Nordic roller-ski racing returns to Breckenridge via Summit Nordic Ski Club
Henri Nicholas top local at Saturday sprint, uphill race slated for Sunday
Nordic roller-ski racing returns to Breckenridge — and the state of Colorado — this weekend with the Summit Nordic Ski Club Roller Ski Fest.
The second annual two-day event, hosted by the Summit Nordic Ski Club Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 15, is the only Nordic roller-ski racing event in the state this summer. Saturday’s skate sprint featured some of the top local and regional cross-country ski talent. Sunday’s second day of action will consist of a hill climb race at Discovery Hill at 8 a.m.
Summit Nordic Ski Club head coach Olof Hedberg said Saturday’s action was whittled down to just 14 racers total due to racers’ concerns with travel uncertainty related to the recent Glenwood Canyon closure and COVID-19. That was down from nearly 70 athletes who raced in the debut Nordic roller-ski races in Breckenridge two summers ago. The event wasn’t hosted last summer during the pandemic.
The Saturday skiers raced on a 200-meter stretch of pavement provided by the town of Breckenridge on a closed portion of road between Airport Road and Colorado Mountain College.
On the 200-meter dual track — which is the shortest Nordic distance hosted on the World Cup winter Nordic circuit — Trey Jones of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club bested Henri Nicholas of the Summit Nordic Ski Club in the final matchup. The competition format, timed by Maverick Sports Promotions, consisted of a qualifying round that seeded racers who then squared off in elimination rounds until a champion was crowned.
“It’s just pure speed,” Hedberg said. “It’s a fun, spectator-friendly event with an announcer and it has much more of a speed component than anything we do in the winter.”
Hedberg said he was proud Nicholas pushed Jones to the finish line in the final matchup. Summit Nordic’s Sam Haynes, 18, rounded out the men’s podium in third place as he and Nicholas showcased their speed, which is regarded as the fastest in the club — on snow or on pavement.
Team Summit’s Aubree Confer won the women’s race, which was a small field of just five racers. Hedberg said Confer has proven to be one of the more consistently elite sprinters on the team, as this victory followed up her quarterfinal sprint performance at U.S. Ski’s Western Region Nordic Ski Championships last year.
Nicholas said roller skiing on pavement is much faster than on snow in the winter. There’s also a lot more unknown, he said, considering the cracks and bumps in the pavement as opposed to relatively perfectly groomed snow.
For the competition, all skiers are required to wear skis to level any competitive advantages inherent to equipment. Nicholas said the summer work for he and other Summit Nordic Club racers will make the transition to having a high fitness on snow more seamless come November.
“As a team we focus a lot on speed and it’s sharpening us up,” he said.
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