Pro North American racing continued today at Silver Star Resort in Vernon, BC. Holly Brooks (APU) won the womens’ race just 8 seconds in front of Canadian Dasha Gaiazova. American Rebecca Dussault (CXC/Team Vertical Limit) took the last podium spot in third.
Brooks has been “on fire” the last three weeks and has won her fourth race in six starts, including one fourth place and a second place. Her poor FIS ranking helped her with a late start today.
“I had an early start because in Canada, they seed straight off of FIS points – and mine aren’t good, seeing that I didn’t have a license last year,” Brooks says over email. “I knew that my back would be a target for splits for EVERYONE and I needed to ski fast, set a good pace, and then cross my fingers once I came across the finish line. I tried to keep the first loop relaxed and efficient and then tried to open it up a bit on the second. However, the climbs are long and super hard – the first 1.5 out of the stadium seems to be uphill. There were surely some moments out there that were not pretty but I tried my best to hammer straight through them realizing that other people were probably hurting just as much.”
“The last big hill before the stadium is really steep. I’m not sure that I was gliding – it felt more like a herringbone!”
Top Canadian Dasha Gaiazova has been excited about the number of Americans and Canadians that have been able to race together in the last three weeks.
“Today can be compared to the days when we had the real NorAms with both Canadians and Americans. It’s so cool to have everybody here and we have an amazing big field with lots of people, kind of like West Yellowstone was like. It’s really fun.”
Gaiazova has unofficially secured her spot on the Canadian Olympic team after finishing as the top Canadian woman. Only 8 seconds back, she skied a very tight race with Brooks but the two woman were roughly 40 seconds ahead of third place finisher Rebecca Dussault.
“I actually passed her in the first lap. Then she took revenge,” Gaiazova said about racing with Brooks today. “For us these are Olympic trials so there is some extra stress for sure. I’m relieved that I could ski strong on the tracks today.”
The fastest Canadians from the races this and next weekend win a spot in the Olympic team. Dasha says that today is a good indicator that she will make the team, but it’s still unofficial this weekend. She certainly deserves it after racing so consistently fast the last three weeks.
“Now I can race for fun. I will do all the races because it’s just fun. It’s going to be all stress free and enjoyable.”
On the mens’ side Garrot Kuzzy (USST/CXC Team Vertical Limit) finished in first place 50 seconds in front of second place finisher James Southam (APU), with Math Liebsch in third. Southam says that the constantly changing course was tough.
“There is a lot of climbing but not just steady grinding like Canmore. Here the grade is always changing,” says Southam about today’s course. He says that the vibe on the trails is pretty good, just as he was expecting in his phone interview after winning last week’s classic race at Bohart Ranch.
“There were more people than in the SuperTour and a fair amount of Canadian national media. It was a good day for the Americans to keep Canada off the podium!”
Southam goes on to continue his description of course and competition via email interview.
“It is a really good course overall but for my strengths there is a little too much flat and gradual terrain where time can be made or lost in a hurry. I would give my race a B. It was solid. I tried to pace myself knowing that the flats and transitions make a big difference here and maybe held back a shade too much… I ended up closing 10-15 seconds in the last 2k on Liebsch. There was another gear that I was able to tap into every so often so I might have been a bit conservative… My form is still coming.”
“It was a 2 lap 7.5 k loop with a 4:30 climb out of the start. 2x5k for the ladies. On the second lap the guys end up climbing from even lower making it more like 6 or 7 minutes of work. It’s not continuous but pretty close and you are working the whole time. When you work from the top to the bottom the downhills are either too gentle or technical to get any rest, plus there’s some decent climbs in there.”
“Today’s skate distance race was very good for US skiers,” said APU Head Coach Erik Flora. He coaches Southam and today’s winner Holly Brooks. “The skiing was perfect with hard challenging courses and firm trails. The courses rewarded those who are tough and train hard. The course design resembled the (Eagle) glacier with long climbs that finished with steep pitches. We look forward to sprinting tomorrow!”
Gordon Jewett was the top Canadian, and says that the Candians were pretty impressed with the American contingent today. “Kuzzy was just flying,” he said. Like Dasha Gaiazova, Jewett is more or less assuming the he has secured a spot on the Canadian Olympic team.
“I was optimistic [today] and only worried about the Canadians. I knew everyone down there [in the US] were skiing well. I know coming into today I was in contention to be the top Canadian and was just hoping for the best.”
Jewett says that the Canadians are using these race formats because they are looking for the fastest people to fill specific roles on their Olympic team. Today’s 10/15K skate race and next weekend’s classic sprint are the same races that will be held in Whistler.
“There’s no guaranteer that if someone was selected that would have a specific start (in Whistler). The Canadian criteria is a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 16 skiers. 7 were already selected before these events. They will add more and likely go over twelve but won’t exceed 16. We always race a full four per event.”
Feeling secure about his qualification, Jewett will take a look a the coming races to see where he can do the most work to get in top form for Whistler.
“It’s still going to take a lot of work to be at the Olympic level. I’ll take a couple of days and make some decisions to do more work for the games in order to take it to another level.”
On the topic of Olympic teams, we missed the Canadians last week at the Bozeman SuperTour. It was the intention to get them to race in the second SuperTour weekend so that our top skiers would have the chance to gain some points. The Canadians offer a good spread of heavy FIS points and the better we ski against fast skiers like them before the Olympics, the better our chances for winning more Whistler seats for the US Olympic team.
“You know we were expecting ourselves to be there too,” Gaiazova said about the last-minute decision to hold some Alberta provincial races on the same trails as February’s World Cup.
“We didn’t even have enough snow to use the trails and we had to ski on this little loop. I was really regretting not being in Bozeman. There was only one race – the sprint was OK. It was so cold that a lot of people didn’t start. I didn’t start either. It was a mediocre week for the Canadians.”
Getting the Canadians and the Americans together is something that everyone has enjoyed this year. The racers and organizers are enthusiastic about the energy at the races, and it thickens the fields and provides more opportunities for athletes to score decent points.
But for those of us that can’t be there, when we hear about good conditions, we can just assume blue skies and Blue Extra snow. Gaiazova says “We had great weather, fresh snow, and the tracks were fast. It was always above 10C (14F), and we had a beautiful loop.”
If you haven’t been to Silver Star, all of the racers will tell you that it is one of the best places to ski. Holly Brooks is no different.
“First of all, Silver Star and Soverign is pure heaven. I almost wish we weren’t racing just so I could ski 6 hours a day, everyday. For those that haven’t been here, book your ticket now. The conditions couldn’t have been better – packed powder and temps in the teens. The race was well organized, the volunteers are awesome, and the grooming is OUT OF THIS WORLD.”
We’ll all have to book our tickets for next year.
Top-10 Women’s Results:
1. Holly Brooks, USA, 29:37; 2. Dasha Gaiazova, Banff, Alta., CAN, 29:46; 3. Rebecca Dussault, USA, 30:24; 4. Madeleine Williams, Edmonton, CAN, 30:31; 5. Caitlin Compton, USA, 30:48; 6.Tazlina Mannix, USA, 30:51; 7. Nicole De Yong, USA, 30:58; 8. Brooke Gosling, Calgary, 31:17; 9. Rebecca Rorabaugh, USA, 31:21; 10. Kristina Trygstad-Saari, USA, 31:24.
Top-10 Men’s Results:
1. Garrot Kuzzy, USA, 37:35; 2. James Southam, USA, 38:24; 3. Matt Liebsch, USA, 38:27; 4. Gord Jewett, Canmore, Alta., CAN, 38:43; 5. Brian Gregg, USA, 38:45; 6. Bryan Cook, USA, 38:46; 7. Brian McKeever, Canmore, Alta., CAN, 38:59; 8. Kevin Sandau, Calgary, CAN, 39:12; 9. Drew Goldsack, Red Deer, Alta., CAN, 39:12; 10. Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse, Yukon, CAN, 39:13.