Two and a half weeks after U.S. nationals in Anchorage, Alaska, the SuperTour picked back up again on the East Coast in Craftsbury, Vermont, with two race days over a three-day span.
The Craftsbury SuperTour opened Friday, Jan. 26 with classic sprints, then took a break on Saturday for the Craftsbury Marathon. SuperTour racers were back on course at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on Sunday, Jan. 28 for the 5- and 10-kilometer freestyle individual starts. Between the two days, Alaska Pacific University (APU) won three out of the four races and Craftsbury’s own Kaitlynn Miller (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) stood atop the podium in the women’s 1.4 k classic sprint.
Forrest Mahlen, 24, kicked off the APU win streak by winning his first SuperTour in the men’s 1.4 k classic sprint final. He bested Ben Saxton, of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team, by 0.55 seconds and Kevin Bolger, of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), by 0.58 seconds.
Miller won everything from the women’s qualifier, her quarterfinal, semifinal and ultimately the final, winning the latter by 0.63 seconds over Kelsey Phinney (SVSEF) in second. Felicia Geisor, of the Central Cross Country (CXC) Team, reached the podium in third (+1.67).
On Sunday, APU swept the individual starts, with Becca Rorabaugh winning the 5 k skate by 2.2 seconds over her teammate Rosie Frankowski in second and 4.6 seconds over Erika Flowers (SMST2) in third.
David Norris won the men’s 10 k skate by 6 seconds flat, ahead of Canadian Andy Shields (Lappe Nordic) in second, while Bolger repeated in third place, 15.8 seconds back.
Craftsbury recaps (with links to results):
Most of the SuperTour regulars headed north of the border earlier this week to prepare for this weekend’s Eastern Canadian Championships, a NorAm that doubles as a SuperTour, at the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Centre in Gatineau, Quebec.
Those races kick off Friday with classic sprints, followed by 10/15 k freestyle races on Saturday and 10/15 k classic pursuits on Sunday.
Here are some quotes from last weekend’s winners:
On racing in Craftsbury:
“I haven’t raced a SuperTour in Craftsbury in three years so I was really looking forward to this weekend. It’s always inspiring and fun to have our BKL/Junior skiers either racing with us or cheering on the sidelines. And I always find it impressive how many community members come out to volunteer.” — Kaitlynn Miller, 1st in classic sprint
“I came to Craftsbury itching to race. I was sick during nationals and competed in the 30km because I had to if I wanted a chance to earn an Olympic spot. I came up shy, but I know I that I am in good shape. After nationals I took another ten days easy to fully recover from illness so that I could come into Craftsbury and Canada healthy.” — David Norris
On the sprint qualifier:
“The course at Craftsbury and the conditions on Friday favored strong double-polers like me so I went into the day with high hopes, but 5th was a new personal best sprint qualifier in a Supertour Field for me.” — Forrest Mahlen, 5th in the men’s classic-sprint qualifier, 1st in the final
On home-course advantage:
“I think the course really played to my strengths which helped. It’s also beneficial to be racing on my home course so I know the trails very well. I really like the striding climb up Moss Run and the double pole finish. It was a tight A-final with a strong group of women. Kelsey and I were battling it out right to the line which was exciting.” — Miller
“After watching quarterfinals one and two being won in the final 200 meters with strong finishes, I decided the winning strategy for the day was to be patient and make decisive moves on the final climb into the stadium. After winning my quarter and semi against guys I have a lot of respect for in classic sprints I was super pleased to have met my goal of making it into my first A final.” — Mahlen
“The qualifier went really well Friday and I believe I can make it into the final heat. I think I was 0.4 sec from lucky loser for the final. Strategy is tough on this course for me because of the design- fast start and finish with not too much in between to stretch out the pack. I got caught up in traffic in the semi final and struggled to close on the leaders in the last third of the race.” — Norris, 3rd in the qualifier, 7th in the final
On the men’s final:
“The final played out in much the same way as both my semi and quarter with all five Americans [Mahlen, Saxton, Bolger, Kris Freeman, and Eric Packer] coming into the final hill together. I took the only open track on the far outside of the final corner and was able to carry a little more speed into the last 100 meters and pull away from the field. I was taken a little by surprise to come out with the win but our solo APU ski tech on the trip, Dylan Watts, put some amazing skis on the ground and my strategy on the final climb played to my strengths as a strong double-pole finisher.” — Mahlen
On sprint-course conditions:
“it was a nice day and the conditions were firm and fast. I like it when we do the full sprint loop in Craftsbury, instead of shortening the women’s course because the full hill flows well and it definitely tests your re-acceleration at the top. This race was fantastic practice for spring series, where we’ll be sprinting again in a few weeks.” — Becca Rorabaugh, 7th in classic sprint
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On attacking Sunday’s individual start:
“I wanted to ski as powerfully as I could, knowing that the conditions were fast. My main goal was to have big and smooth movements because frantic tempo really doesn’t pay off on icy courses. I felt pretty smooth for the first two kilometers and knew that my split at the bottom of the hill was good, but I was surprised that I was able to hang on after all the climbing later in the course. When I heard that I was leading early, I knew that Rosie and others were going to be hammering the uphills and that I had to really lay it down at the end.” — Rorabaugh, 1st in 5 k
“My goal Sunday was to work the terrain that I often get lazy in. I knew I had to keep relaxed because the pace was going to be pretty high due to the terrain, fast snow, and the race being a 10km compared to 15km. I did not know my placing throughout the race. The girls on the team gave some specific splits off of a few competitors, but it was not against the entire field. I felt like I was racing well enough to fight for a win.” — Norris, 1st in 10 k
On trying a new course:
“Craftsbury put together a new homologated course which we raced for the first time on Sunday. It was certainly harder with more sustained climbing, but I enjoyed racing the new course and felt like I put together a strong performance. It was a fast and furious race with hard-packed conditions. And despite the overnight rain, the groomers had the course in mint condition.” — Miller, 4th in 5 k
On the weekend overall:
“I’m very happy with my weekend because I haven’t won a skate race in a very long time, and it was fun to feel strong in a short distance like that again. My sprint could have been better, but overall I was happy with my technical gains even having barely missed being lucky loser. Plus, it was just a fantastic couple of races for my teammates and I! Having Forrest win his first Super Tour really set the mood for the skate race, and David and I kind of followed that positive energy.” — Rorabaugh
On season thus far:
“This winter my racing has been improving weekend to weekend. I dealt with a season of sickness my senior year at Montana State, 2015-2016, that according to my doctor was a viral infection inside a heart valve. After losing half a year of consistent training that winter and following summer it has been really good to put in some quality training over the past year with a strong men’s team at APU and finally have the racing form start to come back.” — Mahlen
“Over the past month I’ve had shining moments, like the classic sprint prelim at Nationals, but I’ve also had a few unlucky races. My fitness seems good, and I’m excited to see where the next few races take me.” — Rorabaugh
“Before Craftsbury I had only raced nine times so the season has felt anticlimactic up to this point. I am really bummed out that I got sick and could not compete in all the races at Nationals. I am in good shape and things have been going well other than Nationals. I have shifted my focus to just the races ahead and making the best of the spring. I plan to do Gatineau, Ishpeming, and the Birkie. After the Birkie I might race in Europe until Spring Series.” — Norris
On making the Olympic team:
“I found out I made the team the afternoon of January 24th. No part of me expected the call so I was incredibly surprised in the best possible way. … If I get a start at the Olympics, it will be in the 30k classic mass start. Classic distance races are my favorite so I’m really looking forward to that possibility.” — Miller