Loomis, Baughman claim 2004 titles at Great Ski Race
On Sunday, nearly 1,200 skiers converged on Truckee’s Cottonwood Restaurant in the 28th annual Great Ski Race – a day more dedicated to fun in the sun than winning.
Enjoying temperatures in the 60s, spectators and racers alike celebrated in the Cottonwood parking lot for a festive day commemorating the largest skier turnout in Great Ski Race history, a 30K race (18 miles) from Tahoe City to Truckee.
But as the first racers neared the finish line one hour and ten minutes after they began at 9 a.m. at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area, the race was all about winning for a very short while.
Last year’s winner Patrick Weaver (Bend, Ore.) neared the downhill descent to the finish with Scott Loomis right behind him. After trailing most of the race, Loomis said he planned on making a move late in the race.
“I just let him lead and waited until the last half-kilometer to make my move,” Loomis said. “I used the screaming downhill finish and got him by a half-second.”
The official records read that Loomis’ 1:10.06 finish was a whole second better than Weaver’s 1:10.07, but there is no doubt that Loomis is the 2004 champion. Loomis, a 31-year-old Subaru Factory skier out of Utah, said the hot conditions would not allow for any history-making performances on Sunday.
“It was fast at the start, but on the backside it got slow and slushy,” he said. “It was too hot to break any course records.”
Loomis’ previous best in the Great Ski Race was a fourth “four or five years ago,” he said.
Jason Lemieux of Oregon and Justin Easter of Maine, also representing the Subaru Factory, finished seventh and ninth respectively. Loomis cited the combination of the personal challenge and the party atmosphere for wanting to fly into Reno from Salt Lake City in order to participate in the Great Ski Race.
“I love doing this race,” he said. “It’s a great party at the finish, and it has fast downhills and challenging uphills.”
For the women, Brooke Baughman, also 31, won with a time of 1:17.13, but she was all alone at the finish line, with the nearest female competitor finishing over two minutes later. Baughman was not bothered by the downhill descents.
“I have a background as an alpine racer,” said Baughman, who has represented Team Rossignol for the last four years. This is Baughman’s second consecutive Great Ski Race title. She was victorious in 2002 and did not compete in 2003.
“Jim Fredericks was responsible for giving us fast skis,” Baughman said.
Fredericks, the coach of Rossignol, said there is an unwritten contract defining Baughman’s role with Rossignol.
“I do the skis, and she makes dinner,” Fredericks said. “I am a pressure waxer, and she is a pressure cooker.”
Besides skiing, Baughman is a personal chef to many families in her hometown of Kethchum, Idaho, the most prominent being actress Demi Moore and family.
Although Sierra Nevada and Fat Tire beer was pouring out of taps and free to the public, Baughman was not impressed.
“Beer and wine. That stuff’s a waste of time,” she said. “Where’s the Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey?”
Baughman’s finish was good for 17th overall. Mari Storeng, of Boulder, Colo., was the second-best female finisher with a time of 1:19.41, 28th overall.
Truckee’s Rick Reynolds, also a Rossignol skier, had the second best time of any skier representing Truckee. His 1:18.12 finish put him in the top 20.
“At 46, it ain’t easy,” he said. “But it’s more important just to have a good time out here.” Reynolds is a former coach of famous local skier Daron Rhalves.
Tim Hill, 39, was the top Truckee racer with a time 1:15.20, which placed him 12th overall. Donovan Walsh of Reno finished 11th (1:14.05), and Truckee’s Debbie Hakansson was the top local female finisher (1:27.28).
Although the nice weather made for a perfect complement to the post-race party, the irony is that it made skiing more difficult.
“Everything in the sun was getting a little soft,” said Brennan Walsh, a University of Nevada, Reno, skier who finished 23rd. “But it was nice in the shady parts.” The UNR Nordic Ski Team head coach Tav Streit finished 14th.
Truckee’s Don Ahlert was given a special award later in the day for being the only person to compete in all 28 Great Ski Races. He finished the course in 1:40.01 in 2004.
As racers finished in droves over the next few hours, some crashing hard at the finish due to exhaustion, many supporters awaited their triumphant finish.
“That hill is scary,” said local racer Tattie Hewitt. “I don’t know how I made it. People have been crashing all day.”
Mark Wellman, Truckee’s well-known and accomplished disabled athlete, was given a loud ovation upon finishing the course. Some spectators brought their own flair to the race, like Truckee resident Ellen Marie Roland, who waved a flag for the finishers.
“In Norway, everybody has flags, and they yell and scream for the racers,” she said.
Other racers had other motivations for finishing the course besides crowd support and respect.
“Just to get to the end,” said competitor Scott Fairman. “It’s all about the chili.” Free food, including chili, was handed out to race contestants after the race.
A fundraiser for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team, the 2004 Great Ski Race was more successful than ever, and Mother Nature made a major contribution in making it easy to enjoy.