BOZEMAN, Mont. — On a 45-degree day with spring-like conditions, Rosie Brennan of Alaska Pacific University (APU) cruised to first place in the women’s 1.5-kilometer classic-sprint final at Bohart Ranch on Saturday, the first day of the Bozeman SuperTour.
While 26-year-old Brennan crossed the line in 3:55.83, a small crowd cheered for Jennie Bender of the local Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) as she powered her way to second, 5.4 seconds behind Brennan, for her second-straight podium in as many SuperTour sprints. Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) took the final podium spot in third, 9.44 seconds back.
Patterson placed fourth in last weekend’s SuperTour 10 k skate in West Yellowstone, Mont., the distance opener of the season, which Brennan won. Rounding out the final was Russian Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) in fourth (+17.35) and Alysson Marshall (Alberta World Cup Academy/National Development Team) – who won last week’s West Yellowstone SuperTour skate sprint – in fifth (+17.40). Becca Rorabaugh (APU) was relegated to last in the final and sixth overall based on a jury decision.
Unofficial results following the race had listed Rorabaugh in fourth after Patterson. But a jury decision relegated her to last in the final for sixth.
According to Rorabaugh, she found that it was faster skiing outside the tracks and was double poling between the tracks through the upper stadium.
“As I was double poling next to the tracks, I turned too aggressively into the upper hill, and course officials decided it was worth bringing up,” she wrote in an email. “The funny part is that it wasn’t advantageous for me; in retrospect I should have been striding to try and accelerate into the hill. People say you learn something new every day, and now I really know how I should ski that transition!”
“Since technical limits aren’t actually the ones that we’re supposed to push as skiers, and I crossed the line on that one, it makes sense that I was relegated to the back of the A final,” she added.
After the clear-cut win, Brennan said her strength is “working the uphill sections,” and the difficult, hilly Bohart course certainly played to her advantage. She explained her strategy was to use her strengths “to tire people out and then just go for it.”
Brennan’s tactics were effective, as she was the top qualifier by 0.53 seconds over Marshall in 3:51, and Brennan went on to win her quarterfinal and semifinal. In the final, she grabbed the lead from the start and maintained it throughout the race, while none of the other skiers could match her speed and strength.
Brennan said she had fast skis and was not too worried about being caught on the course’s downhill sections, which included a steep hill halfway through the course that was immediately followed by a sharp, precarious curve. This curve gave skiers trouble throughout the day, particularly during the qualifier before the sun rose over the mountains and icy patches were still present.
Patterson was one of those skiers who had a close call.
“In my qualifier, I went way past the V-board and didn’t make the turn very well,” she said. “I think two people had to jump out of my way.”
Patterson managed to qualify in 11th before successfully navigating her way to the final (after placing second to Brennan in the quarterfinal and third behind Brennan and Bender, respectively, in the much-faster semifinal). After all that, Patterson was satisfied with third.
“I’m getting a lot better at sprinting than I used to be, and typically it wasn’t exactly my forte,” she said. “But I had a good fight with the other competitors and I’m pretty happy with how I did.”
Patterson recalled being in fifth or sixth after the first downhill and going into the first uphill, but switched tracks and passed a few others on the inside of a corner. By the time the group reached the halfway point – the tall hill before the steep downhill section – Patterson was third behind Bender, and the two would remain in those positions through the finish.
Ultimately, no one was able to catch Brennan.
“[She] was really good today, just about untouchable,” Patterson said.
Bender was excited about her second-place result and said she’s looking forward to “battling it out” with Brennan in the future. “She’s looking strong, and I was psyched about how our final heat flew,” Bender said.
Starting on the outside, she said she was “boxed out” right away and pushed to the back of the pack. However, she “punched it on the first hill” and spent the rest of the race trying keep up with Brennan.
Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of hometown enthusiasm at the finish for Bender. “It’s so fun with all the home crew … a lot of people cheering me on, that means a lot,” she said, smiling.
Despite her strong finish, she explained that she has a lot of work to do moving forward, and that there is always something she can change or improve upon.
“I was psyched about today, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The Bozeman SuperTour continues on Sunday with the 10 and 15 k classic races at Bohart Ranch.