Carson Campbell, right, crosses the XC ski loppet finish line during the Grizzly Mountain winter triathlon, fat-bike ride, and cross country ski lopet at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Saturday (Feb. 11).
ARYN TOOMBS RMO PHOTO
Cal Zaryski and Candace Bourque conquered the winter triathlon, while Carsen Campbell and Jon Burton ruled snowy marathons to kick off Grizzly Mountain event's season Saturday (Feb. 11) at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
Five days of new snow wreaked havoc with the course, however, it created an excellent test of mettle for frozen competitors who survived a slippery trail run, slog of a fat bike ride and tough ski for the win.
Zaryski finished the 5 kilometre run, 9 km fat bike and 13 km xc-ski in 2:29:23 to take the victory over Team MitoCanada's Richard MacDonald of Calgary. Zaryski is no stranger to the podium, but he said it was one of the most difficult days he's had.
“It was a tough day … a really tough day. The run was slippery and the fat bike was a lot of running, side saddling and crashing,” Zaryski said. “I got a front flat on the last kilometre of the bike, and in the skate ski, I was skating for my life. That's not my forte, but I was pinning it the entire way. I'm glad I've been training hard over the past six weeks, because you needed it.”
Race times ranged between 30 minutes and an hour and a half slower than expected, mostly due to soft snow on the fat bike course. Race organizers groomed the track every day, however, they couldn't keep up with the snowfall. A similar situation occurred on the ski trails, where an overnight snowfall left fresh snow on half the ski course, also slowing the field.
“We were just slogging away and praying for a downhill. There was lots of soft snow and a lot on the fat bike you couldn't ride. But that's the way it goes,” Zaryski said.
He earned 10 points for the victory chasing the overall Grizzly Events/Carpe Diem cash prize.
MacDonald, 39, took second, three minutes behind Zaryski in a time of 2:32:34, which was tough considering he missed the start time by five minutes. He was still satisfied with his effort on the day. James Warburton took third place.
“I was five minutes late and had to make up some time. I was happy to come back. Most of us pushed the bike for nine kilometres and didn't have any arms left for the ski,” MacDonald said. “Cal is a strong athlete. I didn't expect to catch him.”
Bourque won the women's event in a time of 3:08:45, while Megan MacDonald finished second (3:16:48) and Lisa Mensink took third (3:21:52).
“It took way longer. The run was not too bad. There was still a lot of snow. I maybe biked less than a kilometre of the course and ran the rest. As for the ski, it was nice to ski more of the trails at the Nordic Centre,” Bourque said.
She is fresh off an ice canoe race in Quebec, and said her training isn't where she wanted it to be, but was glad to enjoy the day. She joked pushing a canoe through ice flows wasn't much different than pushing the fat bike through snowdrifts.
“Pure grit was the key. It was a tough day all around,” Bourque said.
Carsen Campbell took the 39 km ski loppet in 2:00:01, on a course he found much harder than expected. Leighton Poidevin finished second (2:14:37), while Jordane Thouverey took third (2:14:39), edging out Heath McCroy at the line for bronze.
Campbell is a member of Biathlon Canada's national team and is preparing for his next European tour.
“It was a bit longer than I usually race. The longest I had done this year was 35 km, and the longest I usually do is 20 km, so it was a bit longer with a bit of snow on course. I skied with Chris Butler for a bit and that helped,” Campbell said. “It was a bit of a gamble doing this. I wasn't sure how I would feel. I wanted to do this in preparation for cross-country ski nationals, where there will be a 50 km. This is a good tuneup for that.”
Campbell said he's definitely interested in the Grizzly Mountain Events cash prize, and will happily bank his 10 points from the ski marathon.
Sheila Klotz won the women's ski marathon, finishing ahead of Alison MacPhee.
In the 36 km fat bike enduro, Jon Burton took the win in 4:55:39, followed by Ryan Draper (5:16:08). David Lendrum finished third (5:27:05).