After three years of coming in second best in the largest race in Whatcom County, Aeromech Sensible Technology finally took the Ski to Sea crown Sunday, May 24.
Aeromech’s mountain biker, Nolan Brady, was met with high-fives and warm embraces from his teammates and bystanders as he crossed the finish line on Fourth Street early Sunday afternoon. The team quickly left to head back to Marine Park to ceremonially ring the Ski to Sea bell, which traditionally has marked the end of the seven-leg, 99 1/2-mile race.
For much of the race Aeromech and last year’s winner, the Boundary Bay Brewery men, were neck and neck. At the end of the canoe leg, only one second separated them.
But a series of mishaps hampered Boundary from the get-go.
During the alpine run — the first leg of this year’s modified race to compensate for no snow — Boundary’s Connor Whan was overcome with exhaustion. In a show of true sportsmanship, Aeromech’s Trey Parry and Bank of the Pacific’s Michael Lynes ran back after finishing and helped him across the finish.
In possibly the most bizarre moment of the 2015 race, Boundary’s cross-country cyclist Kevin Calhoun was in first place near Bellingham International Airport when a deer bolted out of the brush and T-boned his bike, leaving him with a flat front tire, and dropping him back to second place for that leg.
Boundary kayaker Dorian Wolter had his flight canceled and was so late getting to Bellingham that his teammates weren’t sure if he even was in place to take the hand-off. (He was.)
After the kayakers passed off their timing chips to their mountain bikers, Aeromech’s Brady made it across the railroad tracks, while Boundary’s biker, Russell Stevenson, who came running up the chute a few minutes later, had to wait as a train rumbled south.
Brady finished the mountain bike leg first, followed by Stevenson a few minutes later. Both men were met with cheers from a growing crowd near the new finish.
Race organizers had to subtract the train delay from Stevenson’s time. That put naming the winner on hold for a few hours as results were finalized. As of 7 p.m., Aeromech was listed as the winner in Ski to Sea results.
“The train is not worth stressing over,” Stevenson said. “As long as you get the time right, it doesn’t matter.”
Klicks Running & Walking took the Whatcom County Open division, ending the two-year run of Beavers Tree Service.
Two other teams were hotly competitive throughout the race, nevermind that they were in different divisions: Kulshan Cycles in the Whatcom County Women division and Boundary Bay Women in the Competitive Women division.
“Every leg has been crazy. Our road cyclist was throwing up. This new mountain biking leg is a total unknown. This is exciting,” said Heather Nelson, the Kulshan Cycles kayaker who’s competed in that leg nine times for her team.
Both teams won their divisions, but Kulshan got bragging rights for being the top all-women’s team when Kayla Kaiser rode across the finish line just seconds before Nadine Mueller of Boundary Bay.
“The Whatcom County girls gave them a run for their money,” said Gwyn Howat, a canoeist for Kulshan Cycles.
Kulshan won its division last year. And this year’s victory marks the 16th straight in their division for the Boundary Bay Women.
For a full list of results in the 2015 Ski to Sea race, go to results.skitosea.com.