Bear Valley Bjornloppet 20 km freestyle (Sat. 3/13) and 10 km classic (Sun. 3/14)
One of the race volunteers tried to remind me of a year when it was actually stormy for the Bjornloppet weekend, but I can't remember doing these races under anything short of brilliant sunshine, crystal clear blue skies, and superb snow conditions. This year was no exception! The skate race follows a 2-lap course that starts and finishes on the dead-flat and super-wide "Runway", and this year we were lucky to have a strong tailwind that blew us along that exposed section before we turned into the hilly middle portion of the course that's sheltered from the wind and loops through gorgeous aspen groves. Truckee XC did well today, with Debbie Hakansson and Susan Reynolds taking 1st and 2nd in the womens race! I watched Debbie rocket off the start line and she apparently never slowed down, finishing 4th overall and being the only woman to clock a sub-hour time this year. And Susan was not far behind. Way to go you two! Julie Young (Rossignol) finished 3rd in the women's race, then myself in 4th. In the mens race, Dave Stover finished first with Scott Fairman about 30 seconds back, and Dan Warren in 3rd. I was initially worried that my Rossi's might be somewhat stiff and Leki pole baskets too small for all the new snow that had fallen the previous night, but instead found that everything worked GREAT, and clearly worked well for Deb and Susan too! Another feature of the Leki pole system that I appreciated on Saturday was the 2nd velcro strap on the grip that allows you to either snug down or loosen around your thumb, something I personally like (and need) to adjust depending on glove thickness and Reynauds-related hand issues. My skis ran great with the Toko HF dibloc red that I had waxed with, even though for logistical reasons I had needed to guess on the wax two weeks in advance of the race. Overall a great day!
The classic race on day 2 was held under even better conditions than Saturday. Another bluebird day with cold snow, but a bit less wind and firmer track. Perfect hard-wax conditions - what a treat for a springtime classic race in California! The classic course traditionally follows a different route from the skate course, but again begins and ends with a considerably long section of flat track across the meadow. The middle of each lap then brings a lengthy climb up to the hut at the top of "Equipe", with great panoramic views at the top (glad I had my Rudy Project sunglasses with their superior ventilation, so I could actually see something!) The climb has a few steep pitches and is almost completely exposed to sun, so usually the trick for this race is finding the right kick wax to get up the hill but without sacrificing too much glide on the flatter or colder portions of the course. I went with 2 short and thin layers of Toko red grip wax mostly because I've always found Toko red to work very well even in conditions substantially outside of those listed on the container, and I wanted to be able to work the hill. And my skis did indeed run great, particularly on the 2nd lap. Dave Stover and Scott Fairman again took 1st and 2nd respectively. Julie Young was the next racer in, taking 3rd overall and 1st in the womens race, and beating me to the line by 4 seconds. I had a slight gap on her as we crested Equipe the 2nd time, but she was quicker off the hill and along the double-pole section to the finish.
A big thanks to Paul and Diane Peterson for once again hosting this superb race weekend. The post-race festivities also make this a great event! Thanks also to Roger Chaney for all the technical support and waxing advice he provided, not to mention moral support! He seemed to be everywhere along both courses, either cheering or behind a camera. For anyone who has not raced at Bear Valley before, definitely mark your calendar for next year, which I believe will be the 38th (!) annual Bjornloppet. And don't forget your sunscreen.