XC skiers raced, won and ate cake too | SierraSun.com

XC skiers raced, won and ate cake too

After a week of cold nights and warm days, making for fast early morning skiing, the California Gold Rush (along with its sibling events) took place last weekend at Royal Gorge in conditions that were soft but fast.

With 50-kilometer race times ranging from 12 to 20 minutes slower than last year’s, Ben Husaby and Laura McCabe, both of the Fischer/Salomon/Subaru Factory Team, were able to conquer the snow conditions and defeat their rivals in this, the last event of the American Ski Marathon Series. The weekend’s events were also a major fundraiser for the Far West Nordic Ski Association, with Royal Gorge donating the proceeds to the junior ski programs.

It was one of the strongest fields in the history of the event, with current and former national champion skiers vying for top spot and the coveted gold at the finish. Because the night before was cloudy, the tracks didn’t freeze solid, and skiers were greeted with soft but relatively fast snow conditions for the race. The conditions only got softer and slower as the day wore on.

In the men’s race, Husaby found himself in the middle of a pack of very fast competitors, including last year’s winner, Patrick Weaver of the U.S. Ski Team, and a group of fellow Factory Team skiers. Near the halfway point in the race, Husaby took charge and broke from the pack, extending his lead until it was obvious the rest of the racers were competing for second place. Husaby finished with a time of 2:12:47, more than 12 minutes slower than last year’s winning pace. After finishing second to Weaver in this month’s Great Ski Race, Husaby’s victory was all the sweeter. Weaver was able to hold on by a narrow margin over Nathan Shultz, the overall champion of the American Ski Marathon series of races.

For the local racers, former University of Nevada, Reno skier Mikey White was able to pull off his best race of the year by finishing a strong 6th place in 2:19:51, edging out his friend and training partner Tav Streit (eighth). The Truckee brother team of Tim and Stan Hill also had strong races, finishing 14th and 15th, respectively.

In the women’s division, McCabe pulled off a “hat trick,” winning her third straight Gold Rush championship (by a convincing margin) over fellow Factory Team skier and ASM series winner Barb Jones. Christa Case, a local skier now attending school back east, was able to push Jones to the limit on the third lap, but Jones’ experience in skiing marathon distances proved to be too much for the younger Case.

In the shorter events, Colin Mahood, from Bend, Ore., was able to hold off one of the Far West’s best high school racers, Ian Case, in the Silver Rush 30-kilometer race. For the women, NCAA champion Katerina Hanusova, from the Czech Republic via Colorado University, was able to edge out Laura Stern from Menlo Park. The 15-kilometer. Bronze Rush event was a duel between some of the division’s best high school racers and Junior Olympics’ participants. Scott Hill, from Carnelian Bay, was able to hold off Tony Bozzio of Tahoe City in the men’s division, and Rory Bosio, also of Tahoe City, skied away from her competition, Natalie Joffe of Kentfield.

In the 4-kilometer Junior Rush, Matt Gelso of Truckee took care of his competition by finishing in a blistering 11:51. Andrew Van Blarigan finished in second place. Gabrielle Joffe was able to make it a family affair by beating her nearest competition, Maisha Goodpaster of Truckee, by almost a minute.

Sunday’s events weren’t the only races of the weekend, however. Amid blue skies and shorts-and-tank-top weather, a series of sprint and kids races filled the stadium area at Royal Gorge. The highlight of the day was the Lexus Nordic Sprint Tour race, a series of 6-person heats that finished with a $1,000 first place prize for the racer who could complete the short, steep and tricky course (complete with a ski jump) in the fastest time. Squaw Valley’s Marcus Nash, who was planning on sitting out the longer race on the following day, proved why he is a national champion cross country ski racer. Saving his strength in the preliminary heats by skiing safe and finishing in the top 3 each time, he managed to blow away the field in the finals and cruise to a comfortable win over the Factory Team’s David Chamberlain.

In the Fischer SuperCross race series over the same course (but without the same purse), local junior racers competed for top honors. In the elementary division, Gabrielle Joffe won the girls’ race, while Daniel Gelso and Alex Taylor, both from Truckee, took the boys’ division. The Middle School racers were led by Truckee’s Michelle Dorwart and Joaquin Goodpaster and the High School division was won by Rory Bosio and Andrew Van Blarigan.

The Gold Nuggets’ race for the very junior skiers was won by everybody who participated and participants got to eat a piece of the huge chocolate cake that awaited them at the finish.

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