News & Stories

Loppet Festival Recap

This was not your ordinary Loppet Weekend!

The venues changed. The times changed. The distances changed. The difficulty level changed. The Comcast Luminary Loppet even changed from a primarily skiing event to a walking-only event.

But one thing remained the same: the community spirit that makes the City of Lakes Loppet great. Volunteers and staff turned on a dime. Participants rolled with the changes. And in the end the community spirit more than saved the weekend; it might have made the 2015 Loppet weekend among the best ever.

Many events sold out and/or had record attendance. The Comcast Luminary Loppet actually sold out . . . twice – once when it was going to be primarily a skiing course and again after it was converted to a walking-only course. The Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament sold out. The Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet sold out. And the Finn Sisu Sprints, Puoli Loppets and Minne-Loppet saw record attendance!

Some Race Highlights

The races themselves offered drama at all levels.

Chuck & Dog’s Skijoring Loppet

Orono’s Dallas Johnson and his dog Comet Johnson duked it out with Duluth’s Sierra Anderson and her dog Ajax and Wisconsin’s Rich Kissellhoff and his dog Pasha in the Chuck & Dog’s One-Dog Skijoring National Championships. There were four lead changes in the last kilometer alone. The Johnsons and the Anderson/Pasha team finally dropped Kisselhoff and Pasha when Pasha balked at the final wall – about 300 meters from the finish. The two remaining teams were neck and neck coming down the home stretch.

“Comet is a more tactical dog,” noted Johnson, “he took the lead by taking the corner perfect on the last turn into the stadium and we held it from there.”. In the end the Johnsons won by two tenths of a second – just edging out Anderson and Ajax. They will battle it out again on Sunday in the Chuck & Don’s Two-Dog National Championships World Championships.

Minne Tour

The Loppet Minne Tour – a grueling combination of the Finn Sisu Sprints, the Hoigaard’s Classic and the Loppet Skate Marathon – was very exciting this year. Torin Koos, a four-time Olympian from Salt Lake City, Utah, won the Finn Sisu Sprints handily on Friday evening, earning himself a two-minute time bonus. Koos and multi-year Loppet champion Matt Liebsch of Orono battled it out in the five-lap Hoigaard’s Challenge, weaving in and out skiers that they lapped. In the end Liebsch edged out Koos by just one second, an impressive finish considering he fell during the Finn Sisu Sprints and injured his shoulder, and Koos is known to be an exceptional classic skier.

Going into the Skate race on Sunday Liebsch was 1:29 down – a seemingly insurmountable margin given that the Skate race was only 12 kilometers long. But Liebsch gave the crowds something to cheer for. Liebsch took the pace out hard from the beginning and at the top of the tubing hill climb into the upper stadium fans told him that he had opened up a lead on Koos. “I kept pressing from there,” and pretty soon I was getting bigger and bigger splits from the fans.”

The cheering section was amazed at Matt’s prowess. “He V-2ed all the way up the tubing hill and even V-2ed up the ‘wall’ on the Maintenance Loop,” commented Mindy Benton afterward. “It was awe inspiring!”

In the end Liebsch crossed the line one minute and 51 seconds in front of Erik Fagerstrom to win the Skate Marathon crown. He erased Koos’ lead and stole the $1500 in prize money from him.

Liebsch loved the atmosphere, describing it as “a great winter party with Surly and REI.” He particularly liked the s’mores-making station at the Whole Foods booth. He was surprised that all-organic s’mores were as tasty as they were.

Liebsch remarked, “I was pumped that the race even happened – and that we have Wirth Park. It’s a great hilly course, and the course stayed very skiable even with that many events.”

On the women’s side, defending Minne Tour champion Natalya Naryshkina (35:59) led the field by more than two minutes. Sarah Daniels, 23, of Savage finished in second place with a time of 37:29 while Jan Guenther, 55, of Long Lake finished in third place with a time of 37:47. As the winner of all three events, Naryshkina dominated the Minne-Tour finishing with a time of 1:18:30. DeWahl placed second in the Minne-Tour with a total time of 1:27:51; Guenther rounded out the podium with a 1:29:10 total time.

Puoli Loppet Skate Female

Ashley Herman, 18, Duluth, 28:45
Elizabeth Paddock, 33, Missoula, MT, 29:30
Kira Peterson, 25, Minneapolis, 30:01
Kristin Smith, 51, Minneapolis, 30:45
Brittney Dorn, 19, Rogers, 32:37
Allison Hannon, 32, Minneapolis, 32:45
Jeannette Sample, 34, Minneapolis, 32:55
Heidi Loosen, 28, Minneapolis, 33:02
Greta Danielson, 21, St. Cloud, 33:04
Karen Katz, 27, St. Paul, 33:37

Puoli Loppet Skate Male

Mark Herman, 50, Duluth, 25:58
Ethan Holdahl, 21, Minneapolis, 27:19
Michael Laraia, 18, Houlton, Wisc., 27:29
John Garrett, 61, Hayward, 29:35
Peter Cornell, 31, Minneapolis, 30:07
Bradley Sipley, 30, Minneapolis, 30:16
Soren Davidson, 12, Minneapolis, 30:32
Frank Lederle, 62, Edina, 30:38
William Prouty, 35, St. Paul, 30:50
Jeff Johnson, 55, White Bear Lake, 31:11

Loppet Challenge Age Class Results

In the Loppet Challenge competitors must complete both the back-to-back Hoigaard’s Challenge and Loppet Skate races. Nearly 150 racers completed the Loppet Challenge. Below are the age-class results for the 2015 Loppet Challenge:

Under 19
Sydney Bramer, 1:39:17
Jenny Aarons, 2:00:17
Maddie Ames, 2:05:53

Tyler Gilbert, 1:14:25
Jared Grootwassink, 1:20:37
Zach Dietz, 1:29:59

Ingrid Leask, 1:30:04
Kim Lidstone, 1:41:36

Erik Fagerstrom, 1:10:45
John Wessling, 1:10:47
Jake Morgan, 1:17:08

Kathleen DeWahl, 1:27:51
Elspeth Ronnander, 1:39:19
Allie Rykken, 1:40:53

Cory Ellertson, 1:14:17
Chris Harvey, 1:17:03
Matt Nistler, 1:22:37

Natalia Naryshkina, 1:20:30
Andrea Williams, 2:19:33

Matt Liebsch 1:05:44
Torin Koos 1:08:20
Chris Pappathopoulos 1:12:09

Emily Johnson 1:51:25
Malwina Caban 2:13:29

Joseph Bettendorf 1:17:11
Fred Kueffer 1:17:48
Kurt Holtze 1:40:08

David Nelson 1:21:49
Allan Shuros 1:26:21
Eric Brandt 1:32:32

Craig Stolen 1:21:07
Peter Hanson 1:22:31
Jey Carlson 1:24:52

Lynne Cecil 1:33:56
Nancy Rova 1:44:51
Mindy Benton 1:45:07

Corey Brinkema 1:20:30
Thomas Ajax 1:34:02
David Lombardo 1:34:11

Jan Guenther 1:29:25
Katherine Ellis 1:36:32

Mike Brumbaugh, 1:28:50
David Byrne, 1:43:42
Reid Gilbertson, 1:45:31

David Christopherson, 1:25:20
Greg Klave, 1:37:27
Jack Cheesebro, 1:41:01

Peter Dorsen, 1:52:53