QUEBEC CITY – The race is called the team sprint, but it’s not all about speed—much to the chagrin of the top Canadian women’s squad.
To get to the finish of Friday’s World Cup, Dasha Gaiazova and Chandra Crawford each had to ski three legs of 1.6 kilometers in short succession, which put a premium on endurance—endurance that Crawford said she was lacking.
“Sprint relays, a tough beast,” she said. “It is a heck of a format.”
Both Gaiazova and Crawford are both known for their quickness, but at a whopping 1.6 kilometers, the Quebec course demanded staying power, too.
While the pair was in the mix early in their preliminary heat, they couldn’t hold on when the pace accelerated in the closing laps, and they failed to advance into the finals after placing ninth, 19.6 seconds off the lead.
“I think they needed it a little faster and a little shorter,” said Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth.
For both women, however, there were still some silver linings in Friday’s race.
Crawford said she soaked in the cheers of the hometown crowd, which numbered in the thousands and lined the sides of the trail in front of the provincial parliament building.
“It is awesome we get to race in Quebec,” she said. “I’m so glad we get to do this. It’s a boost for the sport, and a heck of a lot of North Americans [are] out here to watch.”
Gaiazova was buoyed by her parents, who she said were seeing her race for the first time in 12 years.
“It’s really cool that they came,” she said.
Wadsworth said he thought that Saturday’s individual sprint, which gives racers time to recover after each effort, should play more to the strengths of his top women—even though it will still require some strategy.
“The women, I think, know it’s a long course, and they have to even-pace the qualifier a little bit, so they have enough steam,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
— Alex Matthews, Topher Sabot and Matthew Voisin contributed reporting
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.