Chelsea, Quebec can boast that it’s home to top cross-country skiers – able to take on anybody at the world level – and the proof is in the results from the 35th Gatineau Loppet.
Nine area athletes climbed onto their respective podium during the Feb. 15-17 weekend of Canada’s world-class Nordic ski event, which saw more than 2,000 competitors tracking medals in the various divisions.
Among Chelsea racers, the event marked Megan McTavish’s second time topping the podium at the Gatineau Loppet. She placed first in the women’s category for the 55-kilometre classic event, finishing the new linear course in three hours 15minutes 18 seconds. She finished nearly three minutes ahead of the second- placed women’s racer.
In men’s competion, Chelsea racers saw Steffan Lloyd placing second in the 55-km classic, with Karl Saidla (McTavish’s partner) finishing third. Benoit Chauvet, of Aviernoz, France, claimed the gold medal on the newly-formatted race.
The classic started at Lac Philippe and finished at Mont-Bleu High School in Gatineau. It marked the first time Canada’s leg of the 16-race Worldloppet series offered a linear route – as opposed to a circular loop – which put it more in line with the European segments.
McTavish said the sunny weather and not-super-cold conditions made for a fast and fun race. A hard push at the start kept her largely in front of the female pack and in line with mostly male racers. She said she was excited to skate the new, linear course, as opposed to the Loppet’s usual loop.
“Basically, you cover the entire park,” the 35-year-old told the Low Down, following the race. “It feels a bit more like a journey.”
In 2009, McTavish came second in the 53-km freestyle skate on the old loop course. Her teammate, Ottawa resident Sheila Kealey, finished first.
Saidla said he enjoyed skiing through Chelsea and hopes the municipality can take advantage of the new linear course in future events. Mayor Caryl Green previously told the Low Down that the municipality is considering offering shorter sprint races in the village centre.
“It really put the area on display, so to speak,” said the 35-year-old Saidla. “It’s a really great thing for the local community to have this event come through here.”
In other events involving Chelsea racers, Nathan Underwood and Michelle Workun-Hill placed first among the men and women, respectively, in 38-km classic. Katherine Stewart-Jones beat all competitors in the women’s 20-km classic by a whopping six minutes.
Meanwhile, Jasmine Workun-Hill placed second (and third overall) in the women’s 5-km classic. Aaron Fahey came third in the men’s 10-km freestyle skate, with Laura Leclair finishing second among the women, beaten out by Tara Whittem a former Olympics medalist and honorary president of the Gatineau Loppet.
2013 Gatineau Loppet results
1. Benoit Chauvet, Aviernoz, France 2:41:52
2. Steffan Lloyd, Chelsea 2:44:47
3. Karl Saidla, Chelsea 2:48:59
1. Megan McTavish, Chelsea 3:15:18
2. Sheila Kealey, Ottawa 3:18:03
3. Martina Stursova, Skvorec, Czech Republic, 3:19:50
38 km classic
1. Nathan Underwood, Chelsea 2:06:18
2. Oleg Terentiev, Kandalaksha, Russia, 2:07:46
3. Robert Underwood, Kattskill Bay, NY, 2:10:17
1. Michelle Workun-Hill, Chelsea 2:14:52
2. Christiane Clavel, Terrbonne, QC, 2:32:12
3. Sonia Magny, Trois-Rivieres, QC, 2:36:51
1. Emma Underwood, Kattskill Bay, NY, 0:15:40
2. Jasmine Workun-Hill (third, overall), Chelsea 0:16:04
3. Roxanna Kemp, Carleton Place, ON, 0:16:44
1. Katherine Stewart-Jones, Chelsea 1:15:19
2. Maria Allen, Ripton, VT, 1:21:14
3. Sarah-Claudie Dostie-Menard, Gatineau 1:21:36
1. Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan, Ottawa 0:24:45
2. Nicholas Pigeon, Gatineau 0:24:59
3. Aaron Fahey, Chelsea 0:25:33
1. Tara Whitten, Edmonton, AB, 0:28:32
2. Laura Leclair, Chelsea 0:29:42
3. Alyssa Stowe, Almonte, ON, 0:30:18