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Thunder Bay. Pursuit. World Championship trials. Minus 18 degrees. Epic.
By:  Katie McMahon   (2011/01/07)


Some people think that winter is too cold, or too windy. Most people stay in their cozy beds or sit by the fire when it is -18°C outside without the wind-chill; but not XC Ottawa. What do we, as well as 200 other skiers do? We race 10km, 15km, 20km and 30km pursuits of course!

Thursday morning kicked off the various trials races that are taking place this week here in Thunder Bay. The senior women were the first to go, racing a 15km pursuit (7.5km classic, 7.5km skate). XC Ottawa had four keen women entered in this category: Megan, Sheila, Vesta and Katie finishing 10th, 17th, 30th, and 31st respectively. Next to go was the “lone wolf” junior female; Ingrid, who finished her 10km pursuit in an impressive 26th/53.

Up next were the senior men with a gruelling 30km pursuit. All the girls and Justin were out to watch this epic race and to give the guys feeds every lap and of course offer up some of the best cheering around. Karl, Matthias, Colin, Kyle and Andre battled through frozen feet, hands, faces and other extremities . . . to finish 18th, 25th, 28th, 33rd and 34th respectively.

The final race of the day was the junior boys starring Peter Beisel and Lee Hawkings from XC Ottawa. The boys hustled through their 20km of pain to finish 8th (Peter) and 32nd (Lee).

As a spectator, I am sure the racing and the cold of the day brought with it some intense and potentially funny scenes. From George Grey and Graham Nishikawa battling it out in a sprint finish to junior girls waddling straight from the finish line into the ski lodge not able to feel their toes to the intense pain experienced in the men’s sauna while thawing, it was an epic day to be sure.

All in all it was an inspiring race to be a part of. Some may not have been too happy with their results but many will agree that just finishing yesterday was a feat on its own. Winners of the senior men’s and women’s races (George Grey and Dasha Gaiazova) who are both Olympians will be headed to Oslo, Norway to represent Canada in the World Championship distance races. So keeping that in mind, just having the opportunity to line up with these incredible skiers was amazing. Thanks to all the coaches, wax techs, volunteers, race officials, spectators and to the lady who gave us hot gatorade at the finish line, you were greatly appreciated!

Next up: classic sprints and individual skate distances. Stay tuned at zone4.ca or follow race reports here on xcottawa.ca.

Wishing everyone good luck and fast skis and maybe hoping for it to get a little warmer.


The leaders on the classic portion of the 30km pursuit


Colin finishing off the classic leg of his race


Katie, Ingrid and Megan cheering on the boys


Kyle taking in a feed on the skate portion of the pursuit


Matthias hanging on to Quebec Training Centre member Etienne Richard


Karl pushing up a "The Grunt" (or a really really big hill)


The leaders taking in some feeds (note the tape on the cheeks to prevent frost bite)


Mmmm...nothing spells satisfaction like pancakes and strawberry sauce after a hard day of racing

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