Last week Team Arctic’s Midwest cross-country racers ended their 2015 USXC campaign in Warroad, Minn.
And what a season-ender it was!
With 14 class wins (out of 19 classes) and 39 of 57 podium finishes, the last race of the season mimicked pretty much all of the USXC races this year. A sea of green on the podiums washed whatever uncertainty there was regarding the move to truly stock-based snowmobiles for this season away.
I’d have to do some retrospective math, but my memory says this was as dominant as any XC season in the past decade.
So with sunny skies, warm temps and the relief that comes with the last race of the season, Warroad provided one of those extra-special vibes that was made all the better by another great team performance.
With two distinct loops for Saturday and Sunday combining lake, ditch and some river (each with enough snow to produce some truly spectacular flight time), Warroad provided what was just the third big-bump XC race of a season hampered by low snow.
Nathan Sillerud is one of the racers who excelled in the ditches of Warroad, winning Expert 85 Improved.
Ross Ilstrup is another racer who faired better in the rough than on the early season lake events, winning the Trail class.
Hunter Houle has stood atop the podium at pretty much every race this season except Thief River Falls. Battling an injured wrist that eventually ended his weekend, he was able to score a win in Jr. 14-17 before the wheels fell off the cart, so to speak.
I’m guessing that if Savannah Landrus makes the jump to Pro Women class next year, she’ll battle for victory with Jolene Bute.
At Warroad, Landrus won the Jr. Girls 14-17 class with a faster time than boys!
Rumors of Kawasaki reentering the snowmobile business were swirling around the pits in Warroad. Then things got really interesting when the wraps came off and this Invader emerged from the mist, piloted by a rider wearing a Polaris helmet.
I have to admit; Kawasaki makes the good times roll.
A nice battle played out all weekend in the Aged-Past-40 class between Todd Frischmon, Paul Grzadzielewski and Mike Dirkman. In the end, it was Dirkman (above) who took the win.
Three of the 14 Team Arctic wins at Warroad were scored by a Herfindahl, one of which was this guy, Blair Herfindahl, who achieved the honors in the Jr. 10-13 class.
A whole pile of Jr. boys are moving up to the next age category for next year, including Blair. It’s been a blast seeing the progression of these kids, but even more so their hanging out with each other at the races.
Mike Lenarz took the win in I-500, his first of the season. Congrats Mike!
Jolene Bute won her second Pro Women’s race in a row and third of the season, all of them coming in ditch events. She finished the season only a handful of points from winning the championship.
Much as I enjoy watching Jolene win, I’ve had even more fun watching the progression of her son, Jordan, in the Expert 85 class. He took second in Warroad.
Matt Feil didn’t win a class at Warroad (he did get a third in Sport), but he gets a photo this week because I missed getting a photo of him in last week’s TRF, where he did take a W.
Blending a sweet mix of speed and style, Brandon Wolter won both Sport 85 and Expert 85 in Warroad. I’m guessing he’s planning to move to a 600 ZR next season. If so, I’ll venture a guess that he’ll be battling for wins.
This was Ryan Trout’s first season in Semi Pro and on the Christian Brothers Racing team, both of which probably added a lot of pressure to the young, fast racer.
Admittedly someone who prefers ditch to lake races, Trout notched a bunch of top-10 finishes all season, progressively moving up in the results. At Warroad, it all came together and he scored a very, very big win in Semi Pro Stock.
When I saw him after the race, his expression was equal parts relief and joy.
The Semi Pro Stock class is probably the most competitive class in USXC, with five different winners at seven events this season. Finishing in the Top-10 is a huge accomplishment, winning is something extra-special. Congrats, Ryan!
One super-fast Semi Pro racer who didn’t win a Stock class this year was Timmy Kallock (although he would have taken the win in TRF had he signed up for it). Kallock did claim wins in Semi Pro Improved, however, including at Warroad.
In the Pro class, Wes Selby came into Warroad riding a wave of wins in XC and enduro, including a big victory at the TRF 300 a week prior. Only a few points separated him and teammate Zach Herfindahl in the points chase.
Selby was blazing fast in Warroad, taking a second in Open and third in Stock.
After the race, Selby was a bit bummed with some calibration decisions he’d made, and he was fired-up about wanting to race again this season and next. If I put a word to it, I’d say he’s ending this season hungry.
That’s what happens when you get a taste of winning…you want more.
Here he shares a laugh with Arctic Cat’s Roger Skime.
Speaking of hungry, Zach Herfindahl came into Warroad having gone nearly two months without winning a Pro Stock final, and he wasn’t happy about it.
He was hungry and ready to feast, and his remarkable performance in Warroad reflected it.
I’ve watched a lot of cross-country races since I started covering them 25 years ago. What I saw of Zach in Warroad was one of those very, very special performances that only happen once in a while. You could just see it in the way he rode, beginning the very first lap on Saturday and continuing throughout the weekend.
The only way I can describe it is when someone is so confident, intent and in a groove that they become an unstoppable force. Nothing was going to stop him, not even a blown belt halfway through the day on Sunday.
If you’ve seen THIS VIDEO I posted the other day, you know why Zach was not going to be denied at Warroad. It was his weekend.
By winning both Pro Open and Stock, Zach rebounded to take the championship title in each.
Except for the opening race at Pine Lake, Zach and Wes combined to win every Pro Stock race of the season in USXC. That’s pretty amazing.
In all, Team Arctic captured 15 of 20 class titles in USXC this season.
Congrats to everyone who competed in USXC this season, and to all the crew, family and friends who support them.
Thanks for reading.
Team Arctic 2015 USXC High Point Champions
Pro Stock: Zach Herfindahl
Pro Open: Zach Herfindahl
Semi Pro: Lance Efteland
Semi Pro Improved: Timmy Kallock
Expert 85: Jeremy Grove
Expert 85 Improved: Jeremy Grove
Masters 40: Mike Dirkman
Sport 85: Brandon Wolter
Trail: Ean Voigt
Vintage: Jesse Watland
Vintage 50 Plus: Gerry Mattison
Classic IFS: Steve Martinson
Jr. Girls 14-17: Savannah Landrus
Jr. 14-17: Hunter Houle
Jr. 10-13: Keaton Black
It was a great season! The most fun winter I’ve had in a long time. Thanks so much for writing the recaps every week John!! I always look forward to reading your take on the race. Big Thanks to Arctic Cat also…..I can’t imagine racing anything else. Those guys give so much support to their USXC racers from the sport classes all the way to pro. It’s gonna be a long summer…can’t wait for Pine Lake already.
That…….was fun. Thank you to everyone at AC that makes it happen!
Nice write up as always John. Glad to see the R-XC was a huge success this season and can’t wait to see the improvements trickle down to the trail sleds.
Congrats to all the racers on a season well raced !!