Gold Rush: fast, sunny and fun
Blue skies, fast skis, and spring-like temperatures produced the most enjoyable Gold Rush course in recent memory last weekend at Royal Gorge Cross Country ski area.
With a national-caliber field of cross country skiers vying for a win at this, the last stop of the American Ski Marathon Series (ASMS) circuit, the competition was fast and fierce.
In the end, former national champion John Bauer of Duluth, Minn., pulled out a narrow win over 1999 Gold Rush winner Patrick Weaver of Bend, Ore., and local hero Tav Streit of Truckee. In the women’s division, Unni Odegard of Boulder, Colo., crushed her competition by over 5 minutes in the 50 km. event.
Tough competition was also found in the three shorter distance events: the 30 km. Silver, 15 km. Bronze and the 6 km. Junior Rush race.
As an added bonus, the event was able to generate a record amount of revenue for the Far West Nordic Junior Ski Education programs.
Night-time temperatures hovering around the freezing mark created some anxiety about the firmness of the tracks at race time, but skiers were treated to almost perfect conditions throughout the whole course. Race course directors John Slouber and Jane Dulaney of Royal Gorge were able to create optimal ski conditions.
In the Gold Rush Men’s division, a lead pack of eight skiers completed the first lap of three within seconds of each other, with Scott Loomis of Park City, Utah taking the first lap.
By the end of the third and final lap, it was Rossignol Race Team member Bauer winning in a record time of 1:55.55, 19 seconds better than his teammate Weaver.
The race for third place was a photo finish between Olympic team hopeful Streit of Alpine Meadows and the 2001 ASMS overall winner Magnus Eriksson from the Subaru/Fischer/ Salomon Factory Team. Ian Skinner of Reno (7th) and Stan Hill of Truckee (17th) posted the next best results for local skiers.
In the women’s division, the Factory Team’s Odegard, also this year’s ASMS champion, took control from the start besting Julianne Southwell of Bend, Ore., and Factory Team member Susan DiBiase of Boulder.
The shorter races also had their share of competition, with University of Nevada, Reno’s Katerina Hanusova, fresh off her wins at the NCAA Ski Championships last week, easily taking overall victory in the Silver Rush in a time of 1:16.07 over Gaber Lah and Truckee’s John Woods. She was the first female victor in the history of this event.
The 15 km. Bronze Rush turned into a Far West Junior affair, with Tahoe City’s Tony Bozzio skiing to victory over his Junior Olympic teammate Dana Mosman of Nevada City in a time of 37:17.
Far West Juniors took 10 out of the top 11 spots in the race, with Lee Vining’s Jessica Ford of UNR narrowly beating Kentfield’s Natalie Joffe for the women’s division.
The Junior Rush was won by Tahoe City’s Nicky Henriques over Truckee’s Joaquin Goodpaster and Andrew Van Blarigan. Heini Ilmarinen of Tiburon won for the girls over Kentfield’s Gabrielle Joffe in a time of 16:40.
Sunday’s events were not the only races of the weekend. Amidst blue skies and shorts-and-tank-top weather, a combination of fun-filled kids’ races and shorter sprint events filled the stadium area at Royal Gorge. The Gold Nuggets race for 4- to 11-year-old competitors featured squirt-gun shooting, snowball tossing, ski maze negotiating, fast skiing and finally chocolate cake eating.
Nearly all 400 competitors had smiles on their faces this Gold Rush weekend. Next year’s event promises to be even bigger, with the North Tahoe/Truckee/Donner Summit area playing host to the American Cross Country Skiers Masters National Championships as part of the competition.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.