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Sandau, Nishikawa Top Both Distance Races at Eastern Canadian Champs (with Photos) 

Emily Nishikawa winning the women's 15 k classic mass start by nearly a minute and three seconds on Sunday at the NorAm Eastern Canadian Championships in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo: Fred Webster)

Emily Nishikawa winning the women’s 15 k classic mass start by nearly a minute and three seconds on Sunday at the NorAm Eastern Canadian Championships in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo: Fred Webster)

Note: This recap has been updated to include the correct time back and note Jenn Jackson’s crash in the women’s A-final.

Kevin Sandau and Emily Nishikawa racked up two more wins apiece this season at the NorAm Eastern Canadian Championships this past weekend in Gatineau, Quebec.

Sandau and Nishikawa, both Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team (NST-Dev.) skiers, swept the men’s and women’s distance races, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday at Nakkertok Nordic.

Michael Somppi (AWCA/NST-Dev.) on his way to winning the men's 1.5 k freestyle sprint on the first day of Eastern Canadian Championships on Jan. 30 in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo: Fred Webster)

NorAm leader Michael Somppi (AWCA/NST-Dev.) on his way to winning the men’s 1.5 k freestyle sprint on the first day of Eastern Canadian Championships on Jan. 30 in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo: Fred Webster)

On Friday, Jan. 30, Michael Somppi (AWCA/NST-Dev.) won the men’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint and Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST-Dev.) topped the women’s 1.4 k sprint in soft, deep snow after about 10 centimeters (4 inches) fell the night before.

Somppi went on to place second in Saturday’s 15 k freestyle and third in the 10 k classic mass start. He qualified for the sprint in sixth, 2.59 seconds behind the top men’s qualifier Sébastien Boehmler-Dandurand of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH), the fastest in the fresh snow in 3:58.81.

“The sprint race was tough with soft conditions after a fresh snowfall on Thursday,” Somppi explained in an email. “The qualifier in particular was very soft on the big climb, which you do twice on the sprint course at Nakkertok. My legs felt a little heavy in the qualifier when I tried to really go and I was worried how I would feel in the heats.”

In the quarterfinals, Boehmler-Dandurand topped Colin Abbott (Yukon Elite Squad), and Somppi  edged Evan Palmer-Charrette (Thunder Bay NDC), and all four advanced to the semifinals with eight others.

There, Russell Kennedy (Canmore Nordic) topped Somppi by 0.18 seconds, and both advanced to the A-final, along with the second semifinal winner, Andy Shields (NDC), and Sandau as the runner-up. Lucky losers with fast-enough times from the first semifinal, Boehmler-Dandurand and Julien Locke (Black Jack) moved on as well.

Somppi explained he raced strategically in the final, getting out to a strong start and taking the lead.

“Leading was good to avoid crashes or broken poles as the course was a little difficult to pass on, especially in the softer snow,” he wrote. “However there was a headwind on parts of the course and it was easy to blow your legs out leading so I kept the pace controlled and everyone else seemed pretty content with that for the first half of the race.”

Shields attacked the second time up the big climb, he explained.

“I was able to stick right on him, get his draft on the downhill and slingshot by him into the finish,” Somppi added. “I felt strong in the finish, but it was certainly a tactical win for me.”

Somppi won by 0.5 seconds in 4:07.10. Shields, his former teammate at Lappe Nordic, was second, and Sandau took third (+2.2). Kennedy placed fourth (+4.0), Boehmler-Dandurand was fifth (+8.98), and Locke was sixth (+14.85).

“I was delighted to see how soft the tracks were when I arrived in the morning because I knew it played to my advantage,” Shields wrote in an email. “The snow was very broken up on the climb which meant we had to pace things pretty conservatively on the first climb. But on the second time up the hill, it was really fun to blast away from the pack if I could.

“Somppi managed to cover my move on the last climb and worked the draft coming downhill into the final straight,” he added. “I was pretty happy with my first NorAm podium in two years and our Lappe 1-2.”

In the women’s 1.4 k sprint, Widmer topped the qualifier by 8.73 seconds in 4:22.95. Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR) qualified second, and Jennifer Jackson (NDC) posted the third-fastest time.

Widmer went on to win her quarterfinal and semifinal before rocking the A-final as well, beating out Dupont by 0.75 seconds in 4:07.11. Alannah Maclean (NDC Thunder Bay) placed third, 10.72 seconds back, Kendra Murray (Carleton University) was fourth (+11.28), Annika Hicks (Canmore Nordic) fifth (+17.66), and Jackson finished sixth (+2:21.78) after a crash.

“The steep climbs had a lot of deep, soft snow to navigate,” Widmer wrote in an email. “It wasn’t the prettiest skiing I’ve ever done, but it did the trick. … I skied from the front for my quarter and semi final. In the final, Jen Jackson had a brilliant start and I tucked in behind her and Andrea Dupont. On the first time up the steep hill I pulled behind and passed them. I just went from there and didn’t look back.”

On Saturday, Widmer placed second in the 10 k freestyle individual start, 4.7 seconds behind Nishikawa, who won it in 30:15.8. Widmer started 1:15 behind Nishikawa and explained she started getting splits off her around 7 k, at which point she heard she was 20 seconds down.

“It is always extra motivation to push harder,” Widmer wrote. “Maintaining speed through the transitions was my main goal for today. There was quite a bit of navigating to do with so many racers on course at 15 second intervals. My distance racing usually means a really fast fast lap and hanging on to that pace as long as possible. I tried a different strategy today and it worked well. I’m glad that I had a decent distance day today because I’ve been struggling this season.”

After skipping the sprint, Nishikawa was pleased with her weekend and explained she felt better after Sunday’s 10 k classic mass start win than on Saturday.

“I have been training hard for World Champs, and haven’t done much hard intensity prior to Saturday’s race so I felt a little flat.  But today I felt much better,” Nishikawa wrote after winning the mass start by more than a minute. “I am really excited to get over to Europe and get back racing on the World Cup.”

While she won Saturday’s 10 k skate by nearly five seconds, Nishikawa was almost a minute and a half faster than Dupont in third (+1:28). Brittany Webster (AWCA) placed fourth (+1:45.4), and Murray was fifth (+2:29).

2015 Eastern Canadian Championships podiums:

Friday, Jan. 30:
– Men’s 1.5 k skate sprint:
1. Somppi, 2. Shields, 3. Sandau
– Women’s 1.4 k skate sprint:
1. Widmer, 2. Dupont, 3. MacLean

Saturday, Jan. 31: 

– Men’s 15 k skate interval start:
1. Sandau, 2. Somppi, 3. Carlyle
– Women’s 10 k skate interval start:
1. Nishikawa, 2. Widmer, 3. Dupont

Sunday, Feb. 1:

– Men’s 15 k classic mass start:
1. Sandau, 2. Shields, 3. Somppi
– Women’s 10 k classic mass start:
1. Nishikawa, 2. Murray, 3. Webster

The next day, Nishikawa won in 31:29.1, 1:02.56 faster than Murray in second. Webster was third (+1:04.57) after skiing in the top four throughout the race. Hicks placed fourth (+1:04.68) and Dupont was fifth (+1:25.23).

In an email, Webster explained that her podium on Sunday was her first classic race of the year after recovering from a stress fracture in her leg.

“I have only JUST begun to classic ski again,” she wrote. “My first workout was last week, and this race was the first time I have classic skied without any pain!!! YES!

“The week boasted sub-par results for me, but honestly, I really felt like I ‘won’ my races out on the course,” Webster added. “Trailblazer coach Rick Dickey told me something I will never forget, and that is to make a race plan, and execute 100%. If you did that, you won your race. That’s what I did! My body felt great this weekend, I just need some more miles in my race legs. It will come, and I think it will come fast.”

Sandau won the Saturday’s 15 k skate by 15.2 seconds over Somppi (in 38:18.9) and Sunday’s 15 k classic mass start by 24.24 seconds ahead of Shields (in 41:20.67).

After starting near the back of the 125-man pack, Sandau led the interval start from start to finish.

“The trails are a bit flatter for my liking in Nakkertok but today I felt like I could push the flat sections and stay aggressive,” he wrote on Saturday. “A lot of the race just felt fast paced and high tempo for me, I could keep the RPM’s high and really hurt the body but still have good speed over the tops.”

He shared Saturday’s podium with two AWCA teammates, Somppi in second and Jack Carlyle, who was 1:05.5 back in third. Shields placed fourth (+1:22), and Kennedy was fifth (+1:34.6).

On Sunday, Sandau followed Abbott closely in second on the first of four laps, then led each loop thereafter, posting lap times that were consistently within four seconds of one another. With one lap to go, Shields as his closest challenger was 16.42 seconds behind.

“Because the race got shortened to a 15km from a 20km due to a he cold, I figured there wasn’t any time to play games and have some slow paced sections out there, so I tried to push all the climbing sections and keep the flats quick,” Sandau wrote on Sunday. “I skied to the front at about 2.5km and just kept the pressure on for the remainder to try to open the gaps up a bit. If it came to a sprint finish at the end I wasn’t going to fare well against the other guys in that.”

Shields finished second and explained he was “very happy” with his second podium of the long weekend.

“Things got tactical within the chase pack, but I made a very decisive move on the second last climb to claim second place,” Shields wrote. “Overall the weekend was exactly what I needed at this point in the year. I’m waiting to hear if I will be selected for a B-tour trip in the Baltic States which leaves Canada on Feb. 9th.”

Somppi was 32 seconds back in third for his third-straight podium of the weekend. Kennedy placed fourth (+35.53), and Bob Thompson (NDC) was another second back in fifth (+36.78).

“I was in a good position in second skiing behind Kevin on the first lap when unfortunately I took a crash and lost some positions and time,” Somppi explained.  “I worked hard to get back to the group but just didn’t have it in me today to stick with Kevin. Happy I was able to finish on the podium. It was a mental battle skiing with a tired body today. Great to share the podium with teammates and my roommate.”

Results: 

Friday: Men’s 1.5 k skate sprint | Women’s 1.4 k skate sprint

Saturday: Men’s 15 k skate | Women’s 10 k skate

Sunday: Men’s 15 k classic mass start | Women’s 10 k classic mass start

— Gerry Furseth contributed reporting

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Craftsbury SuperTour Day 1 Photos: Classic Mass Starts

Photos from the opening day of back-to-back SuperTour weekends in Craftsbury, Vt., with the women’s 20- and men’s 30-kilometer classic mass starts at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. All photos by John Lazenby/lazenbyphoto.com.

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Gregg Bests Field in Freestyle Sprint Qualifier

Caitlin Gregg, 1st

Caitlin Gregg, 1st

HOUGHTON, Mich. — After not starting either the classic sprint and 20 k at the 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships, Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus) came out on top of the field in the 1.5 k freestyle sprint. With a time of 4:15.77 Gregg bested Jessica Yeaton (APU) by 2.23 seconds. In third was APU teammate Rosie Brennan, 2.26 seconds back from Gregg.

Fourth and fifth went to Craftsbury’s Caitlin Patterson (+7.26) and Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks’ Christina Truman (+12.29).

Unofficial Top 10 | Results (scroll for women’s results.)  

Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus) 4:15.77

Jessica Yeaton (APU Nordic Ski Center) 4:17.90

Rosie Brennan (APU Nordic Ski Center) 4:17.93

Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) 4:23.03

Christina Truman (Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks) 4:28.06

Hannah Halvorsen (Sugar Bowl Academy) 4:28.67

Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation) 4:29.20

Joanne Reid 4:29.44

Chelsea Holmes (APU Nordic Ski Center) 4:30.01

Rosie Frankowski (APU Nordic Ski Center) 4:31.68

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Sovereign Lake NorAm – More Notes, Quotes, and Photos

Dramatic weather caused a lot of changes in the first two NorAm weekends.  The Whistler Olympic Park NorAm moved to Sovereign Lake, then moved to Friday/Saturday, then scrambled to find volunteers the weekend before Christmas.

FasterSkier’s photographer for the weekend, who is also a Level 2 race official, spent Saturday, Dec. 21, volunteering at the start line.  FasterSkier’s BC writer missed the Friday sprints and didn’t finish transcribing quotes before the holidays hit.

At long last, here are the rest of the quotes and photos.  The distance race was an freestyle individual start, 15 km (three laps) for the women and 30 km (six laps) for the men.  The course was held on the Upper World Cup 5k loop, considered relatively easy as World Cup courses go, but known to test pacing on individual starts.

Dahria Beatty (AWCA-NST/Whitehorse)

Distance:

It went really well.  This is the first time I have ever done a 15k individual [start], so it was something new.  And actually, [it was] a lot like my first distance race ever at Sovereign.  My coach said go out like it’s 10k.  I went out fast, and since it’s soft conditions, I really tried to think about technique and the advice I was given is ‘glide’. Maximize your glide. So I just thought of both power and glide, and got some good splits on the first lap. There was a lot of people starting in front of me that I could just track down. I just tried to kind of pick people off, it gave me something to focus on. My glasses got snow all over them, so I kind of had to go more by feel, and I’m more of a feel person than visual anyway. I focussed on weight shift on the hills and pushing over every crest because the downhills were quite slow. Yeah, my first good race of the season, so I’m happy with that.

Season so far:

It had a pretty slow start. Well, I had a really great first race back in October in the Frozen Thunder sprint, I was third behind Ida Sargent and Perianne Jones, so that was a really good start. After my November volume block, I had a bit of a slow start in Bozeman, I fell in the sprint qualifier and got all tangled up and missed qualification. The legs were a little lacking. The last week in Rossland, it still wasn’t great, but it was a bit better. Yesterday [in the sprint], was the first day I felt that my body was back. I just had really bad tactics in the final. I won my quarter, I won my semi, I was feeling good, and then unfortunately couldn’t put a final together and the girls just skied away from me. Today, I was kind of finally able to set things in the direction I want to go for the season.

Season goals:

My main goal is the U23 championship, this is my first year as U23, and my stretch goal is I’d like to have a top 12 finish. I would definitely like to be competitive, I had a top 15 at junior [worlds] last year and I’d kind of like to stay at that level and keep moving up. Then I’d like to stay in Europe and race the B-tour. If I’m really lucky, a race at world champs, but that would be a really big goal.

Training:

It was great this year, I think I finally, with age, my zone 1 and zone 3 training levels are kind of going up, moving up slowly.  It was great having Heidi [Widmer] and Alysson [Marshall], Brittany [Webster] and Emily [Nishikawa] as training partners this summer. I was able to train zone 1 with more of them.  Having them for intensity, they are some of the strongest girls in the country and we’re always pushing each other.  It’s great always to have that competition in training as well as at races.

Emily Nishikawa’s first World Cup points:

It was hugely inspiring, seeing that. Seeing her have a top 30 in a classic race, which I know is her strength. Coming from Whitehorse, coming from the same club and program as Emily. It’s usually my strength as well. Seeing that makes us all feel like if we had a good day, we could be there right with her. It’s great for Canadian skiing and it’s kind of bringing this next group up with her to join her over there in the next few years.

Dahria Beatty winning

Dahria Beatty leads Alysson Marshall into the finish to win the women’s 15 k freestyle interval start on Saturday. (Photo: Frances Weeks)

Brittany Webster (AWCA/Highland Trailblazers)

Distance:

It was pretty good, it was my first one back.  I actually started Bozeman, but I got a call that I have a stress fracture in my foot so I’ve been dealing with that for a while.  I only recently discovered that I could skate for about an hour without pain, that was about a week ago, so I’ve been on and off my skis every other day.

I would say it wasn’t too bad considering I haven’t really been skiing, so I’m happy.

Joining AWCA:

I’ve been on my own for about three years now, and I was saying the other night to Heidi [Widmer] that it is really nice to be on a team.  I originally come from a high school that was huge on team atmosphere, so I’ve missed that the last few years.

Season goals:

To be honest, the first goal is to heal the stress fracture in my foot.  After that, I want to get my shape back to the best that it can be.  If it takes time, then it takes time.  I willing to accept that, who knows when that will be, but I guarantee I will work hard.  I love racing so I will be out there as much as possible.

Brittany Webster in second

Brittany Webster finishing in second place (Photo: Frances Weeks)

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH-NST/Fondeurs Laurentides)

Distance:

Today was a really great race for me, I started fast and I tried to keep that pace.  Third place is really good for me, it’s only my second year in U23 so I am really happy.

Season so far:

I have a really great season so far, it has been a great start for me.  I am really happy.

Season goals:

I want to go to the U23 worlds in Kazakhstan and I would like to be part of the B-tour, the national team B-tour.

Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST )

Distance:

My race was what I wanted out of today, coming back from a little bit of time off from a cold.  I just wanted to really grit today, that my goal that when the going got tough to just dig in a little deeper.

The conditions today [were] really made for the stronger skier.  To ski as strong and relaxed as possible.  My race was good and hard, as it should be.

Season so far:

The season is touch and go. I had a strong start in West Yellowstone, I missed two weekends of racing because I came down with a bit of a cold, and this is my first weekend back since then.  Two fourth place finishes, it’s part of the job, you have to know that with the highs come quite a few lows.  I am looking forward to having this trend upwards in January/February.  In the past those have been my lows, so I think this season will favour having my strongest racing in January and February.  Which is what I’m after.

Season goals:

This season my target events are world cup starts.  Specifically, there’s a sprint in Otepaa, Estonia, skate sprint in Rybinsk, Russia, and then as well as world championships in Falun.  There’s also a skate sprint in Lahti.  I have goals of getting my foot in the door in the skate sprint, that’s my strongest event.  The world cup is a bit [of a] daunting goal out there, but I feel confident that is definitely possible. 

Alysson Marshall (AWCA-NST/Larch Hills)

Distance:

It was a tough one out there for me today.  Long distance skate on soft snow is not my favourite, but I survived and kind of got better as the race went on.

Sprint:

Yesterday was was decent until the final. The final, yeah, I just left Olivia [Bouffard-Nesbitt] get away and we ended up having a pretty tactical, rough heat that it was tough to get around.  I had the energy but not the tactics to get around and when I finally did it was too much of a gap to bridge.

Season so far:

[It is going] pretty well, I had a few really good races, I was definitely happy with that.

Season Goals:

World champs is obviously a big one this year, but I am honestly wanting to race well in whatever opportunities come.  It’s just kind of race well wherever I am.

Changes from recent ‘poor’ seasons:

I had a bunch of thyroid stuff going on and we finally got me in the right range for racing.  [We] changed a few things in training this year, so I think it’s all just coming together again.

Training changes:

A little less strength, a little less volume, a little more intensity.  That was more what the focus was this year.

Kris Freeman (Freebird)

Freeman skipped the Friday sprint to focus on the distance race.

Distance:

It felt really good today, I went out with what I thought was a pretty quick pace and I was actually able to speed up and the body was just able to feel better and better as the race went on so I was really psyched.

Were you hearing splits out there?

No, I didn’t really know exactly what was going on. I think what it was, is that I was leading by about 30 seconds for most of the race so I think people just thought I knew that. I just wanted confirmation, but I never got it.

Did you have a race plan?

Well I knew Brian [Gregg] was going to go out hard and try to catch me because he was starting only 30 seconds behind me and he actually put 10 seconds on me in the first lap. But I had a little reserve and I think I skied really fast in the second lap and then I took off from there.

Right after the race you went out and started skiing at a fairly good tempo, is that related to diabetes? It’s a different cool down than most people do.

Today I needed to change my insulin pump right after the race. It was making a noise that tells me it wasn’t functioning properly so I had to switch it out. So I went straight to the cabin, changed my pump out and blood sugars were fine. And then I was good.

So it’s not a normal cool down?

I don’t have a normal cool down. I have to test my blood sugar and cool down accordingly.

Season so far:

I am really happy with the last two weeks. You know the first two weeks were okay I I’ve had what I feel are three really good races in a row now and I’m hoping the momentum just keeps going

Training changes:

[I am] more relaxed.  I’ve been using the first beat technology from Galanes Sport Systems and that has helped me monitor how tired I am and when to recover. As a training tool it has been really valuable. It tells me when to back off and when to go harder.

Kris Freeman winning

Kris Freeman winning, again (Photo: Frances Weeks)

Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus)

Freeman and Brian Gregg were traveling together for the NorAm races, and had both announced a goal to win the 30 km race.  Gregg’s parents live in Methow Valley, and took advantage of the much shorter drive when the venue changed.

Family:

It was really fun to have the whole family here today, or most of the family.  I’ve got, my brother and sister drove up late last night, with the [venue] change, they’re coming from Seattle, originally they were going to come up and watch the race in Whistler.  And my mom and dad, they were doing splits, and it worked out really well.

Kris [Freeman] and I planned on just doing the 30k, we’ve been travelling together for the NorAm circuit, so it’s kind of fun to go 1-2 today.

Distance:

I thought it was pretty good.  The first lap was pretty hot, started relatively quickly to see how things were feeling.  I’ve had a little bit of a chest, like the beggings of a cold.  I kind of wanted to see, what’s that like, if I pushed that.  Top of the course, I was fifteen [seconds] up on Kris, he only started 30 seconds ahead of me.  I kind of pushed it, to try to catch him, but it was a little hot.  He brought all that back and more on the second lap, and then settled in and just skied my own race.

Season so far:

It’s been a good start.  It’s been pretty consistent. I was hoping to have a win by now.  I’ve had two seconds in skate races.  It’s a good start.

Season goals:

My goal is to get to world champs, and I’d like to do the individual start 15 skate.  We’ll see how that goes.  I was pretty far back from Bird, he had a pretty good gap today so that’s not going to be good for points, for qualifying for that.  Next focus is to really do well at [US] Nationals, it will be important to [making] that team.

Being an Olympian:

That has been a huge goal of mine for such a long time, so that was fantastic to have that work out.  This year, things have been a little bit busier, all the things I put on the back burner, so I had a pretty busy spring, taking care of some obligations and some things I said I would do, but hadn’t quite done in the last four years.  Yeah, really encouraging and I am looking forward to the next Olympics in Pyongchang.

There was a really fun race here in Silver Star, the race that helped put me on the Olympic team and so it’s nice to be racing here in Silverstar [again].  Yeah, and a little bit nicer weather. [Last year, Gregg won on a -19 Celsius day that only the photographers liked.]

Gregg Family

The Gregg family. The twin in the center is Brian.

Michael Somppi (AWCA/Lappe)

Distance:

It was good I started out pretty strong trying to catch Graham Nishikawa in front of me and kind of planned once I caught him to work with him for a while. And then Kris freeman kind of upset that plan when he came through, [but] I knew I had to fight and stay with him as long as I could. After a while with [Freeman] he was one skating really strong so I had to regroup and fight out the last two laps on my own.

How long did you ski with Kris?

About a lap, a full lap, so 5k

Season so far:

My season is going alright; sprinting I’m having a little trouble with right now, I didn’t have the best luck yesterday and not having the snap yet really for sprinting but distance skiing is really coming around and it was a really good effort today.

Sprint:

Yeah, well with the new snow yesterday morning it made everyone ski in one track really cause that was the fast track, it got skied in and it was really tough to pass. If you went in the track that wasn’t skied in it was just no chance, it was way slower. I had a tough start in my quarter final heat, I was stuck in third and I couldn’t make a move so I tried to make a move in the finish and I accidently went into a un skied-in lane and I got kind of stuck in the finish. Yeah it was a tough day, you don’t usually see in a men’s final everyone coming in in one lane but that’s what it was yesterday, you had to have a good start and stay in front

Season goals:

I think I’m on track with my distance performance.  I’d like to have some better sprint performances to help my NorAm rankings. But distance is really where my goals are, performing on the internationals level, and I think my distance from is coming on well and I am looking forward to the races in January.

Michael Somppi

Michael Somppi was fastest Canadian in third. (Photo: Frances Weeks)

Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad)

How big is your squad this year?

It’s just Colin [Abbott] and I. And we are here with the Yukon Ski Team though, so there are six of us together at these last two NorAms.

Distance:

My race was nothing special, a little improvement on last weekend; I’ve had some really bad luck this week. I’ve broken poles, skied almost a full lap in Rossland with one pole, broke a basket, fell twice, and then  [Friday] I had a pretty disappointing incident where I got cut off really bad twice in the sprint heats. I was pretty sure I was going on but the TD didn’t call anything so that was pretty disappointing. So I’ve had some pretty bad luck. I’m just happy to finish the race with nothing else going wrong here.

Season so far:

My fitness is really good. I am really confident in the training that I did over the summer. I am looking forward to improving my results over the next few NorAm’s because I don’t think it was anywhere close to my potential

Season goals:

My main focus will be U23 and trying to improve on my results there from last year and hopefully make it onto a B tour. And maybe make it back in time for Canada Games.

Colin Abbott (Yukon Elite Squad)

On his retirement:

That was a myth, I’ve headed back to school full time at Carleton University and finishing up my degree program there in Environmental science by the end of this year. It seemed like the right time to do it. I’m not a U23 anymore so it was a good opportunity to continue skiing at a high level while getting a degree done so I’m pretty happy with it so far.

Distance:

It was tough, really tough. This was the first 30k individual start I’ve ever done and there was no part of it that was easy. I came from close to sea level a couple days ago so the altitude was really hard. I wasn’t really able to pick it up when the fast guys caught me so that meant it was a lot of lonely skiing out there.

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Basin Peak Sprint Relays at 9,000 Feet in the Sierra Nevada

The 2014 Basin Peak Relay crew (Photo: Mark Nadell/MacBeth Grapics)

The 2014 Basin Peak Relay crew (Photo: Mark Nadell/MacBeth Grapics)

By Mark Nadell

Three years ago, in July, 2011 — one of the heaviest snow years in the history of the Sierra Nevada—Auburn Ski Club hosted the Independence Day Sprint Races on the trails of the Training Center at 7,200 feet elevation. This year, one of California’s driest, a group of diehard Nordic skiers needed to hike to over 9,000 feet on the crest of the Sierra to find a patch of snow suitable for a skate loop.

The brainchild of Far West Nordic’s Elite Team member Spencer Eusden, the north slopes of Basin Peak held just such a patch, and a group of Nordic skiers from Sugar Bowl Academy, Auburn Ski Club, and the Far West Nordic Summer College Training program made the long trek past the slopes of Castle Peak and onto the snow of the Basin Peak Sprint Relay course.

As with any proper Sprint race, the day started out with a preliminary race around the very short loop Eusden designed, with 8 teams of 2 comprising the relay. Then, heats of 2 teams each squared off against each other until a winner was crowned.

The A Final of the Sprint Relays went to the team of Eusden and Heather Mooney of Middlebury College, narrowly edging out the second place team consisting of Sam Zabell (Sugar Bowl Academy) and Lizzie Gill (University of New Hampshire).

Other athletes included Calvin Swomley, Britta Clark, Mac Groves, Erin Perryman, Shelby Aseltine, Blaine Ayotte, Kate Mulcahy, Hallie Grossman, Ryland Belisle, Aaron Deeter, and Brandon Herhusky.

For a complete gallery and video of the Basin Peak Sprint Relays, check out http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/Training/BASIN-PEAK-JULY-SKI-2014.

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Powder Skiing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

There’s snow on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and a lot of it. Bob Gregg, publisher of The Ski Journal, submitted the following photo of a friend skiing Saturday near the Great Bear Chase Trails on the peninsula.

Skiing Nov. 24 near Twin Lakes on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Submitted by Bob Gregg)

 

And congratulations to our writer (and world champion) Kikkan Randall of the USA who captured a bronze medal in her first World Cup race of the season this week.

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About an Inch of New Snow on West’s South Plateau (with a.m. photos)

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. – There’s new snow on the Plateau, and while it’s not much, it’s certainly a good sign for those at the Yellowstone Ski Festival.

About an inch of precipitation had accumulated late Tuesday night to form fresh, yet damp snow on some of the highest reaches of West Yellowstone’s South Plateau 2,295 meters (7,530 feet) above sea level. Snow started falling again in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, progressing from tiny droplets to big flakes with temperatures dropping throughout the morning to just below freezing.

The view from the PistenBully while grooming the South Plateau Trail near West Yellowstone around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. About an inch of new snow had fallen overnight but the trail was still thin in spots, especially on the outer edge, with a base of about 3 inches.

FasterSkier caught a first glimpse of the trail conditions between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday during a ride with Yellowstone’s chief and only groomer, Doug Edgerton.

After nearly 35 years of grooming the South Plateau and Rendezvous Ski Trails, Edgerton said has seen it all, including when he groomed the Plateau for sanctioned races back in 2008. If the weather stays cold enough and West Yellowstone gets any significant snow accumulation, he wouldn’t be surprised to see people skiing at Rendezvous in town as early as Thursday. Races are scheduled on the Plateau for Friday and potentially Saturday.

“It’s like, you pour enough money into [grooming and preparing for races] up here and the snow gods say, ‘OK,’ and it dumps,” Edgerton said while operating his PistenBully on the South Plateau Trail.

Most years, eager skiers flock to the Plateau for some of the first tracks on natural snow in the U.S. But once it snows, they leave the snowmobile trails for good and ski the nordic center’s 30-plus-kilometer trail system.

Edgerton said the timing of the festival plays a major role with how much snow West Yellowstone has. This year, there’s about a three-inch base on the Plateau, he said. Thanksgiving falls earlier this year than usual, bumping the festival up to mid-November rather than a week later.

Around 7:30 a.m. at the base of the six-mile-long access road to the S. Plateau Trail, dozens of vehicles lined up behind a few shuttles to cart people up. A few blocks away at the Rendezvous trailhead, the ground was icy with a wintry mix on the edge of rain falling with temperatures around 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

The entrance to the Rendezvous Ski Trails around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Trails had iced over throughout the night with temperatures dropping to just below freezing. It rained in town most of Tuesday afternoon, and while there was a mix of sleet and rain Wednesday morning, it was snowing up on the Plateau around 6:30 a.m.

West Yellowstone’s lone groomer, with Doug Edgerton at the wheel and FasterSkier’s Alex Matthews playing co-pilot, exits the entrance of South Plateau Road early Wednesday morning.

Skiers wait for a ride up to the South Plateau in West Yellowstone at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Traffic is restricted to one lane almost every hour, with skiers being able to get up and down from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A long line of vans and vehicles waits to get up the South Plateau Road early Wednesday morning. The gates opened around 7:30 a.m., but some vehicles didn’t get moving until close to 8.

Some early risers get ready to ski Wednesday morning around 8:30 at the South Plateau trailhead just outside of West Yellowstone National Park.

Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF) juniors at the South Plateau upper parking lot on Wednesday morning.

Getting ready to go skiing at the South Plateau near West Yellowstone on Wednesday morning.

 

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2013 SuperTour Finals Host Tahoe Donner Enjoys Early Skiing

By Mark Nadell — The Sierra Nevada is accustomed to long ski seasons. Point in fact, 2011 seemed like it would never end, with an XC ski race held on Fourth of July weekend at Auburn Ski Club on Donner Summit.

Early season skiing in October at Tahoe Donner in Truckee, Calif. (Mark Nadell courtesy photo)

But early season October groomed skiing, while it does occur, is usually reserved for places like Fairbanks and West Yellowstone. Autumn, 2013, however, brought such a significant late-October storm sent skiers around the region scurrying through the dust of their garages to find their sliding gear. Just a couple of days after a weekend of shorts and T-shirts, over a foot of snow fell in the higher elevations of the Sierra.

The site of next Spring’s Super Tour Finals Competition, Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area, began grooming earlier than at any time in its 27 year history. Not enough snow to send out the big machines, but the use of a new snowmobile-equipped roller and comb system put down almost 10 kilometers of grooming in the Home Range area of the resort.

And it’s still snowing, with even a bit more forecasted for the next couple of days and possibly more next week. While this doesn’t assure a smooth and continuous transition to winter, it certainly makes for some serious excitement (and fun) on the trails around Truckee and Lake Tahoe. Other local XC ski resorts such as Auburn Ski Club and Royal Gorge also experienced significant early snowfall.

Tahoe Donner Cross Country will be one of the main hosts of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association 2013 SuperTour Finals and Distance National Championships, scheduled for April 2nd through April 11th, 2013.

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Ontario Cup Photos (Lappe Nordic 1/6-1/8)

A week and a half ago (January 6-8), Lakehead Superior Nordic Association hosted the first Ontario Cup of the season at Lappe Nordic. Jon Nelson sent in a bunch of nice photos of the race.

Day 1 Results
Day 2 Results
Day 3 Results

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Last Day of U.S. Nationals: Morning Photos and Video

RUMFORD, Maine — As the sun rose about 1 1/2 hours before the start of the classic sprint qualifiers on Sunday, several coaches and testers skied the course, with four lanes of tracks set throughout the 1.4 and 1.6 k loops. On the last day of the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships, temperatures hovered around 30 with some windy gusts at 7:30 a.m.

The men’s 1.6 k qualifier starts at 9 a.m., women start at 10 a.m. and heats begin at noon.

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Photos from Women’s 30k

Kikkan Randall (USST) won a close race over Marie Graefnings in the final US National Championship race of the season. Here are a few quick photos from the day.

Morgan Arritola (USST) leading early

Kikkan Randall (USST) taking a turn at the front.

Maria Graefnings - 2nd place.

Randall brings it home.

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Quick Photos from the Men’s 50km

Just a few photos by FasterSkier’s Nat Herz from the US National Championship Men’s 50km classic in Sun Valley, ID.  Full race report will be up soon.

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Women’s 20km Race Updates

Race Update #4:

Liz Stephen (USST) comes to the line with a time of 50:03, nearly a one minute faster than second place finisher Holly Brooks (APU) who finished in a time of 51:01.  Morgan Arritola (USST) lifted her pace over the final lap to finish eight seconds ahead of CXC’s Caitlin Compton, while Kate Fitzgerald (APU) rounded out the top five with a time of 52:01.

Womens 20km US Nationals Update #4

Race Update #3:

After six laps it is obvious that Liz Stephen had something to prove today, as she rips through the ladies’ field.  Holly Brooks has increased her margin over Morgan Arritola, while Arritola and Compton are only 3 seconds apart.

Womens 20km US Nationals Update #3

Race Update #2:

After five laps Liz Stephen (USST) has taken over the lead with Holly Brooks (APU) in second 48 seconds back.  Morgan Arritola (USST) has moved up to third place and has lifted her tempo and is just 5 seconds back from Brooks.  Compton is another five seconds back in fourth.

Womens 20km US Nationals Update #2

Race Update #1:

After two laps CXC’s Caitlin Compton has the lead.  Liz Stephen has gone out hard to quickly erase the 30 second gap between her and USST teammate Morgan Arritola and sits in second.  Holly Brooks (APU) is currently in third and looks strong.

Womens 20km US Nationals Update #1

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Women’s 20km Freestyle Gets Started

The sky is blue and the course is still holding up firm and fast as the women’s seven lap, 20km freestyle race gets started at the US National Cross-Country Ski Championship.

Check back soon for updates.

Evelyn Dong (XC Oregon) out on course. Photo: Kris Dobie.

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Tad Elliott National Champion By One-Tenth

Individual start races don’t get much more exciting than this.  Tad Elliott (CXC) started out of the gate fast and did not take his foot off the gas until he crossed the finish line 1:10:16 later just one-tenth of a second faster than APU’s Lars Flora.

Elliott, who held a margin over his nearest competitors throughout the race, skied most of the race by himself, working his way through the field, while Flora shared the work with third place finisher Noah Hoffman (USST, 1:10:19) and others in a relatively large pack.  Elliott may have captured the title with his final lunge at the line, which brought him crashing to the firmly packed snow.

Michael Sinnott (SVSEF), who was the first racer on course, came through the lap and picked up Brian Gregg (CXC).  The two remained together for most of the race and ended up finishing fourth and fifth both in a time of 1:11:13.

Complete results will be found here when available.

Tad Elliott (CXC) on his way to the Men's 30km Freestyle title. Photo: Kris Dobie.

Check back later for a complete race report and photos.

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Men’s 30km Race Updates

Update as of 11:20am.

Down to tenths… Tad Elliott was the leader throughout the day out on the course, but Flora appears to have finished well over the final laps to make things interesting.

Men's 30km Race Update #4

Update as of 11:15am.

The pack of Flora, Sinnott, Hoffman and Gregg has picked up Sylvan Ellefson and Alexander Treinen are all skiing in a pack.  Hoffman is still by himself working aggressively through traffic.  Flora and Sinnott are heading to the finish lanes this lap.

Update as of 11:00am.

Flora, Sinnott, Hoffman and Gregg are all skiing in a pack.  Hoffman is tearing it up by himself.

Men's 30km Race Update #3

Update as of 10:50am.

As you would expect there are a many small groups forming as racers lap through.  Michael Sinnott (bib 1) and Brian Gregg (bib 14) seem to be trading leads as they tick off laps.  As are Lars Flora (bib 3) and Noah Hoffman (bib 16).

Men's 30km Update Race #2

Update as of 10:37am.

Important Note:  These splits do not include racers who have not done as many laps.  Elliott, Southam, Hoffman, and Gregg are skiing well, but are one lap behind.

Men's 30km Race Update #1

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Bjornsen Crushes Ladies 10km Classic

APU’s Sadie Bjornsen, who started 30 seconds behind teammate Holly Brooks, built on her lead throughout the race to finish over 30 seconds clear of second place finisher Morgan Smyth (APU, 32:40) in a time of 32:09.  Morgan Arritola (USST/SVSEF) took the third step on the podium with a time of 32:58.

Sadie Bjornsen (APU) strides over the top of the courses largest climb on her way to the national title. Photo: Kris Dobie

Unofficial Results:

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Snow Guns N Pick Axes: US Nationals Rolls On

Volunteers spent endless backbreaking hours shoveling snow on the course, and it looks considerably better than it did on Sunday here in Rumford, ME for the classic distance races.  Even the US Ski Team’s own Matt Whitcomb and Liz Stephen helped out yesterday, and Whitcomb said his back is feeling it today.  As we previewed the course, Whitcomb was on his way out again; shovel and pick axe in hand.

We touched base with several coaches, and it sounds like most everyone would be on a klister binder covered with some variety of violet klister.  And while the tracks still have visible dirt mixed in with the manmade snow, they are firm and consistent.

The second day of the US Nationals Championships gets started in 30 minutes.

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Koos Getting His Bike On

What do you do for your cooldown when there is no skiing to be had after your sprint qualification?  Well you grab your mountain bike?  And look for some good mud (easy to find, unfortunately) to park your trainer in.

Torin Koos - cooling down on the bike at US Nationals.

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Eurosport-Style Footage of Men’s SuperTour A-Final; Finish Line Photo

A group of high school students in Madawaska put together some great footage of Saturday’s SuperTour men’s classic sprint A-final, including a slo-mo shot of Torin Koos stretching for the win over Andy Newell. When was the last time you saw video like this of a ski race in the U.S.? (Note–don’t give up on the video after the first shot of the finish–there’s a slo-mo clip from a different angle coming up.)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/KRTIIC39hwI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

We also got a shot from the finish line camera, courtesy of Summit Timing Systems’ Ben Page. This is no ordinary camera–it takes one thousand frames per second of a single vertical line of pixels AT the finish line. So you’re not actually seeing an image of Newell and Koos at the finish–you’re seeing the relative positions of their ski tips, then boots, legs, bodies, etc. Kind of mind-boggling, but worth spending a minute trying to wrap your mind around.

Koos edges Newell in the men's sprint final in Madawaska with a well-timed lunge. Photo courtesy of Summit Timing.

Huge baller international ski journalist Nat Herz also got a great shot of Torin Koos and Andy Newell in their drag race to the finish–check it out below.

Probably could sell this for a lot of money as an impressionist painting...

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