Minto, ND - It's one of the most prestigious snowmobile races on the planet. It’s also one of the most grueling. The USCC National Guard Cross-Country Snowmobile Championship Seven Clans Red Lake I-500 is a three-day, 500-mile race where riders tackle the ditches, rivers, fields and woods of northern Minnesota.
USCC features a team class and for the 2011 race a team of three National Guard members ran the race and finished with flying colors.
The National Guard Team began with the guys at Arctic Cat coming to the USCC with an idea that would be a salute to our soldiers. Arctic Cat offered a brand new 2011 Sno Pro 600 race sled to the USCC to provide to a willing, three member team that would be composed of members of the National Guard.
Three National Guard soldiers stepped up: James Bittmann from Lake George, Minnesota; Charles Knetter from Gatzke, Minnesota and Spc. Trevor Slominski from Minto, North Dakota. Slominski serves as an air and missile defense crew member with the North Dakota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.
The team put in the work for weeks prior to the race, prepping the sled for the rigors of the 500-mile event.
Racing began on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011, and the riders faced bitter cold temperatures and dreaded flat light conditions. Friday 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 they made it through the 170-miles without incident.
Day 2 began bitter cold again, but the skies had cleared and it was bright and sunny. The 170-mile Saturday course 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, Mother Nature decided not to cooperate and, while Day 3 saw warmer temperatures, snow and high winds had moved into the area making for whiteout conditions along some areas of the course.
Race 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 early and make the results after Day 2 the final results.
The National Guard Team finished on the podium in third place with a two-day time of 7:19:15.857.
“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.”
For more information about the USCC National Guard Cross-Country Snowmobile Racing Championship, visit www.usccracing.com.