Hobbs wins 25k Tour of Anchorage ski race
Nome Nordic ski team racer Tobin Hobbs capped a weekend of big-city ski competition with a victory in the 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) division of the Tour of Anchorage on Sunday, March 8.
The Tour of Anchorage is the biggest ski competition in the state each year and offers three distinct distances (25, 40 and 50-kilometers). All the races start from different locations on the east side of Alaska’s largest city and end up at Kincaid Park.
Hobbs outraced all 247 of his 25k competitors by completing the course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 38 seconds. His nearly four-minute victory was all the more impressive, considering he had completed the two-day Alaska State Biathlon Championships the day before.
Hobbs posted the fastest overall combined time in the 15 to16-year-old class at the Kincaid Biathlon Range on Friday and Saturday. “The three days of racing tested the physical strengths of all the Nome athletes,” said Hobbs. “It was really cool to see our five athletes competing and doing so well against kids from Anchorage.” Nome Nordic racers Mallory Conger, Clara Hansen, Sarah Bahnke and Bethany Daniel also traveled to Anchorage with the team.
Conger posted the fastest Tour of Anchorage time of the Nome girls. She completed the course in 1:41:47 and had the fastest time in the 18 to 23-year-old female age class. Conger was the 11th female out of 102 to cross the finish line and the 40th racer overall.
“The Tour has many challenges, such as trying to pass people on narrow trails,” said Conger, “but the biggest challenge for me was trying to get around a moose that was blocking my way.”
Conger was the only girl to carry a nine-pound rifle during the biathlon championships. She was second among 15 to 18-year- old female biathletes even though her competitors placed their guns on a rifle rack after shooting. Her time on Saturday of 42:30 was 25 seconds, or the time to do one penalty loop, off first place
Clara Hansen’s Tour of Anchorage time of 1:50:51 led to a fifth place finish in the 15 to 16-year-old girls’ category. She was the 27th finisher among female racers and 72nd overall. Hansen placed third in her class at the biathlon championships. “The first 20K, from APU (Alaska Pacific University) to the Coastal Trail, is pretty flat and easy-going, but the last five-kilometer climb from the Mudflats to the Kincaid Park Chalet was brutal,” said Hansen as she described the 25k course. “There are some very steep sections, and the new snow made the conditions very soft.”
Sarah Bahnke was the youngest Nome Nordic competitor and the team’s only Tour of Anchorage rookie. She posted a 25k time of 1:54:07. Bahnke was the 32nd female to finish and 88th overall racer. She placed ninth in the 12 to 14-year-old girls’ category in the tour and took third place in the same class during the biathlon races. “The Tour of Anchorage was five times longer than any ski race I have ever participated in,” said Bahnke. “It was great being part of a huge ski community. There were hundreds of racers from around the state gathered at the Kincaid Chalet finish line.”
Bethany Daniel finished the Tour in 2:14:36. She was the 61st female to reach the chalet and 160th overall racer. Daniel was ninth in the 15 to 17-year-old girls’ class during the tour. She placed fifth in her age group during the biathlon races. “It is unique to be able to ski across a big city,” said Daniel of her Tour experience. “In order to avoid the heavily-trafficked roads that the trail crosses, we skied over walking bridges and went through several tunnels.”
This reporter, and Nome Nordic coach, raced the 25k Tour of Anchorage in a time of 1:40:11, as the 23rd male to cross the finish line and 31st overall racer, placing second in the 50 to 59-year-old category.
Nome Nordic biathletes Hobbs, Hansen and Daniel were using the trip south to prepare for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada. The Nome trio had qualified for Team Alaska’s biathlon squad during the Western Interior Ski and Biathlon Championships in White Mountain in the spring of 2019. Unfortunately, after Saturday’s biathlon race the athletes were informed that the Yukon Territories Minister of Health canceled the games as a Coronavirus precaution.
Unalakleet Team Alaska biathletes Autumn Nanouk and Johnny Soderstrum also attended the biathlon races at Kincaid Park with assistant coach Aly Daniels. Nanouk and Soderstrum placed second and ninth in their respective 12 to 14-year old categories.
This year a record eight of 16 Team Alaska biathlon spots for the Arctic Winter Games were earned by rural athletes. Five rural biathletes qualified for the Team Alaska biathlon squad in 2010.