Daphne and Moira Haggarty had no idea they were out in front.
The Thunder Bay sisters braved frigid temperatures Saturday to cross the finish line together and capture the shortened women’s 40-kilometre skate race at the 37th edition of the Sleeping Giant Loppet.
“We live in the same house, so we did the race together and it was way less daunting knowing you had someone else out there to ski with, someone who you know is your same pace,” said Daphne Haggarty, who, like her younger sister, skis for the OUA champion Lakehead University Nordic team.
They hardly noticed the cold, which earlier in the week convinced race organizers to push the event back a couple of hours in hopes that the sun would warm the course up.
“Once you’re racing that hard, you’re kind of your own furnace. We were more than warm,” Moira Haggarty said.
A duel first-place finish wasn’t exactly what they were expecting.
It was a big surprise, 20-year-old Moira Haggarty said.
“I thought there were girls faster than us ahead. But I guess maybe the enrolment was lower this year or maybe we’re just faster. Who knows?” she said.
On the men’s side it was National Development Centre-Thunder Bay graduate Chris Hamilton who outlasted the pack, crossing the finish line just ahead of Andy Shields and Bob Thompson, who took second and third.
Hamilton said it was a frosty, windy day, but worth the effort.
“All in all it was a fun time. You always have a good time out here at the Sleeping Giant,” said Hamilton, who captured his first 40-kilometre race, preferring usually to ski the 20-kilometre event, a race in which twice he finished in the runner-up position.
Saturday’s race was just his day, he said.
“It feels really good. I’ve trained with these guys that I raced with for a long time, so it felt good to finally get one,” the Thunder Bay-born Hamilton said.
“It was a hard race. It’s one of those courses that try as you might you couldn’t get away. You just have to keep trying to push and push and pick one guy off at a time. So I think it took six attacks on my part to finally break them. It shows how strong these guys are.”
The cold weather undoubtedly had an effect on the event, said race organizer Peter Gallagher. The marquee 50-kilometre event was shortened to 40 kilometres, two laps around Lake Mary Louise, while the 35-kilometre race was eliminated.
“I think that was a really successful decision,” Gallagher said of the 50-kilometre change. “People have appreciated being able to ski a little less distance in colder weather.
There were, however, no thoughts of outright cancelling the event.
“It is pretty cold, but we’re well below the cancellation temperature of -22 C and so there were no thoughts of cancelling. I had people from Wyoming calling me and saying are you holding the race?”
Gallagher said the weather did convince many to stay home. He estimated only 650 skiers took part in 2014, down significantly over past years.
Finishing times were not immediately available.
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