LaRochelles of Breckenridge win ‘Grand Reverse’ ski-mo race; Summit locals Anderson, Brede podium at Pan-Am Championships in Canada |

LaRochelles of Breckenridge win ‘Grand Reverse’ ski-mo race; Summit locals Anderson, Brede podium at Pan-Am Championships in Canada

Brad and Nikki LaRochelle of Breckenridge pose for a photo at last weekend's Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race event in Crested Butte. The LaRochelle's won the co-ed division on what's known as the "Grand Reverse" course, a backup course option race organizers selected due to avalanche danger and unforseen adverse weather conditions.
Courtest Nikki LaRochelle / Special to The Daily

Summit County ski mountaineering locals won championships and podiumed here at home in Colorado and abroad in Canada during a major weekend across the continent for the growing winter sport.

This year’s eighth annual Ken Jones Classic at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada, also served as the first-ever International Ski Mountaineering Federation Pan American Championships. At the event, Summit County local Jaime Brede finished on the podium, taking third place with a time of 34 minutes and 24 seconds in the women’s vertical race while Breckenridge resident Sierra Anderson won the women’s vertical race as well as the individual race two days later. Anderson also finished in third place in the women’s sprint race.

Over in Crested Butte, the Breckenridge team of Nikki and Brad LaRochelle won this year’s North Face Grand Traverse co-ed race, completing the course with a time of 7 hours, 14 minutes and 56 seconds.

The LaRochelles finished in fourth place overall for what is typically a 40-mile race from Crested Butte to Aspen. But this year, Grand Traverse organizers elected to change the course at the last minute. Race organizers opted for the “Grand Reverse” loop course option due to “unforeseen severe weather and avalanche danger” across what is the typical point-to-point course from Crested Butte, through Star Pass and down into Aspen. The last-minute course change occurred after race organizers initially deemed, at 11 a.m. Friday morning, that forecasted race conditions would permit a race to Aspen.

“That’s why I love the Grand Traverse — it’s a very dynamic race. Not only do you need to be fit for skinning, but also skating, double-poling and, for this year’s race, running.”Nikki LaRochelleCo-winner of 2018 North Face Grand Traverse co-ed race

Despite the change — and despite the fact that this was the LaRochelles first time partnering for the Grand Traverse — the duo defeated the nearest co-ed team, Seager-Herr of Frisco, by nearly 20 minutes.

Nikki LaRochelle said she felt the team was able to win thanks to their past experience with the race, their quick transitions through this year’s race and their overall fitness, including running, as stretches of this year’s reverse race took place over locations with little-to-no snowpack.

“Brad has done the GT 10 or so times so he’s seen it all,” Nikki LaRochelle said.

“We were both focused on our fitness this winter,” she added, “but also made sure to dial in all of the other details that can make or break your race. That’s why I love the Grand Traverse — it’s a very dynamic race. Not only do you need to be fit for skinning, but also skating, double-poling and, for this year’s race, running.”

Nikki LaRochelle was proud of her and Brad’s ability to maintain efficiency over the race course. That came into effect with the team’s ability to optimize glide while gaining elevation over the low-angle course and when focusing on minimizing any stopping time during uphill-downhill ski and ski-to-running transitions.

Efficiency also came into play when fueling on-course, something LaRochelle said she’s struggled with at times in the past.

“Eating and drinking may sound simple upon initial consideration,” she said, “but it can be really difficult. My stomach has never felt spectacular during the GT, which I credit to the midnight start time, so forcing myself to eat throughout the race has been an obstacle. Additionally, your water can freeze or can be hard to access during the race, so focusing on hydration, no matter how inconvenient is also important.”

Heading into the race, Nikki LaRochelle said the team thought they’d be up toward the front throughout the changed course. But the duo’s early success did leave her wondering if they had exerted too much energy at the start of the race.

“We knew we’d likely be up towards the front,” she said, “but once we passed through the ski area and East River, which had some very tricky conditions, I realized we were going back and forth between third place and fifth place, which was pretty exciting.

“I was surrounded by men who I know are very strong,” she continued, “so a big part of me was thinking, ‘Should I be up here? Am I going to blow up later in the race?’ But our pace seemed right on point and sustainable for a seven-plus hour race so we just kept keepin’ on.”

In the co-ed race, other top Summit County teams to complete included the duos of: Taylor-Rawstron of Dillon (eighth place, 9:25:36.9); O’Brien-O’Brien of Silverthorne (ninth place, 9:29:16.5); Reinking-Sodergren of Breckenridge (10th place, 9:45:44.8); Lynch-Joyce of Breckenridge (13th place, 10:05:52.8); and Wischmeyer-Wischmeyer of Dillon (24th place, 13:08:56.1).

In the men’s race, top Summit County teams to complete included the duos of Wilder-Gordon of Breckenridge (16th place, 08:58:01.5) and Cohn-Nestler of Breckenridge (17th place, 09:00:05.9). Other local duos who finished the men’s race included the team of Matt Coye of Keystone and Sean Andrish of Frisco, who finished in 91st overall, and Scott and Sam Wescott, a father-son team out of Frisco, that finished in 84th place.

In the women’s race, the Breckenridge-based team of Anderson-Daniels completed the course in 13th place, with a time of 12:07:45.3. Also, a team comprised of Breckenridge resident Ella Greene and her partner Marrissa Christiansen of Telluride finished the women’s race in sixth place, with a time of 9 hours and 58 minutes.

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