In the second day of racing on Sunday at the Gatineau Loppet in Gatineau, Quebec, skiers tackled a 49 k freestyle course, and with some top local talent in the field, the fast, icy day was set to be exciting.
In a hectic finishing flurry, home town boy Aidan Lennie of Ottawa, Ontario emerged victorious in a time of 2:07:52.1. Lennie was part of a close five-man finishing group, and crossed the line ahead of Eli Enman of Huntington, Vermont, who recorded a time of 2:07:54.0, and Erik Carleton of Canmore, Alberta, who finished in 2:07:54.9.
According to Lennie, the small lead pack of five broke away at around 25 k. The group was led mostly by Carleton, although Karl Saidla, a local skier who has recorded many top finishes in the event, and Marc-Andre Bedard, a biathlete from Val Cartier, Quebec, also played significant roles. However, as the group descended a series of tricky corners in the last kilometer before the stadium, the race took an exciting twist.
First, Carleton who was leading, slipped on an extremely icy corner, tumbling into Saidla, and the two went down. Bedard, who was following closely, was forced to jump over the two, and then ended up falling as well.
This opened the door for Lennie, who was sitting in fourth, but had just enough space to squeak by untouched on the inside of the corner, while Enmen emerged unscathed as well.
“At that point I just started hammering,” said Lennie in a post-race interview with FasterSkier. “It was a pretty sloppy sprint, but it worked.”
“I took a look back with 50 meters to the finish line, saw no one was close, and took a little time to celebrate,” said Lennie. “I’m pretty happy to get the win.”
The icy corner was indicative of course conditions overall. Lennie described the course as “icy, but icy fast,” and said that for the most part the trails were in good shape.
Lennie skis for the local club, Nakkertok, and is no stranger to top results – in the fall, he was a surprise fifth place finisher in the Climb to the Castle rollerski event, and he is a regular on the NorAm circuit.
Kamila Borutova of Canmore, Alberta, was the fastest women in a time of 2:25:04.2, ahead of Eva Szabo of Calgary, Alberta in 2:27:13.2, while Sheila Kealey of Ottawa, Ontario, finished third in a time of 2:27:15.2.
In the 28 k freestyle, Sean Thompson of St. Bruno, Quebec, claimed the top spot on the podium, earning himself two wins in two days, in a time of 1:08:30.6. In a close finish, second place Julien Lamoureux of Saint-Julie, Quebec, finished in a time of 1:11:49.8, barely holding off Sacha Desfosses of Prevost, Quebec, who finished third in 1:11:49.9.