The Gold Rush is the final event of the American Ski Marathon Series. It is held at the Royal Gorge ski area in Soda Springs, California. FasterSkier correspondent Ian Case raced to an excellent second place finish and submitted the following report.
It snowed nearly a foot and a half on Friday and Saturday, making for some soft slow conditions. Considering the quantity of snow, the organizers did as good a job as could be expected packing the course by race day.
By the second lap, however, it was quite soft and chewed up — making the race that much tougher. And boy was it a TOUGH, tough course. This year they ran a new 21km loop – 1x for the Silver Rush and 2xfor the Gold Rush. The first 2/3 (roughly) were pretty gentle for the most part – a lot of gradual rolling terrain with just a few v1 climbs. But the kicker was the nearly never-ending climb up Snow Mountain and then, after a very brief little downhill “rest,” straight into an even steeper climb called Castle Pass. Between the two it was basically 6.5k of non-stop climbing with only the quick little downhill in between.
And Castle Pass was STEEP and LONG. I honestly have never seen anything remotely as hard as that 6.5k climb, ever, in all my days of ski racing. Personally I find skiing at Soldier Hollow to be like messing around in a little kiddie terrain park by comparison. If it had been firm conditions, it wouldn't have been nearly as bad, but once the second lap rolled around, and the course was, it got REALLY tough!
Here's what happened at the front of the men’s race:
I led the first kilometer or two, then Nick Grimmer (Australian skier who is a solid sprinter) led for a k, then Zack Simons and Norweigan Univeraity of Utah skier Snorri Einarrsson took over and started setting a tough pace that broke up the field pretty quickly. A lead group separated off the front – myself, Zack, Snorri and local senior skier Garret Reid. Reid is the son of the legendary Beth Heiden Reid, who regularly battles with the top men in the area.
Personally I found the pace Zack and Snorri were setting (trading off) pretty difficult and was barely hanging on. I ended up dropping off half way through the first lap. When they hit the big climb, things started spreading out even more. Zack pulled away off the front, gapping Snorri, who in turn was getting away from Garrett. I was starting to make up ground on Garrett and Snorri, who was looking pretty rugged by the top of the Castle Pass. I caught and passed those two by the top of that climb, and heading into the stadium for the lap I started pulling away and headed out after Zack, who was out of sight at this point. This was the setup for the remainder of the race. I skied the entire second lap alone, with Zack put 25 seconds on me in two or three kilometers of flat/gentle rolling terrain according to some of splits I got in the first half of the lap.
I was starting to feel the beginnings of a bonk and was moving slower and slower, but tried to keep it going as best I could. It was very windy in a lot of the open flat/gradual sections, which certainly didn’t help. As I headed into the big climb for the second time, I started to get glimpses of Zack and made up quite a bit of time on him, coming within 10 or 15 seconds by the top of Castle Pass. At that point, we were both BARELY moving – it was quite pathetic. The climb was just so hard in the soft snow – I've never skied so slowly and terribly and yet been doing so well.
Snorri and Garrett were still way back there nowhere in sight. I thought maybe I could reel in Zach but couldn't quite do it – he pulled away in the last 2k of downhill/flat and put another 20 seconds. on me heading to the finish. It was pretty clear that he was going to win with 1.5k to go, so finish lacked drama. I skied in at +34 seconds, with Snorri and Garrett coming in together – Snorri had a bit more left and out-sprinted Garrett pretty easily for 3rd
As I was walking back to the lodge I got to see the exciting sprint for the women's win, between Olympian and National Champion Rebecca Dussault and Beth Reid. The last 50 meters are a gradual downhill to the line and Beth put her speed-skating experience to good use and was able to out-tuck-skate Rebecca just barely. The two were 8th and 9th overall including men! It was definitely a good day to be a small light skier with a motor. Sarah Konrad (Madshus) was 3rd and not very far back.
The weather was sunny, but cold by California standards. Race temperatures ranged from 24 – 30 degrees with a gusty wind. This was not the usual slush fest or fast icy granular that the Gold Rush is usually known for.
The Gold Rush is a fundraiser for Far West juniors and I heard they raised close to $12,000! The post-race chili/bread/juice/cookie meal was great, and it warmed up a little for the post-race hangout and awards. All in all a fun day!
Kara Lapoint (4th overall woman) (Photo Credit: Keith Facchino, Capturethemoment.com