Whether or not home-course advantage has much impact in cross-country skiing, the CXC Elite Team had no problem defending their local snow.
SuperTour racing moved to the Midwest for the Mayor’s Challenge – two days of racing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Last week combined an EISA collegiate carnival with the Lake Placid SuperTour, and this week was similar, swapping out the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) for the EISA.
The races are also Junior Olympic Qualifiers for the Midwest division, making for a very large field.
Saturday’s schedule features a 5/10km individual start freestyle race on a sunny, but cold day, and the story was CXC from start to finish.
The elite race team based in the Midwest took the top two spots in both the men’s and the women’s races behind strong performances from Garrott Kuzzy and Caitlin Compton.
Kuzzy posted a four second victory over teammate Matt Leibsch, winning with a time of 23:05. Sylvan Ellefson (SSCV Team Homegrown) was third, 22 seconds behind Kuzzy.
“I felt strong today, like I was really able to pin it from start to finish,” Kuzzy wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “Skis were great, too, considering the cold snow,” he continued.
Bryan Cook, also of CXC, placed fourth, just ahead of brother Chris Cook (Steinbock Racing). Overall the CXC men took five of the top-8 spots.
Of the top finishers, only Bryan Cook and Mike Sinnott (SVSEF) who was 5th, raced last weekend in Lake Placid.
The Midwestern collegiate men did not fare quite as well as their eastern counterparts. Ray Sabo (UAF) was the top college skier in ninth place. UVM skiers Scott Patterson and Alex Howe cracked the podium on successive days in Placid, and three collegiate skiers ranked in the top-10 in each race.
Kuzzy coming of a US Nationals in which he twice cracked the top-10, but was likely looking for more, hadn’t raced since then.
“I had no idea what to expect going into the race,” Kuzzy said. “I’ve been walking across the street to the Wirth Trails [race site] every day for the past two weeks, so needless to say, I knew the course pretty well and was ready to race after a couple weeks off after Nationals.
“We were missing some fast skiers today, but I’m happy with how the race went.”
In the collegiate standings, Sabo was followed on the podium by NMU teammates Andy Liebner and Martin Banerud. The duo placed 12th and 13th respectively.
Canadian Jimmy Gunka (C-NDC Thunder Bay) led the juniors, placing 22nd overall.
Compton Tops Women’s Field
Caitlin Compton matched teammate Kuzzy’s place, but topped him in the margin of victory department. The 2010 Olympian, who was recently left of the World Championship team, skied to a 30 second victory over Maria Stuber (CXC).
“I felt great today,” Compton wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “I took last weekend off to teach a ski clinic here in the Twin Cities. It was perfect timing because I got train with my local groups and on my local trails before these races.”
Compton, a stronger skater, placed fourth in the US Nationals 20km freestyle, but struggled in the classic distance race. She skied clear of Stuber who hung around the east to contest the SuperTours in Lake Placid where she twice cracked the top-6.
Raphaela Sieber gave UAF the collegiate victory in both the men’s and women’s event, placing third overall. She led a strong college contingent, with collegiate skiers taking seven of the top-10 spots.
Carloyn Freeman (UWGB) placed second in the college race and fourth overall. She was followed by former CXC skier Kristina Owen in fifth, and Alice Flanders (MTU), in sixth overall, rounded out the collegiate podium. Flanders was also the top junior in the competition.
Overall 163 women and 224 men (including the J2 race) competed on the day. Racing continues on Sunday with a 10/15km mass start classic.
Temperatures are expected to remain on the chilly side, but according to Kuzzy, the skiing is great.
“The snow and skiing in Minneapolis is the best I can ever remember and the organizers pulled off a great race for all 500+ skiers, including RT Rybak, the Mayor of Minneapolis (hence “Mayor’s Challenge”).”
Compton concurred, adding “The skiing was incredible! The courses were very challenging and the trails are in phenomenal condition.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.