Holly Brooks (APU) followed up her second place in Friday’s sprint with an 8.2-second victory over Jessie Diggins (CXC Elite) in the women’s 5 k freestyle on the second day of the Rossland NorAm mini-tour.
With extremely fast conditions, Brooks flew around the course in just over 12 minutes.
“I knew it was going to be fast,” said Brooks, “but I didn’t know it would be that fast.”
Diggins’ CXC teammate, Caitlin Compton, finished third, just one tenth of a second out of second place.
“It almost felt like a prologue instead of a distance race,” Brooks said. “I’m not even sure what to classify it.”
With such a quick loop, racers had to put the pedal down from the get-go.
“Strategically I knew there was no time to wait, and no reason to save anything. A lot of the early climbs were followed by some nice, long, restful downhills,” Brooks said.
Compton found the conditions to her liking, and in fact, she described the day as ideal.
“A 5 k skate, fast conditions—that is pretty much my ideal race,” she said. “I could race those anytime!”
Compton has been building into the season, looking to be racing her fastest later in the year, but she said she is beginning to come into form.
“I felt like I was back in my race zone—definitely one of my better races,” she said.
After Kate Fitzgerald and Sadie Bjornsen, both of APU, finished 4th and 5th respectively, Perianne Jones of the Canadian National B-Team broke up the APU/CXC/American monopoly at the top of the results sheet.
Second through fifth places were separated by a mere 3.2 seconds, setting up an exciting battle in Sunday’s 10 k classic pursuit final.
Brooks will start with a 7.3 second lead over teammate Bjornsen, winner of Friday’s sprint and fifth in the freestyle, while Diggins is another 12 seconds behind in third.
Jones sits in fourth, 24 seconds back, and Compton fifth at 37 seconds.
“Honestly, I was hoping that I would have a bigger lead, but the course and the conditions did not allow for that,” said Brooks. “I know I will be going out tomorrow with a big target on my back, and some good skiers following me.”
Compton is looking at the 10 k classic as a good indicator of her fitness, as the discipline is not her strong suit.
She has nearly 30 seconds on her closest pursuer, so will be forward, not back.
“I love chasing people down, so I am really looking forward to tomorrow,” she said.
Brooks pointed out that because the pursuit will also be scored as an individual race, it could make for some interesting tactics.
Usually, in such pursuit-start events, all that matters is who crosses the line first. But with points at a premium for World Championships qualification, sitting back and waiting for the final sprint may not be a wise strategy.
“The people who are starting a little further back, and are out of the prize money for the aggregate time, may be more aggressive…going for an individual result,” Brooks said.
Either way, it should make an exciting day of racing, with a number of small packs set up in the overall standings.
New snow has fallen since the completion of the skate race, which will likely make the classic event slower.
“Everyone is pretty excited to race this hunting-style pursuit format,” said Brooks. “It should be some great head-to-head racing.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.