A quick look at the Canadian draft event calendar will unearth one major revelation – Cross Country Canada (CCC) appears to have fully embraced the concept of the mini-tour.
This upcoming season, there are three mini-tours on the CCC schedule. The second Haywood NorAm, held in Rossland, B.C. on December 16, 18 and 19 will be a mini-tour. As well, Western Canadian Championships, held in Kelowna, B.C. on February 4 to 6, and Eastern Canadian Championships, in Ottawa, Ontario will be mini-tours.
In a recent e-mail to FasterSkier, CCC Director of Events Dave Dyer indicated that changes at the international level were in part responsible for the creation of the first stage races in Canada. The Tour de Ski and the World Cup Final are both stage events, and both have become very popular with fans, as well as media and racers.
In Canada, the first race weekend in the Haywood series (often held at Sovereign Lake Nordic Club in Vernon, B.C.) has typically been a three- or four-day event, so holding a mini-tour is not radically different for the NorAm circuit. However, Dyer did point out that “declaring an aggregate winner over the race weekend will be new.”
While the location is set for the Haywood NorAm mini-tour (Black Jack Ski Club of Rossland, B.C.) and Western Canadians (Telemark Cross Country Ski Club, Kelowna, B.C.), discussions are still ongoing as to the location of Eastern Canadians. It will still be held in Ottawa, Ontario, as it has been the past five seasons, but the actually location of the race trails is still to be determined.
As for specific race distances and formats, the NorAm in Rossland will start with a sprint, followed by a short interval start, and then a longer handicap start. Both Easterns and Westerns will feature a short prologue on the Friday, followed by a sprint and then a handicap start.
Dyer mentioned that these events are not without challenges. “A multi-stage event is a bit trickier with 600 participants and multiple age categories, versus a traditional FIS-style event with just Open Men and Women,” he said.
As for incentives, Dyer did confirm that extra prize money would be available for the overall podium positions at the tours. He expects the fields to be as strong as those last season, at least on the weekends that do not overlap with SuperTour races.
In addition to bigger prize money, there are other incentives to attending these races. Dyer noted the travel and monetary advantages of the mini-tour concept, stating that “Canada, like the U.S., is quite large, hence if club teams are going to invest in travel…we wanted to make sure they maximized the racing opportunity and the travel experience.”
Dyer said hopes the new races will “increase the excitement and interest” in skiing in the country, but also agrees that for the athletes, too many mini-tours can be difficult. He said he hopes to keep the tours evenly distributed across the season, to maximize the benefits and to minimize the strain of competition on athletes.