February 1, 2011
It’s one of the most prestigious snowmobile races on the planet. It’s also one of the most grueling. The USCC Red Lake I-500 is a three-day, 500-mile race where riders tackle the ditches, rivers, fields and woods of northern Minnesota. The race circuit features a team class, and for the 2011 I-500, a team of three National Guard members ran the race and finished with flying colors.
The National Guard Team began with Arctic Cat coming to the USCC with an idea that would be a salute to guardsmen. Arctic Cat offered a brand new 2011 Sno Pro 600 race sled to the USCC to provide to a willing, three-member team of National Guard members. The three National Guardsmen who stepped up are James Bittmann from Lake George, Minnesota; Charles Knetter from Gatzke, Minnesota; and Trevor Slominski from Minto, North Dakota.
The race team prepped the sled for the rigors of the 500-mile event, and several USCC affiliates offered sponsorships, including FXR clothing, Woody’s Traction Products, Powermadd, RV Sports of Thief River Falls and ArcticFX Graphics.
Racing began January 21, 2011, and the riders faced bitter cold temperatures and dreaded flat light conditions. Day 1 was mostly ditch running and with the flat light there was virtually no definition to the terrain, making it hard to see bumps and hazards on the course. Despite the conditions Friday was a good day for the team and it finished the 170-mile course without incident.
The next race day stated with bitter cold again, but the skies had cleared and it was bright and sunny. The 170-mile course for Day 2 featured a run on the Red Lake River and more ditch running. Again, the team had a great day and was in the hunt heading into Day 3. But, unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and, while the last day brought warmer air, snow and high winds had moved into the area making for whiteout conditions.
USCC officials tried to wait it out but the forecast called for worsening conditions throughout the day and the decision was made to call the race with Day 2’s results being final. The National Guard team finished in third place of the Team class with a two-day time of 7 hours, 19 minutes and 15 seconds.
“The National Guard team did a great job racing the Red Lake I-500,” said USCC President Pat Mach. “This race is a massive undertaking even for teams who have raced it numerous times. Even though this was their first time, the National Guard team performed like seasoned race veterans throughout the entire event.”
Next up for the USCC is the Chase On The Lake 100 in Walker, Minnesota, February 13. For more information about the USCC National Guard Cross-Country Snowmobile Racing Championship, check out USCC.com.