Friday, March 1, 2019

Road trip - Part 2 - The Gatineau Loppet

     The Gatineau Loppet previously known as the Riviere Rouge, Gatineau 55 and the Keskinada Loppet has been held since 1979, and has been part of the Worldloppet since then.  There are 20 Worldloppet races, and the Gatineau is the only Worldloppet event in Canada.  The Gatineau Loppet is a two day event, with eight courses ranging from 2 km to 51 km in both the skate and classic techniques.   The 51 km race course is a point to point race that takes you through the rich forests and lakes, the escarpment and the parkways of Gatineau Park.  There are six feeding stations all along the route where volunteers serve up hot drinks and food to the competitors. 51 km competitors are bused to a start line and finish behind the Mont-Bleu High School.  The shorter races all start and finish at the field next to school.
     Our small group of Downtown Nordickers arrived in Ottawa Thursday evening with plenty of time to explore Ottawa and rest up before the weekend Loppet.  We spent Friday resting our legs and visited the interesting Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, before picking up our Loppet race kits and visiting the ski expo on Friday night.
The skiers enjoying the various planes
     The race kit pick up and expo are normally held at Mont-Bleu high school.  However due to a tornado that struck the school and area last summer, the school is still damaged and closed.  Thus the race headquarters was moved next door to the Cegep de l'Outaouais- Gabrierlle Roy Campus.  After registering and/or picking up our race kits, we enjoyed visiting the various booths set up by ski shops and ski manufacturers displaying the latest in outdoor and ski technology.
     The classic races are held on Saturday, while the skate events are held on Sunday.  We all had a great time cheering and representing Downtown Nordic in our various events.  The competition was strong but friendly and welcoming.  The portions of the route that follow the parkway have gradual climbs and descents.  However, when the route enters the narrower trails that run through the forests, we found the skiing technically challenging.  Luckily, the trails were not very icy so it was easy to steer through the steep, curving downhills. 
Stig on the Parkway in the 27 km skate event

Gyula helping Ben hold up his skis following the 51 km skate event.
     The event is very well organized, with lots of friendly volunteers, well groomed and challenging trails, and likely the best post-race meal we have ever experienced.  For all non French speakers, not to worry, there are plenty of english speaking folks to help you through the event.  The event is not overwhelmingly large, so there is lots of room for you to spread out inside before and after the race, and you can register up until the day of the event, making for a pretty relaxed race atmosphere.  We are already planning to return to this wonderful event in the coming years.