Battling soft conditions and some of the stiffest competition in the country, Amanda Amarr and Matt Wylie were victorious in the 40th annual Lake Louise cross-country ski loppet on Sunday (March 5).
Canadian national team, Alberta World Cup Academy, Rocky Mountain Racer and Canmore Nordic team members all showed up to challenge the spectacularly scenic races, which began on Lake Louise and wove through pristine trails.
“Events like this remind me of why I do the sport. This is a great race I’m using as a tune-up before the Canadian nationals,” Amarr said following her win.
The race was a good result for the Canmore skier, who’s having a successful comeback season thus far. After overtraining two years ago with the national team, she’s worked exclusively with her boyfriend Chris Butler on the comeback trail and is now ranked as one of the top young skiers in the country.
“This has been a great comeback year for me. I’m super independent training by myself and am looking forward to having a good nationals,” Amarr said.
She finished the soft course in just over 38 minutes. Removing herself from a team environment, she’s spent much of the winter doing time trials with her ex-racer boyfriend, however, she hopes to apply to the AWCA next year.
“This is exactly what I needed this year – quality training over quantity,” Amarr said.
She edged Sam McConnery for the win in the 10 kilometre, as McConnery fell and broke a pole about a kilometre from the finish line.
He’s battled illness most of the season and was diagnosed with sinusitis which hindered his racing ability.
In the ultra-competitive 20 km division, sprinter Wylie was the fastest skier on course.
“It was a super-strong field. So many guys used it as a tune up for nationals in the middle of March. A group of us broke away on the flats and were able to maintain the gap,” Wylie said.
Ian Murray finished second in the 20 km race, which also included many current and former Canadian national team members.
“I had no strategy, just see how hard I could go,” said Wylie.
The Canadian Cross-Country Ski Nationals are March 17 at Mont St. Anne, Quebec.
The well-organized Lake Louise event had several categories, including a wooden-ski race, which attracted competitors from far away as Yellowknife, N.W.T.
In other loppet news, Megan McTavish and Brian McKeever were the top Canadians in this year’s 90 km Vasaloppet in Sweden – the most prestigious loppet in the world. McTavish was 52nd in the women’s category, while McKeever was 83rd in the men’s open category. McKeever was in 13th when he broke a pole and quickly lost 100 spots before fighting back for the 83rd place finish.