Canadians Ivan Babikov and Shayla Swanson skied to convincing victories in the 10/15km classic SuperTour in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Babikov, the defending SuperTour champion, picked up where he left off in 07-08, outpacing the field in the men's 15km individual classic race by 45 seconds. Due to low snow in town, the race was moved from the Rendezvous Trail System up to the South Plateau, where competitors skied an unusual out and back course.
Starting at the high point, the track dropped down for 4+ kilometers, before swinging around and climbing another several kilometers. Racers then skied around a marker, reversing direction and retracing their steps back up to finish. The first half of the race featured rolling downhills that were almost exclusively double pole, while the second half was a long and gradual climb. Many of the racers double poled and double pole kicked almost the entire way.
Conditions were excellent with a firm track and mixture of sun and a few snow flurries.
The University of Colorado turned in an impressive showing with Jesper Oestensen taking second, and Karl Nygren in third, just 2.2 seconds behind his teammate.
Noah Hoffman (Madshus) of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, racing as a member of the US Ski Team for the first time, placed fourth +1:15.7 and APUNSC's James Southam rounded out the top five, a mere .4 seconds behind Hoffman.
In the women's race, Swanson turned in an equally impressive performance, putting 34 seconds on second place finisher Kristina Strandberg (Saab Factory Team/XC-Oregon). Morgan Arritola (SVSEF/USST) finished third +54.9 with another US Ski Team Athlete, Morgan Smyth in 4th. Maria Grevsgaard (University of Colorado) rounded out the top 5 +1:09.5.
“It was a good race. It was the first one of the season so I'm just warming into it, but I feel good about where I am right now,” Arritola said. “It wasn't really my kind of course – it was really flat – so to do well on it gives me confidence for where I am and what I've been improving on. I'm excited and ready for the season to start.”
Said US Development Coach Matt Whitcomb “On the whole, the women had a very successful day. This time of year we aren't looking a lot for results, but for training being absorbed. Today's results for the women show that the Team is on track.”
Race organizers did an excellent job putting on the race in less than ideal circumstances.
The SuperTour will continue tomorrow with a point to point skate race in West Yellowstone.
Kristina Strandberg – Women's 2nd Place (Photo Credit: Swix Sport)
Morgan Arritola – Women's 3rd Place (Photo Credit: Swix Sport)