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HomeRacingUSXC Update: Laying the Foundation for the Winnipeg-to-Willmar I-500

USXC Update: Laying the Foundation for the Winnipeg-to-Willmar I-500

It’s been a busy summer for the crew at USXC Racing as they lay a successful foundation for the upcoming Winnipeg to Willmar I-500 cross-country.

Occasionally Brian Nelson, USXC director, sends me an email with updates on their progress (and the considerable work required).

Here is a pared-down list of some of what’s happened the past few months, all in Brian’s words:


Thursday, May 1

– After work I drove to Staples, Minn., to figure out how to get over the bridge and through town. Looks like it will work out well. Just need to find a better way from Staples back to Verndale. 


The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country. 

Friday, May 2

-8:00 am, met with a potential sponsor in Brainerd. Looks promising!

-Met with folks at DRIFT clothing, set up next year’s clothing and sponsor package (they have been great to work with plus the product is terrific, we never get cold!!) 

-Drove to Thief River Falls, at 2:30 pm met with Mike Kloety (Team Arctic Race Director). Went over rules and our package with the race shop, went very well!

-5:30 pm went to the groomer shed in Warren, Minn. Bundled and loaded 900 course markers for drop off in Winnipeg (photo above).  

-7:00 pm met with Lonnie Thompson and went over a test timing session for Saturday


The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country.

Saturday, May 3

-9:00 am, met with the mayor of Karlstad, went very well, they are we are going through town, went over the route in town.  

-10:00 am, met with the Polaris dealer in Lancaster. They are happy to help us get through town.

-11.00 am, met with operations manager at Pembina Border/Customs. Figured out the best lanes to use going through U.S. Customs. Found a location behind Customs to get thru the fence into the fields for route to Pembina. Customs has been very cooperative! 

They say it will go better if the racers get a RFID card, they have a scanner ahead of inspection so they will know who you are before you get in the port. The racers should have a zippered pocket on the top left of the jacket, then the scanner will pick up the chip faster. The racers will have to take their helmet off to be identified.

-2:30 pm met Blair Bodley at the Red River Co-op Speedway, did a test email (of what would be racer’s start times, like we will do during the race) to Lonnie Thompson, our key timing leader, in TRF. Needed a North American WiFi hot spot to make it work. Tried to do a test race but the laptop wouldn’t recognize the decoder! Have to try it again. Dam computers!! I need an 8 year old along to help!! 

Left the 900 markers at the Speedway. Figured out how to set up staging etc.

-8:30 pm, drove back to TRF met with Lonnie to figure out the decoder issue. Stumped both of us. Went home to Spicer where it’s nicer! Arrived home at 2:30 am. Whew! There you go, typical weekend of a race director.

 The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country.


Friday, June 6

-Went north to work on the I-500.

-8:00 am, proof course maps at print shop

-9:30 am, Starbuck, Minn., city office meeting 

-10:30 am Lowry city office,  check HWY 27 ditch from Interstate 94 to the Lake Mary public access.

-11:00 am Douglas County sheriff, left map and course info etc… Also dropped maps and course info at the Law enforcement class at the vocational school. 

-1:30 pm  Parkers Prairie, Minn., met with police chief and local newspaper. Checked the HWY 210 ditch from Bertha to Staples. Not good, need different route, will use trail.

Contact Bernie Munn, Todd County groomer operator, suggested a route on trail and fields north of 210.  

-3:30 pm, met with Staples city office and Staples police chief, went over route through town and bridge use. Went to Staples newspaper, got contacts. 

-4:30 pm, check new route north out of Staples back to Cty RD 23.  Looked good.


The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country.

Friday, June 20

-Headed north again, looking at routes through towns and the best ditch options.

– Former I-500 race director Paul English found their old fueling manifold (above) in a shed on a farm by Middle River. Appears to be in excellent shape, still had gas in it! We can use it.

They fueled from the bottom of the fuel truck tanks, gravity feed, no pressure. We’re going to change it to run off the pressure side of the pump.  It will fuel up to 20 sleds at one time if you hooked it all up, but we’re going to set up for 12 sleds.  

-Drove through Pembina, TRF, etc. Got permission from the land owner in Lake George to use the ATV trail through his woods. 

-Found a location for the fuel stop at Pembina truck stop and how to route the sleds to it. Talked to Ron Fritz in Pembina to get the Fire Dept. to run the fuel system. Going to use 91 octane ethanol enriched fuel. (fewer water problems).

-Talked to a guy in Lake Bronson about going through that town, he is going to get straw bales for the markers on main street. His name is Kevin Braget, an old racer! That part of the country is full of them. Said he was a Polaris racer, we knew a lot of the same people. So many people willing to help us have ties to the old race, it’s been refreshing, energizing and very helpful.


 The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

-Made another trip up north. Met with town officials in Lancaster and Pembina. Did a second email test of the race package from the Red River Co-op Speedway to Lonnie in TRF. Went to Winnipeg set up a simulated race at the speedway, used my international WiFi hot spot.

Started a race then put it into an attachment and e mailed it to Lonnie, then drove to TRF and ran the transponder across another finish line set up in Lonnies yard…It worked!! Yeah!

This was a big concern: how to get the race info from Winnipeg to TRF after it was started. Felt like a victory.

-Met the Polaris dealer Lancaster, great guy, offered to do whatever he could to help.

-Met with another businessman in Pembina, he also offered to do whatever he could. Looked at the race route going thru St. Vincent, going to use the dike to get to the ditch instead of private property. That must have built those things for race courses, right?! They’re federal so we own part of them!  

-Purchased another sound system for second trailer and another FM transmitter. Need to get antennas on trailer next. 

-Mailed out packets to every snowmobile club with the new map of the route. Asked for a letter of invite from each one.

-Ran into a guy at the Cenex in Gully, Minn., said he worked in Engineering at Cat in the ‘70s! He was excited, said he would do whatever he could to help. Name was Rick.

-Stopped at Bryan Dyrdahl’s bar in Leonard, Minn. His sister said he was home with a bad back, is doing therapy (but that it didn’t have anything to do with his racing).

He is the only 5-time winner of the I-500, would love to see him on the starting line at this year’s race.

The USXC Racing crew prepares for the 2015 I-500 cross-country.

Plus, as always, we’ve been working on the trailers, adding windows, replacing worn items, packing bearings, painting, etc… Ditto working on our Bearcat snowmobile. And always have markers to sort and organize.

It probably sounds like work, and it is, but with the phone calls we’re getting and the energy others’ are bringing, it’s all feeling good.

Best of all are the many phone calls from people who have never raced before, but want to test themselves. This race has always inspired that in people, good to see it from this end.

All these photos I’m sending show our world in the summer, but it will be cold and snowy before we know it. Can’t wait!

Take care, talk to you soon.




  1. What am amazing amount of work and planning that need to be done to get this going. I had no idea! Bringing back the race is a great idea! Too bad I don’t live closer.

  2. The entire USXC schedule looks great this year. Great venues, with nice long courses. A little bit of everything, but more traditional, old school XC racing than has been around in decades. Now if we can just get some snow……..

  3. WOW atleast it will be the first time I don’t have to drive eight hours for a race should be great keep up the good work

  4. I can’t believe I’m saying this as a Canadian but I wonder if they have considered starting the race on the U.S. side of the border. It seems like a ton of work and redtape for the organizers and racers to run for the 60 miles in Canada. I realize the idea is to run the race as it originated but doesn’t seem worth the hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and followed the race as a kid religiously.JMHI.

  5. I’m so happy that this race has been reborn, I’m a vintage sled enthusiast and love everything about the I-500. My goal is to come run the 500 on a 1979 El Tigre cross country next year. Now I just need to find one. Thank you Brian and everyone that’s made this possible.


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