X Games Wescott’s Olympic warmup

Posted Jan. 28, 2010, at 12:51 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

The Vancouver Olympics are looming, his selection to the U.S. Olympic team became official this week and Farmington’s Seth Wescott is doing exactly what you’d expect him to be doing … or maybe not.

After taking a week off from the FIS World Cup circuit to rest and recover from some bumps and bruises, Wescott is back in action as the Winter X Games kick off today in Aspen, Colo.

Yes, the Olympics are fast approaching. And yes, Wescott will be out there in Aspen, ignoring the constant risk of injury in his rough-and-tumble sport.

So, he said, will many of his peers.

Wescott, who will compete in the snowboard cross event — “snowboarder X” in the X Games lexicon — said many of the world’s best riders will be competing in Aspen. The Vancouver Olympics begin Feb. 12.

“For us, on an average year [the X Games provides] probably the best course that we get to race in a year,” Wescott said Saturday as he took time out from various other commitments for an interview at the restaurant he co-owns — The Rack — at Sugarloaf, his home mountain.

“So you’re more excited to go there and do that and it’s one of the few events in a regular season where we get as great TV coverage as we do in the U.S.,” he said. “So it’s a big thing for us, it’s a big thing for our sponsors and it’s fun to go to Aspen and put on a good show.”

Wescott, the defending Olympic gold medalist in snowboard cross, will be one of four athletes at the X Games with ties to Carrabassett Valley Academy.

Other CVA athletes to watch during the event, which runs through Sunday: Dan Marion from Windham, Matt Duhamel from San Francisco and Banks Gilberti from Sun Valley, Idaho. All three will be competing in the skier superpipe event.

Wescott said the U.S. Olympic Committee has cooperated with X Games athletes to make their transition to Vancouver as seamless as possible. U.S. athletes will pick up their Olympic uniforms and credentials at the airport in Vancouver, he said, while some athletes from other nations are being forced to do much more travel in order to take care of logistical matters.

“Some of the Swiss are coming over for the X Games and then they’ve got to fly back to Europe, get all their uniforms and stuff, and then fly back for the [Olympics],” Wescott said.

Wescott said he’ll get a bit of down time after the Olympics, and he’ll focus on stretching and staying loose until Vancouver. Before that, however, the eight-time X Games medalist will be racing as hard as he can in Aspen.

“I look at it as, ‘That’s the warmup event,’” Wescott said. “I’ve kind of had two of the last three weeks off and the body’s feeling a little better now, so it’s kind of like a test run to go out and see exactly where I’m at.”

Warm weather eats up ice

A day of steady rain and high wind didn’t do much for the state’s ice conditions — the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has issued another ice-safety warning in its wake — but plenty of anglers are still planning to take part in weekend derbies across Maine.

Calling ahead to get updated ice reports is never a bad idea, so on Wednesday I contacted Rich Rossignol of Madawaska, who’ll be participating in this weekend’s 5th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.

The derby’s anglers will actually fish a number of Aroostook County lakes, but Rossignol will be on Long Lake, and I’ll be taking him up on his invitation to join him and his friends for a couple of days of fun in the St. John Valley.

Rossignol said the rain, warm weather and wind took their toll on the Long Lake ice, but he’s optimistic for the weekend.

“The ice took a bit of a beating with the rain we got — a lot of water on the ice now — but [it] should be good and frozen by Saturday,” Rossignol reported via e-mail. “All the cabins’ holes doubled in size but not to the point where there’s going to be a problem.”

A bit more warm weather, however, could have really complicated things during the derby, which is being held Saturday and Sunday.

“Good thing the rain didn’t last another day because that would be a different story,” Rossignol wrote. “The lake is plenty safe around my area.”

For the record, Rossignol’s “area,” and our base of operations for the derby, isn’t far from Birch Point on the Madawaska side of the lake.

As always, assuming the entire lake is as safe as Rossignol says his patch of ice is would be a mistake. Talk to locals. Listen to them. And if you’ve still got any doubt, check the ice as you go.

The derby’s headquarters will again be at the Long Lake Sporting Club in Sinclair, and plenty of anglers will regularly check in there to see if anyone has registered a lunker salmon.

Past experience tells me that if someone does, it won’t take long for the on-lake anglers to find out the details through their own snowmobile-fueled version of the Pony Express.

It promises to be a great weekend on the hard water, and I look forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Another large derby on tap: the 3rd annual Moosehead Lake Togue Ice Fishing Derby with Ricky Craven, where anglers will try to help fisheries biologists in their quest to remove some more small lake trout from the state’s biggest lake.

The derby runs Friday through Sunday, and former NASCAR driver Craven will be on hand to meet anglers on the lake and at a ham dinner scheduled for Saturday night.

Moosehead is a finicky piece of water even during the best of times, and after a major warmup, it can be treacherous. Stopping by the Indian Hill Trading Post to ask the experts for updated information would be a good first step when arriving in town for the derby.

Farther south, on Crystal Lake in Gray, a USO Ice Fishing Derby is set for Saturday. The derby is a fundraiser for the USO and the Crystal Lake Association’s milfoil contingency fund.

Free equipment will be on hand, and helicopter tours will be available for $25 per person.

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