Canadians Working the Uphills, Set to Sprint in New Zealand

Kieran JonesAugust 12, 2011

With summer in full swing in North America, many cross country skiers have opted for the winter conditions of the Southern Hemisphere, including the Canadian National Ski Team (CNST).

While the women of the CNST recently spent time in Alaska with a large crowd of American women, the men have travelled to the traditional summer hang-out spot: the Snow Farm, in Wanaka, New Zealand.

The World Cup team of Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov and Len Valjas are spending two weeks in New Zealand, getting in some quality on-snow time, and are targeting the three cross country races at the New Zealand Winter Games, happening August 13, 14 and 16.

In a recent e-mail to FasterSkier, Head Coach Justin Wadsworth stated that the main focus of the camp is volume, but that the Canadians will maintain a solid level of strength and intensity as well.

In terms of technique, Wadsworth said that each athlete had an individual focus to work on for the week. However, they are also targeting improvement in a very specific area.

“We are paying some extra attention on steep uphill technique,” wrote Wadsworth. “It’s good for everyone, but especially the guys who are focusing on the Tour de Ski this year.”

“We know we can be there at the start of the last stage of the Tour de Ski,” he wrote, “but we want to move up to the podium this year on Alpe Cermis.”

While Wadsworth is thinking ahead to the Tour de Ski, the men will be racing much sooner – the end of their second week in New Zealand will feature three races against some stiff competition – especially the sprint.

The men's 15 k classic mass start podium from New Zealand last year: L-R Ivan Babikov, Devon Kershaw, and Kris Freeman - all three will be present again this year

The U.S. Ski Team World Cup squad is also in New Zealand for summer training and racing, with top sprinter Andy Newell present, as well as Kris Freeman and Simi Hamilton.

According to Wadsworth, the two North American teams will continue their collaboration, doing a few speed sessions as well as getting in some solid distance training.

In addition to the strong North American contingent, a large group of Russians have made the trip to New Zealand, with 2010 Olympic sprint champion Nikita Kruikov and team sprint bronze-medal winner Alexei Petukhov headlining the list.

All of the Canadian men will start at least two of the three races, and are taking the chance to face off against top competition seriously.

“Of course it’s not the Olympics,” wrote Wadsworth, “but if you’re going to bother to put a bib on, you need to race hard.”

While the training load in New Zealand is always high, the country also seems to offer great recreational possibilities – in the past the Canadians have passed rest days with surfing, biking, and have even visited a winery.

However, this time the group had just a single off day, and Wadsworth wanted to make sure they avoided any strenuous activity – despite several of the athletes hoping for a surf session.

Instead, they opted for some go-karting, and a trip to ‘FergBurger’, where Alex Harvey downed the ‘Big Al’, which the website touts as “a double serving of prime New Zealand beef (1/2 lb), lashings of bacon, a whole lotta cheese, 2 eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish & a big wad of aioli.”

According to Wadsworth, “We must be training enough because he pushed it down like it was a ¼ pounder from McDonalds.

Kieran Jones

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