Race Preview: Canada Cups, World U23 and Junior Trials, Val Cartier
By: Edward McCarthy (2006/01/02)
This year's Canada Cup series, which began in Silver Star and Canmore before the World Cups, continues this weekend with racing at the Centre Biathlon Myriam Bédard on CFB Val Cartier, north of the city of Quebec. In an almost unprecedented display of synchronization, the entire XC Ottawa crew will be present, as Karl and Megan join us from out West before their European adventure and Andrew prepares for his first taste of good old Quebec cold. XC Ottawa's good friends Steve Bursey and Alicia Berthiaume will be joining us for the weekend to help John test and wax for the thundering hordes.
Val Cartier's Canada Cups are also playing the part of qualifying races for the Canada's World Junior and World U-23 Championship teams for this year. As always at this time of year, the tension should be hanging in the air almost as thick as the fumes from the flouros. In addition to this list of race designations, these races are also the first in Quebec's Atomic Cup series.
There will be three races at Val Cartier, with something to please almost every taste. Competition kicks off on Thursday with a 10 (women)/15 (men) kilometer classic interval start race. Saturday will be a skate sprint, and Sunday a 10 (women) /20 (men) kilometer continuous pursuit (duathlon, skiathlon, whatever it's called these days).
Though it's been a few years since it's hosted a major race, Val Cartier boasts impressive and challenging trails with a lengthy pedigree; it was the site of the Junior Nationals in 1998 and of combined Nationals in 2001, when Tom distinguished himself in both results and degree of post-race incoherence in the 50km classic (see Bonk! series), as well as of many other high-level races during those years. Though there may be renovations since those races, the course generally trends upwards from the start, leading to a long and difficult downhill, and finishing with a flat section before the stadium. Terrain changes often, so good technical skiing is important.
Though the whole team will not yet be in attendance for the classic race, it promises to be interesting. This will be the first domestic interval start race of the year, so look for some variations in the results from what we've seen out West, as race dynamics are quite different from in mass start races. In the sprints, XC Ottawa's speedsters are looking forward to taking advantage of the new 30 deep qualifying field to advance to, and through, the heats. The continuous pursuit will be another mass start race, but it is longer for the men than most we've race in Canada, so race strategies could change.
Over the years, most Canadian ski racers have come to expect one thing from Quebec in January; bone-chilling, race-cancelling cold, which goes quite naturally hand-in-hand with race officials blowing on the official thermometer. I, for one, packed a few extra pairs of long underwear. The weather forecasts, however, show snow and medium temperatures, from -4 to -13, for the weekend, so here's hoping for some perfect racing conditions!
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