Stephanie Howe of Bend, Ore., won in a time of 2:56:44, a full 10 minutes, 38 seconds ahead of second place women’s finisher Robyn Anderson of Stowe, Vermont. German skier Juergen Uhl won the men’s event in 2:30:26.
The Gatineau Loppet is Canada’s largest Nordic ski event and a member of the prestigious Worldloppet Series of annual Nordic events around the globe.
For Howe, the Gatineau victory came in the most unusual of circumstances as the airlines lost her clothing bag on the trip out to Ottowa Thursday night. The stress of not having her bag – and all the time calling the airline – ate up a lot of the XC Oregon contingent’s energy. But, they eventually came up with a backup plan for Howe to compete.
“I ended up having to race in a borrowed race suit from (teammate) Felice Beitzel, borrowed long underwear from teammate Sarah Max, and ski boots (one size too big) from the Canadian Salomon representative. Everything but my skis and poles were borrowed,” Howe said. “But once I started warming up I forgot about the details and focused on the race ahead of me.”
About the race itself Howe said: “It was cold and windy. It was a lot of rolling terrain, so I was able to get in a rhythm,” she said, adding the conditions, ice and with fresh snow blown in the tracks, were challenging.
Winning a World Loppet title Howe said was a great warm up for the Norwegian Birkebeiner in March.
“And it was a good confidence booster, since now I feel I can handle anything after this trip. It sure pays to surround yourself with generous and caring people,” Howe added.
On Sunday XC Oregon skier Sarah Max will be attempting to duplicate Howe’s result in the 49km freestyle technique Gatineau Loppet.