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Olympian wins Owl Creek ski

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Brian Gregg of Minneapolis smiles as he finishes the 2016 Owl Creek Chase on Sunday at the Aspen Golf Course. Runner-up Nils Koons nears the finish line.
Dale Strode / The Aspen Times |

U.S. Olympian Brian Gregg of Minneapolis won his third Owl Creek Chase cross country ski title in Aspen on Sunday.

Gregg, who won last year when the main event was a skate race, captured his first classic title in the annual Owl Creek Chase, a 21-kilometer course from Snowmass to Aspen.

Gregg edged ahead of Aspen’s Nils Koons, who finished a close second. A group of four skiers broke away and led for much of the race, including Koons and Gregg.

Koons, who works with the Aspen Valley Ski Club, won the 2014 classic Owl Creek Chase, which also finished at the Aspen Golf Course.

Gregg, 31, won Sunday under a cloudy sky in 56 minutes and change.

Aspen Valley Ski Club Nordic coach Maria Stuber won the women’s 21K classic Sunday, her first Owl Creek Chase title.

“The snow was pretty tricky,” Stuber said after accepting congratulations in the finish area Sunday morning. “We had a massive panic wax at the start. It was crazy. We switched from hard wax to klister about 20 minutes before the start.”

The changing temperature conditions overnight and early Sunday morning forced dramatic wax changes by the classic skiers.

“I love panic waxing,” Stuber said. “It did work. My kick was good … most of the time, which is all you can ask.”

She said the course was particularly challenging as they crossed Buttermilk.

And the light under heavy clouds was flatter than Kansas.

“Coming across the Tiehack bridge was pretty terrifying,” Stuber said of the course that took the skiers down the bridge and eventually under Highway 82 at the roundabout for the finish at the Aspen Golf Course.

Gregg, making his annual training trek to Colorado, used the Owl Creek Chase as preparation for the American Birkebeiner, scheduled for next week in Wisconsin.

The 2014 U.S. Olympic cross country skier faced a much smaller field Sunday, when he led the 75-skier pack to Aspen.

Next week, he’ll race among 10,000 skiers in the Birkebeiner, a 55-kilometer classic ski from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.

“It was a little tricky today,” Gregg said. “It was freezing and getting warm and freezing again.”

He said he and the other race leaders went to a klister-hard wax mix.

“We had a lot of double-poling,” Gregg said of the challenging conditions for cross country racing.

He said that he and Koons broke from the lead pack of four, and they were away by themselves on the tracks at the Aspen Golf Course.

Gregg poled across the finish line with Koons just few yards behind.

He will go from the Birkebeiner to World Cup cross country events scheduled in Canada.

“This is wonderful cross country skiing, and it’s always great to be here,” Gregg said.

Results are available online at owlcreekchase.com.

The event was sponsored by the AVSC and Aspen Parks and Recreation.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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