There’s something to be said about consistency. Canadians Graham Nishikawa and Michael Somppi might say it’s a little annoying.
With repeat results, the two can’t be too upset with their performances in recent Alpen and Scandinavian Cup races. Both Senior Development Team skiers, Nishikawa and Somppi finished the same as they did in their previous races.
At the Alpen Cup in Switzerland on Sunday, Nishikawa of the Alberta World Cup Academy was fifth in the 15 k freestyle pursuit. Somppi (National Development Centre-Thunder Bay) skipped the race because of illness, but finished 20th in the preceding Alpen Cup classic sprint.
On Thursday, Nishikawa was fifth again in the 30 k freestyle mass start at the Scandinavian Cup in Madona, Latvia. Somppi was 20th for the second straight day after Wednesday’s freestyle sprints.
“Well, another 20th place for me today. It seems to be my number,” Somppi wrote in an email after Thursday’s race. “I felt good on my skis today and am happy with the result. … I gave my best effort today and that’s all I can ask of myself.”
Somppi noted he avoided several crashes and broken poles throughout the 30 k race by skiing relaxed and aware in a pack of more than 50 skiers. Before the race, he talked to Canadian Paralympian and Foothills skier Brian McKeever, who advised him “to chill out and not waste energy doing little bursts for position,” Somppi wrote.
The course itself required a hefty amount of energy with 198-meters (650 feet) of climbing per 5 k lap.
“Doing that 6 times really burned everyone’s legs,” Somppi wrote, commending Nishikawa for his fifth-place finish with an aggressive group of leaders.
Somppi finished 2:26.67 behind Sweden’s Fredrik Karlsson, who won in 1:15.33.05.
Nishikawa wrote in an email that the pace out of the mass start was actually pretty slow. That changed about 15 k later.
“I tried to stay in the top 10 for most of the race – in order to stay out of trouble,” Nishikawa wrote. “[Five] of us got away on the last lap and it came down to a sprint. I could not get very good position on the final hill and came around the final corner in 5th and could not get around anyone – as there was no room.”
Nishikawa finished fifth, 0.45 seconds behind Karlsson. Another Swede, Lars Nelson was second (+0.20), and Norway’s Kristian Tettli Rennemo and Anders Tettli Rennemo were third and fourth, respectively. Nishikawa was 0.05 seconds out of fourth.
“It was a great race,” Nishikawa wrote. “I am in very good shape and could match any of the attacks. Losing the sprint is a bit tough to take as it would have been amazing to capitalize on this opportunity.”
Mike Sinnott of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team was 15th (+1:12.14) after skiing in fourth shortly after the start. On one of the first downhills, he wrote that he came too close to some other racers, causing him to crash hard when his skis slipped out.
“I broke a pole and waited for everyone to pile into my rib cage, but somehow they all avoided me,” Sinnott wrote. “That pretty well changed my game plan from there. I found myself dead last and was forced to ski half a climb with one pole, before I grabbed one that was much too large. I traded it out later but wasted a lot of energy fighting through the stragglers – not reaching the lead pack for another 6km but still fighting in the yo yo until about 15km.”
With about 10 k remaining, he was back in fourth. The eventual top five broke away around 22 k and Sinnott said he pushed a little too hard trying to stay with them.
“Ten other guys had some patience and moved by me and regained the lead,” he wrote. “At that point it was damage control for me, and I feel I skied well to keep it fairly close. The leaders had some impressive finishing speed considering they were only 20 seconds up with 4km to go.”
McKeever was 22nd, Peter Kling (Alaska Pacific University) placed 34th, Welly Ramsey (Maine Winter Sports Center) was 44th and Max Christman (Bend Endurance Academy) was 46th out of about 55 competitors.
In the women’s 15 k mass start, Becca Rorabaugh of APU was 17th, 3:37.66 behind winner Martine Ek Hagen of Norway. Hagen beat Norwegian runner-up Marte Monrad-Hansen by nearly a minute and three seconds in 41:19.62. Three other Norwegians placed third through fifth.
Alana Thomas of Nakkertok was the top Canadian in 20th (+3:50.14). In her second week of racing abroad in Europe, she wrote in an email that she expected the start to be faster. She felt comfortable with the pace, which could have been a result of the crowded mass start, and wrote that it picked up one kilometer later.
“I was tremendously surprised to see how many fast euro girls were doing big ugly snowplows on the downhills,” Thomas wrote. “That’s one skill advantage we North Americans seem to have!”
She followed her plan and went hard from the start, skiing with Rorabaugh and two Swedes for a lap before falling in the stadium.
“My fault, quite embarrassing,” Thomas wrote.
She attempted to catch back up and later tucked in with the group behind them. Feeling strong on the hills, Thomas tried to drop them on a large hill midway through the last lap.
“Unfortunately the group came back to eat me up in the last k which was mostly downhill and flat,” she wrote. “I guess I needed an uphill finish today!”
Zoe Roy, who races for Rocky Mountain Racers, StellaRacing and XC Oregon, was 25th. Emily Hannah (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) was 26th of 30 women in her first career 15 k.
The Scandinavian Cup continues this weekend in Albu, Estonia, with classic sprints on Saturday and 10- and 15-k classic races on Sunday.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.