Saturday March 12 and Sunday March 13, 2011
This year marked the 38th annual Bjornloppet nordic ski races at Bear Valley, including a 20K (or optional 10K) skate race on Saturday, followed by a 10K (or 5K) classic race on Sunday. Field sizes were slightly down this year with a few of the usual suspects being away at World Masters in Canada, but on the flip side, a few new faces were in attendance since this year's Bjornloppet doubled as the Nordic events for the CA Senior Winter Games. Saturday's skate race follows one of the most "skiable" courses anywhere, starting and finishing on the flat and super-wide "Runway", with a hillier middle portion that rolls and winds through beautiful aspen groves before a final plummet down the Bjornloppet hill to Orvis Meadow and the Runway. Twice around for 20K. The course was slightly extended this year, with a flat but twisty section added to the end of each lap that then opened up into a double-lane sprint zone to the finish. It was a great course! With a late morning start and warming conditions, Toko HF red/yellow mix with JS yellow top coat was the choice of the day, with a fairly aggressive structure. Roger was there to help finish our skis, so we had no excuse to go slow!
In a nutshell, this year's Bjornloppet belonged to Truckee XC's Danny Buchanan. On Saturday, he rocketed off the start line and never slowed down, winning overall by nearly 2 minutes! The fight for 2nd place came down to a sprint between Scott Fairman and Dave Stover, with Fairman nipping Stover on the line. The women's race also came down to a sprint finish, with Rossignol's Julie Young narrowly edging out Truckee XC's Laura Stern for 1st and 2nd. (I'm not sure if shoving a foot forward would have helped me on Saturday, but in hindsight I wish I had tried!)
A somewhat smaller field assembled on Sunday for the classic race. With freezing nights but warm days we figured it would be a klister race, and the waxing seemed a bit tricky due to the variation in snow conditions in and out of the tracks. The classic race traditionally follows a different route from the skate course, although like the skate race it begins and ends with a long drag down the Runway. There's one "good" hill in the middle though, up "Equipe". Twice around the course for 10K. Roger was again there to help us with waxing and structure, recommending Toko HF red/yellow for glide and Toko red klister for kick. While most of the field was the same as on Saturday, ex-Olympian Beth Reid showed up on Sunday to push the pace at the front end of the race. Danny B. was successful in holding her off though, winning again on Sunday and for a weekend sweep! Beth finished 4 seconds back, 1st woman and 2nd overall. Next in were Scott Fairman and Peter Mayfield, placing 2nd and 3rd in the men's race, respectively. Julie Young finished 2nd in the women's race, and I was a somewhat distant 3rd after (badly) misjudging my klister pocket and basically double-poling the full distance, including Equipe. (Yet another lesson-learning race for me, particularly since I was using the same klister as Danny!)
Thanks to Paul and Diane Peterson and their staff at the Bear Valley Cross Country Center for once again hosting this superb race weekend! I'm already looking forward to next year's edition.