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The Lowdown on the 2013 Pine Lake USXC Cross-Country Opener


(12/17/2013)

This past weekend the Clearwater Trail Blazer's snowmobile club and USXC combined forces to run the Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200, continuing a decades-long tradition as the kick-off cross-country race of the new season. 

 

2013 USXC Pine Lake cross-country. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

This past weekend the Clearwater Trail Blazer's snowmobile club and USXC combined forces to run the Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200, continuing a decades-long tradition as the kick-off cross-country race of the new season.

Season openers have a unique energy compared to in-season races. The racers gather with great expectation, yet uncertain of where they and their machines stack up against the competition.

Who has speed? Will durability issues arise? Who's been testing the most? Who's hungry to win?

 

2013 USXC Pine Lake cross-country. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Some years Pine Lake is a pure ice race that rewards those with the greatest top speed. This year a foot-plus of snow on the ground would bring bumps and berms to the 11.3-mile course, adding to the challenge of sled set-up.

The top Pro racers were setting lap times just under 9:30 while the Semi Pro racers were running in the low 9:40s.

 

2013 USXC Pine Lake cross-country. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Temperatures that barely cracked the positive territory would prove another primary feature of this year's weekend, in the form of visibility-impairing snow dust.

I've been coming to Pine Lake since 1992. I've seen some years with gnarly snow dust (and the resultant poor visibility), and this was definitely one of the gnarliest.

After trying heads-up style racing at a couple events last year, USXC switched to timed racing, including at Pine Lake this past weekend.

The tough snow-dust conditions would force USXC officials to reduce the number of laps in several classes, and it would force racers to either run cautious or take risks to set fast times.

 

Arctic Cat racers, race-makers and great guys, Chad Dyrdahl and Robert Johnson

On the left is Chad Dyrdahl. On the right is Robert Johnson.

These two guys have HUGE history with the Pine Lake event. Both are members of the Clearwater Trail Blazers club that hosts the race, and both spent countless hours doing tasks like plowing snow, gathering sponsors and ensuring things went smooth.

Chad is the son of event's namesake, Gerald Dyrdahl, who was a pillar of cross-country racing in this area for many years until he passed away from cancer in 1997. Chad continued the family tradition of racing, winning the Expert 85 class this weekend.

 

Jr Girls winner, Team Arctic's Kelsey Pladson

The Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 is a veritable force in cross-country racing, having all but taken over as THE sled to ride after the 85-hp classes were first created for the Yamaha Phazer.

Here Kelsey Pladson pilots her Sno Pro 500 to a win in the Junior Girls 14-17 class on Saturday.

 

Team Arctic's Mason Kallock

Mason Kallock was another winner for Team Arctic, taking the Junior 14-17 final with some serious air over the finish line jump.

 

Team Arctic’s Garet Grzadzielewski. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

There is some seriously GREAT racing that happens in the smaller 85-hp classes. For instance, during Saturday's Expert 85 class competition, Garet Grzadzielewski set the fastest four-lap time of 46:38.

But get this: the top five riders (Ryan Weidemann, Ross Ilstrup, David Wandschneider and Marty Feil) were separated by a mere 20 seconds!

 

Master, legend and el tigre: Gary Tintes at Pine Lake

Nine vintage racers took to the Pine Lake course on Saturday. Gary Tintes won the (ahem) Vintage Legends class aboard his sweet '79 El Tigre Cross-Country. I won't mention that Gary was the only person in the class...

 

Team Arctic’s Gerry Mattison. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

There's actually a whole contingent of racers on cross-country el tigres, including the Mattison family who, over the past couple years, have bought was seems like dozens of these machines.

Apparently when you have a fleet to choose from, it's easy to launch off the finish line jump with no regard for the rock-hard ice landing, as Gerry Mattison displays during his second-place finish in the regular Vintage class.

 

Team Arctic’s Lance Efteland. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

While a handful of classes raced only on Saturday, most were run both Saturday and Sunday, with total points determining the overall winner.

The Semi Pro class offered a great battle between three Team Arctic racers, including Lance Efteland (above) who set the fastest time in Saturday's event.

Based on what I observed and the conversations I had with several Team Arctic racers, the 2014 ZR6000 R Sno Pro race sled is fast and pretty much bulletproof so far this season. The racers had the machines sucked-down for Pine Lake, with around three inches of suspension travel.

 

Team Arctic's Jon Arneson

Jon Arneson finished just a half-second behind Efteland during Saturday's Semi Final race, and would go on to take second overall following Sunday's event.

Arneson logged a whole bunch of laps on Pine Lake, with excellent results. In addition to his second in Semi Pro, the ironman competitor took second in Masters 40 and over and first in Super Stock.

 

Team Arctic’s Semi Pro winner, Casey Pries. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Casey Pries proved to have just a little bit extra in the Semi Pro classes at Pine Lake, taking the overall win in both Semi Pro and Semi Pro Improved.

This will be just the second full season of racing for Pries, who hails from Townsend, Wis.

 

Team Arctic’s Jolene Bute. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Jolene Bute came to Pine Lake fresh off of a 10-day stint as a test rider for an Arctic Cat photo shoot in Wyoming. She finished third overall in the Women's class.

 

Arctic Cat ATV engineer Joe Wood.

A couple of notable points to make about this photo: First, the guy with the swanky style is Joe Wood, who in addition to being last year's defending champ in the Vintage class, also happens to be an ATV engineer at Arctic Cat.

The second point of interest is that Wood is racing the Arctic Cat ZR6000 RR consumer sled, albeit in Semi Pro rather than in the new USXC Super Stock class.

Super Stock is the brainchild of USXC owner Brian Nelson, who is trying very hard to move the entire circuit class structure to consumer-available race sleds that have EFI, oil-injection and much better resale opportunity. The idea is to bring greater availability and affordability to cross-country.

USXC's plan for the 2015 Winnipeg-to-Willmar I-500 race is to run Super Stock machines. I'm hoping this year's experiment with Super Stock proves successful.

By the way, in his first ever race on a modern sled, Wood threw down a respectable 15th and 21st in the two Semi Pro finals despite his 5-10 horsepower handicap. Nice job, Joe!

 

Arctic Cat engineer Blake Shoh.

Blake Shoh is another Arctic Cat engineer who's taking a stab at racing a stock, production machine in the Semi Pro class, albeit a ZR7000. Shoh is one of the Engine Dept. engineers who works on the Yamaha-powered Arctic Cat sleds.

 

Arctic Cat engineers Andy Olson, Mark Esala and Brian Harris

As long as I'm on the subject of Arctic Cat engineers... here's a shot of Andy Olson (Snowmobile Engine engineer), Mark Esala (ATV/UTV Lead Engineer) and Brian Harris (ATV suspension engineer). These guys were hanging out, observing, cheering and learning.

 

Arctic Cat engineer Lynn Berberich.

Ditto for snowmobile Lead Project engineer Lynn Berberich...

 

Team Arctic's Kirk Hibbert, Ron Black and Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...and for engineers Kirk Hibbert (left) and Ron Black (middle), shown here talking with Team Arctic's Wes Selby (who is also now working for the snowmobile engineering department).

I often get asked why Arctic Cat achieves so much success in racing. There are several reasons for the brand's excellence, including the fact that company engineers are at the races to learn, test and brainstorm.

Racing is so deeply embedded in Arctic Cat's culture and DNA that it continues to overachieve in all forms of racing, against brands with deeper pocketbooks.

Anyway... that's a good topic that I'll explore in its own post some other time.

Right now I want to talk about the incredible Pro 600 stock racing at Pine Lake.

 

2013 USXC Pine Lake cross-country. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The format for the Pro 600 class included a 2-lap qualifying run on Saturday that determined the starting order for that day's 10-lap final. Riders were scored on points for their finishing position, which were combined with the points from another 10-lap final on Sunday.

Above is the start of the second-wave in Saturday's 10-lap final, with Team Arctic's Brian Dick on the right and Wes Selby next to him (as well as Justin Tate and Corey Davidson).

Christian Brothers Racing/Team Arctic pro Zach Herfindahl had set the fastest qualifying time and was in the first flight.

The start would prove absolutely critical because of the crazy snow dust and limited visibility during Saturday's event.

 

Team Arctic Cat/Christian Bros. Racing pro Brian Dick. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Team Arctic Cat/Christian Bros. Racing pro Brian Dick. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A few laps into Saturday's final, it was clear the front-runners were Selby, Herfindahl, Polaris's Gabe Bunke (who got the holeshot in the first wave and the benefit of perfect visibility) and Brian Dick (above).

With Herfindahl stuck in Bunke's snowdust, both Selby and Dick were clicking the most consistently fast lap times. Neither Bunke nor Herfindahl were too far off the times being set by Selby and Dick, and everyone knew the mandatory pit stop might eventually affect the outcome.

What nobody expected, however, was a heartbreaking burndown for Dick with three laps to go. Ouch!

Consequently, he chose not to race Sunday's final.

 

Team Arctic’s Wes Selby and Roger Skime. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

When the 10 laps were completed, Wes Selby claimed the lowest time for the day at 1:17:54. Herfindahl squeaked by Bunke on the last lap to finish 10 seconds behind Selby.

After crossing the finish line, Selby was greeted by a huge bear hug from Arctic Cat's Roger Skime.

Selby was VERY close to winning a couple Pro 600 classes last year in USXC. If he could finish ahead of the pack again on Sunday, he'd take his first career victory in this highly competitive class.

It would all depend on Sunday's 10-lap final.

 

 

2013 USXC Pine Lake cross-country. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Sunday morning was bright but bitterly cold, with temps as low as -30 F. When the first of several classes ran that morning, snow dust hung in the air over the entire lake. Visibility was less than 100 feet in some places.

Many racers just backed off the pace while a few chose to simply not race.

As the day wore on, however, the temperature rose to 0 degrees which, combined with a little wind and the cloud-free conditions, made conditions pretty good for the last event of the day: the Pro 600 final.

Moments before the final, Corey Berberich warmed up Herfindahl's sled (left) while Ron Black readied Selby's machine. There was definitely nervous tension flowing through the staging area.

 

Team Arctic’s Zach Herfindahl and Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

On the start, Herfindahl edged Selby to the first few gradual corners. But when they came to the first hard left-hander, Selby came up the inside and laid down a nice love-tap to take the lead.

The move underscored Selby's intentions.

Then, a couple miles into the first lap, Selby blew a corner and rolled his sled, handing the lead over to Herfindahl. Selby remounted quickly, still in second place and about 10 seconds behind Herfindahl.

 

Team Arctic’s Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Selby quickly regained his composure. For the next handful of laps, he and Herfindahl ran lap times within a couple seconds of each other.

 

Team Arctic Cat/Christian Bros. Racing pro Zach Herfindahl. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Yet if we're talking composure, nobody had more of it than Herfindahl. With his characteristically smooth style, the 17-year old, second-year pro delivered a stunning display of calmness, coolness and BLAZING speed.

To my veteran eyes, he appears completely unflappable... in total and complete control.

 

Team Arctic’s Chad Lian. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

As the battle for first positioned waged just ahead, Team Arctic's Chad Lian found an extra gear and began knocking off some very fast laps. With an 8th in Saturday's final, he needed to make a strong move if he wanted any chance of cracking the podium.

And move he did... eventually taking a fourth (and sixth overall)!

 

Team Arctic’s Jordan Torgerson. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Likewise, Team Arctic's Jordan Torgerson was also throwing down fast, consistent laps. He would combine a 7th and 5th for a very solid 4th place overall for the weekend.

 

Yamaha's Corey Davidson. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Thanks to the partnership with Arctic Cat, Yamaha now has a competitive stock machine for the Pro 600 class.

Corey Davidson looked good on Saturday, finishing 5th in the final. He looked even better on Sunday, running times that would have put him in fourth until a broken suspension component ended his day on the ninth lap.

 

Team Arctic’s Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

As the laps began winding down, the battle for the win remained between Herfindahl, Selby (above) and Bunke.

Unfortunately for Selby, however, the hope of winning deteriorated quickly as his hands began to freeze. And when he forgot to run into the pit stop, the required circle-back-through-the-pits maneuver added enough time that he finished third for the day and second overall.

 

Team Arctic Cat/Christian Bros. Racing pro Zach Herfindahl. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Meanwhile, Herfindahl was unfazed and on-fire. He set the fastest lap of the day as well as the most consistent lap times to take the win and the overall victory for the weekend.

 

Team Arctic’s Zach Herfindahl and Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Herfindahl (left) and Selby congratulated each other at the finish. There's a lot of racing yet to come this season from these two, which I'm absolutely pumped to watch.

 

Zach Herfindahl and Christian Bros. Racing. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After his win, Zach poses with his parents and the Christian Brothers Racing team. Seriously, I think I saw Zach smile three times. He's so laidback and humble!

 

Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After the final Team Arctic Race Manager got on his phone, presumably to put in a request for additional race contingency budget. With the number of wins that Team Arctic racers are taking this season, Mike's contingency account will need plenty of restocking.

Congrats to all the racers who competed at Pine Lake. I'll see you again at the next race in Detroit Lakes on Jan. 4.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (21):

Dulpher says:
12/17/2013 2:54:00 PM

Seeing Team Arctic win sure makes a guy proud to own a Cat! Way to go guys!!!!
Derek Elias says:
12/17/2013 3:08:00 PM

Way to AC, total terrain domination again. AC might as well steal that slogan away from Polaris. Good job to all racers who entered and raced. Nice looking ZR's man.
Mark Pieper says:
12/17/2013 7:27:00 PM

Thanks for making the trip and braving the cold. I really enjoy reading your stories and appreciate the race reports and great photos. Thanks again.
Cathead12 says:
12/17/2013 8:35:00 PM

What's with the old saddle style skis on Selby's sled?
RacerX8 says:
12/17/2013 8:53:00 PM

It's ridiculous at how good Herf is at such a young age, It is sure gonna be fun to watch this guy during his career!
taperk600 says:
12/17/2013 9:50:00 PM

Thanks for the report John, great as always ! Congrats to all of the Cat racers also... great weekend. I'm happy to have heard the new 600 consumer sleds did very well on their debut. Looking forward to more positive results from the new power plant.
Ryan W says:
12/18/2013 7:53:00 AM

Great story John! Friday morning at the track we were working on dropping the sled down and Christian Bros. were doing what I assumed were jetting runs out on the radar run track with the open sleds. At -5 and dead calm, the screaming from those 600's was the prettiest sound I've heard since the F1 race I went to back in the 00's at Indianapolis. It was good to see you and hopefully Cal is all rested up for D.L.!!
I Bleed Green! says:
12/18/2013 10:17:00 AM

Herfindahl is the Hibbert of Cross country. Scary smooth..... I love watching cross country racing, especially in the cold. The Cat race sled is outstanding, and scary fast, the new 6000 ctec looked good from what I could tell, the four strokes are still a little behind, but catching up no doubt.

Its gonna be fun to watch the battles this s year.
DGM says:
12/22/2013 7:00:00 PM

Vintage racing is a real challenge; You gotta love wrenching on 30+ year old machines!

To quote Brian Nelson at the 2013 I-500 Awards banquet; "Seeing the Vintage Class take off from the 7 Clans Casino; GLAD I was WATCHING"

Go Team Mattison!
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Joy says:
10/9/2015 2:32:00 AM

Late commenting here Dean, but I was glad you coerved this. Like most people 'of a certain age' I followed snooker very closely in the 80s (I even played a lot, quite poorly) but rarely watch it now.I always thought O'Sullivan was basically a good sort; a bit mixed-up but a decent bloke. This makes me think I misjudged him. The game would be better off without him if this is representative of his attitude.I didn't hear Hearn's comments, but they don't surprise me. While not everyone's cup of tea, he's a man of integrity who's been around snooker since before the boom years and genuinely wants the best for the sport. He fronted up really well in the media after the John Higgins story broke, and it sounds like he did the same here. I hope that he really would be prepared to show O'Sullivan the door if he felt it was necessary.
Joy says:
10/9/2015 2:32:00 AM

Late commenting here Dean, but I was glad you coerved this. Like most people 'of a certain age' I followed snooker very closely in the 80s (I even played a lot, quite poorly) but rarely watch it now.I always thought O'Sullivan was basically a good sort; a bit mixed-up but a decent bloke. This makes me think I misjudged him. The game would be better off without him if this is representative of his attitude.I didn't hear Hearn's comments, but they don't surprise me. While not everyone's cup of tea, he's a man of integrity who's been around snooker since before the boom years and genuinely wants the best for the sport. He fronted up really well in the media after the John Higgins story broke, and it sounds like he did the same here. I hope that he really would be prepared to show O'Sullivan the door if he felt it was necessary.
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