Sylvan Ellefsson (Vail, Colo.) continued his winning streak from last weekend’s Boulder Mountain Tour in Sun Valley, Idaho, winning the 10K classic race in 27 minutes and 13.8 seconds. Glenn Randall (BSF) was second, some eight seconds behind Ellefsson. Reid Pletcher (CU) was third.
“It’s nice to be racing back in Colorado, and it was such a picturesque day,” Ellefsson said to FasterSkier after the race, noting that the altitude made the already tough course profile particularly punishing.
“It’s pretty brutal, but that’s what I was born and raised on,” he said with a laugh.
Ellefsson believes prior exposure to altitude was a big benefit on the challenging course, and knowing how bodies respond to the thin air at 8,000 feet.
“Honestly, part of the winning trick was definitely to be safe and be a little conservative on the first lap. It’s hard to go all out on the first lap and hold it,” he said. “My strategy was to ski technically sound, big and strong. It was going well, so then I could go down harder on the second lap.”
With the confidence from last week’s Boulder Mountain Tour and today’s SuperTour victory, Ellofsson is looking forward to day two of the USSA SuperTour in Aspen: The 21-kilometer Owl Creek Chase.
“I’m really excited. I feel fast. It’s a brutal course and there will definitely be some head games and some cynical games out there, but I’m excited to get it going and see what happens,” Ellefsson said, noting that this will be his second attempt at the Owl Creek Chase.
“The take away from last year is that I need to find a group to ski with and not ski the course on my own,” Ellefsson said.
Junior wins women’s 5K
In the women’s race, Joanne Reid of Colorado University made a statement on her first visit to Aspen. Showing no respect for altitude or course profile, Reid charged right out of the gate and never slowed down. Still a junior, Reid beat everyone on the challenging course, despite setting out on the 5K course without a plan.
“I’m not going to lie, I totally had no strategy. I just tried to have good technique and pushed all the way. I felt terrible at the top of the long hill, but then there is a little downhill and I recovered a little. That helped me keep pushing even though it hurt a lot,” Reid explained, admitting that she forgot her coach’s advice about starting out conservatively.
“I was so friggin’ tired at the top because I didn’t listen to my coach. But there were all these people cheering along the course and I had really fast skis,” Reid said. “You know, racing is always a mix of luck and skis and everything,” she concluded.
“Aspen is so nice. There were a lot of people out today, and it’s so great to see what this is doing for our sport. They had a DJ out there, and it was the coolest thing. Then they had a barbeque on the deck and it was totally a party,” Reid said to FasterSkier after the race.
Terese Andersson of University of New Mexico was second, while Morgan Smyth of Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club was third.
The importance of oxygen
Smyth, arriving at altitude Thursday night and with no time to acclimatize, felt like she pulled off a good race all things considered.
“It was exceedingly difficult. It’s definitely the highest I’ve ever raced,” Smyth said, noting that she certainly felt the altitude.
“I went out doing pretty well as we climbed up, then there’s a pretty good recovery at the top before the rolling section at the end,” Smyth explained.
“The second half was tough,” Smyth said, adding that Saturday’s effort was her first race in three weeks.
Now Smyth is looking forward to the Owl Creek Chase tomorrow.
“That’s a totally different race. I’ve never raced that far and it will be my first mass start skate race this year,” Smyth said, explaining that the 20K skate was her favorite distance in college.
“It will be an adventure. I have no expectations, but the goal is to maintain contact with the main group, that’s the big thing,” said Smyth, who is entirely new to the course.
With near perfect hard wax conditions, sunny skies and a course lined with cheering spectators, the stage was set for some fast and spectacular racing on the Aspen trails Saturday.
“It was nice to do a one-lap race after so many short-loop races this season,” Morgan Smyth said to FasterSkier.
Complete results here.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.