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Pre-Race in Canmore: Trail Report Before Tuesday’s STC Classic Sprint

Wax testing on the final descent into the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Wax testing on the final descent into the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

By Gerry Furseth

CANMORE, Alberta — Monday brought the first official training day at Canmore for the Ski Tour Canada.  Warm and sunny conditions greeted the athletes, bringing smiles to a lot of faces after some cold weather in the first week.

The day started sunny and -2 degrees Celsius (28 Fahrenheit), quickly warming up as the day progressed.  This is fairly typical March weather at Canmore: below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Away from the course, most of the snow has melted, but the skiing is still good, especially in the morning with fast, slightly crusty, tracks.

Skiers head out on the course and into the opening climb out of the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Skiers head out on the course and into the opening climb out of the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Almost all of the snow base is manmade; locals say that is what makes the trails so consistently firm this time of year. The Tuesday classic sprint, Wednesday skiathlon, and Friday skate distance races are all scheduled early enough to hit the prime conditions, with only the final pursuit on Saturday in the late afternoon.

The new sprint course looks like a lollipop with two laps around the head, with the start and finish sections are unchanged.  It seems much more double pole friendly than the old course, especially with fast snow. Listening to the wax testing, it seemed as if people weren’t finding one perfect pair of skis for the whole sprint course. Picking the right part of the course to select skis for may turn out to be critical.  For the men, choosing between classic and skate skis may be difficult.

The distance courses had highly varied conditions by the end of the afternoon. Some exposed sections at the bottom were nearly slush. The top of the course was still crusty and fast. The mid-elevation sections varied greatly by sun exposure, with crust, wet transformed snow, and sugar all represented. The final pursuit on Saturday afternoon is expected to have similar weather; if so, there could be some significant changes in standings.

The distance courses are hard, with long climbs at 1,400 meters (nearly 4,600 feet) elevation.  Some skiers were looking tired after four races and a travel day, others were energized.

A light snowfall in Monday evening brought the first fresh snow in weeks.

The Stage 5 classic sprint begins at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time with the women’s qualifier, followed by the men’s qualifier at 11:10 a.m. Heats start at 1 p.m. MT.

Follow us on Twitter @FasterSkier for race updates.

Ustiugov Holds Off Northug in 15 k Pursuit; Harvey 4th in Stage 4

Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov continued his consistent run atop the Ski Tour Canada (STC), maintaining a 17.7-second advantage over second place, Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (+17.7) in Saturday’s 15-kilometer men’s skate race on the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. Ustiugov completed the course in 34:31.8. Despite skiing alone and posting the 13th fastest time of the day, he maintained a consistent enough pace to hold off the second- and third-place skiers, Northug and teammate Emil Iversen. Iversen clung onto the third position, finishing +1:02.2 behind after starting only 25 seconds back. Finishing in fourth was Canada’s Alex Harvey (+1:49.8), followed closely by overall World Cup leader, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby (+1:50.8). Sundby skied the fastest time of the day, finishing in 34:08.9. In sixth was Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh (+3:28.2). Posting the fastest times of the day were Sundby, followed by Finland’s Matti Heikkinen (34:11.2), and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner (34:15.0). Aside…

Weng Welcomes 10 k Pursuit Win; Diggins 5th, Bjornsen 10th in Stage 4

After garnering the Ski Tour Canada (STC) leader’s bib from stage three’s freestyle sprint, Norwegian Heidi Weng maintained her title by winning the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit on Saturday in Québec City, Québec. Weng completed the 10 k course in a time of 24:18.8, displacing Norwegian teammate, Therese Johaug from the front by one tenth of a second. Securing the all-Norwegian women’s podium in third (+1:05.2) was Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Behind Jacobsen in fourth was the current World Cup sprint leader, Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway (+1:37.6). “In all the hills, I was so tired, but I still thought ‘you should go for it,’” Weng said in a post-race interview with FIS. American Jessie Diggins led the U.S. in fifth place (+1:48.1), breaking the Norwegian run after passing Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and yesterday’s sprint winner, Stina Nilsson of Sweden. The second non-Scandinavian in the top 10 was American Sadie Bjornsen. Bjornsen…

Harvey Hammers to 2nd at Home in Québec Skate Sprint

Amidst the hoots and hollers of his home crowd, Québec native Alex Harvey raced to a second place in the men’s 1.7-kilometer freestyle sprint on Friday in the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Québec City. In the final, Harvey headed up against Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, Norway’s Petter Northug, Poland’s Maciej Starega, and the two French skiers, Baptiste Gros and Richard Jouve. However, only Gros proved faster than the Canadian. Gros came from behind on the final stretch into the finish to win in 3:36.26, with Harvey crossing 0.55 hundredths of a second back. In third was Ustiugov, crossing 0.79 hundredths of a second after Gros. Northug placed fourth (+1.91), Starega was fifth (+2.12) and Jouve sixth (+2.18). With the silver medal, Harvey moved into fourth in the overall Tour standings. Simi Hamilton led the U.S. men in eighth, after finishing fourth in his semifinal. Canadian National Development Team skier…

Sadie Bjornsen Wins Québec City Qualifier; Harvey Qualifies 12th

U.S. Ski Team member, Sadie Bjornsen set the stakes high for the women’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint rounds, after she finished first in the qualifier on Friday at stage three of the Ski Tour Canada in Québec City, Québec. Bjornsen completed the 1.5 k women’s course in a time of 3:42.81, for her best-ever qualifier in a World Cup freestyle sprint. Finishing eight-hundredths of a second behind Bjornsen’s time in second was Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Another Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, finished third, eight-tenths of a second off of Bjornsen’s winning time.  Along with Bjornsen, three other U.S. women qualified for the heats, including Jessie Diggins in fourth (+1.84), Sophie Caldwell in 22nd (+7.12), and Ida Sargent in 27th (+9.05). No Canadian women qualified, with Maya Macisaac-Jones the first female to finish for Canada in 34th (+10.51). Also finishing outside of the top 30 in the women’s qualifier was American Rosie Brennan in 33rd…

Iversen Bests Northug, Ustiugov for First World Cup Distance Win; Harvey 9th in Stage 2

Get used to the name Emil Iversen, because this Norwegian is on a roll. On Wednesday the 24 year old won his first World Cup distance race at the second stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Montreal, Quebec, and he did so by 5.3 seconds over training partner and teammate Petter Northug. Iversen won the 17.5-kilometer classic mass start in 45:05.4, besting Northug in second and Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, who was 14.5 seconds behind in third. “My goal before the Ski Tour Canada was to have a good start,” Iversen told FIS afterward. “I’m sitting in second place [overall behind Ustiugov]. Now I have to take stage by stage and we see what happens.” “We had to fight hard against the wind and snow,” Northug told FIS. “Ustiugov did a lot of work in the lead. He was the strongest today. We can thank him for the high speed.”…

Johaug Snatches Tour Lead with 1-Minute Mass Start Win in Montreal

Therese Johaug isn’t used to starting a mass start in bib 27, but she made the best of it on Wednesday at the second stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Montreal, Quebec. After placing 25th in the freestyle sprint at Stage 1 on Tuesday in Gatineau, Quebec, Johaug — Norway’s overall World Cup and distance World Cup leader — started the women’s 10.5-kilometer classic mass start several rows farther back than she’s used to. She usually starts first. “Usually I start in the front, but no, I’m back and it’s a lot of people,” Johaug recalled in a post-race interview with FIS. “But I focused on myself today to do good technique. It was really cold and windy, but really nice to ski in Canada.” After making her way to the front of the 72-woman pack early, Johaug successfully dropped everyone around 4 k. At the 4.6 k checkpoint,…

Hamilton Second in Qualifier; Harvey 15th to Reach Skate Sprint Heats

After his fellow U.S. Ski Team member Jessie Diggins raced to second in the women’s qualifier, Simi Hamilton repeated the feat in second in the men’s 1.7-kilometer freestyle sprint at the first stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Gatineau, Quebec. Hamilton posted the second-fastest time in the qualifier, 0.45 seconds behind Norwegian Petter Northug’s top time of 3:12.99. Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov qualified third, 0.78 seconds back from Northug. Local favorite Alex Harvey, of Quebec, finished 15th in the qualifier, 4.18 seconds back, for his first time reaching the top 30 of a World Cup skate sprint this season. Erik Bjornsen of the U.S. advanced to the heats in 27th (+7.42), along with Canadian Knute Johnsgaard, of the Alberta World Cup Academy and Senior National Development Team, in 29th (+7.8). Finishing outside the top 30, Reese Hanneman (USA) placed 35th (+8.46), Len Valjas (CAN) was 37th, Andy Newell (USA) 42nd, Andy…

Diggins Qualifies Second in Gatineau Skate Sprint

The 2016 Ski Tour Canada opened on Tuesday in Gatineau, Quebec, with World Cup racers like Sweden’s Hanna Falk and American Jessie Diggins putting a stamp on the freestyle sprint qualifier, posting the fastest and second-fastest times around the 1.7-kilometer course at Jacques Cartier Park, respectively. Falk topped the women’s qualifier in 3:32.76 minutes on a cold morning with temperatures around -6 degrees Celsius (21 Fahrenheit). Out of 72 women in the field, Diggins, of the U.S. Ski Team, qualified second, 2.09 seconds back, and Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg advanced in third (+4.08). American Sadie Bjornsen qualified eighth (+5.8), and the U.S. had two more women in the heats with Sophie Caldwell advancing in 26th (+12.45) and Ida Sargent in 28th (+12.87). Canada’s 20-year-old Maya MacIsaac-Jones, of Rocky Mountain Racers, nabbed the final qualifying spot in 30th (+13.07). Behind her, Rosie Brennan (USA) was 38th (+15.18), Dahria Beatty (CAN) 45th, Annie Hart (USA)…

Diggins Second to Falla in Lahti for Best Sprint Result; Bjornsen 10th

Second place for Jessie Diggins. Add that to the list. On Saturday, at the last World Cup in Europe before the Ski Tour Canada, the 24-year-old U.S. Ski Team member raced to her career best in a sprint and first appearance in the six-woman final since placing fourth in the Lahti freestyle sprint a year ago. Back in Lahti, Finland on Saturday, Diggins finished second to Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla in the 1.6-kilometer freestyle sprint — her best result of the season after placing eighth in the freestyle sprint at the first stage of the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Diggins went on to win a stage at the Tour de Ski: the 5 k freestyle in Toblach, Italy, and placed third in the 10 k freestyle at another World Cup last month in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. So you can say it’s been quite a run for Diggins. On Saturday,…