On September 22nd 2002, Mount Tremblant hosted its annual bottom to top mountain run, the Merrell Grand Prix of Colours. XC Ottawa fielded a team of 5 runners for the men's "extreme" category of this event.
Traditionally, the running race has followed a 4km route that goes straight up a wide open downhill ski run. This year, the age category race followed the traditional route, but for the first time, another race was held on a longer course. The new course followed rocky hiking trails through the forests on the mountain and wound its way up and down smaller hills on its way to the top of Mount Tremblant. Our entire team opted to race the new "extreme" course. This race was the choice of most the stronger competitors and seemed more technically challenging and less drudgerous than the traditional course.
The race started off in the resort village's clock square. After winding through the village's streets, the course headed straight up a rather steep downhill ski run. After this first long uphill, the course headed into the woods and followed rocky hiking trails for the rest of its way to the mountain top. The route featured long uphill sections that were regularly interrupted by shorter downhill and flat sections.
During the first part of the race, the running pace was relaxed; most racers seemed to want to save themselves for the ascents still to come. The easy warm-up to the race ended abruptly on the first hill when Tom McCarthy of XC Ottawa lost his patience and decided to take the lead of the race. The race field quickly began to disperse. Tom along with his teammate and brother Ed, found themselves leading the race with only few people close behind them. About a half hour into the race, the leading XC Ottawa duo crossed an open rocky ledge that yielded them views of the mountain top. At this point in time they realized that they had only climbed a false peak and the real summit was still a substantial distance away. After this emotionally devastating revelation, Tom found it difficult to keep up with his younger sibling. As such, Ed McCarthy was the winner of the day. Tom finished the race in second place, more than a minute behind first place. Chris Blanchard, a former Canadian National Ski Team member, was third.
XC Ottawa managed to put four of its members in the top ten finishers. Ed and Tom McCarthy took first and second places while Chris Mamen and Glen McIntyre came in eighth and ninth places. The XC Ottawa team members were pleased with these results and felt that the team was clearly the dominant force of the day.
The Merrel Grand Prix of Colours was an excellent event that was well organized and attended. In addition to the "extreme" open category race there was the shorter age category race as well as a mountain bike race. The team looks forward to future editions of this event and highly recommend it to others.