January is already over and cross country ski season is in full swing! The ski season in Michigan is very condensed and the late start to due to minimal December snowfall makes it even shorter. However, the Nordic team has been busy racing across the state from Brighton to Marquette with four race weekends in the books. Each race is part of the Michigan Cup circuit which connects the cross country ski races across the state into an overall series competition for both teams and individuals.
Team OAM Now skiers represent our Cross Country Ski Shop partner by competing on the Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop Michigan Cup Team. The small but talented Team OAM Now contingent helped Cross Country Ski Shop to win the Brumbaugh Cup the past two seasons. Team OAM Now skiers have taken the overall Michigan Cup individual title for both men and women the past two years. Kaitlyn Patterson won the women’s title in both 2014 and 2015, Alex Vanias won the men’s title in 2014 and Dan Yankus in 2015.
In the month of January, Team OAM Now skiers competed in five Michigan Cup races- Frosty Freestyle, Krazy Klassic, Cote Dame Marie, Noquemanon, and Forbush Freestyle. The Nordic team is missing leader Dan Yankus who is not competing in nordic this season to focus his limited time on cyclocross and road racing.
Frosty Freestyle- Frosty Triumphs Over Dire Snow Conditions
-By Jon Morgan, Team OAM Now skier and cyclist
Falling the second weekend in January in southeast Michigan, the Frosty Freestyle historically deals with challenging weather conditions and this year was no different. However, the staff at Huron Meadows and the race organizers do an amazing job with snowmaking and grooming and manage to put on a high quality race even with no natural snow whatsoever.
Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop team won the Brumbaugh Cup in 2014 and Kaitlyn and Alex won the Individual Michigan Cup titles (photo credit: NordicSki Racer)
The 2016 Frosty Freestyle race was very tentative with five days of above freezing temps and rain leading up to the race. The organizers pulled it off yet again and created a very good 2.5kilometer course appearing as a strip of snow across the grass.
On race day, skiers were met with a firm fast course of artificial snow with heavy (real!) snow falling during the race. Jon Morgan kicked off his ski season by winning his age group and taking 11th overall despite breaking a pole in lap 3 of the race. Jon is returning strong after a hamstring injury ended his 2015 ski season prematurely. Jon also raced in the classic style event on Sunday- the Krazy Klassic. Due to the short race on a flat course, most racers chose to go without kick wax and double pole the whole race. Jon won his age group yet again and took 9th overall.
Kaitlyn and Alex represented Team OAM Now at the SISU Ski Fest instead, missing the lower peninsula races.
Cote Dame Marie- Two Wins in Ideal Racing Conditions
The following weekend at the Cote Dame Marie, racers reconvened in Grayling, 175 miles north of Brighton to find ideal mid-winter racing conditions. The men raced 26k in the freestyle technique over two laps of a gently rolling course at Hanson Hills Ski Trails. The women raced only one lap for 13k.
Jon Morgan races the Frosty Freestyle held completely on man-made snow
Alex dropped the field within a kilometer to win over Milan Baic by over two minutes. Jon Morgan took 14th overall in a strong field.
Kaitlyn also dropped the women’s field within a kilometer, finishing over a minute ahead of former Northern Michigan University skier Jordyn Ross who took second. Kaitlyn continued on to finish the second lap for 26k of racing. Her 26k time stood as 11th overall in the men’s field.
Noquemanon Ski Marathon- A Technical and Physical Challenge
Kaitlyn leads out the women’s race. She won the 13k race in 44:06 (Photo credit: Curt Peterson)
The Noquemanon is a popular point to point race that starts in Ishpeming and ends in front of the Superior Dome in Marquette. It follows much of the same course as the popular Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic. Although the course features a net descent of 1,000 feet, it is deceptively difficult with steep climbing, frozen lake crossings, and technical descents. The Noque also can be especially difficult to wax for due to the significant temperature fluctuations across the course.
Alex competes in the 2016 Noquemanon Marathon. He finished eighth in the 50k classic event.
The Noquemanon is unique in that the classic race is the premier race drawing the most competitive fields and offering a significant prize purse. Alex, Kaitlyn and Jon all competed in the 50k classic event.
Although the night before the race was balmy and hovered around 30 degrees, clear skies overnight led to a significant temperature drop to 16 degrees race morning. Alex skied with the lead pack of guys for ten miles but unfortunately one icy lake crossing sheared much of his kick wax off. Despite double poling most of the second half, he didn’t concede much time and finished eighth overall in 2:39:37 for his best Noque placing yet. Although the second half features a “net” descent, there is still plenty of climbing and not being able to use your legs much is hard, especially for a cyclist.
Kaitlyn also struggled after losing kick wax and having to rely on upper body strength. Jon caught Kaitlyn in the double poling sections the second half and the pair skied the remainder of the race together. Jon took 44th overall finishing in 3:16:52. Kaitlyn finished as the fifth female overall in 3:17:31.
Forbush Freestyle- Windy, Slushy Success
–By Alex Vanias, Team OAM Now skier and cyclist
The epic course of the Noquemanon Ski Marathon. It is almost a shame to race past all the beautiful lookouts
Alex was the lone Team OAM Now skier to race at Forbush Corner near Grayling the last weekend in January. The trails at Forbush corner are twisty, hilly and fun. They fit an impressive amount of trail in a condensed area and you would never know how close the freeway is!
Alex pulled away in the first several kilometers to win by two minutes yet again on his new Speedmax skis.
“It was right around 32 degrees at the start and warmed to mid 30′s during the race. The snow was acting a bit colder than air temp, so I opted for my cold grind Speedmax with extra hand structure added in. I did two passes of the Swix 0.5mm broken-V roller and one pass of the 1.0mm Linear roller to deal with the moisture as the snow warmed up, without adding much drag at the start. My glide was as good or better than the competition. The second lap had churned up snow on the climbs and was a bit soft for my stiffest ski, but I found the tracks were solid on the descents and made up for the climbing struggles.”
Kaitlyn and Jon will compete in the White Pine Stampede the first weekend in February while Alex will travel to Minneapolis to test himself against some of the best skiers in the Midwest at the City of the Lakes Loppet.
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The Forbush Freestyle course. The trails are deceptively challenging and fun