Country’s top Nordic skiers race through Donner Summit resorts
DONNER SUMMIT — The nation’s best cross-country skiers might have hoped for a balmier California experience. But the variable weather conditions didn’t prevent them from spoiling the Tahoe-Truckee Nordic community just the same with four days of world-class racing on Donner Summit.
Promoted as the premier Nordic ski event in the country, the USSA SuperTour Finals concluded Monday with a grueling race some 1,200 vertical feet up the slopes of Sugar Bowl Resort — in a howling wind storm.
The mini tour kicked off last Thursday with a skate prologue held in stormy conditions at Auburn Ski Club, which also hosted a 10/15K mass-start classic race under sunny skies Friday, as well as a classic sprint competition on Sunday.
In a stacked field highlighted by U.S. Ski Team members Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins and Kris Freeman — and sprinkled with top locals and international racers — the tour could not have ended in more challenging conditions. The Hill Climb, daunting in the best of weather, with a 1,200-foot ascent to the top of Sugar Bowl’s Mount Disney, was greeted by blasting wind and snow that created icy slopes and snow drifts.
Freeman powered through the blowing snow to finish first among men in a time of 25 minutes. Brian Gregg, winner of the 2013 Great Ski Race, finished second in 25:15, and Tad Elliot was third in 25:21. Stephen took the win in the women’s race, posting a time of 27:57, while Diggins was second in 29:42 and former Far West Farm Team racer Chelsea Holmes was third in 30:06.
Stephen’s win was enough to propel her to the overall women’s victory in the four-race SuperTour Championships, ahead of Randall and Sadie Bjornsen. Holmes finished 12th in the overall. Erik Bjornsen, winner of three of the four races in the tour, took the men’s overall championship, while Freeman was second and Michael Sinnott third.
Among the Tahoe-Truckee contingent of current and former racers, Beth Taylor finished 23rd overall among women, Katrin Larusson was 39th and Kyla Burrill 45th, while Spencer Eusden was 37th among men, Patrick McElravey 44th, Wyatt Fereday 45th, Russell Kennedy 50th, Evan Vomund 66th, Dylan Syben 69th, Sam Zabell 70th, Casey Jobe 72nd, Peter Mayfield 74th and Brandon Herhusky 77th.
The 30/50K National Distance Championships at Royal Gorge, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, are part of the week of races but are separate from the SuperTour Finals.
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Students from North Tahoe and Truckee recently made the trip to Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley to compete in the annual Kays Ostrom Invitational.