Canadian Guido Visser won the 23rd edition of the men’s 21km Marchablanca on Sunday August 16th in the Valley of Tierra Mayor outside of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Visser’s Brazilian wife, Jaqueline Mourao, dominated the women’s field in the annual race sponsored by the Banco de Tierra del Fuego and organized by the Club Andino Ushuaia.
Visser skied the entire race mostly behind Federico Cichero of Ushuaia until a tricky downhill about 1km from the finish where Cichero braked slightly and Visser seized the opportunity to descend aggressively and maintained his lead to the end finishing in a time of 1:02:30, just ahead of Cichero.
On the women’s side, Mourao blew away the field and finished third overall in 1:07:08. A former world cup mountain biker, Mourao and Visser live primarily in Canada where Mourao has dedicated herself to skiing after a successful career in mountain biking including a fourth place in a World Cup and several other strong results.
The Marchablanca also served as a Brazilian national championship race and despite having no home snow; there were twelve Brazilians competing with the support of their snowsports federation in cooperation with the local race organization.
A snow-rain mix preceded the race for about twenty four hours but the snow in the Valley was more than sufficient as Tierra del Fuego is experiencing another normal to good snow year. Climactic conditions in combination with some last minute grooming complications did make the trail soft.
Race Director Pablo Valcheff was quick to admit the grooming irregularities. Alternatively, the CAU and its organization has improved the race year by year and plans to parlay greater sponsorship into daily grooming for a period of one to two weeks before the 2010 race. “There are fifteen to twenty foreigners here who want to ski and train on the race course and there are locals who just want to spend a Saturday skiing the Valley while stopping for a bite to eat at one of the restaurants, sí, the goal is to have the Marcha’s course groomed every day for a week or two before the race next winter,” said Valcheff who, along with a board of directors within the CAU, has managed the race for three consecutive years and earned the attention and trust of local businesses and government who, in turn, support the event more and more.
A year ago, the then Fueguian provincial minister of tourism announced the intention to subsidize the grooming of the Marchablanca Trail but the office changed hands and the promised funding disappeared. Valcheff commented, “…así es en Tierra del Fuego…,” and continued by saying that now, he and his partners intend to find a way to fund the grooming themselves. “We’ll take on the world in fútbol but, well, anything else and…perhaps you’d like to join me for a mate or un vino tinto instead…” Valcheff seems to embody the English language refrain, ‘if you’re not laughing, you’re crying,’ and he continues to plug away at building nordic skiing in Tierra del Fuego.
More information and help with skiing in Tierra del Fuego is available through Matt Muir at Skifire Inc., visit www.skifire.com or email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.