With temps hovering around the freezing mark, Saturday morning’s race course was fast and the competition hot in the 47th Slumberland American Birkebeiner, as an all-American field of skiers competed for the 45-kilometer Birkie skate championship and 26-kilometer Kortelopet title.
In this unique year, the annual Birkie ski race was completely modified from the traditional point to point race from the Birkie trailhead near Cable to downtown Hayward.
This year the course featured a loop from Cable to Highway 00 on the Birkie Skate Trail, a U-turn onto the Birkie Classic Trail and a return to the Cable trailhead.
Johnny Hagenbuch, Ketchum, Idaho, and Alayna Sonnesyn, Plymouth, Minnesota, were the first elite skiers to cross the finish line in Saturday’s elite skate technique race.
The race finish was tight, as a trio of male skiers fought their way up the bridge crossing of the Birkie pedestrian tunnel, made a 180-degree right turn and sprinted 100 meters to the finish line.
Hagenbuch finished in 1:54:15,with Sam Woodmere of Ketchum, Idaho, seconds behind at1:54:18, and Tyler Kornfield of Anchorage, Alaska, taking the third podium spot with a time of 1:54:20.
In the women’s elite skate race, Alayna Sonnesyn of Plymouth, Minnesota, crossed the fish line in 2:06:45 to win her second Birkie skate title. Rosie Frankowski, Anchorage, Alaska, took second, just 0.4 second behind Sonnesyn. Five-time Birkebeiner skate champion Caitlin Gregg finished third in 2:08:17.
The2021 Slumberland American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet races wereunlike any found in any other yearwith no international competition; no spectators;no busing;no indoor gatheringor warm spaces, masking in the start/aid stations/finish zone; skiers needing to be self-reliant by transporting themselves to the start area, carrying their own energy needs and hydration vessels; social distancing in the start and finish areas; and an extensive list of safety protocols and measures in place for the safety of participants, volunteers, staff and the greater communities.
The 2021 Birkie continues on Sunday, Feb. 28, with Classic races in the Birkie, Kortelopet and 14K Prince Haakon.
Live streaming of the race begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, on Birkie.com or on the Birkie Facebook page.