Because the Olympics only come around every four years, domestic races hold even more value in the months leading up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. In Canada, they’ll determine who will fill approximately four remaining spots on the Olympic nordic team. The fun starts this weekend at Sovereign Lake, British Columbia.
The official beginning to the 2014 racing season didn’t disappoint with tons of exciting nordic action taking place across the globe. FasterSkier was on-site in West Yellowstone to cover the SuperTour opener, Kikkan Randall opened with her best classic-sprint finish of second in Kuusamo, Noah Hoffman notched the fastest men’s time in Sunday’s 15 k pursuit to end the Kuusamo Ruka Triple, and Tim Burke had his first podium of the biathlon season.
Watching her husband in the West Yellowstone SuperTour 15 k skate on Saturday, Caitlin Gregg (Madshus/Team Gregg) had a sense it was going to be another good day. Brian Gregg placed second and Caitlin went on to win the women’s 10 k individual race by more than a minute and 20 seconds. “It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s so fun when this stuff happens.”
The highlight of Caitlin Gregg’s day was seeing all her Midwest fans, her Loppet Nordic Racing buddies, at the finish of each heat on Friday during the first SuperTour sprint of the season. That gave her reason to celebrate and smile every time she won, which Gregg did all morning and early afternoon in the West Yellowstone 1.3 k skate sprint.
A lot of people might not know who Emil Johansson is. To SuperTour spectators and most of the 200-plus racers in West Yellowstone on Friday, he was an unknown: a Swede racing in the green suit of his home club IK Jarl Rättvik. An exchange student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he’s not part of the team. It was hard to know what he was capable of.
Visitor numbers are up for the West Yellowstone Ski Festival and the Rendezvous Ski Trails are open in their entirety, but the snow is a little denser than usual. “It’s definitely a little odd for here,” groomer Doug Edgerton said of the manmade-like conditions that are 100-percent natural. “Historically, we’re cold and dry.”
At 22, Heidi Widmer’s suffered three concussions in the last four years, with her most recent resulting from a rollerski crash this fall. “I’m super lucky,” the Canadian NST member says. “There’s no internal bleeding, I’m functioning, I’m fine, but I just have to be able to take care of this and come out of it with some lessons learned for sure.”
On Thursday, a classic-sprint showdown among some of the top Canadian and U.S. nordic skiers took place on Frozen Thunder. “Let’s be honest,” men’s winner Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess says. “Winning a race against [Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton], even in a tune up event, even with a relatively small field, even in October, it still makes a good time even better.”