Say what you will about the Canadians, but the country with the Team Sprint World Champions aren’t resting on their laurels.
A week after returning from a camp in Park City, Utah, Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) Head Coach Justin Wadsworth had the athletes packing up again and headed for Whistler, B.C. for a short intensity-filled camp before heading back to Canmore, Alberta, for Canadian Thanksgiving.
While it may seem unusual that the Canadian team would travel to Park City for a camp, Wadsworth felt that it fit best in the schedule at the end of September.
According to Wadsworth, Park City was a volume-based camp, where the athletes were able to take advantage of some training opportunities not present in Canmore – including a long rollerski on freshly paved roads from Soldier Hollow to Deer Valley.
In addition, most of the training at Park City was done at altitude, before coming home to Canmore for a quick rest week.
The second part of Wadsworths’ sequence is the switch to intensity, which he aims to do at lower altitude at Whistler.
And Wadsworth has a lot to fit into the fall schedule – he is also planning on taking advantage of ‘Frozen Thunder’, a program whereby the Canmore Nordic Center stores snow under a mountain of sawdust, and rolls it out onto the trails in mid-October.
“I don’t want to be somewhere else doing dryland training when we can be on snow here [in Canmore],” said Wadsworth.
“We’re going to get three kilometers of skiing on October 15th right outside our door, and it’s one of the only places in the world that offers that.”
After a Park City camp with little intensity, Wadsworth is has tabbed Whistler as his intensity camp due to the great training opportunities and ideal altitude.
“You get 100% O2 saturation for recovery – it’s basically like being right at sea level,” Wadsworth said.
Wednesday the Canadian men did a 15 k skate individual start Time Trial, while the women did four sprint qualification rounds.
Graeme Nishikawa earned top spot ahead of Kershaw, while Kevin Sandau of the CNST D-Team who trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) finished third.
All of the men on the Canadian World Cup and Development Team are present, with the exception of Alex Harvey, who has headed home to Quebec to train with the Pierre Harvey National Development Center (CNEPH).
“We feel like Alex coming out to Whistler would be a couple more trips across the country, and we feel like he’s got a stable training program [in Quebec],” Wadsworth said of Harvey’s absence.
Convergence Trip Possibility
There is an additional element to the camp as well – with the Canadian early season convergence trips coming up shortly, the Development Team athletes have a chance to show the coaching staff how much they have improved over the summer in person.
While Wadsworth was quick to say that athletes would not be selected based solely on their training camp performance, he did admit that the athletes knew that selections for the trip had to be made.
“We’re going to see them all under some hard workouts this trip,” he said.
That being said, if someone is skiing spectacularly, they will have a head start.
“We know Devon is in good shape, so if you’re consistently beating him – not just in one interval, but the entire week, then we know you’re going well.”
Athletes from all four of the Canadian Development Centers are present. The veterans present include Drew Goldsack (AWCA), Graeme Nishikawa (AWCA), and Brent McMurtry (AWCA) while the next generation is represented by young guns Kevin Sandau (AWCA), Mike Sompii (NDC T-Bay), Harry Seaton (NDC T-Bay), Jess Cockney (AWCA), Graeme Killick (AWCA), and Fred Touchette (CNEPH).
Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones have also been joined by the two younger women of the Development Team, as Alysson Marshall (AWCA) and Emily Nishikawa (AWCA) are both present as well.
Upcoming Season Improvements
In terms of team performance, Wadsworth is happy with what he has seen over the course of the whole summer.
“This year I’ve seen Devon and Alex still improve,” he said. “When you can make noticeable improvements at their level, that’s impressive.”
If Wadsworth is enthusiastic about his two World Championship-winning team members’ improvements, he sounded even more impressed with Ivan Babikov.
“He’s made big jumps forward with his double poling, general fitness, and strength,” Wadsworth said.
As well, he mentioned that Babikov will be taking a different strategy this season in order to ski well at the beginning of the season, something the distance specialist has struggled with in the past. Babikov has also committed to spending large chunks of time in Europe this season in order to stay on track, also a departure from previous seasons.
As for the women, Wadsworth noted that Perianne Jones has made some of the biggest improvements he has seen, and the whole team has made some big steps forward.
The youngest member of the team, Len Valjas, a 23-year old breakout sprinter from last season, has also been making improvements.
“If you just look at what Lenny can handle in training, it’s like a man,” said Wadsworth.
“He can handle them [the CNST training camps] without having to be nursed through them.”
As per usual, Wadsworth didn’t shy away from making some bold predictions.
“It may be greedy, but three guys in the top 5 at the Tour de Ski is possible,” he said.