Team Fast and Female came to Ski to Sea with one goal - dethrone Boundary Bay Brewery, which had won the women's division for 12 straight years going into this year's race.
Holly Brooks, 30, of Anchorage, Alaska, got her team off to a winning start Sunday, May 27, when she became the first woman to cross the finish line in the cross-country ski leg.
It was Brooks' second time competing in Ski to Sea. Last year, she raced as part of a family team.
This year, she came to end a dynasty.
"We put together this team to try to beat them," Brooks said.
Team Fast and Female is a nonprofit that works to empower young girls through sports. More on the organization is online at fastandfemale.com.
Downhill skier Jessie Young kept Team Fast and Female in first place, coming in 21/2 minutes ahead of Sabrina Harper of Boundary Bay. Young, who came from Aspen, Colo., to join the all-woman super team formed to defeat Boundary Bay, is the girlfriend of first-place male downhill skier Max Taam.
Young gave most of the credit for being the first woman to cross the finish line to her teammate, Brooks.
"I had quite the head start," Young said. "My cross-country skier kicked some ass.
"We wanted to try to give them (Boundary Bay) a little competition. We hope we at least do that."
Harper of Boundary Bay gave a respectful nod to the new competition.
"This year there is a very competitive women's team out to get us, and I think that's great," she said.
Boundary Bay Brewery and Team Fast and Female were close through the running leg. But at the end of that leg, the momentum shifted back to the reigning champs.
Brooke Gosling said she overtook Team Fast and Female runner Lydia Carrick in about the last 500 meters of the leg. This was her fifth Ski to Sea race as a member of the Boundary Bay Brewery team.
Between the running leg and road bike leg, Boundary had a smoother hand-off, allowing rider Rosalyn Zylkowski to depart close to a pack of men. She gained speed - and time - by drafting with them.
"Having a fast runner gets you in with the fast cyclists," Zylkowski said.
Fast and Female road biker Michele Conrad was mostly by herself on the course, unable to gain a drafting advantage.
At the end of that leg, Boundary was ahead by more than eight minutes.
By the time the two teams reached the mountain bike-to-kayak transition, the gap was about 10 minutes - too big a gap to overcome, especially with the kayak leg shortened to about three miles because of strong headwinds.
"I was hoping the Boundary Bay team and mine would duke it out on the water," said disappointed Fast and Female mountain biker Lindsay Felker.
The difference at the finish line was about 14 minutes, with Boundary Bay clinching its 13th straight women's division title. Overall, the Boundary women were 17th across the finish line, and Fast and Female was 25th.
Boundary Bay kayaker Tracy Landboe described Fast and Female as great competition in a challenging race. Despite windy conditions on the bay, Landboe managed to expand the team's lead through the choppy waters.
"It was fun," she said. "It was waves on the side, waves all over. You just had to relax and go as hard as you could."
Bellingham Herald reporters Kie Relyea, Ralph Schwartz, Jared Paben, Zoe Fraley and John Stark contributed to this story.