The final NorAm races in Val Cartier, Quebec, were held in changing conditions on Tuesday. Dasha Gaiazova (Canadian National Team/Skielite) won the women’s 10k interval-start classic, sweeping all three races of the series, while Stefan Kuhn (Canadian National Team/Canmore Nordic) picked up his first win of the weekend in the men’s 15k race. Both athletes are likely to represent Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver after winning qualifying sprints in Canmore, but the Olympic teams have not yet been named.
The races were also qualifiers for Canada’s U23 and Junior World Championship teams, with a competitor’s performance through the whole weekend being evaluated rather than the Gold Cup-style selection that Olympic hopefuls faced in Sovereign Lakes and Canmore earlier this season.
Conditions were tricky for the classic race, with glazed, hard tracks but softer snow outside the tracks. As has been true all weekend, the courses were difficult, featuring long, steep climbs and winding descents. The men’s 5k course had a total of 180 meters of climbing for each 5k lap. This was too much climbing to be legal for the junior women, so the women ended up doing 4 laps of a 2.5k course with “only” 70 meters of climb per lap. With fifteen second intervals, the women faced a crowded racecourse.
Gaiazova cruised to a commanding 26 second victory, followed by Brittany Webster (Canadian National Team/Highlands Trailblazers) and Madeleine Williams (Alberta World Cup Academy/Edmonton Nordic). Webster was the first U23 competitor; Kate Brennan (Alberta World Cup Academy/Kanata Nordic) finished 4th, showing the strength of the U23 field. Marlis Kromm (Alberta World Cup Academy/Foothills Nordic) was the top junior, finishing 6th.
The top American finisher was Heather Mooney of the Stratton Mountain School. Mooney is a second-year J2, and her showing of 15th place in a tough senior field is extremely impressive.
In the men’s race, Kuhn skied to a 13-second win over Graham Nishikawa (Centre Pierre Harvey/Whitehorse Cross Country) and Brent McMurtry (Canadian National Team/Centre Pierre Harvey/Foothills Nordic). Kuhn told Cross Country Canada, “It is always good when you win, but it was a tough course and you had to have more fitness today because it was so long. With these [slow] conditions it was important to know when to make a move, and to not make a charge too early to have enough energy in the end. I was able to do that.”
The U23 field was led by Frederic Touchette (Centre Pierre Harvey/Club Nordique Mont Sainte Anne) and Kevin Sandau (Alberta World Cup Academy/Foothills Nordic) in 4th and 5th. The top junior was Zach Holland (Banff Ski Runners), who finished 21st.
Kiwi-American Ben Koons (Maine Winter Sports Center) led the New England delegation with a strong 13th-place showing despite having dropped out of Saturday’s race due to a lingering illness. He was sandwiched between Brian and Robin McKeever, showing the form that led him to qualify to represent New Zealand in the Olympics this February. The first American without dual citizenship was biathlete Russel Currier (Maine Winter Sports Center), in an impressive feat of classic skiing.
The Haywood NorAm Cup will land next at the Nakkertok Ski Club in Cantley, Quebec, for Eastern Championships at the end of January.