Welcome to World Cup Windup, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts with the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24. Last but not least, Canada!
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: 10th
Women’s Ranking 2016/2017: 14th
Men’s Ranking 2016/2017: Sixth
Alex Harvey, World Champion, runner-up in the Distance Cup, and third in the overall World Cup; Len Valjas, with seven World Cup top-20’s last season and Harvey’s partner in crime for team sprints; Devon Kershaw, top-10 in a Tour de Ski stage; Knute Johnsgaard, who teamed up with the previous three for a World Cup relay podium; Jesse Cockney, who had two sprint top-10’s. Other starters on the first period of World Cups are World Cup top-30 finishers Dahria Beatty, Cendrine Browne, Emily Nishikawa, Graeme Killick, and Julien Locke, and NorAm leaders Katherine Stewart-Jones and Russell Kennedy.
No major retirements.
The Canadians first competed at home in Canmore on the Frozen Thunder loop, with Lenny Valjas and Dahria Beatty winning the sprint, and Julien Locke earning his World Cup spot by crushing the qualifier. Valjas also won the distance race at Frozen Thunder, and Beatty finishing second behind American Chelsea Holmes.
Then this past weekend, they were in Gällivare, Sweden. Devon Kershaw was the best Canadian in the distance races, finishing 12th in the 10 k skate on Friday. “I changed various things with my training this year so it’s exciting to see how my body feels in the beginning of a new season,” Kershaw wrote. “… My goals are really to just be calm and execute well – which means going into the racing with no expectations other than to ski as technically well as possible while working on the whole pacing thing (which can be challenging at the beginning of the season when you don’t have that many races in the body).” Russell Kennedy finished 48th and Lenny Valjas 49th. In the 5 k skate the same day, Emily Nishikawa finished 26th. The next day, she placed 51st in the 10 k classic, while Kershaw finished 20th in the 15 k and none of his teammates broke the top 50.
In Sunday’s classic sprint, Dahria Beatty made the women’s quarterfinals and ultimately ended up 22nd. Valjas also made the heats, but likewise did not advance, finishing 29th; on the outside looking in were Julien Locke (39th); Knute Johnsgaard (40th), Russell Kennedy (43rd), and Jesse Cockney (48th) in a field of 114 men.
While the rest of the team started the season in Sweden, Alex Harvey and Cendrine Browne headed to Davos, Switzerland. In a recent interview with La Presse, Harvey said his goal is to race in six events at the 2018 Oympics. “As a Canadian, I know that a medal at the Olympics would cause a bigger impact than any other medal,” he said. “But I don’t do this for recognition. I do it because I’m keen to set goals and work hard to try to reach them. ”
Katherine Stewart-Jones got a concussion when she crashed her bike two months ago, and had to miss a substantial amount of training. She wrote about the mental challenge on her blog: “The hardest thing about the recovery was feeling helpless. I wanted answers. I wanted to know how long it would take for me to recover and what I needed to do to get better. I would set myself timelines but every time I would reach them, I would end up feeling discouraged. In the end, it was exhausting and stressful, a mix of feelings that are not helpful for recovery.”
You can also check out our October interview with Jesse Cockney.
Best Social Media Presence:
Russell Kennedy is a fabulous photographer, so his Instagram page is not to be missed.
The Canadian women’s team also just started a team Instagram page where you can check up on the progress and whereabouts of the different team members.