Organizers of the first Tour of Tsalteshi got kudos all-around for a well-planned event.
But there is no way they could have planned for a moment that made the inaugural whiz around the roller-coaster trail system indelible.
Chaz DiMarzio, 38, of Seward won the 40-kilometer men’s skate by edging out Soldotna’s Jordan Chilson, 28, by a foot in a mad dash to the finish.
DiMarzio’s time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 24 seconds, while Chilson was just a second behind. Riding the wave of a quick second lap despite tougher conditions, Seward’s Luke Rosier, 31, was third at 2:10:50.
“It’s a lot more fun and exciting this way,” DiMarzio said. “If it would have come out the other way, I would have been just as excited.
“It’s better than somebody winning by 10 minutes.”
The other races had dominant winners. Jackie Klecka, 23, of Eagle River won the 40K women’s skate at 2:34:04, while Morgan Aldridge was second at 2:36:18 and Jenny Neyman was third at 2:38:10.
The 20K men’s skate saw Jan Spurkland, 40, of Homer win at 1:00:21, with Frederick Dickerson, 39, second at 1:05:29 and Martin Schuster, 33, third at 1:10:04.
Kelli Boonstra, 47, won the women’s 20K skate at 1:03:59, which also put her second overall. Meredith Noble, 27, was second among women and third overall at 1:05:26, while Tara Schmidt was third at 1:12:45.
Classic style winners were Michael Bergholtz, 52, for 40K men at 3:23:21, Tammy Vollum-Matturro for 20K women’s at 2:17:41, and Isaac Erhardt, 35, for men’s 20K at 1:30:15.
The men’s 40K skate race had just seven of the 77 competitors on the trails, but what it lacked in quantity, it made up in quality.
Joey Klecka did the bulk of the leading for the first 15 kilometers, but the last five kilometers of each lap feature constant big climbs, and that’s when DiMarzio took control.
He had a 30-second gap after the first lap, but a pit stop for Gatorade and two Fig Newtons allowed Klecka and Chilson to rejoin the party.
While Klecka eventually dropped off, Chilson stayed on DiMarzio’s tail and took what looked like a decisive advantage on a big Beaver loop climb a little over a kilometer from the finish.
“I was pretty much spent,” DiMarzio said. “He was 30 feet ahead. I thought, ‘He’s gone, the race is over.’”
But Chilson caught the tip of his ski on the trail’s edge while passing another racer, sending him down. He got up and got right back on DiMarzio’s tail.
“We went up a little rise and he said, ‘You’ve got this,’” DiMarzio said. “I basically said, ‘You’re going to race me for this.’”
Chilson said he would have felt bad passing DiMarzio after drafting off of him for so long.
“Chuck led for most of the second lap,” Chilson said. “He was fun to race against. I thought I was better climbing the hills and he was better on the flats.”
DiMarzio used the event to train for the Tour of Anchorage on March 4.
“These trails make it everything to me,” he said. “It was organized well and well-marked, but these trails are so fun. There are so many turns and hills.”
Jackie Klecka is training for the Homer Epic, a 100-kilometer race on March 17. The Tour of Tsalteshi helped get her ready for that and gave her an excuse to visit her brother, Joey.
“The last 5K of each loop was hard,” Klecka said. “Joey warned me about the Bear and Mountain Goat loops, but they caught me totally off guard.”
And the monstrous downhills were no picnic either, especially on the second lap as snow trickled down from the sky.
“I need to get some type of glasses,” she said. “Going down those hills I was blinded by the snow in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything.”
Spurkland said the win in the 20K Tour of Tsalteshi capped a perfect weekend for him. The former Homer High School coach volunteered at the Region III meet at Tsalteshi on Friday and Saturday, then attended the 4th annual Frozen RiverFest on Saturday before Sunday’s next frosty treat.
“Skiing doesn’t get much better than that,” Spurkland said. “It was the total cream of the crop.”
Chilson said he was averaging 9.7 mph in his practice loops for the 40K, but that bumped up to 11.7 mph Sunday thanks to favorable conditions and a long, hard weekend of grooming by Bill Holt and John Pothast.
“The Tsalteshi Trails Association has done such a great job of developing this trail system,” Spurkland said. “This event had a great vibe, a local ski community vibe.”
Boonstra did not decide to do the event until the night before. She didn’t exactly train for it, either.
But skiing around at the meets of daughters Riana, a senior at Kenai Central, and Jayna, a seventh-grader, helps out. She also coaches with the Tsalteshi Youth Ski Program a few nights a week because her last daughter, fourth-grader Tania, is in the program.
“I don’t get out and ski nearly as much as I would like,” she said.
But Boonstra also nearly qualified for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano in cross-country skiing, so that and fast conditions carried her to victory.
“I felt like I didn’t have to work, except on the hills,” she said.
Chilson, who is on the TTA board, credited race director Steve Cothran with doing 80 to 90 percent of the work to pull off a great event. Chilson said the event needed at least 30 participants to break even, and the 77 definitely puts it on the calendar for next year.
Many came up to Cothran after the event and thanked him for putting on an event they had wanted to see for a while. Cothran said the event took 15 race-day volunteers, and countless more leading up to the race.
“What really meant a lot to me was not just people at the front, but people who finished near the end had a great time,” Cothran said. “That was important, because we wanted everybody to have fun.”
Editor’s note: This story and results have been changed to reflect a change in the results in the women’s 20K classic.
Tour of Tsalteshi
Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails
40K men’s skate — 1. Chaz DiMarzio, 2 hours, 9 minutes, 24 seconds; 2. Jordan Chilson, 2:09:25; 3. Luke Rosier, 2:10:50; 4. Tony Eskelin, 2:13:40; 5. Dante Petri, 2:15:10; 6. Joey Klecka, 2:16:01; 7. Jeffrey Helminiak, 2:22:48.
40K women’s skate — 1. Jacqueline Klecka, 2:34:04; 2. Morgan Aldridge, 2:36:18; 3. Jenny Neyman, 2:38:10.
40K men’s classic — 1. Michael Bergholtz, 3:23:21.
20K men’s skate — 1. Jan Spurkland, 1:00:21; 2. Frederick Dickerson, 1:05:29; 3. Martin Schuster, 1:10:04; 4. Ryder Giesler, 1:10:56; 5. Anthony Murray, 1:12:36; 6. James Eaton, 1:15:07; 7. Nathaniel McGilvra, 1:15:09; 8. Steve Milliron, 1:15:41; 9. Lee Green, 1:19:03; 10. Quinten Cox, 1:20:37; 11. Jay Mullent, 1:21:55; 12. Dylan Hogue, 1:22:19; 13. Jack Laker, 1:23:28; 14. Chase Laker, 1:27:19; 15. Pete Sprague, 1:32:05; 16. Brad Mahood, 1:34:12; 17. Ed Schmitt, 1:42:02; 18. Mark Laker, 1:43:14; 19. Brad Nyquist, 1:45:16; 20. Landen Showalter, 1:53:50; 21. William Morrow, 1:58:58; 22. Joel Todd, 2:04:25; 23. Tim Millings, 2:52:30;
20K women’s skate — 1. Kelli Boonstra, 1:03:59; 2. Meredith Noble, 1:05:26; 3. Tara Schmidt, 1:12:45; 4. Melissa Smith, 1:18:04; 5. Sarah Segura, 1:18:44; 6. Laura Pillifant, 1:22:43; 7. Sarah Foster, 1:24:20; 8. Janelle Moerlein, 1:26:18; 9. D’Anna Ham, 1:27:08; 10. Kailey Mucha, 1:27:08; 11. Gigi Banas, 1:28:53; 12. Paula Hansen, 1:28:59; 13. Patty Moran, 1:31:20; 14. Alexi Charter, 1:33:01; 15. Kat Sorensen, 1:34:17; 16. Denali Critchett, 1:36:59; 17. Elizabeth Earl, 1:39:23; 18. Gina Gregoire, 1:39:54; 19. Jane Adkins, 1:44:17; 20. Mykena Foster, 1:44:28; 21. Paula Werner, 1:54:54; 22. Gail Moore, 2:32:27; 23. Susan Krafft, 2:46:46; 24. Alexandra Cunningham, 2:47:15.
20K women’s classic — 1. Tammy Vollom-Matturro, 2:17:41; 2. Lara Griffin, 2:17:41; 3. Kristie Cotroneo, 2:19:25; 4. Katrina Cannava, 2:21:56; 5. Jen Showalter, 2:21:56; 6. Larissa Arbelovsky, 2:22:51; 7. Chisato Johnson, 2:25:38; 8. Sara Bundy, 2:27:26; 9. Carrie Wawrzyk, 2:43:59; 10. RaChelle Gruenberg, 2:47:44; 11. Julie Williams, 3:01:16; 12. Joanna Watts, 3:23; 13. Carol Boehmier, 1:29:06 (did not do whole course); 14. Denise Dutile, 1:29:07 (did not do whole course).