The Midwest might not have mountains, elevation, or the first skiable snow, but it could very well be a hot spot for high-quality ski marathons. In addition to hosting the king of North American ski marathons: the American Birkebeiner, there are numerous events across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that boast annual turnouts of hundreds of skiers and prize purses to draw strong fields.
This year, six of these races including the Birkie, will be a part of the inaugural Central Cross Country (CXC) Marathon Cup. The CXC Marathon Cup connects some of the biggest ski events across the region including two races in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin and two in Michigan. The races are split between classic and skate disciplines with two skate races, two classic races, one skiathlon, and one weekend with both a classic and skate race.
“The idea grew out of a discussion of how we can bring excitement to the teams and clubs around the region,” explains Yuri Gusev, the CXC Director and one of the drivers of the new initiative.
The Marathon Cup will be scored in four competition categories: individual overall, individual age-indexed overall, individual age class, and team. To contribute points for a team, skiers must be registered for a CXC Club. Anyone who completes one of the Marathon Cup races will be scored as an individual and does not need a CXC/USSA Master membership. However, racers are encouraged to support the CXC Marathon Cup and grassroots nordic programs around the Midwest through purchasing a membership.
For each race, age-adjusted times will be calculated as (initial time)/(age index), using the age-index table listed in the CXC scoring rules. This allows racers’ times to be adjusted to put racers of different ages on an equal basis.
The age-adjusted scoring is an interesting new twist that Gusev thinks might have potential beyond the Marathon Cup.
“Hopefully some small events, local races will pick up on that age index and they can use it also in local events,” he explains.
The top three in the age adjusted standings as well as each age class will be eligible for prizes. The overall top male and female will win cash prizes and the overall points leaders will wear a special bib throughout the season.
“Hopefully we can create more excitement in the region for master distance skiers and at the same time benefit all six events. We also hope to get more skiers traveling around to participate in all six events because in many cases, those events play a big role in sport development at the local and regional level,” says Gusev.
“For instance the Birkie has a big grant program for clubs all over the United States. Many events stay involved in sport development and assisting youth and junior programs around the region, so the more participation they get, the more funding they get. The goal is that they will be able to give back to the sport as well,” Gusev explains.
2016 Race Calendar:
Seeley Hills Classic (42K classic) January 16th- Seeley, WI
Noquemanon Ski Marathon (50K classic) January 23rd- Marquette, MI
City of the Lakes Loppet (2 or 3 day tour) February 5-7th- Minneapolis, MN
Vasaloppet (58K skate) February 13th- Mora, MN
American Birkebeiner (51K skate) February 20th- Hayward, WI
Great Bear Chase (50K skiathlon) March 5th- Calumet, MI
Each race was already well-established but race organizers were excited about the concept of the Marathon Cup.
“Everybody [race organizers] bought into the concept right away. They saw potential benefits and they saw how it will help the sport in general and local clubs and teams,” Gusev said.
As for the Gusev’s expectations for the Cup this year, he understands it will likely be a process.
“We are going to take one step at a time,” he said. “This year we put the concept together, and we will test the waters, and we will learn what we should do better and we’ll keep growing.”
More information on the CXC Marathon Cup can be found here.
Follow updates from the Marathon Cup on FasterSkier’s Marathon blog throughout the season!