On Thursday, Karl, John and I headed off to Canmore, home base of Canada’s National Team, for the first of two important weekends of racing; the World Championships Trials. This first weekend was the sprint qualifier weekend, from which a sprint ranking list would be established to help select athletes for the 2007 World Championships in Japan. The second weekend will consist of the distance races. When the dust settles a World Championship team will be selected to represent Canada.
Canmore is having a terrific snow season, better than for many years – and by that I mean about as much natural snow as we have in Ottawa right now. They always make lots of snow, but this year have benefited from some natural accumulation, and all of their gorgeous trails are open and machine-groomed. However, I only saw, to be precise, 2.3 km of those trails – a 1.2 k course for the first classic sprint, and a different, 1.1 k course for the second classic sprint. … Yes, I did say two classic sprints. The sprint in Japan is classic, and the decision was made to have a weekend of two classic sprints. This logic will surely be pondered by some… but so it is. You know those car racing games where everything else stays the same, but you can choose the course? That’s kind of how it was.
For one of the biggest races in Canada, it felt like a community time trial – only open men and women’s fields were run. Those who felt like they wouldn’t qualify for World Champs either skipped this weekend (preferring to wait for the distance weekend) or chose not to race these trials at all. The women’s field was 13 athletes big, and the men’s was 31 (registered, but only about 25 raced).
Karl and I raced ok, but were certainly hampered by a lack of good tracks in Ottawa. The classic tracks were rock-hard solid, which is a different kind of skiing than sloppy icy rocky see-through-to-the-pavement tracks we’ve become used to. I feel like I was hampered by a lack of a general fitness base and not enough specific strength – the former I can’t work on, the latter I can and will. Classic sprints are double-pole heavy, and while my tempo was there, I felt that my power application, explosiveness, and use of the whole body (legs and trunk) wasn’t fully there. I also lost confidence in my skis, after testing some of John’s – while they felt draggier to me, they tested faster in glide-outs, which made me question my choices. They may have been a bit slower than the average guy's, which certainly was the case on day 1.
Enough introspecting… days 1 and 2 were pretty much mirror-images of each other results-wise – maybe that could be expected given the schedule of events. Karl qualified 13th and me 18th on Saturday, and Karl 14th and me 18th on Sunday – though the times on Sunday were packed much closer together. Obviously, both of us made the 30-person heat rounds, but we both got eliminated in our quarterfinals on both days. Overall, Phil Widmer won both days with a very strong double-pole finish, and Sarah Daitch raced tremendously and also won both days – coming back on Sunday after a 4th-place qualification for a very convincing double-pole finish in the final. Full results are at www.zone4.ca. Of note, Devon Kershaw, Canada’s best male skier, used skate equipment on Sunday, and powered his way to a 3rd place finish (with some very strong herring-bone on the one big uphill).
In all, a good weekend – a small race but the best field Canada could put together. I’m heading home now (work tomorrow), and so the weekend was a bit frustrating, but in general I’m not surprised at my placing under the circumstances. Hopefully some more time on snow and good tracks, and some regular racing, can bring it back up for later this season. Karl and John remain there until next weekend, when they will be joined by Megan, Sheila and Bryan for the distance portion of World Champ Qualifiers.