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Canadians Jump into Austria Cup: Nishikawa, Cockney Win 5/10 k Classic

Emily Nishikawa (1st) and Dahria Beatty (2nd) on the women's 5 k classic podium at Sunday's Austria Cup in Villach, Austria. (Photo: CCC)

Emily Nishikawa (1st) and Dahria Beatty (2nd) on the women’s 5 k classic podium at Sunday’s Austria Cup in Villach, Austria. (Photo: Cross Country Canada)

By Gerry Furseth

While the Tour de Ski and U.S. nationals are grabbing most of the headlines this week, a group of Canadians have been training in Obertilliach, in the Tyrol region of Austria.

“There is 6km of beautiful terrain and Europe’s first snowfall came a few nights ago,” Dahria Beatty of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National U23 Development Team wrote in an email.

The group, dubbed Canada’s U25 European B-Tour,  has been preparing for the OPA Cup races this Friday through Sunday (Jan. 8-10) in Planica, Slovenia, followed by the Planica World Cup a week later.

“[The] Austria Cup wasn’t originally on the plan,” Beatty wrote, “but when we found out it was near by some of us opted to change up our training plan a bit and get in an extra race.”

Canada's Jess Cockney (c) beat out two Austrians in the men's 10 k classic on Sunday to win the Austria Cup race by 7.9 seconds. (Photo: Cross Country Canada)

Canada’s Jess Cockney (c) beat out two Austrians in the men’s 10 k classic on Sunday to win the Austria Cup race by 7.9 seconds. (Photo: Cross Country Canada)

On Sunday, four Canadians made the short drive to Villach. Jess Cockney (AWCA/NST B-Development Team) won the men’s 10-kilometre classic in 28:24.5 minutes, 7.9 seconds ahead of Austria’s Philipp Leodolter in second. Another Austrian (and like, Cockney, a 2014 Olympian)  Max Hauke placed third, 24 seconds back. Thirty-eight men finished, the vast majority of which were from Austria.

“I was really happy to have a distance race again since I don’t get that chance often anymore,” Cockney, who started the season on the World Cup circuit, wrote in an email, neatly summarizing the downside of the European opportunity that left him “quite disappointed” with his skiing.

“I have some positives I’m drawing on lately in training and we have some great chances in the next couple weeks racing [in] Slovenia,” he added.

After Slovenia, Cockney will return to Canada to compete in the NorAm series and prepare for the Ski Tour Canada in March.

Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST B-Development Team) beat out 30 other women in the 5 k classic to win in 15:09.6, 18.2 seconds ahead of Beatty in second. Austria’s Barbara Walchhofer placed third (+25.2). Maya Macisaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) finished sixth for Canada, 55.8 seconds back from Nishikawa.

“It was fun to put a race bib on and get in a hard race effort before the OPA Cup races next weekend,” Nishikawa wrote on Sunday. “I started hard in today’s race and really tried to hold the pace, but I think I faded a bit in the last km.”

“I’m happy with my season so far,” the World Cup regular added. “I have been feeling better and better with each race weekend.”

The three-loop 5 k race was a bit chaotic, Beatty explained, with laps of 1.7 k “so lots of people on course at the same time,” she wrote. “I pushed hard the whole way. It was a great way to get the travel body prepped for next weekend. Emily caught the 20 seconds on me at about 3.5km and then we skied together to the end. Tracking didn’t seem to be a thing so there was lots of switching tracks and practice adapting.

“The trip has been great so far, awesome team and good weather,” she added.

Most of the training group, which also includes Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST U23 team), Katherine Stewart-Jones (NDC Thunder Bay/NST U23), Knute Johnsgaard (AWCA/NST U23+), and Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay), will head to Planica and then to Nove Mesto for a second World Cup weekend. Nishikawa, who has spent the whole season as the lone Canadian woman in Europe, is enjoying having training partners again.

“It’s great to have more women on the team now!” she wrote.

Results: Women’s 5 k | Men’s 10 k

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