• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Frenchman skis to surprise Loppet win

      February 28, 2016

      Tao Quéméré came to the national capital region as a team service technician for this week’s Ski Tour Canada World Cup sprint races, but he’s also leaving with a Gatineau Loppet championship.

      The 25-year-old Frenchman stunned himself and many others with his triumph in the 51-kilometre freestyle race through Gatineau Park on Sunday.

      “I’m not an athlete, I’m just here for fun,” Quéméré said after crossing the finish line with a time of two hours 25 minutes 50.1 seconds. “I didn’t know (what to expect) because I don’t know all the skiers in the race, so I just came here for fun, and it’s a great surprise for me to win today.”

      A former high-level competitor himself, Quéméré tuned up for the 51K freestyle race with not only a training run on Gatineau Park trails on Saturday, but also some circuits on the course at Jacques Cartier Park, where the inaugural Ski Tour Canada begins with sprint races on Tuesday evening.

      He started Sunday in the “B Wave” of skiers, two minutes behind those in the A Wave, and a handful of those athletes actually crossed the finish line before he did, unaware the Frenchman was in position to win.

      Norway’s Petter Solenge Skinstad, whose second-place result was based on his time of 2:27:16.2, said he would have pressed much harder if he had known Quéméré was ahead of his own pace.

      It’s like having two races in one, the Norwegian added. One involves beating the other skiers in your wave to the finish line, while the other focuses on having the best time.