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[We asked Jill Troutner and Jen McGill to send us a report from their experiences at the Idaho Spring Series races. These races are the traditional season-ending competition for the elite and top national skiers. Most of all, many of the skiers find it simply a fun way to wrap up the season. -- Ed.]

Idaho Spring Series Race Reports

by Jen McGill
April 22, 2001

Jen McGill (left), with
Kelly Schalk at the
Idaho Spring Series
The Idaho International Cross-Country Series bills itself as a "competitive, educational and fun event which is held annually and is sanctioned by the United States Ski Association (USSA) and the International Federation of Skiing (FIS)." To the racers "Spring Series" is also known as the "spring break" of nordic skiing, as well the last chance to get good points before the season ends.

Last year Katrina and Kristin Smigun from Estonia, the Canadian National Team, the Canadian Development Team, the Swedish National B Team, the Norwegian National B Team, and yes, the Mongolian Team were all in attendance. This year's Idaho International Spring Series didn't attract as much of an international field nor was it entirely 'springy'.

The races began on March 31st, with a luge of a course at over 7000' atop Boise's local alpine hill, Bogus Basin. Living up to its name, this evening sprint "criterium" held under the lights was treacherous yet fun. The course had been salted prior to the start, making it super fast. Many racers opted not to race this series opener, because the track was so icy and the race was not being scored for points. Almost half of the junior women ended up in a pretty spectacular pile-up of skis and lycra during the first loop of their 6km race. In the senior women's event, Nina Kemppel and Tessa Benoit placed first and second. Following the women in a deluge of rain, Martin Koukal and Lucas Bauer from The Czech Republic were the first two senior men to finish. Noteworthy Twin Cities racers, Chad Giese and Jill Troutner, placed sixth and tenth.

Originally scheduled for McCall, Idaho, the remaining races were rescheduled due to poor snow conditions to Galena Pass, outside of Sun Valley, Idaho. The races started near the Galena Lodge at 8000' in the very same open meadow where the Boulder Mountain Tour begins. These races included a pursuit beginning with a skate race on April 2nd, followed by a classic on April 3rd. It was hard to believe it was an April morning when the gun went off for the skate race. A wet spring storm a la Birkie 2001 had moved in over the Sawtooths the night before, and it continued to dump on the skiers during the race. Undeterred by the snow, Nina Kemppel and Sarah Konrad took the women's field by storm. The Czech racers took first and second again in the men's field, with Justin Wadsworth a mere six seconds behind them.

The following day proved that the name "Sun Valley" is not a misnomer. The blue skies, sunshine, blue kick wax and a delayed start lifted even the slowest skiers' spirits. The classic portion of the pursuit followed the same 5 km loop as the skate race. The crux of the race was a long insidious 2 km climb that crept narrowly through the lodgepole pine. While the Czech senior men with the ultra-low points stole the day again for the senior men, and the Swedish juniors swept the junior women's field again, two interesting battles developed amongst the senior Americans. Although she did not edge out Nina Kemppel for the pursuit win, Wendy Wagner bested Nina's classic time by seventeen seconds! Similarly, in the men's field Kris Freeman didn't finish the overall pursuit in front of Justin Wadsworth, but he did finish the classic race seven seconds faster than Justin.

Once again, on Thursday April 5th, we found ourselves back classic racing on the same Galena loop (the only snow in town.) The women's race skied the 5km loop once, while the men's race looped it twice for 10km. In the junior women, Kristina Trygstad from Bridger Nordic dug deep to finish fifteen seconds ahead of the Swedish duo, Britta Nordgren and Johanna Ojala . The top three senior women to finish were Nina Kemppel, Wendy Wagner, and Uni Odegard. For the senior men, the now familiar Czechs, Lucas Bauer and Martin Koukal, were chased to first and second place by third place Patrick Weaver.

The last day of racing, a two person relay, typified the Spring Series atmosphere: low-key, fun, end-of-season racing in the sun. While the results were somewhat predictable in the senior categories, with the Czech duo winning for the men and Kemppel and Wagner winning for the women, the times were close. Chad Giese and Dave Chamberlain cruised to a sixth place finish with Dan Campbell and Casey Ward following in twelth. The biggest, most heart-warming story of the Spring Series was Kenyan athlete Richard Rono. Rono rounded out the men's field, and what he lacked in experience, speed, and technique he made up for with his gumption and style. Watching him battle the uphills and sail down the unfamiliar blue icy downhills at Galena was truly a testimony to amateur athletics.

After Saturday's relay the Spring Series drew to a close with a wonderful party at The Roosevelt in Ketchum.

by Jill Troutner
April 22, 2001

Boise Venue
The Northern Lights Racing Coalition (a team name my Dad came up with because I got tired of being called "independents" and never getting a wax room or range point at biathlon races), consisting of myself and my coach/Dad arrived in Boise Thursday night. We decided to check out the Bogus Basin Venue since it looked like a short drive. Several thousand feet higher and 40 minutes later we got there.

I climbed out of the truck, hopped on my skis, and dragged myself up the alpine course (the loop was a 2k that consisted of the lower portion of the alpine ski area), and what goes up must come down. I made it 2/3 of the way down and wrecked (they had salted sections of the snow to help it last). I got up and scraped the ice crystals and salt off my face, plowed the rest of the way down and fearfully dragged my butt the rest of the way around. Official training was the next day, but my entire right arm and shoulder wasn't working too well, thanks to yesterday's tumble. So I went for a jog in balmy Boise, enjoying the 70+ degrees. We checked out registration the next day and met Rick Capella who was a no-nonsense, here's the info and in 5 minutes you are on your way kinda guy. We decided we really liked Rick Capella and his crew.

Saturday night under the lights the first racers hit the start line. Watching warm-ups was entertaining as more than half the skiers got wrapped around the snow fence or hurtled off the course, trying to make the right turn off the big downhill. A hundred skiers were all trying to practice and watch each other's line on that corner. I watched half the junior women crash there in a pretty spectacular pile-up of skis and lycra during the first loop of their 6k race. I told my coach that my race strategy tonight would be based on survival.

I lined up with the rest of the girls and listened to the Swede on my right chatter about how easy the course was. There is always one of those people in every race. I made my way around the required three times and stayed on my skis. There was a nice crowd up there who cheered everyone in as we finished. The rain started to pour down as the elite men took off. The pack of men on that downhill and hitting the corner was truly spectacular-some minor wipeouts but these guys made it look easy. By their 3rd loop they were pretty spread out, and the rain was coming down so hard that visibility was becoming bad. But the announcer was still begging people to stick around for the post-race fireworks display. As we headed for shelter, most of us had one thought: Sun Valley will be better!

Sun Valley
Another no-nonsense, short and sweet, meeting by Rick Capella Sunday afternoon in Sun Valley to give the lowdown on the race.

Monday morning we all drove up to the venue to be hit by a snowstorm. That skate race was a shorter version of the Birkie except with snow falling thicker and faster as the races went on. The elite men had 2 loops to do and went last. I didn't envy them at all. By the time I finished I had to dig my backpack out of the snow and was wishing for a nice Swix visor. Jen McGill, Sarah Konrad, and I slogged out for a cool down and watched the men suck it up for 10k of deep snow and little oxygen. By this time I was completely wet and wondering why I had even wanted to ski a cool down. We finished up and went back to our truck, which was pretty much buried in snow, and headed for the hot tub.

The next day's classic race was cold. Luckily for everyone, grooming problems led to an hour's delay and things warmed up a bit. It was a blue kick kind of day, and the cold came as a shock to some of the skiers; spare clothes were being begged, borrowed and liberated everywhere. The start and ski check crew were all upbeat and having fun getting us lined up, and placing the occasional bet. It was a nice classic loop until you hit that section of what felt like almost 2k of incline that completely kicked my butt and 10 people passed me. When Jen and some others suggested a cool down, I skied along feeling completely bonked. My Dad skied with us and took off ahead, and I don't think I could have caught him if my life depended on it. It's amazing what 5k can do to you. Dan Campbell even said he was feeling tired, but I think he was just being nice.

Wednesday was a day off and while some went up and skied (the Bozeman crew was up there in force cutting tele tracks up on the hills between the trees in all that fresh deep snow), I opted for several pots of coffee and the bakery instead. Thursday was beautiful and a blast -- my best day and I felt pretty good and didn't even die on that 2k incline. I think everyone else was tired (there was some partying going on last night), and I managed to move up a few spots. Finally a nice day to hang out with everyone and chow down at the post-race barbecue on the deck of the lodge. But I had to hit the road for home Minnesota so I could make my National Guard drill weekend and watch my former boss and still mentor, Maj Longfellow, get promoted to LTC Longfellow. I was official cake cutter and wasn't going to let her down.

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