On the heels of a hugely successful World Cup in Quebec City, Canmore had some big shoes to fill in the second act of the Canadian tour this weekend. Organizers did not disappoint — in the shadow of the picturesque Three Sisters, Canmore set the stage for six exciting races to wrap up Period 1 of the World Cup before the holiday break.
If Quebec City belonged to Kikkan Randall, Canmore was Justyna Kowalczyk‘s. The Polish star seemed to struggle in November, but with two distance wins in one weekend by a cumulative 49 second margin, Kowalczyk is back in the yellow leader’s bib. Whatever you think of her, she is nothing if not dominant when she’s on form. Her solo breakaways may have taken some of the thrill out of watching the women’s mass starts, but you have to appreciate the athleticism behind the feat.
Kowalczyk didn’t completely own the corduroy in Canmore, of course. The freestyle sprint went to Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR), who skied a tactically sound race in order to beat Randall and earn he second career sprint victory.
The men’s races proved to be nail-bitingly close. The unrelenting Canmore terrain stymied many an attempted break; the victors in both the 15 k classic and the 30 k skiathlon were patient in the pack and capitalized on the draft. Germany’s Tim Tcharnke earned his first career victory (on his birthday, no less), Emil Jönsson (SWE) continued his winning streak in the sprint and Maurice Manificat (FRA) came from behind to take the skiathlon.
In nearly every event it seemed that one or more North Americans had career-best performances. To name a few, Noah Hoffman (USA) popped his first top-10 with an eighth in the skiathlon, Jesse Cockney (CAN) wowed his coaches by qualifying for the sprint in second and going on to place ninth, Ida Sargent (USA) continued her impressive season with a tenth in the sprint and 14th in the skiathlon and Skyler Davis (USA) earned his first sprint points in 20th. Though the fields were missing some top performers, these breakthrough required a greater effort than each athlete had ever made in a World Cup before.
In Slovenia the biathlon World Cup wrapped up its final pre-holiday races. Jakov Fak (SLO) had his first win in front of a home crowd, Andreas Birnbacher (GER) won the first mass start of the season, the circuit saw some new names at the top of the podium in Gabriella Soukaleva (CZE) and Miriam Gössner (GER) and Tim Burke (USA) landed on his first podium since 2010.
The nordic combined World Cup continued in Ramsau, Austria, this weekend. Norway won both the Saturday and Sunday competitions — Magnus Moan on Saturday and Mikko Kokslien on Sunday — and Bryan Fletcher led the way for the Americans with an eighth and 17th.
In case you missed any of that, here is a recap of our coverage:
Cross-Country World Cup — Canmore, Alberta
Biathlon World Cup — Pokljuka, Slovenia
Nordic Combined World Cup — Ramsau, Austria