Canada’s Dasha Gaiazova continued her strong skiing in Rovaniemi, Finland today, winning the women’s 5 k classic by 8 seconds over Victoria Melina of Russia. Gaiazova finished second in the classic sprint yesterday, and appears to be in good form heading into the World Cup mini-tour in Kuusamo next weekend.
In the men’s 10 k, Frederic Touchette led Canada and the rest of North America with a twelfth-place finish. He was 45 seconds behind Vasili Rotchev of Russia, who eked out a 0.4-second win over countryman Sergey Shiriaev.
Gaiazova’s win was commanding – as teammate Chandra Crawford pointed out yesterday, there were no World Cup skiers in the field, but the next three spots went to Russians, who have one of the deepest domestic fields in the world. Crawford, who won yesterday’s sprint, finished fifth, 33 seconds behind Gaiazova.
American Hannah Dreissigacker (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) also repeated her success from yesterday. After finishing 8th in the sprint, she moved up one spot to 7th in the distance race, finishing 42 seconds behind Gaiazova and only nine behind Crawford. With those two women headed to the World Cup next weekend, Dreissigacker has clearly proved that she has the speed to be competitive at the international level, at least in Continental Cups. Her teammates Chelsea Little and Lauren Jacobs finished 36th and 37th, and Audrey Weber of Go! Training placed 41st.
For Touchette, leading his teammates was particularly important considering that these races are trials to determine which Canadian men get to start the Kuusamo mini-tour. Stefan Kuhn followed in 24th place, 27 seconds behind Touchette. Lenny Valjas, who turns 22 today, and Phil Widmer rounded out the Canadian roster in 40th and 46th places.
The next North American was Tim Reynolds (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 38th place. He was followed by Pat O’Brien and Dylan McGuffin in 57th, and Ollie Burruss in 91st place. Teammate Matt Briggs had a tough day, crashing hard in his warm-up, and didn’t make it to the start.
It was a tough day for the Bridger Ski Foundation, with Leif Zimmerman and Glenn Randall finishing 72nd and 82nd. Both athletes had strong skate races in Muonio, but told FasterSkier earlier this week that they weren’t hoping to ski their absolute best at these races, and were instead focusing on training and preparing for more important races later in the season.
Fred Bailey led the Maine Winter Sports Center with an 85th-place finish. He was followed by Sam Tarling in 93rd and Mike Lessard in 95th. Nick Michaud chose to race in the under-20 race, where he finished 23rd, 3 minutes and 36 seconds behind winner Niko Ruuskanen of Finland.
Almost all of the North American teams will be leaving Rovaniemi tomorrow or the next day. While the Canadians are headed to Kuusamo, the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and most of the NCCSEF-funded Maine Winter Sports Center trip will return to the United States. Torin Koos of the Methow Olympic Development Project, who sat out today’s race, will travel to Norway for two more weeks of racing.