Rosie Frankowski wasn’t even planning on entering the Tour of Anchorage this year.
Frankowski, a 2018 U.S. Olympian and longtime APU Elite Team skier, has been transitioning from a professional skiing career.
But a friend encouraged her to enter — and she caught up with more friends on the course — en route to a win the women’s 50K race on Sunday. Frankowski’s time of 2 hours, 23 minutes and 9 seconds was five minutes ahead of women’s runner-up Holly Brooks and the fifth fastest time of the day overall.
“This is my first race as a nonprofessional skier, and I really was not going to do it,” she said. “And then I signed up a couple of weeks ago because a friend was convincing me to do it, and it was great.”
Frankowski said after many highly competitive years as a professional, it was refreshing to focus on enjoying the race and fellowship of other skiers.
“If you’re skiing in the World Cup or something, you have to empty your soul on the course, and nowadays I don’t have to do that,” she said. “I can just go out and ski for fun, and I skied with my good friend Cody (Priest) the whole time and two other guys that I met on the trail, and we just had a great time. We were chatting and it was great.”
A two-time Tour of Anchorage winner in 2017 and 2021, Frankowski said the race is special to her individually as well as being important to the entire ski community. Hundreds of skiers of all skill levels and ages enter the various Tour races each year. The longer 50K and 40K races run from Service High on the Hillside trails through Anchorage’s midsection along Chester Creek to the Tony Knowles Coastal to finish at Kincaid Park.
“You know, I’m not from here originally,” she said. “I moved up (from Minnesota), and I raced for APU for eight years, and this community embraced me and it’s so amazing.”
Claire Trujillo (2:33:31) rounded out the top three in the women’s freestyle 50K.
When he toed the starting line on Sunday, Thomas O’Harra was just over a week removed from a top-five finish at the American Birkebeiner in northwest Wisconsin. After placing fourth last weekend, O’Harra won the men’s 50K freestyle race Sunday at the Tour in a time of 2:05:04.
O’Harra was running by himself for the last 35 to 40K and led from the onset and finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of runner-up Michael Earhardt.
“This is my fifth Tour, and that’s been my strategy, to push early,” he said. “Because all of the hills are at the beginning. Today turned into a lonely race, but I’ve raced alone at many Tours.”
Because there was live timing throughout the course, O’Harra was able to keep an eye on his splits, a useful carrot to chase with no one in front of him. At the more packed front of the Birkie, he was able to run a more tactical race with acceleration points and slowdowns.
“In a race like today, I just kind of keep the pressure on and keep pushing,” he said. “Looking for seconds here and there. Just to ski the course as best I can.”
Fairbanks and former APU skier David Norris, who coincidentally won the 2022 Tour of Anchorage, won the 2023 Birkie.
O’Harra, who himself skis for the APU Elite Team, said he has had a solid season on the Super Tour Circuit with a number of near-podium finishes.
“It’s been a decent winter, and I’m looking forward to our next trip, which is Spring Nationals,” O’Harra said. Anchorage’s Brandon Brewster rounded out the top three in the 50K freestyle.
The winners in the 40K freestyle race included Christina Turman (1:49:40) in the women’s race and Miles Numme-Worrell (1:49:17) in the men’s event. In the 25K freestyle, Jack Leveque (1:15:00 men’s) and Jessica Vetsch (1:19:08 women’s) took top honors.
Rachelle Kanady (3:31:29 women’s) and Forrest Mahlen (2:41:13 men’s) were the winners in the 50K classic. Alice Knapp (2:59:16 women’s) and Liam Cleary (2:29:00 men’s) were champions in the 40K. Beatrix Brogan (1:47:37) won the women’s 25K classic race and Valdez’s Eric Auten (1:27:34) took the men’s division.
In the biking division, Elizabeth Arteaga (2:45:05) won the women’s 50K race while Will Ross won a thrilling 50K men’s race, edging out a tight field in a time of 1:56:10. In the 25K race, Rose Garner (1:19:43 women’s) and Fred Stewart (1:07:41 men’s) won titles.
Tour of Anchorage
1. Rosie Frankowski, 2:23:09; 2. Holly Brooks, 2:28:37; 3. Claire Trujillo, 2:33:31′ 4. Jenna Difolco, 2:39:48; 5. Anna Engel, 2:41:37.
1. Thomas O’Harra, 2:05:04; 2. Michael Earnhart, 2:14:46; 3. Brandon Brewster, 2:20:29; 4. Cody Priest, 2:23:07; 5. Mackie Derrick, 2:24:06.
1. Christina Turman, 1:49:40; 2. Lindsey Bengtson, 2:00:08; 3. Lisa Anglen, 2:05:55.
1. Miles Numme-Worrell, 1:49:17; 2. Finn Oestgaard, 1:49:47; 3. Richard Suddock, 1:50:12.
1. Jessica Vetsch, 1:19:08; 2. Annie Gonzales, 1:22:56; 3. Camilla Brinchmann-Prosser, 1:23:06.
1. Jack Leveque, 1:15:00; 2. Owen Harth, 1:15:04; 3. Ry Allwright, 1:17:49.
1. Rachelle Kanady, 3:31:29; 2. Mary Young, 3:41:39; 3. Maggie McGovern, 3:47:20.
1. Forrest Mahlen, 2:41:13; 2. Murray Dunsirn, 2:59:29; 3. Isaac Wilson, 4:19:22.
1. Alice Knapp, 2:59:16; 2. Molly Vaughan, 3:04:36; 3. Abigail Elbow, 3:11:33.
1. Liam Cleary, 2:29:00; 2. Max Romey Van Dommelen, 2:34:37; 3. Nathan Alfano, 2:49:16.
1. Beatrix Brogan, 1:47:37; 2. Svea Thomas, 1:47:51; 3. Heidi Jensen, 1:57:00.
1. Eric Auten, 1:27:34; 2. Nico Graziano, 1:42:09; 3. Tristen Hobbs, 1:42:18.
1. Elizabeth Arteaga, 2:45:05; 2. Bri Keller, 2:46:34; 3. Sheryl Loan, 2:47:58.
1. Will Ross, 1:56:10; 2. David Arteaga, 1:56:13; 3. Jason Lamoreaux, 1:56:17.
1. Rose Garner, 1:19:43; 2. Liane Nagata, 1:23:20; 3. Katrina Garner, 1:25:23.
1. Fred Stewart, 1:07:41; 2. Cesar Rodgers, 1:19:48; 3. John Breuer, 1:21:43.