The first true ditch-and-river cross-country of the USXC cross-country season went down at the Oslo Merchants 100 in Oslo, Minn., this past weekend.
Arctic Cat’s domination of the lake races led many to speculate that, perhaps, the tide would turn when the sleds hit the rough world of real cross-country.
Well…nothing changed. Arctic Cat racers and crews crushed it (again), winning 17 of 20 class finals including eight sweeps of the podium.
While there hadn’t been a lot of snow in Northwestern Minnesota prior to the race, what had fallen had miraculously blown into the 25 miles of ditch and river that comprised the race course.
Seriously, the ditches were mostly full and, with 217 entries (and plenty of pre-race running), the course was outstanding, rough and an absolute blast.
I rode it with my son the day before the race (and in the race), and both of us agreed it was outstanding fun, thanks to the endless bumps and soft snow conditions.
With my son racing I didn’t get a chance to shoot pix of all the classes, however, I did capture some. Here’s Junior Girls 10-15 race winner Mayce Brodehl coming in Oslo.
Cole Lian has been ripping it up all season in the Expert 85 class. He shaved 10 seconds off the two-lap time of old-but-very-experienced Chad Dyrdahl to win in Oslo.
The Classic IFS class hasn’t produced the number of entries that I predicted it would, but it has produced some great examples of awesome Arctic Cat racers from the 1990s. On the left is Brad Naplin, who won in Oslo. On the right is Michael Mattison, who didn’t finish. Dang!
It’s great to see Adam Mach flying high again this season. Mach’s dad, Pat, resurrected cross-country racing with the USCC circuit and kept it growing until his untimely death in the late winter of 2011.
Nathan Moritz is no stranger to cross-country, but he hasn’t landed atop the podium for awhile. He was smokin’-fast at Oslo, winning the Semi Pro 600 class.
Erik Bute was also flying at Oslo, taking a fourth in Semi Pro 600.
It’s true that some racers are better on the lake while others excel in the ditch.
A resident of Oslo, Cody Kallock was clearly comfortable launching off any of the bajillion whoops that comprised the course. Cody took seventh in Pro 600 and eighth in Pro Open.
Wes Selby continues to prove that he’s a top talent on any given weekend. Fifth in Pro 600.
Brian Dick came into Oslo having won three of the past four USXC Pro finals. Battling the flu, Brian wasn’t quite up to his normal pace this weekend yet still toughed it out to finish third in Pro 600 and fourth in Pro Open.
Sixteen-year-old sensation Zach Herfindahl continues to defy the script, which said that once the racing came off the lakes that he’d struggle to mainting his top-3 pace.
Why was that the script? Growing up in Eagle River, Wis., Herfindahl hasn’t enjoyed a lifetime of ditch riding like most of his competitors. And with less than two full season of racing (in which there have been less than a handful of ditch races), it’s not like he’s had race experience in the ditch to bring himself up to speed.
Didn’t matter though, as Zach once again pounced on the opportunity to shine, taking second place in Pro 600 (and fifth in Open).
Look for a full-blown interview here with Zach in the coming months.
The fastest guy on the weekend was Zach’s Christian Brothers Racing teammate, Ryan Simons.
Ryan pounding through a ditch is a fairly mind-blowing sight, as he RARELY lets off on the throttle.
When he started the day at Oslo by winning the 2-lap Pro Open class by more than a minute, it seemed pretty clear that the 4-lap Pro 600 class would be his too.
Indeed it was, as Simons ran a near-perfect race (he did actually get stuck on the first lap, which required him to get off his sled to get unstuck) to win by more than a minute-and-a-half over Herfindahl.
This was the second time this season that Simons won both Pro classes at a USXC race.
The next cross-country of the season is the I-500, where I expect some great racing drama between Simons, Dick and Herfindahl. Of course the I-500 is infamous for wrecking havoc on the supposed favorites.
Which is why I’ll be there covering the action next week!
Congrats to all the racers who competed in Oslo!
And thanks for reading.