Shaw, Kassel take the shuffle 

Top cross-country skiers cover more than 90 km in four hours

It was more of a grind than a shuffle for the almost 80 skiers that turned out on Saturday for an endurance race and rally around the Lost Lake cross-country ski trail, sponsored by the Whistler Cross Country Connection.

The weather and snow conditions were almost perfect for the second annual event, dubbed the Lost Lake Shuffle. The premise was simple: ski as many laps of a 3.5 kilometre course as you can in four hours, either as a solo skier or as part of a team of three.

Last year the top racers blew the organizers away with 25 laps of the course. This year James Shaw, the defending solo champion, and runner-up Ron Carmichael went one better with 26 laps for a total of 91 kilometres – picture the distance from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler.

Shaw and Carmichael dogged one another for the lead for most of the day, with Shaw pulling slightly ahead for the run to the finish line. At the end of the race, the two were probably less than three metres apart.

Two laps back was William Letham, who finished third with a respectable 24 laps and 84 kilometres to his credit.

In the women’s solo category, Whistler’s Nikki Kassel skated her way into the lead early on and held it for 25 laps or 87.5 km. Caroyln Daubeny was second and Dawn Titus third with 23 laps apiece.

The top eight solo women from this year all made more than 17 laps of the course, which was the high total for last year.

The two junior entries in the solo category blew the other competitors away with their strength and persistence to the finish. Nine-year-old Bobby Bunbury skate-skied a full 14 laps. Considering that he has half the height and stride of the top racers, 49 kilometres was a huge day for the young Whistler skier.

Sydney VanLoon, a competitive cross-country skier from Pemberton, completed 16 laps, or 56 kilometres, using classic gear. Classic is a lot slower than skate.

In the co-ed team category, Going’ for Gold completed 26 laps. Team members were Lisa Helmer, Andrew Preston and Nick Gates.

The top women’s team was Two Cougars And A Kitten with Carolyn Rodger, Brenda Flann and Marie-Anne Prevost. They completed 24 laps or 84 kilometres.

The top men’s team of Vesa Suomalainon, Murray Farbridge and Robbie Metza completed 29 laps, or 101.5 kilometres to win their category.

In the family category, where teams of three raced on a shorter 2 km track, Team Sudski completed 19 laps for 38 kilometres. The team includes Leah Sudeyko, Alan Sudeyko and Lorene Novakowski.

Chris Waller, co-owner of the Whistler Cross Country Connection and the race director, said the event went well.

"We increased participation this year, which was great, but the thing that was probably best to see was the inclusion of our junior boy and girl," he said. "Bobby seemed to know exactly what to do, pacing himself, stopping for water and food… and Sydney skied classic, which is slower and harder in a lot of ways."

The Lost Lake Shuffle will be back again next season, and Waller hopes that more juniors and families take part.

"The event is really all about fun, it’s not an overly competitive race," he said.

Although he expected fewer solo racers this season because of the late start to the season, the number of solo competitors tripled from last year to 27. The event also attracted more skiers from the Lower Mainland, which means that the word is getting out.

The event was capped at 100 entries, and Waller expects that to continue next year, which is about the maximum number of skiers the warming hut can hold. They are also looking into combining the event with the municipally-sponsored Ski Fest next season if the logisitics work out.

Waller says the 70 participants combined for 929 laps of the course, or just over 3,200 km in four hours, or double last year’s total with 67 competitors.

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