Loveland, Colorado Randonnee Race Report

Post by blogger | March 10, 2009      

Special to from Brian Wickenhauser

The two prior years randonnee racing at Loveland ski resort were challenging, due in part to the weather…you ARE competing on the Continental Divide! This past weekend: Same date on the calendar but mild weather, no wind what so ever and a slightly different course design.

Wind and and storm were not the only noticeably absent item at the start, apparently there were some “other races” going on in the Western U.S. to pull a large Crested Butte contingent (and top two series points leaders) away from this week’s start line (Xterra Winter Worlds…running and biking on snow?? Really? …and The Super Tour in Crested Butte, a 22Km back country ski race….a warm up for the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse).

On to the action. Starting at 10,800ft., competitors ran with ski and poles in hand through a 150ft tunnel below I-70. As day light reappeared at the end of the tunnel we finally clipped into their bindings and skinned up to the top of chair 8. Out in the lead was Michael Hagen, followed by Bryan Wickenhauser, Jake Jones & Jason McGowain. After the first transition it was a blistering fast descent down a groomed slope to the base of Chair 8 for another repeat climb. Fairly benign “ski area” descents/climbs in the first 40 minutes of racing.

Now on to the fun terrain…At the top of the second climb it was Bryan out in the lead followed by Michael and Jake Jones. The descent was down Sundown Chutes/Splashdown, where the 2nd re-skin took place and on up to the top of Chair 9 AKA Patrol Bowl. Some wind buffed sun crust and steep pitches began to give the race a backcountry feel, plus you’re finally standing on top of the Divide now at about 12,700 on up to the high point of the race at 13,010.

The race course from here took us on a ridge top tour (departing from years past were competitors were asked to do one descent/climb along the ridge) across the likes of Primer Bowl, Castle Rock, Jelly Roll, Super Bowl, and Wild Child (skiing N to S on the resort). It was still open to debate as to what would be faster…leave your skins on or rip skins and V1 up (or boot pack up) all the short climbs? In the end, it was all a wash. Bryan maintained his several minute lead across the ridge tops and dropped into the off piste shot below Wild Child.

This is wear DH skiing proficiency can help in the race as 160cm skis, and F1’s can only get you so far….who’s got the guts to ski down wind hammered variable crust! Gaps are created on the ups for sure, but folks can get chewed up quickly if they display any fear on the descents! Unfortunately for Jake Jones, this is where he hoped to close the gap on 2nd place Michael Hagen, but as Jake closed his F1 buckle the wire broke and shut down any aspirations of chasing down Michael on the descent.

Descending back down above Chair 6 and onto a run called Keno and into a meadow where competitors had to apply there skins for one last skin up towards the North facing fabled terrain above Loveland Pass (Hwy 6). With a commanding lead over 2nd , Bryan topped out of the woods above Chair 1 where competitors ripped their skins and skied down 100 vertical feet to the base of a boot pack up, Over the Rainbow terrain. With unsupportable sugar snow, mixed in with a dash of dust on crust it was an interesting 200 vertical foot boot pack….some real ski mountaineering if only for a bit, and at the end of the race as your legs are pumped …it had a “good burn”!

After getting into the Dynafits on a wind blown ridge, legs pumped, tank on empty and eyes bugged…its tough to get into the toe pieces, but ya get it done. Then its only last descent down lower Over the Rainbow through the refrozen, wind hammered, bumped out terrain as fast as humanly possible (no one’s judging the turns ….this isn’t a freestyle competition!) and finish just above the base area maintenance building for a cold one!

In just over 2 hours it was Bryan Wickenhauser 1st, Michael Hagen 2nd and Jake Jones 3rd, Jason McGowain 4th and John Crowley 5th. In the women’s race division, unfortunately Monique Merrill was the only competitor with the other ladies getting pulled into these “other” events across the Western US. Men’s Heavy Metal winner went to Patrick Mullen, who now must be looking to upgrade gear and play with “the big boys.”

Stats for the race were 4,659ft up and 4,656ft down going counter clockwise around the whole Loveland Resort.

….and then came the wind and snow!

The COSMIC Series takes a break with series organizer Pete Swenson, taking a U.S. crew over to France for the Pierra Menta 3/12-3/15

For those sticking around the Rockies, head to Alta this Saturday for the Powder Keg or Crested Butte’s Town Series this Thursday!

Loveland rando race results.

Loveland rando race results.


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16 Responses to “Loveland, Colorado Randonnee Race Report”

  1. Mike March 10th, 2009 8:58 am

    What are the requirements for the Heavy Metal group? I’m searching all over and not having any luck.

  2. Mike March 10th, 2009 9:21 am

    That gray area is where I think I sit. Factors, 175 Kilowatts, and FT12s. Not light by race standards, but not necessarily “heavy” either. What about dynafits on big heavy metal skis? After drinking the dynafit koolaid I realize that everything else is just stupid. I hope to try next spring but joining the race class on real skis might be even more stupid.

  3. Lou March 10th, 2009 9:00 am

    Mike, I think it’s just done on the honor system. If you have gear other than Dynafits or light tele, you can put yourself in that class. But there is definitely a gray area. Wick?

  4. Wick March 10th, 2009 11:13 am

    Mike – sorry for any delay, I just got nearly blown off a mountain this morning…

    No real matrix yet from COSMIC Series organizer Pete Swenson on when the line is crossed from Heavy Metal Vs. Race. Rest assured your set up wouldn’t get any dirty looks in Heavy Metal from fellow competitors. Come to a race and get a feel for what it’s all about! The Molas Pass (San Juans) race on the 18th of April maybe a great setting for your first effort.

  5. Derik March 10th, 2009 3:46 pm


    Thanks for writing these up. I really enjoy reading what you guys are up to in the race scene. The Reserves has me out of state for the entire series (big bummer) but its nice to read about it. We’ll be looking for a full report from da’Menta!


  6. Clyde March 10th, 2009 4:08 pm

    Seems like if they are serious about increasing the popularity of the sport, there should be a handicap system based on a gear to body weight ratio. Or perhaps a retail value handicap…the less your gear costs, the more of a time bonus you get.

    As it is now, if you can’t afford $4k of dedicated gear that is essentially useless for anything else, you may as well not pay to show up — better to go for a real ski tour instead. Not very inviting to the masses. Even in cycling, the playing field is more level since the gear doesn’t make as big a difference (a $4k bike is only a small improvement over a $1k bike for the most part).

  7. Lou March 10th, 2009 6:02 pm

    Good points Clyde. Yes, pretty important to have some gear classes so people with normal backcountry gear can feel like they’re getting a fair shake.

    The retail value handicap would be pretty funny. Wick, you should at least do one race with that included just for fun.

  8. Pat March 10th, 2009 7:00 pm

    I’m skiing Heavy Metal on Insanes (which are light…for a 103 mm waisted ski) mounted up with TLT Comforts (which are light…until you look at a pair of low-techs) driven by Zzero 4 PX-TFs (lightest 4-buckle boots in the world…but not close to F1s) and I use BD carbon fiber flicklock poles (again…light, but not cross-country poles). It’s not the heaviest metal out there, but when you look at what Wick is riding (Goode rando race skis, low-techs, F1s, cross-country ski poles, and a skimpy racing suit that a guy my speed could never pull off) it looks pretty heavy metal to me. When the races start, I get out of the way of everyone in F1 boots because they’re gonna be in race category.
    I’d say, if you’re new to it and not sure you want to do 4,700′ as fast as you can, then do the recreational category. If you want to do the full course, do heavy metal. If you think you can hang with Wick and “the big boys” do race – I’ll get out of your way.
    As far as a handicap goes, I’d be careful of body weight to gear weight. Those guys have light gear, but they’re pretty darn skinny too!
    Don’t worry about winning to get gear either. After Loveland, Pete just gave stuff away until everyone had something – win, lose, or DNF. Good times!

  9. Wick March 10th, 2009 8:08 pm

    Clyde – to each his own… Folks are spending all kinds of coin on this gear because it works. Sure it fits in the quiver fo skis, but it is amazingly versitle….not that I’m going to ski it on the deep & steep but…

    Races like this are gaining popularity in the US (never mind the trends in Europe), the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse sold out in one day and there will be over 50 “race type” set ups even at $4000/set up. Its becoming part of the mountain culture in some moutain towns… the same towns where folks have several mountain bikes worth more than their cars! This gear is all about touring, that’s the beauty of it.

    They currently have different classes (tele, splitboard, race, heavy metal, vetran clases) to even out the gear/age difference. Adding any more would really dilute it…in my opinion (I apologize that I only reported on the race & heavy metal classes)

    Lou – do you “only race in Europe” 😉

  10. GeorgeT March 11th, 2009 5:17 am

    The difference between race and heavy metal was very clear in the Snowmass COSMIC race. The race group looked like racers (skinny gear, skin suits w/ logos) and warming up before the race while the heavy metal group was less svelte, logo’ed and amped at the start. The key to participation are fun routes, buddy challenges, beer at the finish and shwag. Pete is getting it dialed.
    I really appreciated my heavier gear on the steep descents and plan to get my friends out next year. Adding categories is not necessary when you have less than a dozen heavy metal participants.

  11. Nate March 11th, 2009 7:00 am

    Does anyone do these races on a split snowboard, or is there a class for that? If I were to enter it would be purely for recreational purposes, I have no delusions of winning. I’m just curious if a knuckle dragger on a split setup would be comically out of place at an event like this.

  12. Clyde March 11th, 2009 10:26 am

    How many of those racers actually pay retail for the trick gear? Probably not many. You say the sport is growing in the US but only in the sense that it’s going from infinitesimal to miniscule. There’s a potential to grow it significantly larger but only if you make it more accessible to a broader audience. Ultimately that’s what sells more gear, that sells more advertising, that brings more interest, that creates more events….

    Look at adventure racing. It’s essentially dying an early death because they made it too hard for the average person. Sponsors are bailing, attendance is down, races are disappearing. Ultras are only growing because there are a lot of 10ks and marathons for normal people to work their way up. Same with tris.

    How about setting some courses where the tricked out uber-light gear is a DISadvantage? Or go back to the roots of ski racing and require ups, flats, and downs with a jump?

    Just tossing ideas out. I don’t see rando racing reaching the next level without broader appeal. Less than a dozen HM participants makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Growth comes from the bottom up, not the top down.

  13. ScottN March 11th, 2009 2:24 pm

    I think that most americans are just pretty lazy. Our society is so based on convenience and comfort that the thought of skinning up 4000′ , or whatever distance, just isn’t too exciting for most folks. Its just too much work. And that’s cool, everyone has their own interests.

    And I think that lightweight rando/AT gear is really versatile. I ski exclusively in F1’s, everywhere. And my skinny K2 sahales (160cm) work in a lot of conditions, some they are better, some they aren’t so great, but I can usually have fun whatever I’m doing. Its a bit of a compromise, but I don’t need a quiver of skis and boots to go out and ski, tour, skin, etc. (although I’d like one….)

    Wick, is it normal for an F1’s rear cable to break? Makes me wonder about carrying a spare.

  14. Ellen March 11th, 2009 3:20 pm

    Hey Bryan,
    Your story about the Loveland race is not completely accurate. I also raced in the Women’s Race category, for my first time. It’s just that I am over 50! Gimme a break!

  15. marc March 12th, 2009 7:38 am

    hey,nate In 2007 I ran a splitboard at crested butte and the n.a finals at jackson hole,complete with a pair of old koflch mnt boots! The WI2 skinning at butte was made a lot easier w/ nice fat skinns. ONly splitboard in race division at both events. Had lots of fun,met some great folks. After just having a shoulder surgury, I thought this would be a great way to get in shape for El Capitan. I wasn’t wrong! I got 14th at the butte And had a time of around 310.00 at jackson. The ladder up the end of corbets’ was super fun! Callling mountaineers not just runners! Have fun!

    Marc Boilard Breckenridge

  16. Wick March 12th, 2009 9:09 am

    Ellen – I am sorry for the oversite, you killed it for your first go! I would love to see more female participation, so once again I sincerely apologize!

    Folks if you’re looking for some good updates on our US teams over at the Pierra Menta (4 day World Cup event) check out Carbondale,CO local Sari Anderson’s blog

    Powder Keg this weekend!

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