After completing one of her best seasons of racing last winter, Dasha Gaiazova has continued to build on her success this winter. She has been tearing up the Continental Cup this season, standing on the podium in every race she has entered by taking 1st place four times, 2nd place twice, and 3rd place twice. Though sprinting is her strongest suit – all her wins so far this season and all her top World Cup races last year were in the sprint format – she is also a very solid middle distance skier, and is equally successful in both the skate and classic technique.
But she is not so psyched about long distance races, which is why yesterday’s 30km classic in Haywood, at the Canmore Nordic Center, was a tough motivational sell. Especially after two full days of sprint prelims and heats. And especially when competing on what Gaiazova contends is “the hardest course I’ve ever raced in the world, hands down!”
“It’s extremely hard – there is much climbing,” said Gaiazova, “I think for most people the strategy was just to go out and manage their energy well throughout the race because you can get tired very quick just from climbing so much – and also from having so many races done in the last two weeks.”
Riddled with unforgivingly steep ascents, the course at Canmore can be mental anguish for a racer who is not feeling on top of their game – especially an individual start race that takes more than an hour and a half to complete.
“I didn’t have any expectations with today and just wanted to give a good fight and overall give my best,”said Gaiazova, “I’m just happy I managed to finish the 30km and it’s good enough!”
‘Managing to finish’ for Gaiazova still meant placing a very solid 3rd, continuing her trend on the continental podium. But Gaiazova has larger goals than to win continental cups – her races in these last couple weeks have ensured her spot on the Canadian Olympic Team for sprint and middle distance racing, and her sight is set on Vancouver.
At least she is pretty sure she has an Olympic spot; as early as today, CCC (Cross Country Canada) will name the actual team.
“Winners for sure have a good chance,” said Gaiazova, who explained that the qualifying standards for the Team are not very clear, even to the racers who are trying to make the spots. There are about 17 spots to be filled, but Gaiazova says that CCC will probably not fill them all, making it hard to tell who exactly will be named to the team.
Canadians also have to qualify for certain events, not just spots, on the Olympic team. Since Dasha has had her best results in sprints and middle distance races, those are the races she is qualified to compete in for the Olympic Team.
It is also unclear who will get to compete in the upcoming Tour de Ski, as it has been rumored that several more racers could be sent to join the World Cup team for the event, and Gaiazova would like to one of the racers who gets a ticket. “I’m trying to get there,” she said, “but it’s not confirmed.”
After a heavy schedule of racing this early season, Gaiazova is looking forward to this short Christmas break. Her goal is to both get some rest and recovery and to “go back to basics” which will mean she will “do some good old volume training and work with more technique.”
Gaiazova credits her summer training to her racing success. She completed several intense blocks of training, and also took three separate trips to the Haig Glacier for on-snow camps with the National team.
“I’ve been just really happy I had an amazing summer of training and fall,” said Gaiazova, “I’ve had a good time racing and I just hope I can just build up on the shape and also perform well for February – so that’s my goal for now – just keep up the momentum!”