Tour de Twin Cities recap

Five races in nine days is hard. I don’t know how the World Cup skiers make it through the Tour de Ski, which is seven races in nine days or something like that.

I spent the past two weeks in Minneapolis, Minnestoa for the Tour de Twin Cities (TdTC), a five-race mini tour over two weekends. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I was at these races. The races were supposed to take place at two different venues, one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the week before we arrived they got some warm rainy weather that erased nearly all the snow in the area. Wirth Park in Minneapolis is lucky enough to have snow-making capabilities and was able to keep a short loop of man-made snow open for skiing and racing. All five of our races took place there. Despite only skiing around a 3.3km loop for ten days, the terrain is actually quite variable (especially considering it is a golf course) and I didn’t get sufficiently bored to not want to ski anymore.

This is the second year I’ve gone to the TdTC and being able to ski and race right in the middle of a big city is super fun. You can see downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers from the trails, and I could run right into downtown in fifteen minutes from our hosts’ house. I also like the way every neighborhood in the city is it’s own little unit, with a center of business with a few restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, etc. It is something that I always have disliked about the setup of Anchorage neighborhoods. This is the geography dork in me coming out right now… It is nice to be able to walk a few blocks from your house to the store or to pick up a pizza or get a cup of coffee. Urban planning is a good thing!

DSCN0556Sunrise one morning, cityscape to the left

Ok, so more about the skiing thing… The first weekend we race a 5k individual start skate and a mass start 15k classic. I was a bit apprehensive going into a lot of distance racing because I hadn’t actually raced more than a sprint since the Bozeman Super Tour! I just went out hard and finished harder in the 5k, and I came away pretty satisfied with 7th place. Being at low elevation again was also fun because I could actually go really hard and keep pushing when I started to red-line. Sunday’s mass start was a bit more frustrating. I didn’t really get a chance to test my kick before the race, so my skis ended up being a bit too slick and I struggled up the hills, losing precious time and places with every lap, ending up pretty far off the pace. Oh well, bad races happen. Luckily there were three more to go.

tdtc-5k-davidown5k skate race (David Owen photo)

tdtc-cl15k-tmbimagesBeginning of mass start (tmbimages photo)

tdtc-cl15k-tmbimages2All alone later in the classic race (tmbimages photo)

Monday dawned a chilling -10F, causing a postponement of the classic sprint until Friday. We took the day off and tried to go shopping/exploring in downtown, but we ended up getting incredibly lost and bored wandering around the skyways. The skyways in Minneapolis connect nearly all the downtown buildings with bridges, and there are stores and restaurants throughout. However, it’s not as much to try and shop because the stores are widely scattered, and we were there during lunch-hour so there were business people crowding the halls. It’s a great idea for a downtown business district like Minneapolis in the winter because you don’t have to go outside to go to lunch and whatnot. I imagine if you park your car in a garage at home, work in a tower that connects to the skyways and park in an indoor parking garage for work, you don’t even have to go outside all day! Crazy. Totally redesigns the flow of people downtown. It was interesting to walk a few blocks outside (which was admittedly quite unpleasant in -10F and windchill) at noon and see no one hurrying around the sidewalks like you usually do in big cities, and then go into a building and see hundreds of people in the skyways. Sorry, the geography nerd sneaks out agai

IMG_7982Wandering through the skyways

Ok, so after a few pretty chilly days, racing began again on Friday with the classic sprint. Thanks to the help of Matt Liebsch and Gear West (ski/run store outside Minneapolis) I had some great racing on a new pair of Rossi skis. Came out of the qualifier in 3rd place and breezed through the semifinal in first, then came from behind to nap the 3rd podium spot in the final. Fasterskier wrote a more elaborate article here.

tdtc-cl-sprintqualRacing the sprint prelim (skinnyski photo)

tdtc-sprint-podiumPodium pic! (BK photo)

Saturday’s 6k classic race went off pretty well. My new skis were kick-ass and the kick was awesome. I finished sixth, only 23 seconds off Rosie’s win, which is closer than I have been in race in a long time. So that was fun. By Sunday, I was pretty tired from a lot of racing and skiing in the cold, and never felt like I got into a good groove. It was a pursuit start based on the entire mini-tour, so I started pretty far back because of my one bad classic race, about 3:30 after the leader. So I was in no-man’s land for the whole race, too far back to catch anyone, and I felt flat and tired, so all-in-all it was not the greatest race. But it was a pretty fun week with some great racing.

Although not nearly and exciting as watching Nordic ski racing, Saturday night there was a Red Bull Crashed Ice event in downtown St. Paul. The weather had warmed up, so Fitz, Sarah and I decided to go check it out. It was pretty cool. I mean, just some guys racing each other down an ice track on hockey skates. There were a few people there watching… 

IMG_8056
IMG_8007Officials estimated that there were 115,000 people there that night

IMG_8001St. Catherine’s Cathedral in downtown St. Paul all lit up as a backdrop for the event

IMG_8029Fitz and I excited to watch!

IMG_8031The start ramp

IMG_8054So close to the action

IMG_8025More action

IMG_8023
IMG_8052These guys actually had a race UP the course and finished right where we were standing on the sidelines.

Thanks so much to Rick and Jeanne Carter for graciously letting us stay in their house during our stay in Minneapolis, as well as my friend Claire’s parents for letting Fitz and I stay with them when we first arrived in Minnesota. Also to Evan Pengelly and the rest of the Gear West guys who did a fantastic job giving us pretty awesome skis all week.

I’ll leave you with this photo of adorable Clem, now 2 1/2 years old and quite a smart, talkative little girl now.

IMG_7987

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