The Wood River Valley had a significant turnout and great results Saturday during the 36th anniversary American Birkebeiner freestyle and classic event at Hayward, Wisc.
Oldest racer in the 50-kilometer freestyle race was the remarkable Charley French, 82, of Ketchum. He managed to out-distance nearly 700 of the younger men and finish the course in just over four hours.
The women's silver medalist in the 54-kilometer Subaru Classic Championship was Ketchum native Hilary Patzer, 29, of St. Paul, Minn. Patzer, second of 222 women in the 1,225-skier race, was less than seven minutes behind winner Martina Stursova, 29, of the Czech Republic.
Age class winners in the Birkie skate race included Jon Engen, 51, of Ketchum (25th overall); Muffy Ritz, 51, of Ketchum; and Nicole DeYong, 26, of Ketchum. Mike Sinnott, 24, of Ketchum placed third among the 18-24 men and ninth overall.
The Birkie had its second-largest turnout as 7,461 skiers in 18 waves were on their way Saturday at 8:20 a.m. Temperatures hovered at 17 degrees and then climbed.
Matthew Liebsch, 25, of Maple Grove, Minn. and recent Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour champion Rebecca Dussault, 28, of Gunnison, Colo., skied to victory in the 50k freestyle event. Seventh last year, Liebsch won in 2.11:47. Dussault was 59th overall in 2.26:39.
Classic winners were Gus Kaeding, 24, of Marquette, Mich. in 3.00:27, and Stursova 3.26:16. Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation alumnus Patzer was next in 3.33:02, a pace of just under 4:00 a kilometer.
Ned Zuelsdorff, executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said skiers from several foreign nations, including Nicaragua, Australia and Japan, and 44 U.S states, including Hawaii, North Carolina and Alaska, had perfect conditions for the 36th anniversary event.
The American Birkebeiner is modeled after the Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet, which in turn was inspired by the historic rescue of the infant who would become a celebrated king, Haakon Haakonsson IV. The race symbolically re-creates the flight of the prince, carried on skis by warriors called birkebeiners for their protective birch bark leggings.
The following are the final places for the CXC Elite Sprints held during the American Birkebeiner. Then, the local results and age class placings of the Wood River Birkie racers.
CXC Men: 1—Kevin Hochtl, Team Rossignol. 2—Colin Rodgers of Ketchum, Fischer Craft Team. 3—Mike Sinnott of Ketchum, Saab Salomon Factory Team. 4—Zack Simons of Park City, Team Rossignol.
CXC Women: 1—Rebecca Dussault, Saab Salomon Factory Team. 2—Heather Zimmerman, CXC Elite Team. 3—Nicole DeYong of Ketchum, Fischer Craft Team. 4—JoJo Winters, CXC Elite Team.
Birkie 50k freestyle (3,327 finishers): 1—Matthew Liebsch 2.11:47. 8—Lars Flora, 31, of Anchorage 2.14:10 (1st of 195 in Men's 30-34). 9—Mike Sinnott, 24, 2.14:34 (3rd of 216 in Men's 18-24). 20—Current Boulder Mountain Ski Tour men's champion Zack Simons, 27, of Park City 2.20:36 (6th of 221 in Men's 25-29). 25—Jon Engen, 51, 2.21:52 (1st of 513 in Men's 50-54). 35—Colin Rodgers, 27, 2.22:23 (13th of 221 in Men's 25-29).
59—Boulder Mountain Ski Tour women's champion Rebecca Dussault, 28, 2.26:39 (1st of 592 skate women). 117—Nicole DeYong, 26, 2.33:02 (1st of 72 in Women's 25-29). 254—Christiaan Cook, 38, 2.43:19 (34th of 246 in Men's 35-39). 282—Jim Santa, 48, 2.45:29 (35th of 445 in Men's 45-49). 367—Bruce Rogers, 50, 2.49:28 (32nd of 513 in Men's 50-54). 378—Muffy Ritz, 51, 2.50:05 (25th woman overall, 1st of 81 in Women's 50-54). 607—Pat Simpson, 57, 2.59:26 (26th of 328 in Men's 55-59).
658—John Tormey, 42, 3.01:06 (99th of 340 in Men's 40-44). 852—Kelly Allison, 48, 3.09:30 (13th of 109 in Women's 45-49). 1694—Peter Maier, 68, 3.37:51 (11th of 59 in Men's 65-69). 1814—Charil Reis, 34, 3.42:01 (20th of 54 in Women's 30-34). 2372—Charley French, 82, 4.04:46 (1st in Men's 80-plus, the only competitor in that class, 2038th out of 2735 men).