium (Photo: Patrick Coffey)
Series champions, Andrew Johnson and Ilke Van Genechten (Photo: Patrick Coffey)