.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Updates from the 2007 World U-23 and World Juniors Trials in Rossland, B.C.
By:  Edward McCarthy   (2007/01/08)


We had our final race of the Canada Cup weekend today, a 30k classic mass start. As seems typical of Rossland, we woke up to a light snow which didn't let up throughout the day. This made waxing interesting - more so as when John went up to the course, it was freezing rain. When testing skis, Gavin and I found two pairs with good grip and bad glide, and one pair with good glide and bad grip. I took one of the former, and Gavin took the latter.

The 30k was three 10k loops. They started with a gradual climb into the meadow downhill we'd done earlier, and then some more climbing led into another, more technical, open downhill, with a few S-turns. The course then started a gradual climb for about 4k, and finished with about 3k of constantly rolling terrain, short uphills and downhills.

The Open Men and Junior Men were racing separately, the Juniors doing 20k, and the results was what one observer called the "most gentlemanly" start he'd ever seen. The pack stayed together well for about 2k before beginning to break up in the technical downhills leading into climbs, and there was at least one fairly spectacular crash.

Having trailed Gavin the whole race, my advantage in grip finally took its toll in the last lap, as I gradually caught him and, on the final climb, dropped him like an undercooked turkey from the window of a fifth-story apartment. We finished in 16th and 17th positions respectively, and both agree that it was a very tough race. The race was won by Dave Nighbor (again), followed by Brent McMurtry and Graham Nishikawa.

That's it for the trip to Rossland, and right now we're crossing our fingers that we'll be able to make it out of Castlegar tomorrow, and that there will be skiing in Ottawa. Many, many thanks to Gavin's aunt and uncle, Margaret and Alan Hamilton, for their wonderful hospitality and photography.

Two races down, one to go. Gavin and I finished 19th and 24th respectively after the qualifiers, so both of us qualified for the quarterfinal heats. The course remained in good shape, and the heats were running smoothly and on time, so it looked like a good afternoon of racing.

In my heat, Graham Nishikawa and Mike Argue took an early lead around the first corner, and ended up finishing a fair ways ahead. I ended up fourth out of the six in the heat, after Mark Doble took a tumble on the sharp corner after the first downhill.

Gavin's heat was a little more interesting. He tucked in behind Chris Werrell into the first corner, but lost time on him and the other two leaders, Chris Butler and Brent McMurtry, after changing lanes later on. Werrell and McMurtry eventually advanced, with Gavin a short distance behind.

The Open Men's sprints were eventually won by Dave Nighbor, followed by Phil Widmer and Graham Nishikawa.

First, a warning: if you're incredibly bitter about the lack of snow in Ottawa, it's probably better to stop reading now and to avoid looking at the pictures. Rossland got about another foot of powder snow yesterday afternoon through last night, leaving the tracks for today's classic sprints fairly soft even after repeated grooming. The skiing on the trails here was postcard perfect, and the day finally sunny, with a few clouds but no fog.

Sprint qualifiers started this morning with the women at 9:30, followed by the men. The 1k loop starts with a gradual climb, makes a sharp uphill left into a gradual downhill, a hard right into another gradual uphill, then loops around relatively flat back to the left at the top of that climb. After that, all that's left is a descent into a left turn into the stadium, and the flat finishing stretch. By the time we went, the corners were pretty chopped and soft, but the tracks were still in quite good shape. Though we haven't seen any results yet, Gavin and I are satisfied with our sprints, and getting ready to head back up for heats starting at 1:20.

Photos courtesy of Alan Hamilton.

Gavin and I had our first race today, a 10k skate individual start. Conditions were more or less perfect - air around 0°C, snow around -2°C, track packed and hardened overnight for hard and fast conditions. The fog cleared up this morning for the first time since we've been here, but was on and off throughout the day; the lower section of the course dipped into a fogbank, and the hills climbed back out of it.

Gavin finished 37th in 26:54, and I finished in 44th, 11 seconds behind him. Overall, we were fairly disappointed with these results, but we've got the weekend to pick it up. The senior men's winner was Dave Nighbor, in the smoking time of 23:47; he certainly looked like he was going that fast when he came by me. Second was Ottawa local Chris Jeffries, in 24:24, followed by Brent McMurtry, also the fastest U23 skier, in 25:02. After Brent, the times became much closer.

The womens' 5k race, without any XC Ottawa presence, was won by Brittany Webster of the Junior National Ski Team in 13:34. Following Brittany were Madeleine Williams and Tara Whitten, respectively 30 and 42 seconds back .

Tomorrow will be a rest and training day, as the skiers preview the sprint course, and then return home in time to watch the Canadian junior hockey team play the Russians. Gavin and myself will be looking to add some laurels to our as yet undignified sprint histories this Saturday.

Photos courtesy of Alan Hamilton.

Coach John finally arrived in Rossland today, after the same pleasant bus trip from Vancouver that Gavin and I took a day earlier. Despite some confusion in picking him up, we finally got organized and headed out (after he got a nap) to ski tomorrow's race course.

Tomorrow's 10k will be three loops of 3.3k each. The loop begins on a false flat, then goes into a fairly steep climb. The top of the climb leads into a fairly long, twisty downhill through an alpine meadow, which in turn leads into a longer, but less steep, climb. Once these two tough climbs are through, the course goes through some flats, followed by a series of rollers before turning back through the stadium.

Conditions changed overnight from rain to sleet, and this morning from sleet to snow. It hasn't stopped precipitating since we got here, and the fog is dense - it's no wonder no flights are coming in. The snow is quite wet, so the course is fairly hard-packed and fast. We're looking forward to tomorrow.

Coach John Suuronen waxing in the parking lot.

It's like car camping for skiers.

Gavin getting his turn on the bench. Blue bases?

Gavin testing his skis.

Coach John, lost in the storm.

This week, XC Ottawa's much-fear under-23 contingent, consisting of myself and Gavin, are headed to Rossland, BC for Canada Cup racing. Since these races are trials for World U-23 championships and World Juniors, the competition will include the majority of the top younger skiers in Canada. Gavin and myself will be racing a 10k interval start skate Thursday, a classic sprint Saturday, and a 30k classic mass start on Sunday.

Unlike Ottawa, Rossland is not in dire straits when it comes to snow; snowbanks in town are monstrous, and there are several feet at least of snow on the trails. The high usual humidity and precipitation have led to the closest airport, at Castlegar, being dubbed "Cancelgar", a name it has lived up to very well so far. All flights to Castlegar on Monday, our traveling day, were cancelled, leaving various teams in the Vancouver airport looking at options. While some Hardwood skiers chose standby to Kelowna and a large part of the Quebec team stayed overnight to catch Tuesday's flights, we decided on a scenic, 11-hour overnight bus trip from Vancouver to Trail, just below Rossland.

Our choice appears to have been justified, as all flights into Castlegar Tuesday were cancelled as well. After arriving at 5:00 this morning, we crashed for a few hours and skied the course in the rain. The trails are wide, and the terrain pretty varied, so we look forward to some exciting racing. Many thanks to Gavin's Uncle Alan and Aunt Margaret, who've been kind enough to put us up at their house in Rossland and pick us up from the bus station at ungodly hours of the morning.

Interesting Reading. . .
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