InterviewsRacingWorld CupThe Last Word: Final Thoughts from the Ski Tour Canada

Brainspiral BrainspiralMarch 15, 2016
Norway's Therese Johaug was happy to be done with the eight-stage Ski Tour Canada on Saturday, March 12. She won the Tour title along with the Overall and Distance World Cup Crystal Globes. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)
Norway’s Therese Johaug was happy to be done with the eight-stage Ski Tour Canada on Saturday, March 12. She won the Tour title along with the Overall and Distance World Cup Crystal Globes. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

CANMORE, Alberta — After eight races in 12 days, the final day of the Ski Tour Canada last Saturday brought both extreme exhaustion and feelings of completion for the 14 Americans (10 women, four men) and 12 Canadians (seven men, five women) who made it to the culminating finish of the season-ending World Cups.

Here is some of the best from the North Americans who made it to the last two stages (the Stage 7 freestyle individual start and Stage 8 classic pursuit):

(See also: Women’s Stage 8 report | Men’s Stage 8 report)

On the Tour scene:

Canada's Emily Nishikawa racing to 35th overall in the women's 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
Canada’s Emily Nishikawa racing to 35th in the women’s 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. She went on to lead the Canadian women in 37th overall in the Tour. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

“It was initially very overwhelming, but once I got the hang of how things go on race day, it was really fun to be out racing with so many fast women.” Kaitlynn Miller (Craftsbury Green Racing Project), 41st overall

“I’ve never done anything like this before. It is a test of will because you are either traveling or seeing the course … It is so different, I was so glad I had a chance to do this in a place like Canada where there are so many supporters. It was fun, I’m stoked it is over but it was actually really fun.” Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation), 48th overall

“It was pretty intimidating in the beginning but I guess I’m kind of getting used to it.” Katharine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School/USST D-team), 36th overall

On how the body held up: 

“Before the race, I felt really nauseous and pale and I thought, ‘I should go drink some water.’ … I did not think today was going to go well at all. I was thinking best-case scenario would be finishing. I don’t know, I never know what my body is going to do, but my back felt good and I skied with a group, which was freaking awesome.”  Bender

2016 Ski Tour Canada finishers:

CANADA:
5. Alex Harvey
14. Ivan Babikov
16. Devon Kershaw
27. Graeme Killick
37. Emily Nishikawa
40. Cendrine Browne
43. Kevin Sandau
44. Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt
47. Annika Hicks
49. Maya MacIsaac-Jones
49. Michael Somppi

50. Russell Kennedy

USA
5. Jessie Diggins
11. Sadie Bjornsen
24. Rosie Brennan
31. Chelsea Holmes
33. Caitlin Gregg
34. Ida Sargent
34. Noah Hoffman
36. Katharine Ogden
41. Kaitlynn Miller
42. Erik Bjornsen
43. Anne Hart
46. Scott Patterson
48. Jennie Bender
51 Tad Elliott

“I broke my finger about two weeks ago right before the Birkie but I felt solid there. When I start to get tired, my immune push-back starts flaring up and I was dealing with that a bit in the beginning of the tour and didn’t know how I would fare with all this hard racing. Honestly, I thought about pulling the plug after the first half, I was really suffering. But they said, ‘Go West, it is where you are from and the sunshine will do you well, stay relaxed and just enjoy ski racing.’ That is what I tried to do today and things have been coming around fast so it is kinda nice to feel that way.” Tad Elliott (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail), after placing 41st in the 15 k freestyle at Stage 7 (he went on to finish 51st overall in the Tour)

“I just had to focus on the process and just ski as well as I could and I think I did that. I didn’t have much energy to work with so I had to make due with what I had.  I skied as well as I could and just focused on technique.” Emily Nishikawa (Canadian Senior Development Team), after placing 35th in 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 (she went on to place 37th overall in the Tour)

“The season is wearing on me. I’ve been traveling a lot and racing a lot this year and haven’t had time to do any volume training and I think that is showing, my body has nothing left to give.” Michael Somppi (NDC Thunder Bay), after placing 50th in the 15 k freestyle at Stage 7 (he placed 49th overall in the Tour)

On finishing:

“Everyone was so awesome, I am glad I made it to the end. I’m stoked. Finished my first tour, I can’t complain.” Russell Kennedy (Canmore Nordic), 50th overall

“My goal was just to finish without getting lapped and I achieved that so I am really pumped to have finished the Tour. … I learned that my fitness is good enough to make it through all these races, but it needs to get better in order to improve.” Jessica Yeaton (Australian national team and Alaska Pacific University), 46th overall 

“I raced it for myself. I didn’t have any expectations for today and I, 100 percent, wanted to race my own race. I crossed the finish line happy with my effort and that is all I wanted.” Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Canadian Senior Development Team), after placing 42nd in 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 (she went on to place 44th overall in the Tour)

“It is my first interval start on the World Cup ever. It was fun to kind of ski my own race, but Johaug just blew by me on the wall of course.” Annika Hicks (Canmore Nordic) after placing 48th in the 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 (she went on to place 47th overall in the Tour)

“Honestly, I thought about pulling the plug after the first half, I was really suffering. But they said, ‘Go West, it is where you are from and the sunshine will do you well.’ ” — Tad Elliott, of Durango, Colorado

On highs and lows: 

“There was definitely highs and lows. Racing this much is pretty taxing physically and emotionally, but every day I was training or racing I was thinking about how ‘effing’ awesome this is to do at home. It is something I might not be able to do it again, but I hope I will. It is such as privilege and every time I thought about it I was so thankful to be here.” — Bouffard-Nesbitt

“I got passed by both Therese and Heidi [in the 10 k freestyle], which was great, and I was like, ‘Holy sh*t!’ …  Actually, proud moment of the race: I skied behind Therese on the downhill and she snowplowed and I did not so I was beating her on the downhill. But yeah, they climb like fiends. I don’t think I have the ability to go that tempo, being twice as big as both of them.” Bender

“It is great if you can pick up a good ride, but today I had Sundby blow past me. You want that ride that is just a bit too fast, not one that is killing you.” Scott Patterson (APU), after placing 47th in 15 k freestyle (he went on to place 46th overall in the Tour)

“I tried to ski with Maurice [Manificat] out there but then kinda exploded. I knew you follow Maurice it brings you to a top 20, within sight brings me to a top 30. I wasn’t able to accomplish that today, but to feel this good after all the health issues I’ve gone through recently is a sign of good things to come.”Elliott after placing 41st in the 15 k freestyle at Stage 7

On takeaways from the Tour:

Canada's Michael Somppi racing to 50th in the men's 15k skate in Canmore, Alberta. He went on to place 49th overall in the Tour. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)
Canada’s Michael Somppi racing to 50th in the men’s 15k skate in Canmore, Alberta. He went on to place 49th overall in the Tour. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

“I definitely feel like I have the endurance for long events like this — that is one of my strong suits. I seem to recover well. I mean, I am exhausted now, but I’ve still been getting out of bed and excited to race. I was racing pretty well on the domestic circuit, but it is just so different.  I learned so much in the five distance races … In mass start races, you have to be aggressive and fight for those spots early on. I’m noticing my redline that I am comfortable skiing at in domestic races; the pace is different here.” Kevin Sandau (Alberta World Cup Academy), 43rd overall

“I think it’s really just essential to getting us used to the World Cup atmosphere and no longer just feeling super nervous as you get to the start line. Making it more part of just any other race that you are able to focus more on the procedure of the race and feel the speed that these ladies race at and try to even just stay with it for five or 10 seconds through the race just gives you that little glimpse of where you need to be.”  — Dahria Beatty (Alberta World Cup Academy/Canadian U23 Development Team) , 44th after Stage 7, (did not race Stage 8 due to a sore back) 

“One of the big things is seeing just how hard all the women race at every race. In the NorAm circuit, we all ski hard but the World Cup is at a whole different level.  These women go as hard as they can from the start until they collapse at the end. I think just being able to see just how hard they push shows me just how hard I need to be working and how hard I have to push to ski at this level.” Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers), 49th overall in the Tour

“… The maturity and strength these guys have, it was good for me to see. I know the work I need to do in the summer and I am motivated to do it.” Elliott

On future plans:

“Continue to train hard. I’ll stay at the centre next year and continue to try and improve. Also, keep working on the sprints.” Sophie Carrier-Laforte (Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre), after placing 52nd in the 10 k freestyle at Stage 7 (she did not race Stage 8)

“I’ve been patient and I have had a long-term plan all the way through so I can see into my career now, but the support of a good coach is to keep that lid on. After Spring Series, I’m taking six weeks. I just ordered some Oakley golf gear, ordered some clubs from Wilson — I’m going to enjoy some golf and some warm weather and some mountain biking with my brother and come June maybe I’ll think about dusting off the rollerskis.” — Elliott

Video: Inside the Fence – Coming to North America

Ever wonder what European athletes think about coming to North America? Inside the Fence takes a look at the impressions from World Cup athletes participating in Ski Tour Canada

Posted by FIS Cross-Country Skiing on Thursday, March 10, 2016

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