Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Michael Somppi.
Typically known as a sprinter, Dasha Gaiazova of the Canadian World Cup Team is knocking on distance racing’s door. The 29-year-old notched her second-best result of the season in a distance event, placing 33rd in Sunday’s 10-kilometer classic individual start at the World Cup in Lahti, Finland.
Gaiazova finished 2:20.4 behind Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who won in 25:38.9, and was just 8.2 seconds out of the top 30. Earlier this season in La Clusaz, France, Gaiazova placed 27th in a 10 k classic mass start.
She started conservatively, clocking the 55th-fastest time through the first intermediate point at 3.4 k. About two kilometers later, she rose to 43rd, then 35th by 8.4 k.
“I was happy to be so close to the top 30, only eight seconds out,” Gaiazova told Cross Country Canada. “At the same time I misjudged my speed and perceived effort and did not ski hard enough in the last three kilometres. Nonetheless this effort today will be beneficial for my racing shape for the classic sprint in Drammen.”
Sprint racing resumes Wednesday with World Cup classic sprints in Drammen, Norway. On Saturday in Lahti, Gaiazova missed qualifying in the freestyle sprint in 39th.
The other Canadian female in Sunday’s 10 k, Emily Nishikawa of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) finished 54th (+3:20.9).
In the men’s 15 k classic individual start, Alex Harvey ended up 41st, 2:14.8 behind Norway’s Petter Northug, who won in 34:35.6. Harvey stuck in the top 30 for much of the race, ranking 28th of more than 80 starters just before the halfway point, but fell off the pace in the third and final lap.
Three AWCA skiers also represented Canada in the men’s race. Graeme Killick led the group in 55th (+2:50.8), a vast improvement after finishing 74th in the sprint the day before, but short of his top-30 goal.
“I tried to play it conservative, going out at a medium pace and then picking it up throughout the race,” Killick wrote in an email after skiing within the top 50.
“I felt a little flat though and couldn’t seem to ‘push’ it,” he added. “A little disappointed to have not gotten what I was wanting from today, but I am excited to prepare for the Holmenkollen!”
Teammates Michael Somppi placed 72nd (+3:43.8) and Jess Cockney was 78th (+4:02.0).
Distance racing reaches its pinnacle next weekend in Oslo, Norway, with the men’s 50 k freestyle mass start on Saturday and the women’s 30 k skate on Sunday.