The SuperTour Final is turning into an international affair. With a group of Norwegians already confirmed, as well as Swedish and Japanese skiers, the Canadians are bringing some artillery as well.
No fewer than four Canadian groups are headed to the United States for a final shot at high-level racing this season.
Cross Country Canada (CCC) has a trip heading to Idaho. The Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) is sending a variety of athletes, both junior and veteran. Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), a club team based in Canmore, Alberta will have a strong contingent, and a group from British Columbia led by former Canadian national team head coach Dave Wood is expected to head south as well.
The majority of athletes on the CCC trip will drive from Canmore to Idaho this week with trip leader James Cunningham. In an e-mail to FasterSkier Thursday, Cunningham estimated that upwards of 30 Canadian athletes will be on the start list.
Led by Cunningham as well as club coach Mike Vieira, the CCC trip features twelve junior and U-23 athletes. Top U-23’s Graeme Killick of the Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) and Mike Somppi of National Development Center Thunder Bay (NDC-TB) headline the list, as well as junior Andy Shields (NDCTB).
Killick is coming off a strong Canadian national championships. The 22-year old up-and-comer recorded two second place finishes in the races in Canmore, in the 10 k freestyle and 15 k classic, both behind top finisher George Grey (CNST).
As for Shields, the 20 year old was recently crowned Canada’s top junior, winning the 15 k classic as well as the 30 k mass start freestyle at the Canadian National Championships.
According to Cunningham, the CCC group he is leading will not be contesting the 30/50 k races at U.S. National Championships, but another group of CNST team skiers is heading down for those events.
The group heading to the distance races features some of the heaviest hitters in the Canadian lineup, including Stefan Kuhn (CNST), Brittney Webster (CNST/AWCA), Kevin Sandau (AWCA), and Brent McMurtry (CNEPH).
“Based on the way the guys skied at [Canadian] Nationals, we expect them to be challenging at the front,” wrote Cunningham in an e-mail to FasterSkier.
Cunningham also considered the fact that the US Ski Team (USST) will be attending the races in full force, as well as the attendance of Chandra Crawford (CNST), as a big motivating factor for the trip.
“Chandra and Kikkan [Randall] will highlight the women’s field, and offer a great chance for the next generation to test themselves against two of the best sprinters in the world,” Cunningham wrote.
For Crawford, it will be her first time taking on the spring racing series, and in a recent e-mail to FasterSkier, she described it as being all about building up her base.
“Having made it through this year with 100 percent health, [CNST Head Coach] Justin [Wadsworth] is comfortable pushing me to race more, and make distance form a big priority in the coming years,” Crawford wrote.
“I’m super keen on it, so I’m going to Sun Valley to go hard in the most fun environment possible,” she wrote.
The U.S. championship in the 50 and 30 k covers the 26th and 27th of March, while the SuperTour Finals mini-tour kicks off March 29th with a 3 k freestyle prologue.