The Gatineau Loppet (formerly the Keskinada) is an entire weekend of racing, with classic events on Saturday and freestyle on Sunday. 29 and 53 kilometer events were held in each discipline, with the most prestigious race, the 53km freestyle.
Held in the spacious Gatineau park, the 53km course is a mixture of challenging climbs on narrow wooded trails and wide open gradual terrain on the park's roads. The 53km course starts with a a shorter 9 kilometer loop which brought competitors back through the stadium before heading out for the the remaining 44 kilometers of racing.
Over 2700 skiers participated in the 30th anniversary event.
â€œI am delighted with this special edition. I’ve had nothing but positive comments from
the Canadian and foreign skiers about the terrific conditions and the beauty of the
Gatineau Loppet trails,â€ declared event President, Alain d’Entremont, a regular
participant, who completed the 29 km freestyle.
The air was charged with energy in anticipation of the 53 and 29km freestyle. A number of elite skiers met up in wave A for the crowning race of the weekend. The event’s cognoscenti tipped their hats to Mother Nature, who bestowed a gratifying -15 degrees Celsius on this year’s start.
Although not among this year’s top three in the first 9.1 km loop, Ivan Babikov snatched
the gold with a time of 2:21. A former member of the Russian national team,
Babikov became a Canadian citizen only a few weeks ago. He had done well at the
Gatineau Loppet in previous years, namely in 2004 and 2005, when he walked away with
one of the medals. He was followed a mere 3 seconds later by Canmore’s Robin
McKeever, who nonetheless earned top place in his age category. His last medal win had
been in 2000, when he finished the same race in first place. Germany’s Thomas
Freimuth took the bronze, with a time of 2:22.
In the women's race, Milaine ThÃ©riault took the gold. With a time of
2:41, she maintained a steady 19.7 km per hour. She was followed less than a minute later by
Alberta’s Nikki Kassel. Anerican Sarah Max (Madshus) was third in a time of 2:47.
29 km freestyle
Craig Storey, a member of the XC Ottawa club, rode the 29 km freestyle to the top of
the podium, with a time of 1:23. He was followed by another Canadian, Sacha DesfossÃ©s,
from PrÃ©vost. Bill Frazer, from Lake Placid, U.S.A., came in third, edging his closest
rival, Bevan Ferreira, by only one second.
In the women's race, Nathalie Godbout of Saint-FerrÃ©ol-les-Neiges stood atop the podium. Ottawa’s StÃ©phanie Rees and Chelsea’s Natalya Kuziac clinched second and third place, respectively.
Coming out of the first 9.1 km loop, Russia’s Yuri Kozlov was in the lead, followed by
Jon Arne Enevoldsen, originally from Norway but now living in the United States. Wayne Dustin of the XC Ottawa cross-country ski club was close behind in third.
Kozlov ended up being the only one of the three to keep up the pace, ending with a
time of 2:43 that took him to the top of the podium. Quebec’s Phil Shaw, winner of the
last two years’ races in this category, glided into second place with a time of 2:49, a full six minutes behind the leader. Pierre Lavoie, from La Baie au QuÃ©bec, known for his war against hereditary diseases, came in third, with a time of 2:56. Enevoldsen and Dustin took 4th and 5th place respectively.
In the women's race, it was Rimouski’s Louise Martineau who walked away with the
gold, in a time of 3:29, moving up from third in this same race in 2007. American
Taylor Leach from Oregon followed with a time of 3:31, and British Columbia’s Teresa
White, took the bronze.
The six winners collected magnificent glass trophies crafted by the Chech Republic’s
Jilek Glass Factory. His Excellency Pavel Vosalik, Ambassador of the Chech Republic,
handed out the awards.
The new generation took the day in the men’s 29 km. The first two positions went to
Ontario skiers in the 19 and under age category, Mathias Purdon and Aidan Lennie.
Justin Demers was third.
It was a different story among the women, where it came down to experience. Chelsea’s
Natalya Kuziak took the gold with a time of 1:50, while Ottawa’s StÃ©phanie Rees
and Lac-au-Saumon resident Diane Bouchard came in second and third respectively.
Norway/Gatineau Giant Ski Competition
The Embassy of Austria beat out the other nine teams that took part in the
Norway/Gatineau Giant Ski Competition, walking away with the top honor after seizing
the title from the Gatineau team, which had been the big winner in the 2007 edition.
The Mini GazifÃ¨re
Parents and children turned out for this noon-hour rendez-vous, skiing the 2 km race, the
only one that was not timed at the Gatineau Loppet. Proud parents ushered their young
children across the finish line, and into the delights of cross-country skiing. Hot chocolate
drinks by Moca Loca, shoulder bags from the Embassy of Germany, and well-known
characters, such as Snow White in her castle, were there to celebrate their achievement.
The young participants were eagerly urged on by the crowds lining the departure and