I’m sitting next to Pati on the airplane back to Alaska at the end of my first RMISA road trip in 22 years. Skiing the college circuit was my favorite time as a racer, and this trip has done nothing to diminish my good memories of the NCAA racing scene. It’s a competitive field in the West; you need to beat some fast skiers to win these races, but the sportsmanship and camaraderie is not compromised by the rivalry between schools and between athletes. Étienne said something to me yesterday that confirmed that the RMISA's competitive yet sportsmanlike spirit is alive and strong. He said, “These are only my first races, but already the guys from the other schools are coming to me and introducing themselves, and if they’ve already finished their race they’re cheering for me when I pass them on the trail. And their coaches are giving me some splits when I pass them. I don’t even need to go to them; they’ve come to me and made me feel welcome on the circuit, and I think that’s really special.”
We finished the trip in style today, with a couple of wins. The men skied first. At the 1km split, Lucky was in the lead by a few seconds. He then proceeded to make it a boring race, steadily gaining a couple seconds per kilometer on the rest of the field over the next nine kilometers, to win the race by twenty seconds.
Marine must have been watching and learning from Lukas, because she did essentially the same thing as him in her race. We had her tied for the lead at the 1km mark. At 4km she was leading by nine seconds. At 6km she was leading by eleven seconds. At 9km it was eighteen seconds. At the finish it was 22 seconds. Personally, I think Marine was a little confused that her first NCAA win came last week in a classic race. Marine thinks she is a better skater, so I think she wanted to set things right today by getting her first skating win. Even before the race, Marine looked ready to win it. I could just tell... I wasn’t surprised at all as I saw the split times going steadily in her favor.
|Lukas was so fast today that it was only possible to take blurry pictures of him. Here he is after catching yesterday's winner, Moritz Madelener, and pulling him to a third place finish.|
|Andrew again - quite photogenic today.|
|Pati skiing uphill - using the "old traditional methods".|
|Today's results. No caption necessary. But as you can see, I've added one anyway...|
|But not for this one.|
|Today's podium, minus third place.|
|All three women showed up for the women's awards. Nice.|
|Three hours after the end of the race, we're at the airport trying to figure out where to go next.|
After our arrival in Anchorage tonight, the team will spend a few days at home before driving down to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula for a pair of Besh Cup races over the weekend.