Dominique, Tom's GF, drove Tom, Teague, Andy and I down to the start of the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse in Crested Butte last Thursday. We all had big hopes of representing SLC well and placing high.
Last year Andy and I were in good position (basically tied for the lead) half way through the race and then proceeded to break a boot, get lost twice, and absolutely blow up. Needless to say, it didn't end as planned. This year the plan was to hold back over the first half of the race and then pick people off over the last half.
|The start, All photos by Dominique Maack|
The start was odd to say the least. After the first up in the resort there's a groomed down that transitions to off piste. This year the groomed trail abruptly stopped just after a rollover and immediately turned into breakable crust over knee deep sugar/powder. Everyone came rocketing over the roll in a full tuck expecting the groomer to keep going and just about everyone blew up as they augured in. Marshell Thompson was the first to find the breakable and ended up breaking his pole. We immediately counted him and Tom out.
The next two hours were spent swapping leads as the field broke trail though this horrendous breakable crust. It would support one's weight for a step and they you'd sink to your knees. The whole field ground to a halt and 340 participants were lined up back to back to back in a single file line over a mile or so. 340 headlamps in a line in the middle of a snowy field is quite the sight.
Once we hit a snow mobile track the trail breaking was over and it was time to start racing again. There was a group of 6 that formed (Tom/Marshell, Teague/Brad, Wick/Smith, A Nordic Team, Simmons/Kloser, Andy and I). At first the nordic team was in the lead but we all figured they'd be a non factor since their gear is so incredibly hard to ski. They ended up 5th - amazing. Turns out olympic nordic guys can rip some steep descents on their gear.
Heading up to the half way point Tom and Marshell put in a move, then Teague and Brad did. Andy and I stuck with the plan and showed a little restraint. We figured Marshell would fall apart with only one pole and, since we were still feeling fresh, we'd be able to reel in Teague and Brad. We were wrong on both accounts. Apart form not catching the other two teams, the last half of the race went exactly as Andy and I planned. We felt strong and were moving quicker than expected. Maybe our plan was a little too conservative. In the end, Tom/Marshell got the win (amazingly strong day with a broken pole!), Teague/Brad held on for second, and Andy and I held on for third. The teams in our car swept the race!
|Giving congrats to the winners, Andy coughing up 8 hours of movement|
|Everyone psyched to be on the podium!|
Again, our race went exactly as planned and whenever that happens it's hard to complain about anything. After the whole disaster last year, we swore we'd never come back to this sufferfest but now it might turn into a tradition. The whole event is unique and phenomenal. From the gear prep to the racing in the middle of the night to the huge after-party in Aspen, the EMGT (or is it Gore-Tex Grand Traverse?) has something special. If you haven't done it, next year might be a good time to start.
|The winners looking like they're in love.|