Oslo, Norway – The Canadian men’s team, just off a record-breaking Olympics, was unable to re-capture the magic.
The “Big-4” of Devon Kershaw, Ivan Babikov, Alex Harvey, and George Grey all dropped out of the race, leaving Graham Nishikawa as the sole finisher in 48th place, +19:24.
Kershaw was complimentary of his teammate, and very disappointed in his own performance. “Nish is a tough MF’er. Ivan, George, Alex and I pulled the pin. I had never dropped out of a race in my life until today. Doesn’t feel good.”
Harvey withdrew at 20km. He was in 51st, over three minutes back. Grey and Babikov made it a bit further, to 24.5 kilometers. Grey was back in 51st and Babikov in 39th, well off the pace.
Kershaw soldiered on to the 28k mark, but he was rapidly losing time and the World Cup points were well out of reach.
None of the Canadian men were ever really in the race. They hung on the back of the pack through the first 14 kilometers, but as soon as the pace increased and the group began to splinter, they were way off the back.
The US fared better with Brian Gregg leading the way in 39th, +11:41. Gregg skied a consistent race, moving up as racers faded. His FIS points were not good, but considering the strength of field and the fact that this was his first World Cup 50km, 39th is a strong effort, and easily his top World Cup performance.
James Southam finished 42nd, over 14 minutes off the pace – not the race that the veteran was looking for.
Wrote Southam after the race, “Thought hard about dropping after 10k. Managed to at least salvage a good training effort for Nationals… Frustrating day.”
He was closely followed by Mike Hinckley, who like Gregg, is getting his first taste of European World Cup racing. Hinckley ended the day in 43rd.
It appears that Canada struggled with skis today, and that was one of the reasons for the sub-par performances.
Tweeted George Grey following the race, “Tough to have to stop a race at 24km. Our team needs more sponsorship so we can roll with an adequate amount of staff on the World Cups.”
Added Harvey, “Tough day at the office for all the Canadians. Very weird snow conditions made for hard work for the technicians.”
Babikov was somewhat philosophical about the day. “I guess you have to pay for everything in this world, today was a payback for awesome skis during Olympics.”
No Canadian women raced, but Morgan Arritola turned in the best day all-around for the North Americans.
Arritola, who has been consistent yet unspectacular all winter, stayed the course, finishing 31st, just out of the World Cup points. Her 92 FIS points was not one of her best performances, and she is still looking for a breakout performance this season.
Still, considering the challenging waxing and the hard race, Arritola showed the toughness and ability to compete in the top-30.
Her US Ski Teammate, Liz Stephen, who struggled during the Olympics was unable to break out of her slump. She did not race well in Lahti the week following the Games, and today ended up in 52nd, 11:23 off the pace.
Caitlin Compton was one place ahead of Stephen. After a 14th in the Canmore World Cups, and solid races at the Olympics, Compton clearly did not have a good race today.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.