Hello from Canillo, Andorra.
The US Ski Mountaineering Team is looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day in the middle of these championships. The team of 8 men, 5 women and 1 junior has completed the vertical race and the senior individual race.
Each of the 23 countries is allowed 4 entries in each category (senior male, senior female, espoir (under 23) male, espoir female, junior male, junior female) of each race. The first race of the week was the vertical race. This is a hillclimb of 880 meters (490 for the juniors) that took place at Soldeu el Tarter. While a race of this length is not exactly a sprint, you wouldn’t know it when you saw the racers jump off the start line vying for position in the pack. The course started fairly steeply then traversed a lower angle cat track before steepening up on the upper ski runs to the summit of just over 2700m.
The women started 30 minutes before the men and a lead group quickly formed, with a chase group trying to close the gap. Monique Merrill, of Breckenridge, CO, moved into this chase group about 5 minutes into the race. She was able to pick off a couple more competitors before topping out at the finish. She finished in 52:52, 4 minutes behind Roberta Pedranzini of France, the winner. Merrill finished in 9th place. Jari Kirkland, of Crested Butte, CO, finished in 61:10. She was followed by Nina Silitch, an American who lives in Chamonix, France, at 63:43. The fourth American was Molly Zurn, a Reno, NV resident competing in her first world championship, crossing the finish line in 68:46.
After cheering the women and getting pumped up by the Euro techno-beat blaring at the start line, the large field of senior and espoir men gave chase to Kilian Jornet Burgada, the Spanish Espoir who led start to finish. His winning time of 39:50 was barely enough to hold off Dennis Brunod. The Frenchman was 6 seconds back, with his teammate, Florent Perrier, another 7 seconds back. The top 6 men were all separated by less than 50 seconds. The US team had their own tight battles, albeit a bit further back in the field. Cary Smith, Jackson, WY, was 9′ back, Jared Inouye, SLC, UT, had a great second half of the race to finish 40 seconds behind Cary. Bryan Wickenhouser, Crested Butte, CO, was one minute behind Jared. Ben Parsons, Whitefish, MT, finished just under 2 minutes behind Bryan.
Well, it’s 8pm, time for another huge, late, delicious dinner. The team is adjusting to European eating schedules but it’s definitely taken a few days.