I was told early on this winter not to miss the Jay Peak race so I made sure to add it to my race schedule. Jay boasts the highest annual snowfall in the east, some of the best glade / backcountry skiing, and great terrain / vertical to match. The usual Northeast contingency was pre-registered for this race and I recruited Tristan Williams to come for the weekend. We were the first ones to arrive in Glover, VT at our AirBnB, about 45 minutes south of Jay. The big draw of staying here was that it was an easier Friday night drive for the Mass crew but also located a couple miles from the Parker Pie Company which cycles 5+ Hill Farmstead brews plus amazing pizza. You also have to check out Currier's Market that was two doors down from us and has a fetish for taxidermy. We had pre-race dinner and drinks at PPC and were in bed before anyone even arrived.
The morning of the race Tristan and I were up early so we left for Jay early. It was brisk (6ºF) but bluebird and forecasted to warm up. I went through my normal pre-race routine, bathroom, warm up, bathroom and felt really good. The game plan was to try to hang on George and overtake him on the downhills. We started at 8:30am, right up a groomer so there was no sprinting for the holeshot but we did go out fast. The first climb doesn't really begin until 0.6mi when you turn onto Derick Hot Shot which was firm and bumped up. This terrain is where George Visser really crushes. He is so good on technical ascents whereas many of the racers were slipping and switchbacking, he was just going straight up. I moved into 2nd or 3rd towards the top of the first ascent (1,200') and George didn't have more than 30s on us. The course drops into Kitz Woods glade before dumping out on a groomer. It was a relief to ski challenging terrain like this and I was able to make up good time and even catch George on back at the ski to skin transition. We headed back up for the next ascent together but as soon as we hit the bumped up terrain he once again gapped me. This ascent (~1,900') also included a bootpack section before plateauing onto a groomer to the summit. At this point I'm not sure where 3rd place was but I was behind by roughly 40 seconds as we approached the top of the tram. I wasn't sure of the course and had to ski tentatively on the descent to make sure I didn't get off course. It can be very difficult to see flags while skiing around the general public. There were a few bumps in one section of the descent but overall very mellow. I spotted George skating the flats just 10s ahead and made a push to catch him. Little did I know our next ski to skin transition would be the start of our last climb (I thought there was one more little one based on last year's course). George exited the transition 10s ahead of me and I went after him but he held his lead, eventually building a 30s gap as we ascended more groomers followed by one last bootpack to the last transition at the Upper River Quad. I was definitely tired at this point but also didn't make a big push which let George hold his lead into the last descent. Unfortunately he is a strong skier which meant that I really had no chance of catching him on Power Line which was firm and bumped up. But in the race mindset I thought to should go full send after seeing a sign that said "ski to the finish!". I could see George down towards the flats and next thing you know I'm in the backseat out of control ripping through the bumps. Having little to no tail on my skis a crash was inevitable. I slammed onto my back/ass unknowingly snapping the tail of my ski. I had another crash and limped into the finish.
In hindsight I really wish I knew the course better but also need to know when to relax and minimize the risk of breaking my equipment or injury! It was a lot of fun yo-yo'ing this race and having a shot at winning. Having challenging descents was a huge advantage for me but my climbing wasn't too shabby either. Aside from that last descent, my race execution was near perfect although I need to work on my technical ascents in the bumps.
Tristan and I made an effort to pull flags but were too slow (because I was so slow changing out gear - it hurt to bend over at that point). We did a short lap anyway since we made the effort to change up. After awards we went to ski the backside of Jay and ended up making a couple runs down Little Jay. I can't say enough about the SkimoEast crew (especially Lyne and Jeff), the skimo community, and how fun this course was. Already looking forward to next year!