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Archives for November 2011

Bjørgen Sweeps Norwegian Nationals; Nishikawa 5th in 10 k

Emily Nishikawa of the Canadian World Cup Team finished fifth behind Norway’s Marit Bjørgen on Friday in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle at Norwegian National Championships in Vang, Norway.

Bjørgen, who, like Nishikawa, skipped the Tour de Ski as well as this weekend’s World Cup sprints in Dresden, Germany, won the individual-start race in 25:59.1, just 0.2 seconds ahead of her teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in second. Norway’s Ragnhild Haga reached the podium in third (+21.3), and Kari Øyre Slind placed fourth (+1:17.1), ahead of Nishikawa as the top non-Norwegian in fifth (+2:09.1). Of the 91 women who raced on Friday, all but six were Norwegian. Nishikawa was the only Canadian.

Annika Taylor, who was born in California and races for Great Britain, placed 65th (+6:11.8). Nichole Bathe (also racing for Great Britain) did not start.

Also on Friday, Graeme Killick (Canadian World Cup Team) finished 15th in the men’s 15 k freestyle at Norwegian nationals, 1:40 behind Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krüger in first. Krüger won it in 35:32.3, 33 seconds ahead of another Norwegian Per Kristian Nygaard in second and 37.2 seconds over Norway’s Daniel Stock in third.

Two other Canadians living abroad in Norway and training with Team Asker, Ryan Jackson and Maks Zechel finished 120th and 131st, respectively, out of 166 in the men’s 15 k.

In Saturday’s skiathlons, Bjørgen picked up her third-straight win of the week (after winning Thursday’s classic sprint as well) in the women’s 15 k skiathlon in 39:49.6, once again 0.2 seconds ahead of Jacobsen. The podium was exactly the same as Friday’s 10 k with Haga placing third, just 0.3 seconds back. Nishikawa finished 19th (+2:54.2) as the top non-Norwegian.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby won the men’s 30 k skiathlon in 1:16:13.3, outlasting his Norwegian World Cup teammates Niklas Dyrhaug and Finn Hågen Krogh, who placed second (+1.4), and third (+1.9), respectively. Two Norwegians not on the national team, Espen Udjus Frorud and Mattis Stenshagen missed the podium by just one-tenth of a second in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Killick placed 25th (+2:36.1), and Jackson was 72nd (+6:55.2).

Earlier in the week, Bjørgen won the women’s 1.3 k classic sprint final over Kathrine Rolsted Harsem in second and Silje Øyre Slind in third. Nishikawa qualified for the heats in 15th and finished the day in 25th.

Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won the men’s 1.5 k classic sprint on Thursday, ahead of Eirik Brandsdal in second and Fredrik Riseth in third.

Jackson placed 86th in the qualifier and Zechel was 90th.

Results:

Thursday, Jan. 11 classic sprint: women’s qualifierwomen’s final men’s qualifiermen’s final

Friday, Jan. 12: women’s 10 k freestyle | men’s 15 k freestyle

Saturday, Jan. 13: women’s 15 k skiathlon | men’s 30 k skiathlon

Nationals Notes: Friday Brings Maiden Voyage for New Kincaid Sprint Course

Throwback Thursday: Erik Soederstroem (UAF) glides across the line with teammate Tyler Kornfield (UAF) outlunging Mike Hinckley (APU/Rossignol) for second in the classic sprint final at 2010 U.S. nationals at Kincaid.

By Gavin Kentch

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Wednesday saw the first races of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, the 10- and 15-kilometer freestyle interval starts. Friday brings the first sprint day, with qualification for the skate sprint going off at 10 a.m. local time, slightly before the sun officially rises at 10:10 a.m. (Welcome to Anchorage in January.)

To help you get ready for sprinting, here’s U.S. nationals chief of competition and longtime Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) operator/groomer Matt Pauli with some thoughts on the theory and practice of sprint course design and operation, and what athletes can expect to see on the new-and-improved Kincaid sprint course. Hint: Advances in classic skiing technology in the past decade have something to do with it.

(FasterSkier spoke with Pauli in-person in early December, sitting in a wood-paneled Pipeline-era ATCO trailer nestled near the NSAA Operations Bunker just up the hill from the Kincaid Stadium. This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.)

FasterSkier: So let’s start at the beginning. When was the first sprint race at Kincaid?

Matt Pauli: Actually and formally, at 1999 JNs [Junior Nationals], they initiated the first prologue, which was a short event, but not quite a sprint. I think Rob Whitney was racing then; I think he cleaned up that day. But the way the sprint rules evolved, you started seeing them in early World Championships in ’99, probably 2001, and then the first Olympics in 2002. So it evolved from there.

FS: So it’s the Kikkan Era, basically.

MP: It’s that, and maybe it’s a specialization era, too. I think that’s what I notice. … It’s just evolving, the way I think the sport has always evolved.

FS: Can you tell us about the history of the sprint loop at Kincaid?

MP: You look at [the hill to the immediate northeast edge of the main Kincaid Stadium] – some people call it the Junior Nordic Hill, I call it the Play Hill, and I think it’s more or less going to be taking the name of the Gong Hill – that all used to be trees. The only trail going through it was Margaux’s Loop. And that was it.

So I think Bill Spencer was in a little bit on clearing, and what we can do with that area. I think also Ben Powell, Mike Miller, me to a lesser extent. Then shortly after that we started getting the snowmaking, and those types of things. I can’t put an exact date on when the area was cleared out, but certainly it had to be in 2005, 2006, because that’s when the first piping started going up there for snowmaking. That was the vision, to go up that way.

FS: When you say, “Let’s design a sprint loop,” I’m taking it as a given that you pretty much have to start from the stadium, because that’s where all the infrastructure is. Taking that as your starting variable, what else do you think about in setting up the sprint loop?

MP: Certainly for the athletes, [you think about] technical challenge, testing all the different techniques, turning techniques, ascending, descending. Providing areas where athletes can overtake each other. Ensuring that it’s a sprint loop that falls within a time frame that it doesn’t become a distance course.

What I’ve heard, and information passed on to me, and just what I’ve observed when I’ve got to serve on juries at World Cups and such, is you’re looking at 3 to 3 1/2 minutes [time for an athlete to ski the sprint course]. And that way it gives the spectators something to see, it gives the athletes good recovery time before the next heat, and it keeps the competition, particularly World Cup, World Championships, anything that’s televised, within a certain time period. Spectator-friendly – they’ve got to see it. That’s the whole reason, I think, behind it. Another big reason is that you want to be close to the spectators, you want people to see the competition.

There’s probably a myriad of other things that you can throw in there for homologation, but the general theory is: competitiveness, fair, safe, spectator appeal, and in some instances TV appeal, too.

The old sprint course at Kincaid, used from the late 2000s through last season. The largest climb, of 17 meters vertical gain, comes in the course’s first climb starting at around the 200-meter mark, with smaller rolling hills following. (Screenshot: 2017 Seawolf Invitational race program)

FS: So that was the first sprint loop, and we all skied on it for a decade or so, and there were two national championships held on it (in 2009 and 2010). So, did it work? Was it a course that did the things you just described?

MP: I think it worked, up until getting some comments last year about double poling. And deep back in my mind, I already knew that, just from every fall I used to attend the FIS meeting in Zurich, just to get an idea. And I remember last fall, 2016, the FIS hierarchy, Vegard Ulvang, just producing all these videos of youngsters starting to double pole just about everything, and how classic technique “needs to be preserved.”

And knowing that here at Kincaid we just have – we’re a nonprofit, in a public park, you just can’t do what you want. It has to be feasible, and it has to meet whatever plan they have for the park, as well. So I knew right away that I wasn’t going to be cutting new trails. I might be working on some trees – or, as we like to call them, “shrubs” – to make it a better course, make it a safer course when you throw the safety aspect in there.

The whole aspect is that we’re not going to be doing wholesale trail work. So I think, from the Zurich meetings, and knowing that watching [the classic sprint at] Besh Cup last year, watching actually Besh Cups throughout the last three or four years, watching college races that decide to run a sprint – I never thought our sprint course was a bad course, ’cause I got anecdotal good feedback saying, “Hey, this is really spectator-friendly.” … I think for the most part, our sprint loop is pretty much visible during the competition.

FS: If the course works well, why change it? Is it safe to say this is largely responsive to changes in classic skiing over the past decade?

MP: Yeah, that has a pretty significant bearing on it.

The new sprint course at Kincaid, to be officially used for the first time on Friday morning, Jan. 4. The largest climb is now 24 vertical meters, and occurs after 750 meters, roughly the midway point of the course. (Screenshot: U.S. nationals course maps page)

FS: Let’s talk about the new course. Can you just walk me through what it looks like, and what it’s designed to do, and how it came to be?

MP: Now, the climbs that are associated with this one, I met with [USST Development Coach] Bryan Fish and [U.S. Ski & Snowboard nordic domestic program director] Robert Lazzaroni, they passed through on their way home after Spring Nationals [in April 2017]. … I said, “This is what I think would work pretty well.” And that meant starting higher up on the plain [in the central stadium area] by the Lekisch tunnels, and cutting up in front of the Gong Hill, toward the Bunker Tunnel. And then dropping down to what we call the low point, or the Frog Pond.

And then climbing out of there again – that climb sets it up that, number one, I’m trying to limit double poling the entire thing. Throwing that dogleg in there for the final, you take that left-hand turn and you still have to climb to the top, you’re going to lose all your momentum there in a double pole. And there’s no way, on some of those 17 to 19 percent grades, you’re going to be able to pick up that momentum. Certainly you can herringbone up it, that’s a diagonal technique. But I think from a standpoint of pushing your way up it in a double pole – maybe in another couple of years. (laughs) It’s only going to evolve. But that’s, I think, one of the main reasons to switch things around.

 

It still follows the same line of coming back off the top, the men going behind and the women coming across what I call the Saddle, where the gong is, and then dropping down back into the north end of the stadium. And doing a really good 180 at the bottom. There’s a big arc right there. It’s wide, it’s not off-camber. There’s some narrow bits coming back into the main race trail, where the old sprint loop used to finish. But once you get there … if that’s a chokepoint, if we have to widen in regards to snow or what you have to.

But it just follows the regular path in. Which is a good finish from the standpoint of, you know, you have a 1.5, 2 percent [uphill] grade to the finish [on the final straightaway through the stadium to the finish line, visible in the background of the top photo in this article].

And you know, I would like to see 3 percent, actually. But I’ve been in stadiums at championship venues that had 5 percent. I think that, for having a 100-meter straight stretch, it just so happened to work out. And certainly the grade’s kind of changed with the artificial snow on top, when we push that out – but at the same time, we still keep the original finish zone [in front of the timing building].

FS: Is it quote-unquote “good” or “bad” that you have to change the course like this to react to changes in classic skiing, or just neutral?

MP: I think it’s neutral. Certainly any time you go through a homologation, there’s a cost involved. I have to get an inspector out here, and … that’s a $600 fee. And each certificate application, each certificate, has a fee. So there’s always those costs that can be borne by the event, borne by the Organizing Committee. I’m not getting paid, but I still gotta collect the data. And then at that point it becomes time. Because I have to – I’m not a map guy, so I go to my friends at CRW Engineering, and I can bug the hell out of them, and they go, “Oh, I’ll put someone right on it.” So there’s certainly people’s time involved.

FS: We’ve talked about changes in classic skiing over the past ten years, and why that was a main reason for changing around the sprint course. This is getting sort of inside baseball, but are there different considerations for a skate sprint than a classic sprint? Would there be anything stopping you from running two different sprint courses in one championships?

MP: The parameters for a freestyle sprint are more liberal, because we know we’re not going to be doublepoling. So that’s why you see city sprints, that’s why you see – you can basically have a freestyle sprint on a flat course, because the parameters say so. As the [homologation standard] tables indicate, there are some differences in what we would look at for classic and freestyle.

For right now, it’s just convenience. I would gladly go back to the old sprint for the freestyle. But then it means that the teams and the athletes are going to lose a ski depot. Because that’s what I designed at that south end of the stadium by the Lekisch tunnel – none of the courses go over that anymore, unless of course we’re going [on a snowmaking loop for all races]. But it’s an area where athletes, coaches, and technicians can set up their ski depot for testing skis, switching out skis, because it has direct access to the waxing areas. So that’s the main reason we’re using the same course.

Now the coaches agreed, down at the [USSA] Congress last spring, that since the freestyle sprint is first, I’m not going to have the opportunity – they’re not going to have an opportunity for training on a classic sprint course. Because the freestyle sprint is the second event, and the classic mass is the race after that. [And the classic sprint is the day immediately after that.] And I pointed that out, and apparently we can live with that. From my standpoint, I have a hard time living with that, because I haven’t had the opportunity to dial in. So, we’re going to do our best. … I just want to ensure that the course is safe, and as dialed in as I can.

*   *   *

The sprints start Friday morning with the qualification round from 10–11:30 a.m. Alaska time. The heats are scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. The heats for the junior races are scheduled to begin in the mid-afternoon, following the flower ceremonies for the senior races.

 

FasterSkier updates:

http://fasterskier.com/

http://twitter.com/fasterskier

https://www.instagram.com/fasterskier/

 

Start lists and results:

http://www.superiortiming.com/2018/01/2018-u-s-cross-country-ski-championships/

 

Live-streaming:

http://www.facebook.com/usskiandsnowboard/

http://www.facebook.com/xcusnats2018/

(should be the same feed, hosted in two different places)

 

General news and updates:

https://www.anchoragenordicski.com/nationals18/

Nationals Notes: Eve of 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships

Athletes getting in some race prep in the southern half of the Kincaid stadium as seen on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — One day before the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, all the pieces are in place for a successful race week. Now it’s all about the weather cooperating.

Following two weeks of seasonal temperatures in the 20s and teens Fahrenheit, readings at the Kincaid Park weather station on Tuesday around 2 p.m. were around 40 degrees F. While the above-freezing temperatures and a strong south wind (which blew consistently at 20 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 37 mph) are making for thin snowpack outside of Kincaid, coverage on the snowmaking loop appears ample enough for the entire week. Everything except the top few inches of the snowpack should still be relatively firm, given the cold temperatures over the preceding two weeks.

Tuesday’s weather appears to be largely a one-day warmup. Temperatures are expected to fall back below freezing at some point Tuesday night and to stay there throughout the race week, with temperatures a seasonally appropriate 15 to 25 degrees, if closer to 30 to 32 degrees tomorrow. In the short term, current forecasts call for the possibility of a “wintry mix” on Tuesday night, with a chance of snow showers on Wednesday. Humidity is forecast to be 90 percent throughout the evening and during both races tomorrow, which is unremarkable for a venue that sits less than a kilometer from the Pacific Ocean.

Race organizers recently announced the course for Wednesday’s distance raceIt has an official length of 2.5 kilometers, but the course map provided suggests that the length may be a bit longer at 2.69 k, which would make Wednesday’s 10/15 k freestyle races 10.8 k for the women and 16.1 k for the men. The race will have a total climb of 292 meters for women and 438 meters for men, according to a 2018 U.S. Nationals press release.

In the same press release, organizers provided additional information on race-day logistics, including start times. The women’s race starts at 10 a.m. Alaska time on Wednesday, while the men start at 12:30 p.m. (10/15 k freestyle start lists: Women | Men)

The update has additional information regarding parking, warm-up areas, athlete areas, and other logistics (plus: food trucks!).

FasterSkier will have two reporters on site throughout the week, and will be providing daily coverage from Jan. 3-8. For additional information, see the links below.

 

FasterSkier updates:

http://fasterskier.com/

http://twitter.com/fasterskier

https://www.instagram.com/fasterskier/

 

Start lists and results:

http://www.superiortiming.com/2018/01/2018-u-s-cross-country-ski-championships/

 

Live-streaming:

http://www.facebook.com/usskiandsnowboard/

http://www.facebook.com/xcusnats2018/

(should be the same feed, hosted in two different places)

 

General news and updates:

https://www.anchoragenordicski.com/nationals18/

— Gavin Kentch

U.S. Cross Country Championships Begin Wednesday, Jan. 3

America’s athletes are arriving. The trails are being groomed.

The L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships begin January 3

(Press release)

ANCHORAGE, AK – The top cross-country skiers from across Alaska and America will compete for more than prestigious national titles in the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships, which begin Wednesday, January 3, and continue through Monday, January 8, at Kincaid Park. The races will also be used as part of the selection process for Olympic berths as well as to determine roster spots on the FIS Junior World Championship, U23 Championship and U18 Scandinavian Cup teams.

The competitions will feature two freestyle and two classic events for men and women. The top American in each race will be crowned national champion. While primary selection for the 2018 Olympic Cross Country Team will come from World Cup races, some final spots can be determined from Nationals results. Olympic team nominations will be announced the week of January 23.

Here is some media-specific information to assist in covering the events, whether from Kincaid Park in Anchorage or from afar.

Events schedule: All races at Kincaid Park; schedule subject to change

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, January 3

Men’s 15 k freestyle interval start; Women’s 10k freestyle interval start

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, January 5

Men’s and women’s freestyle sprints

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, January 7

Men’s 30 k classic mass start; Women’s 20k classic mass start; Junior men’s 10k classic mass start; Junior women’s 5k classic mass start

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, January 8

Men’s and women’s classic sprints

Find a full schedule – race days and off-days – at www.anchoragenordicski.com/wp- content/uploads/2017/11/2018- US-Nationals-Event-Schedule- Coast.pdf.

  • Results from every race will be posted in a timely manner at www.anchoragenordicski.com/ nationals18/results/. Photos with captions will also be posted there as they are available.
  • In addition, a race day recap press release will be sent at the end of each event day. The releases will include quotes, attached photos and more. On non-race days, additional news, updates or sidebars will be sent in media advisories, as appropriate.
  • The races will be livestreamed by CXC Skiing/X-Country Live. U.S. Ski & Snowboard will host the livestream at www.facebook.com/ usskiandsnowboard/ and it will also be shared at the 2018 Nationals Facebook page, www.facebook.com/xcusnats2018/ . Timing will be provided by Superior Timing.
  • For media attending the events, credentials will be available. Please send requests to media@usnationals2018.com; you will be added to a list and informed on when/where to receive your credentials. You may also be provided with a bib that identifies you as media for when you are in the racing areas.
  • There will be a media working area with electricity and internet access available upstairs in the Kincaid Park chalet.
  • Results from the freestyle races and the classic distance events will be used to determine the teams for the 2018 FIS Junior & U23 World Ski Championships in Goms, Switzerland, January 28-February 3. All races in Anchorage are also part of the 2017-18 SuperTour and points will count towards the overall SuperTour titles, Olympic Winter Games selection and international World Cup starts. The long distance and team championships will take place March 23-28 in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Additional 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships event, race and athlete information is available at:

Nationals Notes: Firm and Fast Conditions on Kincaid Snowmaking Loop (Updated)

A snow gun makes snow at bottom right, with the sledding hill in the foreground and the Pacific Ocean in the background, in this view from in front of the Kincaid chalet Thursday afternoon, Dec. 28. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

(Note: This post has been updated to include comments from 2018 U.S. nationals organizing committee chair Joey Caterinichio and confirm that the races will be held on a manmade loop.)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Five days out from the opening race of 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, snowmaking loops are being prepared to serve as the race courses next week at Kincaid Park.

“The races will occur on the man-made loop,” Joey Caterinichio, chair of the 2018 U.S. nationals organizing committee, wrote in an email on Saturday. “If any snow is to accumulate over the course of the week and regular courses can be used, the OC will continue to evaluate to expand off the man-made loop but it will take multiple inches of accumulation.”

With teams arriving early and registration opening on Sunday, the race schedule remains unchanged. The event begins Wednesday, Jan. 3, with 10- and 15-kilometer freestyle individual starts.

“The race course will maximize the technical climb we have and be the hardest course that can be used,” Caterinichio wrote. “Currently COC Matt Pauli met with local coaches who gave input and a good course is being designed and will be released.”

That potential course profile will likely be ready on Sunday, she added.

According to Kincaid grooming updates from the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage (NSAA), no grooming has occurred anywhere other than the snowmaking loops since Dec. 20, when three lighted trails were snowmachine-groomed. On its website, NSAA has not mentioned doing any grooming on the FIS distance courses (which have basically no overlap with the three trails groomed) during the month of December.

The full FIS distance courses are technically skiable; this reporter skied them earlier this week on an old pair of training skis. While coverage is good snow in some places, there is also substantial dirt and ice in other places, and the snowpack is so thin that classic tracks could not be set. The snowmaking loops are in substantially better condition. There are approximately 3.5 to 4 k of snowmaking terrain available, depending upon the specific course configuration.

Training course for Sunday, Dec. 31 and Monday, Jan. 1 at Kincaid Park. Photo was taken by Google in April 2011; those are not the current trail conditions. (Photo: 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships)

According to the U.S. nationals schedule of events, courses will be marked for training on Sunday, Dec. 31.

“For practice for the next two days, a one-directional course is being marked for warm up, one that allows course preview of the sprint course and skiing most of the 3.7 KM,” Caterinichio wrote. “On Tuesday, this course will be set for the distance that will change some from the next two days.”

If the distance courses occur entirely on the snowmaking loop, the courses should be in superb shape. Coverage of manmade snow is impeccable, and recent cool temperatures have left the courses firm and fast.

The courses will also ski somewhat differently than the full FIS courses. They will not feature the minutes-long climbs of the standard FIS distance courses; the 7.5 k FIS course at Kincaid includes three “A” Climbs. They will instead feature smaller hills, and more rolling to flat sections between them. A much greater proportion of the course will be “working sections,” and there will be greatly reduced opportunities for recovery.

The courses should be relatively fast; the last high-level races held exclusively on Kincaid snowmaking terrain, in December 2015, saw the winners (Jessica Yeaton and Scott Patterson) cover 10 k in 22:05 and 15 k in 32:27, respectively, in a freestyle individual-start distance race. The courses may also encourage some competitors in next Sunday’s classic distance races to forego kick wax in favor of double poling, depending on conditions on race day.

Despite the differences in elevation profile, Adam Verrier, a 1994 Olympic cross-country skier, thinks that snowmaking-loop distance races will still provide a reasonable qualification process for picking various championship teams.

An Anchorage resident, Verrier knows the Kincaid trails as well as anyone; he qualified for the 1994 U.S Olympic team at the Olympic trials races held at Kincaid Park. (“In those days, the Olympic Trials were a make-or-break thing,” he wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “In both 1992 and 1994 (and I think probably 1998 also) the best two out of four races were scored, and the skiers with the best results were on the team and those who didn’t do well enough that week did not make the team – end of story.”) Verrier has largely stayed in Anchorage since that time and never stopped racing; he has won effectively every significant skiing or mountain running race in southcentral Alaska. He will be serving as chief of announcing in the Kincaid Stadium during next week’s races.

Verrier wrote to FasterSkier with his thoughts on the implications of a snowmaking loop-only U.S. nationals:

If the snowmaking loop is used for distance races, and if they get all the hills squeezed into it that they can, is it hilly enough to separate the Olympic-caliber skiers from others who can hang in there on flatter courses but would get dropped on Olympic-style hilly courses?  Regardless of whether a snowmaking loop course can meet homologation standards, I think there is enough of a profile on that loop to separate the best skiers – the best climbers – and can reasonably be used as a tool for Olympic Team qualification.

. . .

In my opinion, running the US Nationals entirely on the snowmaking loop will be a reasonable qualification process for Olympic Team selection for the following reasons:

– A considerable number of Olympic Team spots have already been grabbed up (mostly by the women’s team), making this week of races less important in the overall scheme of things than if the US Nationals were used as the one and only avenue for Olympic Team qualification.

– I have seen flatter, less demanding courses used for major national and international ski races in the past, when weather conditions have dictated that courses needed to be altered due to lack of snow. Additionally, I have seen day-of-race weather (rain; heavy, wet snow, etc) alter racing conditions so that, for instance, those starting at the very front or the very back of the start list had an enormous advantage, or a skier who made a fortunate (or unfortunate) equipment selection or preparation had extraordinarily good or bad results.

– Although the play hill is not a very big climb, I think it’s steep enough to separate the better skiers, and I think it’s reasonable to predict that the winner of a race on a snowmaking loop distance course would also win on a course that uses Elliot’s Climb, Hairpin and the Lekisch.

In my opinion, if the races were to be held on a snowmaking loop that packed in as much climb as possible, the results would be quite similar to what we’d see on the courses that were originally planned for these races. In my opinion, there is enough climb on that snowmaking loop that it would not be possible to “fake it” and qualify for an Olympic berth without being worthy of selection. I just don’t see how you could get on the US Nationals podium on a snowmaking loop distance course without actually being fit and prepared enough to win on a homologated course with longer, more sustained, but less steep climbs.

As race organizers wrote on the main U.S. nationals website, “The nation’s top nordic skiers are starting to arrive and train at the Kincaid Park trails …” The race office opens on Saturday, Dec. 30, and courses will be marked by 10 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31, according to the schedule. Races begin with the freestyle individual-start distance races on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

— Gavin Kentch

* * *

For more updates, check out:

Grooming and snowmaking: NSAA grooming report | User-submitted trail reports | Kincaid Stadium webcam | NSAA temperature guidelines for operating snowmaking equipment

Weather: Long-range forecast (weather.gov) | Long-range forecast (yr.no)

Main U.S. nationals site for updates: U.S. nationals

Nationals Notes: Cold Weather Returns to Anchorage

Fresh tracks and recent grooming are visible in the Stadium area at Kincaid Park, Thursday morning, Dec. 21, 2017, in this screenshot capture from the NSAA webcam. (Screenshot: AnchorageNordicSki.com)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — With less than two weeks to go until the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, race organizers have emphasized their commitment to holding the races in Anchorage while mentioning the possibility of a backup venue, an hour-drive away, if racing at Kincaid Park becomes untenable.

Organizers posted the following update on the U.S. nationals website earlier this week:

All races will be held as scheduled-

• Snow is currently falling in the Anchorage bowl. Snow production is continuing at Kincaid park. There are currently 2.5km of skiable terrain and this terrain is being groomed.

• All competition events will be held. Revisions to the race courses may be considered by the jury.

• If conditions deteriorate and are no longer viable at Kincaid park, Government Peak Recreation Area trail system, 1 hour driving distance of Anchorage, will be the backup site.

It snowed roughly two inches in Anchorage on Tuesday of this week, with no new snow since then. That was the first significant snowfall in Anchorage in the month of December.

The first half of the month wasn’t just snowless, it was also historically warm. As the National Weather Service wrote on Facebook on Dec. 15, “At Anchorage the average temperature is more than 19 degrees above normal and is the first time that the first two weeks of December has averaged above freezing.” Rain was not uncommon in the first half of this month.

The first weekend of Besh Cup races, the race series used to select Team Alaska skiers for Junior Nationals, last week was moved 300 miles north to Fairbanks on four days’ notice. In explaining the reason for the change, Cross Country Alaska discussed the need to preserve Anchorage’s snow for nationals.

After all that, colder temperatures returned to Anchorage at the start of this workweek. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 18 and 19, saw snowmaking resume at Kincaid. There was also the natural snowfall on Tuesday, which the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) wrote came to “1-1.5 inches” of accumulation at Kincaid. Following warmer temperatures and no snowmaking on Wednesday, the snow guns were running again on Thursday.

In a Thursday morning grooming update, NSAA wrote, “The SML [snowmaking loop] and Play Hill have been groomed this morning. With these colder temperatures, the crew is concentrating on making snow. They are working in the Stadium and heading toward the Chalet.”

As U.S. nationals chief of competition Matt Pauli explained earlier this month, the next planned step in snowmaking would be to expand coverage toward the chalet and generally west of what is currently covered.

Also Thursday, in a separate update, NSAA added, “It seems that the groomers are back in business, at least for a little while.  Some of the Lighted Loops at Kincaid have been resurrected, however with the U.S. National’s quickly approaching and with colder temperatures, the crew is focusing on making more snow.”

As the update on the nationals message board noted, all planned competitions at U.S. nationals will be held, but changed courses may be considered as necessary. The sprint loop is currently 100 percent covered with machine-made snow. While the distance courses (the longer FIS-certified loops of 5 and 7.5 kilometers) are mostly outside the direct reach of the snow guns, Pauli previously discussed ways of bolstering the snowpack, if needed, on the distance courses, such as moving manmade and/or natural snow onto those courses.

As of Thursday, the full distance courses had not been groomed since Tuesday’s snowfall. They currently feature a one-inch skiff of fresh snow on top of an icy base. Regarding plans to potentially use these courses during race week, U.S. nationals Organizing Committee Chair Joey Caterinichio wrote in an email to FasterSkier, “Kincaid snow production continues, temperatures have cooled making this easier and viable. Using our FIS designated race courses is the desired goal and plans continue to prepare the courses. Revisions to race courses may be determined by weather and jury at a later date.”

“Kincaid is a go,” Caterinichio noted. “We have snow and are making more.”

She explained that teams are skiing daily at Kincaid, wax trailers are arriving, and the preparation for the major event is in full force.

“It will be great and will be at Kincaid. Live timing and live steaming are planned,” she wrote.

The backup venue, Government Peak Recreation Area, has a packed base of 6-8 inches, according to recent grooming update, with double classic tracks set in preparation for the upcoming Icicle Double community race series

While the Competition Loop at Government Peak is not International Ski Federation (FIS)-homologated, Ed Strabel of the Mat–Su Ski Club wrote in an email to FasterSkier that it does feature a FIS-worthy total climb of 185 meters over 5.13 k, or 36 meters of climbing per kilometer. This is slightly hillier than the 7.5 k FIS course at Kincaid (35 m/km), and substantially hillier than the shorter snowmaking loop.

The first race of U.S. nationals is the distance skate race on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

— Gavin Kentch

* * *

For more updates, check out:

Grooming and snowmaking: NSAA grooming report | User-submitted trail reports | Kincaid Stadium webcam | NSAA temperature guidelines for operating snowmaking equipment

Weather: Long-range forecast (weather.gov) | Long-range forecast (yr.no)

Main U.S. nationals site for updates: U.S. nationals

Nationals Notes: Conditions Suboptimal Three Weeks Out, But Time and Hope Remain

The logo for 2018 U.S. Nationals, featuring a subtle “Road to PyeongChang” Olympic motif in the upper left corner

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Just over three weeks out from the first race of the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, organizers are responding to warming temperatures with a primary goal of providing athletes with a challenging course and as much good skiing as possible. The first races are set for Jan. 3 in Anchorage, Alaska. 

The current state of the trails

There are roughly 50 kilometers of ski trails at Kincaid Park, the city-owned park at the western edge of the Municipality of Anchorage. Approximately three kilometers of trails, centered on the Stadium, have the capacity for snowmaking. Roughly two out of three of those kilometers currently have a decent base of manmade snow. That said, dirty spots are already emerging in several areas of the loop, and there is an increasing amount of dirt and debris in the snow – racers in yesterday’s citizen race tended toward Swix HFBW, Toko Moly, or other additives to help combat dirty snow.

The other ca. 48 k of trails in the park have a base of roughly 1.5 inches of hardpacked, snowmachine- and skier-groomed natural snow. Coverage is good; virtually no rocks or debris are visible on any of the trails, though long grasses and weeds are sticking through in several spots. But the 48 k of non-snowmaking trails are effectively impassable right now, following temperatures above freezing for most of the past nine days as well as intermittent rain that together left the trails icy and foreboding. (Before that, there was great skiing throughout the park for most of the month of November, following Anchorage’s first real snowfall on November 5.)

There are two sprint and two distance races at U.S. nationals. The sprint races are run on a course starting and ending in the Stadium; the sprint course is currently 95 percent covered with manmade snow. (Stay tuned for FasterSkier’s preview later this month of the new sprint course, set to make its competitive debut at Besh Cup #1 this weekend and its championship-level debut at this year’s U.S. nationals.)

The distance races are planned to occur on 5- and 7.5-k courses homologated by the International Ski Federation (FIS). If you’ve done a FIS distance race at Kincaid in the past decade, such as U.S. nationals in 2009 or 2010 or the college races last spring (but excepting Spring Series 2014, which was on different trails due to snow conditions), you probably raced on these courses.

If U.S. nationals were to happen tomorrow, the 5- and 7.5-k FIS courses would not be usable, barring sufficient scarifying to enable skiers to get a purchase on the 95 percent of each course that takes place off of the snowmaking loop.

What happens next

Given that firm base and good coverage on the FIS trails, it wouldn’t take much snowfall between now and Jan. 3 to make the full courses available. If it snows 6 inches in the next two to three weeks, and returns to seasonable temperatures of well below freezing, then the rest of this article is presumably moot, and the distance races take place on the FIS distance courses as originally planned. (Sample longterm Anchorage forecasts here and here, if you’d like to play armchair meteorologist. Short-term, here is a discouraging article from yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News headlined, “Ready the rain gear, Anchorage, we’re headed for a warm week.” Though temps are supposed to cool down again by the end of this workweek.)

Kincaid: not very cold right now. Screenshot from Kincaid weather station on Monday morning.

But if the weather doesn’t change, there is no meaningful snowfall between now and January, and the whole race series has to take place on manmade snow, what happens then?

“I do have a plan,” Matt Pauli told FasterSkier in an in-person interview Friday morning. Pauli is chief of competition for the 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships. He has been an operator/groomer for the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) for many years, and has been involved with NSAA events dating back to at least the World Cup weekend in March 1983.

“I don’t want to call it a homologated snowmaking loop,” Pauli explained, but his goal would be to feature some climbs and to make the snowmaking loop as challenging as he can.

“I want to still make it as competitive as possible,” Pauli noted, “at least put some ‘B’ Climbs into the equation and we can have at least some height differences that are acceptable.” (The current version of the snowmaking loop includes the climb to the top of the Gong Hill, which is a climb of 24 vertical meters. This is by far the largest climb on the snowmaking loop. According to the FIS Homologation Manual, a ‘B’ Climb has a partial height difference of 10 to 29 meters.)

“I just don’t want to have to create distance,” Pauli clarified. “We can create lots of distance out here, but then it’s basically flat. … I don’t want it to ski like a golf course.”

(The winning time in Friday’s Anchorage School District high school boys classic race, which did not climb all the way to the top of the Gong Hill, was 12:35 for a two-lap course that was a total of 5.4 k long. At 2:20 per kilometer for classic skiing, this may be said to be getting pretty close to golf course speeds. That said, a grain of salt is necessary there simply because the pacesetter, Gus Schumacher, is no ordinary high school boy; he won the race by more than a minute over a strong high school field.)

One unknown factor here is whether or when temperatures will drop cold enough for the NSAA operations staff to turn on the snowmaking equipment again. NSAA has historically said that it decides when to make snow in accordance with this temperature matrix. It most recently made enough snow during the month of November to cover, as explained, roughly 2 out of 3 kilometers of the standard snowmaking loop. NSAA has said that its snowmaking abilities are limited to roughly 1/3 of potential capacity due to limited water at the site.

There was not extra snow made and stored during November, as sometimes happens in advance of national championships.

Kincaid: definitely snow-covered, but getting a little dirty. A growing patch of dirt and ice is visible in the background of this capture from the NSAA webcam, taken Sunday afternoon and showing the center of the Stadium. (Screenshot: NSAA webcam)

“Hopefully we get those cold temperatures so we can get the snow guns running again on the west side” of the snowmaking loop, Pauli explains, “over by the play hill in front of the chalet. I’d like, certainly, to utilize that portion. That would expand the loop and what else I’ve traced out.”

He estimated that would give him about a 3 1/2 k loop.

“Certainly we can get up to 4 [kilometers] and such, but that’s kind of two-way traffic, flat, or adding extra flat, which I really don’t want to do. I think athletes want to be working the entire time … not to dispute that double poling is still defined as a classic technique. But at the same time, I think we’d like to see it expand out to the [normal] trails.”

Pauli’s goal for next month’s races is clear: “to have as much good skiing as possible.” But he is currently reluctant to run a PistenBully on the main FIS trails to try to chop up the ice.

“It’s hard to put heavy equipment on any of the trails we have now,” he said, “because we just don’t have the base. If this stuff freezes solid though, and with the rain we get, and any snow accumulation, anything we put on, then we’ll have a pretty bombproof base that’s going to prevent rocks and such.”

While Pauli cares deeply about protecting the base and covering rocks, he’s less concerned with “things like grass and leaves”, he said.

Other options

Pauli is also open to potentially snowmachine grooming on Elliott’s Climb, a sustained climb leaving from the north end of the Stadium that would space out a mass start field, add an ‘A’ Climb not available on the snowmaking loop, and provide another 2+ k of race course (counting the roundtrip up Elliott’s Climb and back down Rollercoaster to the Stadium).

“So if we can snowmachine groom going up Elliott’s Climb,” he notes, “that’s certainly gonna be in the mix. Because I think we can have a freestyle race, if it cools off, and we drag it with our snowmachine equipment. And then utilize the rest of the snowmaking loop, and dial that in.”

As for invoking more ambitious measures, those are still some ways off in the future. “Windrowing snow, meaning actually snowblowing snow and creating windrows and then snowblowing those into tubs and getting those out on the course? Not going to make that call for another week or two, probably two weeks or so,” Pauli explains.

“Firing up the snow guns” that are centered on the Stadium and trails immediately next to it? “We can’t haul that stuff out, but we can certainly fortify and expand what we’ve got out here. But hauling manmade snow right now, when we don’t have any base, just would wreck it.”

Bringing in snow from the nearby airport? That’s not on the table.

“I know people say, ‘Oh, why don’t you just haul snow from the airport?’ Nobody wants to ski on snow with deicing fluid, gravel, and sand in it,” Pauli says. “And I don’t think the city wants that type of snow dumped on their park. Because it all has to go someplace. So if we have to scrape out snow from the woods here, what we can, if we have to windrow and haul it by tubs if we can, that’s what we’re going to do, fortify those trails. Especially for freestyle events – it might be bumpy, but I think it’s still going to be raceable. So I think we can do a good job of preparing those non-snowmaking trails.”

According to U.S. nationals Organizing Committee Chair Joey Caterinichio, there are no plans to move the event elsewhere. She was optimistic about Kincaid’s base and snowmaking opportunities in the coming week with cooler temperatures in the forecast.

Gavin Kentch

Despite Challenges, ‘Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener’ Debuts Dec. 9

Blowing snow at the Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, Minnesota, in advance of the first annual Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener on Saturday, Dec. 9.

By Andrea Potyondy-Smith

Mother Nature has not been kind to cross country skiers of the Midwest so far this year. ABR (Active Backwoods Retreat) in Ironwood, Michigan, looked to be off to a good start, but rain over the Thanksgiving weekend shut down operations indefinitely. There has been no measurable snow that’s lasted anywhere near the American Birkebeiner trail, much less the Minneapolis metro area. Yet despite the snow drought, Three Rivers Park District of Minneapolis will be forging on with its first-ever Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener.

This event was the brainchild of Paul Erikson, who works for the district as development manager, and Karl Huemiller, the district’s volunteer and donor relations supervisor. The idea was to bring to nordic skiing something activities like hunting and fishing currently have: an “official” opener. Three Rivers already offers Rennet Activities at Hyland Park in Bloomington, Minnesota, in January, so the idea was, according to Bruce Bolduan, park operations supervisor, to “have an event prior in the season to kind of bring people out and explore the sport of cross-country skiing … both to celebrate the sport and introduce it to people.”

Though there will be snowboard and downhill lessons in progress during the Opener, the event is truly focused on nordic skiing, with free rentals and passes to participants. Activities will be held solely at Elm Creek Park. Though Hyland Park also has a snow-making loop for cross-country, Bolduan feels Elm Creek’s building and facilities offer benefits Hyland does not.

The park started snowmaking earlier this year, only to have a two-week stretch of warm weather in late November shut it down with a scant 1.2-kilometer loop for skiers to use. With rain pattering outside the building’s window and 50+ degree temps on Dec. 4, Bolduan spoke about holding the event on Dec. 9.

“We chose … a day where we felt fairly confident we would have the ski trails open by, and luckily, we have some cold temps coming this week so we can work on the trails,” he said. “[The weather] shouldn’t be an issue. I have 100 percent confidence we’re going to have ski trails open this weekend. I just don’t know what distance.”

Currently, the plan is to shut down the short loop that’s open to make snow essentially around the clock until the opener.

About 35 vendors and ski organizations will be at the opener, with seminars on the hour, every hour—from waxing and fitting skis, to what goes into the process of snowmaking. Major local shops like Pioneer Midwest, Finn Sisu and Gear West will be on hand, sharing their expertise and helping to promote enthusiasm for the sport.

The dearth of snow this season has made a lot of Minnesota’s skiers a little cranky; it is hard to get excited about the sport when one looks out the window only to see brown grass and rain-soaked asphalt. But, though the weather has not been very cooperative for the Midwest’s cross-country ski population over the past few years, it is clear that devotees are determined to keep its spirit alive by the creation of an official opener — weather be darned — and a lot of help from Three Rivers Park District.

More information: https://www.threeriversparks.org/page/minnesota-nordic-ski-opener

Deep Fields, Fast Competition Highlight NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic

Harvard’s Chris O’Brien heads out of the start gate at the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic on Oct. 7 in Jericho, Vt. (Photo: Liam John)

UVM racers dominate men’s and women’s open races

By Adam Terko

This past Saturday, Oct. 7, nearly 100 racers from all over New England and New York converged on the rollerski track in Jericho, Vermont, for the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic presented by Mansfield Nordic Club and Ethan Allen Biathlon Club.

Another event in a string of area rollerski races that began with NENSA’s App Gap Challenge in July and the NYSEF Climb to the Castle in September, this race wound competitors through the twisting corners and steep hills of Vermont’s only paved rollerski trails. U16 racers competed in a 6 k individual start race, followed by open men’s and women’s races over 10 k.

The U16 categories were won by local Mansfield Nordic Club skiers Aidan Burt and Magdalena Lelito, respectively. Both Burt and Lelito train and race with MNC and are more than familiar with the climbs, curves, and descents of the rollerski track at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site.

After her race, Lelito was excited to see a summer and fall of hard work paying off.

Middlebury skiers Alex Lawson (52) and Cate Brams (53) mid-race at the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic on Oct. 7 in Jericho, Vt. (Photo: Liam John)

“I felt great during the race,” she said. “The intervals we do during practice really help, and I felt stronger knowing the course and how to ski aggressively…I like the experience of racing before the winter season because I get a good idea of what to improve on before the real deal.”

The 10 k races featured deep fields, and a mix of both junior, collegiate and masters competitors. Attendance from EISA schools like University of Vermont (UVM), Middlebury, Bowdoin, Harvard, and St. Michaels gave the event the feeling of a big winter race without the snow, with familiar faces and rivalries playing out throughout the day.

In both races, UVM left a strong impression on the results sheet. The Catamount women swept positions 1-4, while the men placed 1-6.

UVM sophomore and northern Vermont native Bill Harmeyer won the men’s race with an 18.1-second margin over teammate Juri Miosga. Another Catamount, senior Cully Brown, rounded out the podium in third.

UVM skiers Bill and Henry Harmeyer power toward the finish line at the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic on Oct. 7 in Jericho, Vt. (Photo: Liam John)

“Awesome to have NENSA and my home club, MNC, put together a stellar event. It’s not everyday you get 100 skiers together during the fall to throw down,” remarked Harmeyer. “Really nice to have an event to remind myself what it feels like to go fast wearing a bib. Also reassuring to know that the fitness is there, and I’m looking forward to transferring that to snow soon!”

In the women’s race one of the newest members of the Catamount roster, Evelina Sutro, finished atop the podium. Sutro edged UVM teammate and 2017 All-American Alayna Sonnesyn by a scant 3.7 seconds, while third place went to Margie Freed, also representing UVM.

The only non-UVM skier to finish in the top-five in either of the 10 k races was Harvard’s Tegan Thorley, who raced to fifth in the women’s event.

NENSA’s Competitive Programs Director Justin Beckwith was in attendance to help with the running of the event, and also to observe the atmosphere and competitions.

“We are excited to see such strong participation from throughout New England and New York,” remarked Beckwith. “The fall classic had the distinct feel of a ski race and the camaraderie of the teams is healthy for our Nordic community. This was a great opportunity for several college teams to get in a hard effort and for junior skiers to run elbows with some of their peers and role models.”

Results and timing, courtesy of EABC and TrembleBach Timing, can be found at www.mansfieldnordic.org, eabiathlon.org, and below.

Fall Rollerski Classic 2017 Results

For additional photos, please visit the following galleries:

Fall Classic photos by Carl + Dave Priganc

Fall Classic photos by Liam John

For those looking to view or compete in more rollerski races before the snow flies, consider NENSA’s Elite Invitational rollerski race and winter kickoff party on November 4th, or the NY State Rollerski Championships presented by HURT Nordic on November 12th.

U16 athletes Aidan Burt, Ali Priganc and Magda Lelito take in the scene during the open races at the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic on Oct. 7 in Jericho, Vt. (Photo: Liam John)

***

To submit a recap of a regional event, please email info@fasterskier.com.

Longtime BEA Executive Director Husaby Steps Down

Bend Endurance Academy (BEA) staff

(Press release)

The Bend Endurance Academy (BEA) Board of Directors announced today that Ben Husaby, its founding Executive Director, has decided to step down from his position after eight years of leading the organization. BEA is a Bend-based non-profit organization that offers kids the opportunity to learn, play, compete, and explore the outdoors through their participation in endurance sports. Under Husaby’s direction, BEA has grown to serve nearly 1,000 participants annually in programs ranging from play-based pre-school groups to professional-level competition training in the disciplines of Nordic skiing, cycling and climbing.

“It has been such an honor to have been a part of a truly remarkable organization.  I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished in a relatively short period time.”  Husaby goes on to say, “We have great coaches and families, van-fulls of kids and a new facility.  Now is the perfect time for me to step aside.  I have been tied to the sport of Nordic skiing, coaching, and youth education for over 35 years and it’s time to ski off into the woods for myself again and let the next generation of leadership forge ahead.”

“It has been an honor to work with Ben as BEA has grown and evolved over the last several years.” Board President, Cris Himes, commented. “Ben is truly driven by the mission of the academy to get kids outside and active.  He has left a lasting impact on BEA’s culture and values, and his recruitment of some of the best professionals in their disciplines to BEA will be part of his immeasurable legacy.”

Husaby will be directing the organization through September 1 in close coordination with the board and the organization’s three program directors and associate director. A Board Executive Search Committee will oversee the recruitment and selection of the right individual to lead BEA into its next stage of development.

“Ben helped build a strong and dedicated community of parents, kids, coaches and staff that supports kids and young adults in their sports and other adventures.  He’s leaving us with a team of excellent staff, an expanded training facility, and a solid financial foundation.” Himes said. “BEA has a bright future and I’m excited to continue to guide it as we get more and more members of the community involved in and inspired by our mission.”

Gregg Second at OPA Cup Finals; Halvorsen 10th in Mini Tour

Some of the American team members and staff at 2017 OPA Cup Finals in Seefeld, Austria: (from left to right) U.S. development coach Bryan Fish, Hannah Halvorsen, Logan Hanneman, Ben Saxton, Anne Hart, and Caitlin Gregg. (Photo: Garrott Kuzzy)

Caitlin Gregg led a contingent of American cross-country skiers in Seefeld, Austria, last Friday through Sunday, starting OPA Cup Finals with a freestyle prologue win, then placing seventh in the 10-kilometer classic, and finally second in the 10 k freestyle pursuit.

The Europa Cup, or OPA Cup for short, is Central Europe’s International Ski Federation (FIS) Continental Cup series, similar to the U.S. SuperTour and Canadian NorAm circuits. The overall male and female winners of the OPA Cup circuit earn World Cup starts for next season.

This year’s OPA Cup Finals were held in Seefeld in the form of a three-day mini tour. It was Seefeld’s first test event leading up to the 2019 Nordic World Championships. The next test event will be the 2018 Cross-Country World Cup scheduled for next Jan. 26-28 in Seefeld. Athletes competing in OPA Cups are selected by their respective national teams, which creates a field of the best athletes not competing on the World Cup.

While most Canada’s top talent was racing in North America, either at World Cup Finals or Canadian Ski Nationals, several Americans made the trip, led by U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish and assisted by Justin Beckwith and Jon Fillardo. Four U.S. senior skiers competed, Gregg, Anne HartLogan Hanneman, and Ben Saxton, along with 16 juniors in the under-20 junior age category. These included athletes from the Dartmouth Ski Team, Stratton Mountain School (SMS), Ski and Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV), and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC).

Caitlin Gregg (c) after winning the women’s 2.5 k freestyle sprint prologue on March 17 at OPA Cup Finals in Seefeld, Austria. She was joined on the podium by Germany’s Elisabeth Schicho in second and Sofie Krehl in third. (Photo: Garrott Kuzzy)

Coming off a third-place finish in the Engadin Ski Marathon a week earlier, Gregg (Team Gregg/Loppet Nordic Racing) won the OPA Cup Finals women’s 2.5 k skate prologue on Friday, March 17, finishing 1.5 seconds ahead of German runner-up Elisabeth Schicho in 6:23.7 minutes. Germany had two on the podium with Sofie Krehl in third (+2.8). Hart (SMS Elite Team) finished 14th (+11.8) out of 46 competitors.

In the men’s 3.3 k skate prologue that same day, France took first and second with Jean Tiberghien finishing first in 7:30.1 and Paul Goalabre placing second, 1.9 seconds back. Italy’s Maicol Rastelli finished third (+4.9). For the U.S., Hanneman, of Alaska Pacific University (APU), placed 15th (+15.2) and Saxton (SMS Elite) finished 38th (+28.3) out of 79.

Also on Friday, Hannah Halvorsen, of Sugar Bowl Academy and the U.S. Ski Team Development Team, placed second in the junior women’s 2.5 k skate prologue. She finished 4.8 seconds off the winning time of Germany’s 2017 Junior World Championships silver medalist Antonia Fräbel (6:38.5), and ahead of France’s Laura Chamiot-Maitral in third (+6.4).

American Hannah Halvorsen (l) of the U.S. Ski Team D-team and Sugar Bowl Academy, on the podium after placing second in the junior women’s 2.5 k freestyle pursuit at OPA Cup Finals in Seefeld, Austria. Germany’s Antonia Fräbel placed first and France’s Laura Chamiot-Maitral (r) with third. (Photo: Garrott Kuzzy)

Seven U.S. women competed in the junior women’s prologue, with Lauren Jortberg (Dartmouth Ski Team) placing 20th, Maddie Donovan (SSCV) 33rd, Katja Freeburn (Ski Club Vail) 38th, Waverly Gebhardt (SSWSC) 39th, Gracelynn Shanley (SSCV) 40th, and Lyle Shipp (SSCV) 42nd.

Nine American men competed in the junior men’s 3.3 k skate prologue, with Ben Ogden (SMS) leading them in 25th, 28.4 seconds off the winning time set by Germany’s 2017 Junior World Champion Janosch Brugger in 7:37.0. Italy’s Luca Del Fabbro finished 0.8 seconds back in second and France’s Martin Collet was 1.7 seconds behind in third.

For the U.S., Nolan Herzog (SSCV) placed 40th, Conor Munns (SMS) 47th, Wyatt Gebhardt (SSWSC) 48th, William Haig 51st (SMS), Adam Witkowski (SMS) 53rd, Eli Eppolito (SMS) 55th, Ty Willoughby (SSCV) 56th, and Christopher Seabury (SSCV) 57th.

In the classic individual-start races on Saturday, athletes of all levels were literally competing side-by-side. Event organizers wanted to run the races early, before rain in the forecast began to fall to prevent the courses from deteriorating before Sunday’s pursuit. Despite classic skiing for only the third time this season due to injury, Gregg was able to finish seventh in the women’s 10 k classic, 1:48.5 behind German winner Theresa Eichhorn, and stay in the running for Sunday’s pursuit final.

Led by Eichhorn, who won by almost a minute and a half in 31:38.2, Germany swept the top five in that race, with Julia Belger and Pia Fink reaching the podium in second (+1:24.6) and third (+1:29.5), respectively. Hart finished 22nd (+3:20.3).

The men’s 15 k classic was considerably closer, with Rastelli pulling out a 3.1-second victory over Germany’s Hannes Dotzler in 42:07.5. Switzerland’s Jason Rueesch rounded out the podium in third (+31.4), while Hanneman placed 40th (+3:43.9) and Saxton 63rd (+5:45.7).

Halvorsen again led the U.S. women in the junior 5 k classic on Saturday, finishing 18th, 1:39.8 behind Italy’s Anna Comarella, who won in 15:47.2. Fräbel took second (+10.5), and Chamiot-Maitral third (+18.4).

Four other Americans placed in the top 40 in that race, with Jortberg in 34th, Gebhardt in 37th, Shanley in 38th, and Shipp in 39th. Freeborn and Donovan were disqualified for skiing on a wrong section of leaving the marked course.

Ogden led the Americans again in the junior men’s 10 k classic, placing 21st and 2:16.4 behind France’s Hugo Lapalus, who won in 28:31.1. France went 1-2 with Collet reaching the podium again, this time in second (+13.4), and Italy’s Simone Dapra placed third (+31.2), just 3 seconds ahead of Brugger in fourth.

Herzog finished 37th, Gebhardt 40th, Munns 42nd, Eppolito 48th, Willoughby 49th, and Seabury 50th. Haig did not start.

On Sunday, Gregg jetted from fourth at the start to second at the finish in the women’s 10 k skate pursuit with the fastest course time (28:32.6). She finished 8.9 seconds behind Germany’s Eichhorn, who started first and held on for the overall win in 29:50.7. Germany had two on the pursuit podium with Fink in third (+27.8). Hart placed 16th in the mini tour (+3:43.2), moving up from 19th at the start.

Logan Hanneman (APU) competing at OPA Cup Finals in Seefeld, Austria. (Photo: Garrott Kuzzy)

In the men’s 15 k skate pursuit, Rastelli defended his lead to finish first in 40:26.4, just 1.6 seconds ahead of Dotzler in second. Ruessch placed third overall (+32.2) and the top three all held their starting positions. Hanneman finished the mini tour in 37th (+6:51.1) and Saxton 41st (+7:07).

Halvorsen notched 10th place in the junior women’s 10 k skate pursuit, finishing 2:42.1 out of first with the ninth-fastest course time. Fräbel started first and won it by 13.2 seconds over Comarella, who started second, in 30:13.6. Chamiot-Maitral held onto third place (+33.9), and two other Americans completed the mini tour, with Jortberg in 25th (+6:13.5) and Shanley in 33rd (+15:13.3).

In the junior men’s 15 k skate pursuit, Ogden repeated in 21st, finishing 4:01.8 behind the winner, Brugger, who started third and raced to first in 42:56.3. Del Frabbro skied the fastest course time to race from sixth at the start to second at the finish (+9.4), just 0.2 seconds ahead of another Italian, Dapra, in third (+9.6).

Six U.S. junior men completed the weekend, with Munns placing 33rd overall, Herzog 36th, Gebhardt 38th, Eppolito 39th, and Willoughby 40th.

Gregg, who was second overall in the mini tour, told FasterSkier contributor and founder of Lumi Experiences Garrott Kuzzy that competing at OPA Cup Finals was almost an afterthought. When she realized she would be in the region for the Engadin, she decided to compete and said she was excited to join the trip with athletes of various experience levels.

Gregg mentioned how the enthusiasm of young athletes like Wyatt Gebhardt, competing in his first European ski races, is infectious and helps inspire her skiing. Likewise, younger athletes are able to experience how athletes like Gregg prepare for and handle themselves at European races. Gregg thanked the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) for its support in making trips like the OPA Cup Finals possible for all the athletes and coaches involved.

Seeing Gregg on top of the podium and Halvorsen in second place on the junior podium on the first day showed their teammates what is possible — taking away some of the mystique around competing in Europe.

— Garrott Kuzzy contributed reporting

Results:

Skate prologue: Women | Men | Junior women | Junior men

5/10/15 k classic: Women | Men | Junior women | Junior men

10/15 k freestyle pursuit: Women | Men | Junior women | Junior men

Kornfield, Kern, Norris, and Miller Win at Ishpeming SuperTour

Two days of SuperTour races and a Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) race were held this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming, Mich., with SuperTour freestyle sprints and 5/10-kilometer classic races on Friday and Sunday. It was the fourth stop on the circuit, including U.S. nationals, and the last one before the season-ending SuperTour Finals.

Interestingly, the sprint finals included just four skiers (as opposed to the regular six) and Tyler Kornfield beat out two of his Alaska Pacific University (APU) teammates and Paddy Caldwell of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team for the win in 3:44.30 minutes. Caldwell finished second (+1.14), Reese Hanneman (APU) third (+4.2), and David Norris (APU) fourth (+9.27).

Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy) won the qualifier in 3:38.32, but was eliminated after finishing third in his quarterfinal. Logan Hanneman (APU) qualified second (+1:33) and reached the semifinals, where he placed third in his heat. Kornfield qualified third (+3.23). Thirty-seven men competed in the master/senior men category.

In the women’s final, 19-year-old Julia Kern (SMS Elite) topped two Craftsbury Green Racing Project senior skiers, Caitlin Patterson and Kaitlynn Miller, as well as Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation) for the win in 4:04.27. Kern edged Patterson by 0.11 seconds, Bender finished 3.28 seconds back in third, and Miller took fourth (+4.57).

Erika Flowers (SMS Elite) won the qualifier in 4:13.31, but was eliminated after placing fourth in the semifinals. Kern was second fastest in qualifying (+1.67). Twenty-two women competed.

On Sunday, Miller captured the win in the women’s 5 k classic individual start, beating her teammate Patterson by 6.4 seconds in 14:29.9. Craftsbury swept the podium with Liz Guiney in third (+17.0). APU’s Rosie Frankowski, originally from Minneapolis, Minn., raced to fourth (+51.8), Kern was fifth (+1:05.4), Anne Hart (SMS Elite) sixth, Canada’s Lisle Compton (NTDC Thunder Bay) seventh, Flowers eighth, Becca Rorabaugh (APU) ninth, and Bender 10th. The field was much deeper Sunday, with 60 women finishing.

In the men’s 10 k, Norris notched a 3.8-second victory over Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University, finishing in 25:29.7. Matt Gelso of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) reached the podium in third (+6.8) and Caldwell missed it by 1.5 seconds in fourth (+8.3). Evan Palmer-Charrette (NTDC Thunder Bay) was the top Canadian in fifth (+11.7), Scott Patterson (APU) finished sixth, Jack Hegman (SVSEF) seventh, Michael Somppi (NTDC Thunder Bay) eighth, Logan Hanneman ninth, and Gaspard Cuenot (Michigan Tech) 10th.

The last SuperTour races of the season — SuperTour Finals, a.k.a. Spring Series — will take place in over a month, March 27-April 2 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Results: FridaySunday

 

 

U.S. Nominates U23 World Championships Team

Ten athletes have been selected to represent the U.S. at the 2017 FIS Nordic U23 World Championships starting later this month at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, according to an email from U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish.

The team includes five men and five women, with Patrick Caldwell of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS), Dartmouth College and U.S. Ski Team D-team prequalifying to earn his spot.

Also on the men’s team are John Hegman and Cole Morgan, both of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), Callan DeLine (Dartmouth Ski Team), and Adam Martin (Northern Michigan University).

Comprising the women’s team are Kelsey Phinney (SVSEF), Nichole Bathe (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), Jesse Knori (University of Colorado-Boulder), Alayna Sonnesyn (University of Vermont), and Corey Stock (Bridger Ski Foundation).

Additionally, 12 athletes were named to the U.S. team for 2017 Junior World Championships, also held Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at Soldier Hollow. Read more about that team here.

According to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) press release, “more than 500 athletes from nearly 40 nations are expected to take part in the Junior World and U23 Championships.

“The team of five men and five women was chosen based on results of USSA SuperTour competitions as well as trials during the recently completed L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow,” the press release continued. The rest of the release is included below:

“The team is led by Patrick Caldwell (Lyme Center, NH) of Stratton Mountain School. Caldwell is a two-time veteran of the U23 World Championships who was 15th in the 15k freestyle event in 2015. Adam Martin (Marquette, MI) from Northern Michigan University and women’s team member Kelsey Phinney (Ketchum, ID) of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation were also on the 2016 U23 Team along with Caldwell.

Competition opens on Tuesday, Jan. 31 with a classic sprint. On Thursday, Feb. 2 men race a 10k freestyle with women running 5k. A skiathlon, featuring both classic and freestyle technique, is set for Saturday, Feb. 4.

2017 USA UNDER 23 CROSS COUNTRY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM
(Name, hometown, USSA club, birthdate, age at start of championships)

Men

  • Patrick Caldwell, Lyme Center, NH (Stratton Mountain School) 2/18/1994 (22) * **
  • Callan Deline, Avon, CO (Dartmouth Ski Team) 12/4/1995 (21)
  • John Hegman, Huntington, VT (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) 5/21/1994 (22)
  • Adam Martin, Marquette, MI (Northern Michigan University) 10/26/1994 (22) *
  • Cole Morgan, Bozeman, MT (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) 3/10/1994 (22)

Women

  • Nichole Bathe, Fitchburg, WI (Univ. of Alaska-Fairbanks) 3/17/1995 (21)
  • Jesse Knori, Wilson, WY (Univ. of Colorado Ski Team, 5/24/1994 (22)
  • Kelsey Phinney, Ketchum, ID (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) 4/9/1994 (22) *
  • Alayna Sonnesyn, Plymouth, MN (Univ. of Vermont) 6/22/1996 (20)
  • Corey Stock, Lincoln, MA (Bridger Ski Foundation) 6/20/1994 (22)

* Member of 2016 Junior Worlds team
** Member of 2015 Junior Worlds team

2017 USANA FIS NORDIC JUNIOR WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cross Country Schedule (all events at Soldier Hollow)

Monday, January 30
7:00 p.m. Opening Ceremony (Zermatt Resort, Midway)

Tuesday, January 31
10:00 a.m. Classic sprint qualifications
12:00 p.m. Classic sprint heats

Wednesday, February 1
7:00 p.m. Medals Ceremony (Ice Castles, Homestead Resort, Midway)

Thursday, February 2
10:00 a.m. Women’s 5k freestyle
12:00 p.m. Men’s 10k freestyle

Friday, February 3
7:00 p.m. Medal Ceremony (Ice Castles, Homestead Resort, Midway)

Saturday, February 4
10:00 a.m. Women’s 7.5k CL/7.5k FS skiathlon
12:00 p.m. Men’s 15k CL/15k CL skiathlon

Sunday, February 5
6:30 p.m. Closing Ceremony and Medals Ceremony (Zermatt Resort, Midway)

TOP PAST U23 FINISHES FOR USA

2 – Jessie Diggins, 2014 freestyle sprint (Val di Fiemme, ITA)
2 – Noah Hoffman, 2012 15k classic (Ezerum, TUR)
2 – Laura Valaas, 2007 classic sprint (Tarvisio, ITA)
3 – Liz Stephen, 2008 15k freestyle mass start (Malles, Val Venosta, ITA)
4 – Ida Sargent, 2010 freestyle sprint (Hinterzarten, GER)
4 – Liz Stephen, 2009 pursuit (Praz de Lys Sommand, FRA)
5 – Morgan Arritola, 2009 pursuit (Praz de Lys Sommand, FRA)
5 – Sadie Bjornsen, 2012 10k classic (Ezerum, TUR)
6 – Ben Saxton, 2015 classic sprint (Almaty, KAZ)”

USSA Names Cross-Country Junior Worlds Team

(Press release)

PARK CITY, UT (Jan. 13, 2017) – Twelve cross country ski racers have been named to the team that will represent the USA at the International Ski Federation’s 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Ski Championships Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. It’s the first time the global junior event has been held in the USA since 1986 in Lake Placid.

The team of six men and six women was named by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association following the completion of trials during the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow. Selection was based on results of USSA SuperTour competitions along with three trials events during the U.S. Championships.

“It was a great opportunity to have our trials here at Soldier Hollow and to have the Junior World Championships coming back to the USA,” said Coach Bryan Fish. “We witnessed a full spectrum of weather conditions at the trials and we’re very appreciative of Soldier Hollow hosting the event on the new trails that have been created for Junior Worlds.”

The women’s team brings some strong international experience with Stratton Mountain School skiers Katharine Ogden (Landgrove, VT) and Julia Kern (Waltham, MA) having experience at Junior Worlds. Two years ago Ogden skied to one of the best U.S. finishes in event history with a sixth in the skiathlon at Almaty, Kazakhstan. Kern was 16th last year in the freestyle sprint at Rasnov, Romania. It will be Hannah Halvorsen‘s (Truckee, CA) first Junior Worlds, but the Sugar Bowl Ski Team athlete was a strong sixth in the classic sprint last year at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

It’s the first time on the Junior Worlds Team for all six men. Hunter Wonders (Anchorage) of Alaska Pacific University Nordic was on last year’s Youth Olympic Games team where he finished eighth in the 10k freestyle.

In the trials events at the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships, Ogden was second overall in the 20k classic and fourth in the 10k freestyle. Kern also recorded a seventh overall in the classic sprint.

The team will return to Soldier Hollow on January 23 for a pre-Worlds training camp.

Competition opens on Monday, Jan. 30 with classic sprint. On Wednesday, Feb. 1 men race a 10k freestyle with women running 5k. A skiathlon, featuring both classic and freestyle technique, is set for Friday, Feb. 3 with relays closing out the Championships on Sunday, Feb. 5.

2017 USA JUNIOR NORDIC WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CROSS COUNTRY TEAM

(Name, hometown, USSA club, birthdate, age at start of championships)

Men

  • Logan Diekmann, Bozeman, MT (Univ. of Utah Ski Team) 3/28/1997 (19)
  • Wyatt Gebhardt, Steamboat Springs, CO (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) 8/291999 (17)
  • Bill Harmeyer, S Burlington, VT (Univ. of Vermont Ski Team) 6/19/1997 (19)
  • Kamran Husain, Hartland, VT (Stratton Mountain School) 10/18/1997 (19)
  • Lance McKenney, Fort Fairfield, ME 7/5/97 (19)
  • Hunter Wonders, Anchorage (Alaska Pacific University Nordic) 8/7/1998 (18) ***

Women

  • Hannah Halvorsen, Truckee, CA (Sugar Bowl Ski Team) 2/19/98 (18) ***
  • Lauren Jortberg, Boulder, CO (Dartmouth Ski Team) 9/28/1997 (19)
  • Julia Kern, Waltham, MA (Stratton Mountain School) 9/12/1997 (19) * **
  • Taeler McCrerey, Frisco, CO (Univ. of Denver Ski Team) 5/26/1997 (18)
  • Katharine Ogden, Landgrove, VT (Stratton Mountain School) 11/17/1997 (19) * **
  • Hailey Swirbul, Carbondale, CO (Univ. of Alaska – Anchorage) 7/10/1998 (18) **

* Member of 2016 Junior Worlds team
** Member of 2015 Junior Worlds team
*** Member of 2016 Youth Olympic Games team

2017 USANA FIS NORDIC JUNIOR WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cross Country Schedule (all events at Soldier Hollow)

Monday, January 30

10:00 a.m. Classic sprint qualifications
12:00 p.m. Classic sprint heats
7:00 p.m. Opening Ceremony (Zermatt Resort, Midway)

Wednesday, February 1

10:00 a.m. Women’s 5k freestyle
12:00 p.m. Men’s 10k freestyle
7:00 p.m. Medal ceremony (Ice Castles, Homestead Resort, Midway)

Friday, February 3

10:00 a.m. Women’s 5k CL/5k FS skiathlon
12:00 p.m. Men’s 10k CL/10k CL skiathlon
7:00 p.m. Medal ceremony (Ice Castles, Homestead Resort, Midway)

Sunday, February 5

10:00 a.m. Women’s 4×3.3k relay
12:00 p.m. Men’s 4x5k relay
6:30 p.m. Closing Ceremony and Medals Ceremony (Zermatt Resort, Midway)

TOP PAST JUNIOR WORLDS FINISHES FOR USA

4 – Lindsey Williams, 2003 freestyle sprint (Solleftea)
5 – Leif-Orin Zimmermann, 2003 freestyle sprint (Solleftea)
5 – Torin Koos, 2000 freestyle sprint (Strbske Pleso)
6 – Katharine Ogden, 2015 skiathlon (Almaty)
6 – Ryan Foster, 2003 freestyle sprint (Solleftea)
6 – Kristina Trygstad-Saari, 2002 5k (Schonach)
6 – Andy Newell, 2001 freestyle sprint (Karpacz-Szklarska)
6 – Kikkan Randall, 2001 freestyle sprint (Karpacz-Szklarska)
6 – Kris Freeman, 2000 freestyle sprint (Strbske Pleso)

Cross Country Canada Announces U23/Junior Worlds Teams

On Wednesday, Cross Country Canada announced its teams for the International Ski Federation (FIS) Nordic Junior & U23 World Championships, which will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.

Below is an excerpt from its team-nomination press release:

“Selections were based on the results of the 3 races at the U.S. National Championships, a great opportunity to race at altitude on the Championship courses against deep fields of competition. The top Canadians were automatically selected to the team, and Dahria Beatty and Maya Macisaac-Jones were preselected based on scoring World Cup points, this season and last.

The rest of the selections were a bit of a challenge, with a lot of competition for places on the team. The variable weather conditions also made ski preparation sometimes difficult. It is always good to have a challenge with selection with so many promising athletes. While some may not have made the final team, there will be many more opportunities to prove they can represent Canada on the World stage.

 

Canada's 2017 Junior World Championships team

Canada’s 2017 Junior World Championships team

Junior Women

  1. India McIsaac, Rocky Mountain Racers
  2. Annika Richardson, Thunder Bay NTDC – Hollyburn
  3. Claire Grall-Johnson, Nakkertok
  4. Natalie Hynes, Whitehorse
  5. Lisle Compton, Thunder Bay NTDC – Kenora

Alternate: Benita Peiffer, Whistler Nordic

Junior Men

  1. Gareth Williams, Telemark
  2. Étienne Hébert, Montériski
  3. Remi Drolet, Black Jack
  4. Ryan Jackson, Team Hardwood
  5. Reed Godfrey, Canmore Nordic
  6. Ty Godfrey, Canmore Nordic
  7. Antoine Blais, Skibec
  8. Philippe Boucher, CNEPH – Skibec

The Junior team is represented by a mix of experience, including Philippe Boucher who will be attending his 3rd World Junior Championships, and 16 year old Remi Drolet attending his first after skiing to a dominant win in the 10k classic race at the trials. Drolet credited some good altitude preparation for his performances. ‘I wasn’t quite expecting to qualify, but knew after I had a good race the first day, that the opportunity was there if I skied well in the mass-start. I am proud to be representing Canada at the Championships and will ski as hard as I can.’

On the junior women’s side Annika Richardson, Canada’s Youth Olympic Games representative in 2016, was the top Canadian in the sprint and classic distance races, showing good promise for a successful World Junior event.

On the final day Canada managed a podium sweep versus the U.S. team on the junior men’s side and 3rd and 4th in junior women (minus the U.S.’s Katharine Ogden who claimed silver in the open 20k). These types of performances with our southern counterparts, suggest the team should be ready to compete with the rest of the World at the end of the month.

Canada's 2017 U23 World Championships team

Canada’s 2017 U23 World Championships team

U23 Women

  1. Dahria Beatty, AWCA – Whitehorse
  2. Maya Macisaac-Jones, AWCA – Rocky Mountain Racers
  3. Katherine Stewart-Jones, Thunder Bay NTDC – Nakkertok Nordique
  4. Frederique Vézina, CNEPH – Mont Ste. Anne
  5. Jenn Jackson, Lappe

Alternate: Isabella Howden, Team Hardwood

U23 Men

  1. Evan Palmer-Charrette, Thunder Bay NTDC – Lappe
  2. Julian Smith, Thunder Bay NTDC – Georgian Bay Nordic
  3. Scott Hill, Team Hardwood
  4. Julien Lamoureux, CNEPH – Montériski
  5. Alexis Dumas, CNEPH – Skibec

Alternate: Thomas Hardy, Telemark

The U23 team is led by Dahria Beatty, having skied to 25th and 26th place World Cup results so far this season. Her best result was a 4th place overall result in the sprint against a strong U.S. contingent:

‘It has been amazing to start the season with a World Cup top-30 result in both sprint and distance. I am really looking forward to carrying that positive energy forward into the championship events. The US Nationals has been a bit turbulent for me with the volume, altitude and challenging conditions but this was never a week I was planning to peak for and there has been lots of good learning from it and some decent results as well. I am confident that when I come back in 3 weeks I will be racing faster and smarter thanks to this week of races!’

On the men’s side there have been several athletes rising to the top of the Canadian group, with some good potential for breakthrough performances at the Worlds.

‘This is the largest team we have put together outside of Canada to compete at the U23-WJC. The team of 22 athletes represents the work and dedication of 3 training centres and 12 clubs from across Canada,’ said a very enthusiastic Thomas Holland, CCC High Performance Director.

Athletes who participated at US Nationals have now returned to the comfort of to their respective home training grounds. The U23-Junior World Championship Team will reunite in Canmore, Alberta for a camp starting on January 22nd, up until their departure for the big event in Utah on January 27th, 2017.”

U.S. Nationals Classic Sprint Videos

Thanks to The Utah Nordic Alliance’s (TUNA) Kirk Nichols for sharing the following race videos from the men’s and women’s classic sprints, held Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2017 U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow:

Men’s and women’s finals:

 Junior men’s and women’s finals:

More heats:

Junior men’s quarterfinals

Junior women’s quarterfinals

Senior men’s quarterfinals

Senior women’s quarterfinals

 

Junior men’s and women’s semifinals

Senior men’s and women’s semifinals

 

The Pre-Race Scene at Senior Nationals

 

The men's freestyle sprint final at last year's U.S. nationals in Houghton, Michigan.

The men’s freestyle sprint final at last year’s U.S. nationals in Houghton, Michigan.

SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah.–Conditions on the ground at Soldier Hollow (SoHo)? Cold.

Sipping an espresso in Deer Valley and checking weather temps in SoHo about 20 miles south, the temps on the phone read -12 degrees fahrenheit at 9:30 a.m. in Midway, Utah —  Midway is located only a few miles from the SoHo race venue. On his blog, Zach Caldwell said it was -18 degrees when he began testing. Cold.  

Throughout the day, snow guns blasted creating a mix of man-made snow to go along with the recent natural snow.

The course for tomorrow’s distance races, a women’s 10-kilometer freestyle and men’s 15 k skate, is stout; steep punchy climbs, a long grueling uphill, and little rest or recovery to balance the lactate loads. Although not the same 5 k loop to be raced during World Juniors contested from Jan. 28 – Feb 5, 2017 at SoHo, Saturday’s distance course meets international racing standards.

For veteran U.S. nationals athletes, like Jennie Bender of the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), the chance to race a new course, but familiar venue is warmly welcomed.

“I’m excited that I’ve been feeling good with my distance skiing so, I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well as the classic sprint,” Bender said to FasterSkier on Friday. “This is a big week for all of us and I’m excited to be back in Soldier Hollow.”

Nineteen year-old Stratton Mountain School skier Katharine Ogden is in SoHo not for World Junior qualification, she’s pre-qualified, but for some race strategy reinforcement.

“For this series I don’t have too many concrete goals because I auto-qualified for World Juniors, Ogden told FasterSkier in Soldier Hollow on Friday. “Now it is more getting the hang of racing here and trying to have some sweet races, but there is not much riding on it for me.”

Although the pressure may be dialed back a degree for the former Junior Worlds participant, Ogden said she still has some task at hand. “I think what I will work on will be trying to dial in the pacing and know how to get close to the redline, but not blow up,” Ogden added. “I’ll be  practicing that, which is much harder here than at home at sea level.”

Soldier Hollow’s top point sits a few hundred feet shy of 6,000 feet.

U.S. Ski Team (USST) development coach, Bryan Fish is attending Senior Nationals as both a USST representative here to calculate points for potential World Junior, U-23 Worlds, and World Championship qualifiers, as well serving as a race juror. Part of his USST role is to shepherd skiers like Ogden who have pre-qualified. FasterSkier asked Fish, who works with Ogden on the U.S. Ski Team D-team, what advice he’ll be giving her.

“This is not just this week, the year and year after year is to always learn,” Fish said. “To learn and make sure what you are learning out there is pacing, we are racing at altitude. She typically has been a good altitude racer. But it is a different course and it takes some different pacing on some long climbs and that is one of her strengths. So one of the things that I will tell her to is make sure that she is appropriately pacing it, staying consistent, staying smooth and continuing to think in the mood set that this is one race, it is an important race, it is Nationals. But this is one step along the path way.”

Another coach here mentoring, inspiring and guiding athletes towards their season goals is Alaska Pacific University (APU) head coach, Erik Flora. While Ogden’s prequalification may take some pressure off her performances, for Flora’s athletes and many other competitors, much more is at stake. As Flora explained, the week may mean World Cup racing is on the horizon, or that it’s time to head home to hone in on training.

“In the U.S. this is a pretty good pivot point in the season,” Flora told FasterSkier in Soldier Hollow on Friday. “If someone races really well, they get to go on to [World] Championships. If they don’t, then it’s time to go home and start working…[towards] the next step.”

For many of Flora’s top athletes — including Chelsea Holmes, Scott Patterson, the Hanneman brothers, Reese and Logan, as well as junior skiers Thomas O’Harra, and Hunter Wonders — making teams, such as U-23s or World Juniors, rides on their results this week.

“I think just about every single [APU athlete here] is coming here trying to make a team,” Flora added. “A lot of the season is on the line.”

The women’s 10 k kicks-off at 9:00 a.m. MST sharp Saturday morning, while the men’s 15 k is scheduled to start at noon MST. Live timing will be provided for the event and may be found here.

–Jason Albert and Gabby Naranja

What’s at Stake for the Canadians at SoHo

At an event called U.S. Cross Country Championships (U.S. nationals for short), you might be expecting to see lot of Americans racing. What you might not expect is the large Canadian contingent at Soldier Hollow this weekend and next week in Midway, Utah.

Aside from the obvious attraction of racing in a more competitive field, the 2017 U.S. nationals are a selection event for Cross Country Canada (CCC). At stake for Canadians are starts at World Championships, Junior and U23 World Championships, and World Cup starts in Otepää and PyeongChang later this season.

The complete selection details are in the selection criteria, but we can summarize by event.

Junior/U23 World Championships (Soldier Hollow), Jan. 30-Feb. 5

The selection for Junior Worlds and U23’s is almost entirely based on race results at U.S. nationals, which allows the athletes to qualify on the same courses that will be used for the championships.

CCC first automatically selects athletes with World Cup points from 2015/2016 or Period 1 of 2016/2017. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National U25 Team, is selected for sprint based on her 29th in Gatineau last season. Her AWCA and national U25 teammate Dahria Beatty is selected for both sprint and distance based on top 30 results in Canmore, Davos, and La Clusaz.

The top Canadian in each of Saturday’s freestyle interval start, Sunday’s classic sprint, and Tuesday’s classic mass start will become eligible for selection.

If this doesn’t result in the maximum 14 athletes (four per gender and age bracket, less the two preselections), the team may be filled using athletes ranked in the top five in the Canadian Points List (CPL). The CPL is essentially the same as the FIS points, which means the deeper field at Soldier Hollow provides a great chance to move up.

Otepää World Cup and World Championships (Lahti, Finland), Feb. 21-March 5

The Lahti team will be going to Otepää first, which means the selection process is combined.

Canadian World Cup Team members Alex Harvey (red-group member) and Devon Kershaw (who scored a World Cup top-10 earlier this week in Oberstdorf) are automatically selected.

The next automatic selection is for a top-six result at U23 or Junior World Championships, which for most is predicated on U.S. nationals results.

Beatty and Len Valjas (Canadian World Cup Team) are next in the selection priority, based on World Cup points from Period 1. Any other athlete with a World Cup top 30 by Feb. 5 will be selected. Pyeongchang World Cup results may be downgraded as the field there is expected to be much sparser than usual, with Canada joining the list of countries that will keep their World Championships favourites in Europe.

Additional athletes may be named to fill in the quota, based on results from U.S. nationals and CCC objectives. Saturday’s freestyle interval start, Tuesday’s classic mass start, and Thursday’s freestyle-sprint qualifier count towards this selection.

Pyeongchang World Cup (South Korea), Feb. 3-5

Canada is required to send a men’s team to all but one World Cup this season, courtesy of ranking fifth in nations points. CCC is using this event to get experience at the venue and develop ‘NextGen’ athletes. The highest-priority selection criteria effectively selects athletes from the World Cup Team. Since the distance skiers will stay in Europe, this is only Valjas.

This leaves up to four athletes of each gender (two sprint, two distance) to be selected to reach the team size of 12.

Athletes who also qualify for U23 Worlds will have a dilemma as the two events overlap, with most expected to choose U23’s. As this selection process is likely to come up short of 12, the final selection is based on coaches recommendations, using guidelines that strongly favour younger athletes. For athletes in the 23+ age group, U.S. nationals success will be critical.

With all these selections hanging on a single week of racing in a foreign country, it is reasonable to ask what value there is in the NorAm series this season.  The NorAm leaders, Katherine Stewart-Jones and Evan Palmer-Charrette (both U23 eligible and both on the Thunder Bay National Team Development Centre), get automatic World Cup quota spots and reduced event costs, which means they can enter any World Cup in the next period that CCC agrees to wax skis for. The NorAm races are also important for maintaining CPL ranking, but this still leaves many of the Canadians choosing U.S. nationals as one of peaking targets of the season.

— Gerry Furseth

After 1 Year, CCC CEO Pierre Lafontaine Leaves for Cycling Canada

(Press release)

CANMORE, Alta. — Pierre Lafontaine is returning to Ottawa full time, accepting the role as chief executive officer/secretary general for Cycling Canada, after splitting time over the last year between his hometown and Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada’s national office in Canmore, Alta., the two national sport bodies announced jointly on Friday.

During his stint as chief executive officer for the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, Lafontaine worked tirelessly to bring the community across the country together – from the provincial sport organizations, national training centres and coaches – under a shared 10-year vision designed to increase participation in the sport in all corners of the country, and ultimately, put more Canadian cross-country skiers on the Olympic and Paralympic podium.

“I really enjoyed working with the Nordic community across Canada and will miss the people. Cross-country skiing is one of the most iconic winter sports in this country. It is an extremely passionate community with an incredible group of athletes representing our country,” said Lafontaine

“I am extremely grateful for Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada’s openness, and flexibility, to allow me to lead my team from afar, but I personally struggled with being away from both my family and the office in Canmore. I can’t thank the Board enough for their support of this decision – one that is best for me.”

Lafontaine, who will remain in his position with Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada until January, will assist the organization with implementing a transition plan that provides priority focus and support leading into the 2016-17 season.

“Family is at the heart of cross-country skiing in this country so, while we have a big hole to fill, we understand and respect Pierre’s difficult decision,” said Jamie Coatsworth, chair, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada. “Pierre has done significant legwork getting all of our partners aligned under a shared vision, but we have loads of work remaining to get to where we want to be. We will begin an immediate search for a leader who can build on the framework Pierre has developed, and lead us into the next phase of our strategic growth plan.”

Lafontaine Succeeds Cycling Canada’s Retiring CEO, Greg Mathieu

From the lanes in the pool to making tracks on the Nordic ski trails, Lafontaine will now ride into Ottawa where he will succeed Greg Mathieu as Cycling Canada’s chief executive officer and secretary general in January.

Recognized as one of Canada’s most distinguished sport leaders, Lafontaine brings a wealth of international experience with him to the cycling community, having served as CEO and national coach of Swimming Natation Canada from 2005-13, followed by two years as CEO of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. A medal-winning performer, Lafontaine has achieved success working in all levels of the sport system across Canada, the United States and Australia – from national team athletes to youngsters getting introduced to the sport at the club level. Prior to taking the reigns of swimming in Canada, Lafontaine spent three years as head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport.

“Pierre is an energetic, passionate and experienced leader who is a known performer in the area of sport development,” said John Tolkamp, president, Cycling Canada, who added Lafontaine was hired following an extensive national search. “He will be counted on to lead our exceptional staff towards realizing the vision of being a leading cycling nation by 2020.”

Lafontaine is widely acclaimed as an innovative leader; not only in athlete and coach development, but also in building critical relationships with key stakeholders, including Own the Podium, Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, to develop world-leading high-performance programs. Under his guidance, Lafontaine has achieved podium results as a CEO and coach at major international events from the Olympics and Paralympics to World Championships, Pan Am, Parapan Am and Commonwealth Games.

“I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to join Cycling Canada to continue doing what I love – working in Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic community,” said Lafontaine. “Whether it is cycling, cross-country skiing or swimming, my goals remain the same – provide the tools our athletes and coaches require to be world-leaders from the grassroots to elite levels, and to make the sport one of the premier activities in all corners of the country. There is a strong foundation in place at Cycling Canada, and my goal is to ensure cycling remains a powerhouse well into the future.”

About Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada

CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, and Mackenzie Investments – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.

About Cycling Canada

Cycling Canada is the governing body for competitive cycling in Canada. Founded in 1882, Cycling Canada aims to create and sustain an effective system that develops talented Canadian cyclists to achieve Olympic, Paralympic, and World Championship medal performances. With the vision of being a leading competitive cycling nation by 2020 celebrating enhanced international success, increased national participation and world class event hosting, Cycling Canada manages the High Performance team, hosts national and international events and administers programs to promote and grow cycling across the country. Cycling Canada programs are made possible through the support of its valued corporate partners – Global Relay, Lexus Canada, Mattamy Homes, Louis Garneau and Bear Mountain Resort – along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

 

2018 U.S. Nationals, 2019 Junior Nationals Set for Anchorage

David Norris (APU) leads the Anchorage Tour race through the southern edge of the stadium at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, in March 2016. (Photo: Rob Whitney)

David Norris (APU) leading the Anchorage Tour race at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, in March 2016. (Photo: Rob Whitney)

Soldier Hollow in 2017, Kincaid Park in 2018. That’s the schedule for upcoming U.S. Cross Country Championships, following the recent announcement that U.S. nationals will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, in January 2018. The country’s top skiers will be headed to Utah in January 2017, for national championship races that will also help determine who goes to world championships in Lahti the following month. A year later, racers will be headed north to Anchorage, with final selections for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang potentially on the line alongside national championships.

The Alaska Dispatch News also reported that the 2019 Junior Nationals will be held in Anchorage as well.

U.S. Nationals were last held in Anchorage in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 races are remembered for unseasonable cold (even for Anchorage in January) that led to only two out of four races being held. In 2010, all four races were held in normal conditions, and Holly Brooks – until recently a local Masters ski coach – punched her ticket to her first Olympics.

Junior Nationals were last held at Kincaid in 2008. They were last held in Alaska in 2013, at Birch Hill ski area in Fairbanks.

— Gavin Kentch