The qualifying for Canada’s World Championships team may be over, but racing continued Sunday at Lappe Nordic, in Thunder Bay, ON.
In the men’s 15 k skate, George Grey (Black Jack/NST) snagged the men’s victory, crossing the line in 39:21.9 and beating Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse) by just over five seconds. Michael Somppi (Lappe Nordic/Thunder Bay, Ontario) came in another seven seconds behind, clocking in at 39:34.6 for third place. Saturday’s sprint winner Brent McMurtry (Foothills) was fourth, more than 45 seconds behind Somppi (40:16.9).
“My race form is coming up, and there were a lot of close finishes here as many were peaked for the trials. It made for exciting racing…and it was nice to have tight competition,” said Grey, who was content to win two out of the three races this weekend.
But Grey also knows that the merits are just for posterity. Now starts the real work preparing for Worlds, and he knows there are still gains to be made before he reaches his own peak fitness.
“I need to do some more good training before I get to my top race form,” Grey told FasterSkier in an e-mail after Sunday’s race. “My plans are to train hard, long, and smart until the departure date. I will also compete in the [mini-tour] in Kelowna, B.C [in early February] as a small preparation.”
While nailing a ticket to Oslo was the focus of the weekend for Grey, he is also optimistic about his country’s potential internationally.
“The obvious highlight for me was qualifying for the championship team, and taking two wins in two distance races. Many of the men’s positions were filled in Europe on the World Cup, and two spots were left up for grabs to be filled in Canadian races. Stefan [Kuhn] took the sprint spot and I nipped the distance spot. Both qualifying races were very tight, showing the depth of our Canadian squad. Canada is rising in its skiing ability across the board,” Grey said.
Spread in the women’s field
While the top three men finished within 13 seconds of each other, things were a little more spread out in the women’s 10 k skate. Perianne Jones (Foothills/NST) cruised through the course in 31:02.7 and beat Dasha Gaiazova (Rocky Mountain Racers/NST) by a solid 15-second margin. Gaiazova, who finished in 31:18.3, put more than a minute on Brooke Gosling (Foothills/CXC), who was third in 32:27.5.
“I felt really good out there, and I’ve known all year that I’ve just been feeling a lot better,” Jones told Cross Country Canada after her race on Sunday. “My body was just really tired last year, and it is nice to be building that confidence and racing professionally again here. I have been working hard on my technique and things have been going really well.”
Between Thursday and Sunday, a number of athletes were named to the various Canadian championship teams, as this was the final opportunity for racers to qualify. Hence, the skiers seemed to overlook the frigid temperatures that blanketed Thunder Bay this week, and were going for broke. The only evidence of the mercury plummeting to nearly -20 C were the times for the distance events. The cold snow made for draggier conditions, especially in the skate events.
Complete men’s results.
Complete women’s results.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.