I will start by saying the City of Lakes Loppet race, or rather the epic 3-day adventure that made up the new Minne-Tour was a blast! Despite any minor growing pains from expanding the event to longer days and longer trails, I think the Loppet Foundation put on a great event, and it should only get better.
My weekend started on Friday night at the Finn Sisu Sprints. Honestly this was the first sprint race of my life, and I really didn't know how I would fare. My quarterfinal heat consisted of myself, the very fast Andy Brown, my formidable Vakava teammate Craig Cardinal, and two other skiers. Truthfully even though we had some fast skiers I think we had the easiest of the heats simply because this was actually the first sprint race of Andy and Craig's lives too. The other heats had guys like Matt and Doug who have done the supertour races and have much more sprinting experience.
The sprint course was approximately 800m with a 100m straight at the start, followed by a wide, 90 degree left-hand turn into the short up and down "hill" over the covered walking tunnel, followed by a 50m flat. This lead to the big hill on the course, which was actually pretty steep and was a true V1 hill. At the top of the hill was a 100m flat section with a 180 degree turn at the end. You then went in reverse on the course to the finish - with the added bonus of a "jump" on the last downhill (very Québec city-sprint). (f/go has a bunch of pictures of the evening)
In previewing the course it became immediately clear that whoever got to that first turn would have a huge advantage for the remainder of the race, as the passing opportunities were very limited. So for my quarterfinal heat I went out as hard as I could, immediately jumped to the lead, and then spent the rest of the less-than-two-minutes of the heat flailing to stay in front. Around the final turn to the homestretch I was far enough in the lead that I could ease up to the line. Andy was able to hold onto second to also advance to the semifinals.
Our semifinal heat was only 15 minutes later, and my legs were jelly when the gun went off. Now Andy and I were facing off with Doug Debold and another quick guy, Kasey Basco (dressed as Super Mario, the video game character, not the Swiss skier), and despite my prior knowledge of how important a fast start was, I immediately found myself in the back of our group of four. Despite my legs wobbling the whole way, I stayed right on the back of Andy and Kasey, and around the last turn as Kasey was starting to fade I actually had a fleeting vision of slingshotting around both of them into second. Instead as I tried to move around I ran out of room, heard Andy's pole break, and only could come across the line a very close (but still) 4th place. So Andy and I moved to the B-final.
Now I had over an hour to relax, pick up my other bibs, and wait until my last race of the night. The whole point of doing the sprints was because they were part of the Minne-Tour series, and you could get minutes (or seconds) reduced off your overall time for finishing well in the sprint. Winning got 2 minutes off your overall time. Winning the B-final (and so finishing 5th overall) got you a mere 10 seconds.
The 10 second advantage must not have held enough appeal for one of the other B-final starters, since we learned he had decided to just go home and get ready for tomorrow. But I had paid my entry fee, and heck, the sprints were fun, so Andy and I lined up with one other skier for our final. When the gun went off this time my legs felt normal again, and so I was able to again shoot to the front and take the lead. I was actually feeling pretty good in this heat and extended my lead to win the B-final (and those precious 10 seconds) pretty comfortably. Not bad for my first sprint race! It helped that my skis felt fast all night despite the cold temps - I went with a layer of Fast Wax HF Green, a layer of Fast Wax White, and a topcoat of Fast Wax Flight Arctic on my Salomon skis with a Finn Sisu fine grind.
After the race Craig and I headed off to my parent's house for the night. Getting a nice meal of pasta and a chance to finish kick waxing my skis for the next day's race.
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