WANOGA SNO-PARK — Lydia Youkie carried a water bottle while skiing in her first 30K race at Sunday’s Great Nordeen, but at the finish line at Wanoga Sno-park she admitted the race went by so quickly she probably did not need it.
“It wasn’t too bad of a distance,” said Youkie, an 18-year-old from Bend who typically focuses on 5- to 10K races. “People were talkative the whole time and cheering you on throughout the race, and I loved that.”
Bend’s Stephanie Howe, 33, was the first woman to finish the 30K cross-country ski race from Mount Bachelor to Wanoga Sno-park in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 35.1 seconds, and Youkie finished in second place 80 seconds later. Youkie was right about the fast course: Howe’s winning time was more than 13 minutes faster than that of the 2016 women’s winner and almost six minutes faster than the fastest men’s time from last year, when the skiers and bikers dealt with heavy falling snow during the race.
The surprisingly fast times at the 2017 edition of the Great Nordeen applied to all levels of competitors: Long after the leaders of the 18K and 30K races had finished, a skier crossed the finish line, looked at his cellphone to check the time, and announced he had finished 40 minutes before he had expected to.
Akeo Maifeld-Carucci, 24 and of Bend, won the 30K in 1:04:39.5, edging 51-year-old Eric Martin, also of Bend, by 7.6 seconds.
“It’s been great all winter, but this (snow) is probably the fastest and hardest it’s been,” Maifeld-Carucci said of the race course. “Compared to most years, I hear this is as good as it gets.”
Maifeld-Carucci, who moved to Bend this year to train with the Bend Endurance Academy, said this was his first time competing in the Great Nordeen, which is now in its 15th year.
“I came out yesterday to preview parts of it, but I didn’t do it all,” Maifeld-Carucci said. “I had heard quite a bit about parts of it, but I hadn’t skied the whole thing, so it was fun to come out and do it. It was really smooth, beautiful. The sunrise this morning was amazing, couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Albert Hesse, 18 and of Redmond, won the 18K race in 44:05.7 — a time that, once again, bested the winning time from 2016 by more than 10 minutes. Even so, Hesse said the fast snow and steep downhills (by nordic skiing standards, anyway) made sections of the course difficult to navigate.
“The first downhill before the tunnel, there were definitely a lot of corners,” Hesse said, referring to the section of the course that passes under Forest Service Road 45. “You’ve got to be on your toes, make sure you don’t take somebody out. You’ve definitely got to communicate.”
Sarah Kilroy, 14 and of Bend, was the top girls finisher in the 18K at 46:11.7.
Stephen Smith, who participated in his first fatbike race at last year’s Nordeen, won the 15K bike in 35:51.3. Smith, 52 and of Bend, and second-place finisher Albert Rodriguez, 32 and also of Bend, agreed they benefited from pristine conditions and another winter’s worth of experience riding the bikes on trails and on streets and roads around Bend.
“Crashing is kind of part of fatbiking,” Smith said while discussing his one slip-up in Sunday’s race. “If you crash, you’re out, because it’s so fast. I feel like I gave it everything, I felt good, I had a good day, and I won.”
Laurie Giessinger, 45 and of Bend, repeated as the women’s fatbike winner, finishing in 38:57.3.
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Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, an incorrect age was listed for women’s 30K ski winner Stephanie Howe. The error was the result of incorrect information in the posted race results.