Every time I see a JNQ scheduled for Mt. Itasca in January I know that I am in for a cold weekend. It is always brutally cold at this race venue. This was probably one of the first times that I can remember in a long time that the temperatures were rather pleasant. Itasca had great snow coverage, and temperatures were in the 20’s all weekend long. The only issue was it was really humid which can make finding the right amount of grip really tricky sometimes in classic races.
Saturday January 21st - Skate Individual Start
Before leaving for Itasca Max and I set up a glide out test for us to run a few products on Friday when we arrived to the venue to see where things were leaning. We picked out our paraffin guess, and then added three liquid toppers to see if that could speed up our melt-on wax. We went with Swix Marathon as the melt-on paraffin and then Star Next Medium Liquid, Rode RL Mid Liquid, and a new test product from Rex that we got our hands on.
- Swix Marathon +0
- Rode RL Mid +0
- Star Next Medium Liquid +5
- Rex Test Liquid +30
3 out of the 4 products were basically the same in our test. The only one that didn’t perform was the new test product which still needs some fine tuning. Because of these results we decided to use just Swix Marathon as our race wax and put more of our time focusing on structure application.
When testing structure it is sometimes better to run multiple smaller test, than 1 big test. This allows you some flexibility when it comes to selecting the correct tools or layering different hand structures on top of each other. I have mentioned before that we primarily use Red Creek Structure tools as they run in a wide variety of conditions and are extremely reliable tools.
We started off the test looking to see if we should look at some of the warmer tools or colder tools. The first test was just a simple 2 ski test running the +5/-5 vs. the -5/-15. The -5/-15 won so we ended up looking towards the lower end of the temperature spectrum for our next tests. I sent Max out to test the -5/-15 against the -5/-20 which is another great cold riller from Red Creek. In addition, I sent out another test with him that used the -5/-15 on just the back half of the ski. The results came back as the -5/-15 beating out the -5/-20 and the full ski feeling better than the half ski. The next test I sent Max out on was adding the 1mm linear tool on the back half of the ski on top of the -5/-15. In higher humidity conditions adding a light linear structure will oftentimes free up the ski and increase top speed. This indeed did help, but we had time and 1 more ski that I could play around with. The last test that I sent Max out on was layering a full pass -5/-15 + half pass -5/-15 + half pass 1mm linear. This ended up being our winning option for the day and all the kids came back raving about their skis!
Sunday January 22nd - Classic Mass Start
This race was a tight squeeze for us on timing. We were supporting 24 athletes on this race day, but 23 of them started within 45 minutes of each other which meant we were going to be in crunch mode for most of the morning. We split duties between Max and I where I had him focus on making sure our glide was in order and I put all of my attention into testing kick.
Max’s job was pretty easy. Not much changed from the day before for our glide so we kept it as is on product. The only minor change happened on structure and that was just reducing it to a half pass of the -5/-15 layered with a half pass of the 1mm linear.
I took advantage of a relaxed schedule the day prior and tested some binders so we could cut 1 step out of our process on Sunday. I tested Rex Base and Vauhti Base Super. The Base Super felt pretty slow in the conditions that we tested and I wasn’t too worried about durability issues with the Rex Base as the races were short and the trails were in good shape. I did a quick test after to see if ironing in a layer of V40 would help bump the kick without affecting speed which can sometimes happen but on this day it slowed the skis down too much.
On race day I started with a couple different products that I know very well for the first initial test.
- Rode B17 - This felt very good off the bat, but I was worried it wasn’t going to be quite enough as the track got skied in and conditions warmed.
- Rode B15 - Too much grip and felt very slow. With the higher humidity I wanted to try a wax that had a little klister content to see if that could help increase the grip. It definitely did, but this was one of the slower options of the day I tested.
- Swix VP45 - This was okay. Maybe a little better kick than the B17, but still felt a little slow.
- Star Beta M16 - Probably the best choice during my first test. Good balance of kick and glide. Similar idea to the Rode B15 where I wanted to have a wax with a little klister content to it. I still really liked the B17 for speed, but I know that this is a difficult course and having solid kick is very necessary.
I came back to the tent to create a couple of new skis based on the original test results.
- Rode B17 + Rode VO - I knew that I wanted to give this a test as I really liked the speed of B17, but I wanted it to be slightly more kick. Adding VO as a bump made sense to me. Unfortunately it didn’t really add as much kick as I was hoping and ended up slowing the skis down so not a great option.
- Rex Blue -2…-8 + Rex Blue Special -1…-4 - Similar concept to the B17 + VO. Find a fast blue and cover it with the next softer wax. Pretty much similar feeling as the initial test so I scraped this one as well.
We now had only about an hour and twenty minutes until the start of the races and I needed to make a decision quickly on what we were going to race with. I ended up deciding to give the Star Beta M16 another shot and test a quick bump if needed.
- Star Beta M16 - As the track got skied in a bit through everyone else testing this wax seemed to speed up a little bit and the kick was still more than enough. I really liked this option
- Star Beta M16 + Star Beta M21 - This was the bump test. If I had athletes coming back asking for more kick, I always like to have an option available for them to increase. It felt like a good increase in kick, but definitely slowed the skis down some.
We ended up racing on the M16 and I used my judgment on whether to add more M16 or bump it up to M21 when an athlete came back asking for more. Depending on if they were asking for a little or a lot, or based on their technique helped me make my decision.