A day of cold and windy sprinting — with temperatures around -17 degrees Celsius — wrapped up this weekend’s NorAm races at Sovereign Lake. After all was said and done, Andrea Dupont (Rocky Mountain Racers) and Patrick Stewart-Jones of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) emerged as victors in the classic sprint.
In the women’s race, Andrea Dupont skied a tactical-and-controlled race to win the A-final after squeaking through the semifinals as a lucky loser. Alysson Marshall of the AWCA and Canada’s Senior Development Team (NST) and Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST) were close behind in second and third, respectively. Rounding out the A-final was Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST) and Ninja teammates Amanda Ammar and Zoe Roy.
After sitting out Saturday’s 10 k freestyle as a precaution to protect her lungs from temperatures around -18 degrees Celsius, Dupont explained in an email that Sunday morning “was a bit of a shock to the system racing in the cold.”
That said, she was happy with her final and her ability to “relax and work tactics (something that is not always my strength),” she wrote. “We had really great skis from our club parent volunteers, and I was able to use that extra bit of glide heading into the final climb, which was the defining point for the course.”
With most of the pack together until the final hill, Dupont explained her skis helped her feel “super fresh” heading up it.
“I came out of the climb first and it gives you a huge advantage heading into the finishing straight,” she wrote.
Marshall was also pleased with her runner-up result, and concurred that the race was quite exciting.
“The A-final was tight for most of the race,” she wrote in an email. “There are lots of corners and transitions so a fair amount of contact and lane switching going on but luckily no crashes. Andrea and I got into the lead on the final climb and Andrea lead into the finish. I was gaining on her but couldn’t quite catch her before the line.”
On the men’s side, Stewart-Jones captured his first NorAm victory, which he wrote in an email he was “pretty excited about.”
“I came close to winning a few times last year but never pulled it off,” he added.
Phil Widmer (AWCA/NST) and Graeme Killick (AWCA/NST) placed second and third, and Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite), Raphaël Couturier of Pierre Harvey National Training Centre and NST, and Simon LaPointe (Skinouk) rounded out the rest of the A-final.
Qualifying in fifth, Stewart-Jones explained that he felt the effects of Saturday’s 15 k freestyle, in which he placed fourth.
“My plan for the heats was to ski as efficiently as possible to try and get to the final using the least energy possible,” he wrote. “I knew my finish was strong so I was just trying to get to the last few hundred metres in a position where I could challenge for the win.”
Widmer (AWCA/NST) complimented Stewart-Jones on his race. “It was a cold, slow day of racing and I have to say I’m satisfied with the result,” Widmer wrote. “Patrick was very strong in the final and I wasn’t able to make up any ground on him in the finishing straight.”
Next weekend’s NorAm, hosted by the Black Jack Ski Club in Rossland, B.C. will feature a freestyle sprint and 10/15 k individual starts. The fields will be much larger due to the addition of many stateside Americans heading up north to race, without a SuperTour next weekend.
Marshall, for one, is looking forward to the challenge. “It will be fun to have some Americans at the races next weekend!” she wrote. “I’m really focusing on sprinting this year and it’s always nice to sprint against different skiers since we get used to the strengths and weaknesses of the girls we race against all the time.”
“[The Americans] were fast last time we raced on Frozen Thunder and deeper fields are always more fun to compete in!” Widmer wrote.
Additionally, Widmer is looking for some redemption next weekend. During his last race there, Widmer explained he “fell and came as close as I ever have to seriously hurting myself in a race. I was taken out and flew into a log jam at the side of the trail. It could have ended up much worse than it did as I walked away with only a broken pole and some scratches. Needless to say I’ll be looking for a much better result this time around!”
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Katie is a Canadian contributor at FasterSkier. Hailing from Minnesota, she raced for Dartmouth College and Sun Valley before turning her energies to climbing (and becoming the fastest known woman to ascend Mt. Rainier in Washington). Now based in Canmore, Alberta, she is an athlete ambassador for Millet and works as a mountain guide in Alaska, Washington and South America.