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Loppet brings the pain

Soft snow wreaks havoc for cross-country racers

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The Loppet is part of the Cross Country B.C. marathon series, and Kangarloo is in contention to take the overall title this year.

This is his first time in Whistler, and, aside from the extra snow, he was impressed by the quality of the cross-country trails.

"It was tough, but at the same time I was loving it. I think this is more snow than Calgary has ever had, and the trails are great. There were great views, and it was really twisty and turny, up and down. I’d definitely like to spend more time here."

Kangarloo was racing unopposed in the 19 to 29 category after Florian Beliard, one of the top local racers, opted to pull out of the race.

Second overall, and first in the Men’s 30 to 39 category was Lars Ole Valoen of Pitt Meadows in 1:39:47. Tom Hansen of Salmon Arm was third overall and second in the 30 to 39 category in 1:40:37.

The top woman was Nikki Kassel, who returned home from nursing school in Prince George to race in the Loppet. Her time of 1:46:47 was more than 15 minutes faster than the next-fastest woman, and placed her seventh overall among all the racers. She was also more than 25 minutes ahead of the next fastest woman in the 30 to 39 category.

"I think that was the hardest, deepest skiing I’ve ever done, but it was awesome," said Kassel. "Those were the conditions, and you just had to deal with them. It was so beautiful with the snow, and I loved being back in Whistler. I always have so much energy when I’m here."

In the Recreational Category, which tackled a 15 km course, Duncan Munro was the top male in 1:16:22, close to 15 minutes faster than Tom Heah. Doug Irwin was third in 20:18:29.

Maureen Harriman was the fastest rec female in 1:20:17, followed by Stacey Bodnaruk in 1:23:06 and Terry Vincent in 1:29:56.

The Whistler Loppet also had its first sit ski candidate, quadriplegic and former Whistler resident James Hustvedt, who completed the 6 km course. The short course was mostly flat with a few small hills, but the softness of the snow made it a lot tougher. He poled his way across the line in 1:47:31.

"I’ve done a few Cross Country B.C. Events, like Coast Cup events, just to get a presence of sit skiers in there," he said. "I figured this was a good way to promote the sport, and have some fun, and maybe get a few more sit skiers out here."

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