Eastern Canadian Champs: Notes, Quotes, Galleries, & No-Double-Pole Zones

Gerry FursethFebruary 7, 2017
Montériski's Étienne Hébert returned from WJC in Soldier Hollow in time to outsprint NTDC TBay's Fergus Foster in a quarterfinal heat. (Photo: Dianne Gallus)
Montériski’s Étienne Hébert (c) returned from WJC in Soldier Hollow in time to outsprint NTDC TBay’s Fergus Foster (l) in a classic-sprint quarterfinal at NorAm Eastern Canadian Championships at Nakkertok Nordic in Cantley, Quebec. (Photo: Dianne Galus)

The annual Eastern Canadian Championships are a special event in the Canadian winter.  On paper, it is just another NorAm that provides opportunities to earn World Cup starts, national-team positions, and valuable International Ski Federation (FIS) points, but it has grown to be bigger than that.

While Western Canadian Championships and Canadian nationals change their host venue each year, Easterns has settled in at the Nakkertok South trail system for ten of the last eleven years. While Cantley, Quebec, is the nearest town, the national capital Ottawa and Gatineau are just twenty minutes away, providing a wealth of accommodation options and a major airport. With Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City all within a five-hour drive, a third of the Canadians competing were within easy driving distance.

The event is hosted by four regional ski clubs with distinct and interesting histories: Nakkertok, Skinouk, Chelsea Nordiq, and Kanata Nordic.

With 835 athletes registered this year and more than 700 finishers each day, Easterns is likely to be larger than next month’s 2017 nationals in Canmore, Alberta. The American Birkebeiner (SuperTour #4) in Hayward, Wis., is the largest FIS points race this season in North America, with U.S. nationals at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, ranking the fourth largest.

How do you put together a three-day event featuring an interval start with 736 finishers, including para-nordic, masters and university categories? It starts with 553 volunteers and a FIS request to test a no-double-pole zone. The open categories were slightly reduced by races happening simultaneously in PyeongChang, South Korea (World Cup), and Soldier Hollow (U23/Junior World Championships), but there were enough familiar faces to fill the podiums.

It ends with smiling faces, results, and a select few skiers who improved their FIS points and made their case for future selections. The photo gallery links are at the bottom, just keep scrolling past the quotes.


No-Double-Pole Zone

The classic sprint was Canada’s first test of the new FIS rule, and athlete opinions were not divided.

RMR's Andrea Dupont strides past the no-double-pole sign during the classic sprint qualifier. (Photo: Rob Smith)
Double-poussée interdite: a new twist from FIS. RMR’s Andrea Dupont strides past the no-double-pole sign during the classic sprint qualifier. (Photo: Rob Smith)

They started the no double pole zone on the gradual climb before the steep pitch, which made the flow of the course a bit annoying (in training yesterday they actually had it right at the bottom of the climb in a section that was too fast to stride, but the jury was really great about taking athlete feedback and moved it higher up the hill. I’m personally not a fan of the no double pole zone idea but I think they managed it as well as they could have on that course).” 

— Angus Foster, NTDC TBay,  2nd

I was not a fan of the no double pole section. I personally love striding and I hope striding can remain a part of our sport, but I think having no double pole sections or limiting pole lengths aren’t the solution for keeping striding a part of our sport (that being said, I’m still not sure what the solution is).”

— Maya MacIsaac-Jones, AWCA/NST U25 Team,  1st

It was so unnecessary. Everyone I talked to would have strode that no DP zone anyway. It should have been a double pole only zone. That would have made it a challenge. I’d love to see these silly pole length and DP zone rules revoked. Let the sport evolve as it will.”

—Andy Shields, Lappe Nordic, 7th

I didn’t think it would have made a difference. Classic was definitely pretty fast and so was the snow.”

—Russell Kennedy, Team R.A.D., 3rd

For me those would have been striding sections anyways, so it had very little effect. I think it is an interesting issue — the development of double poling as a technique of its own and the repercussions for traditional classic skiing. I love to stride, so I think the best solution is to have courses that force striding. I don’t know too many people (boys included) who I think would have double poled that course, but the no double pole zone ensured that wouldn’t be a problem. It is exciting to see the sport changing and trying to adjust itself though!”

—Anne Hart, SMS Elite, 3rd

Nakkertok South and the Easterns Atmosphere

Easterns is my favorite race of the year despite the zoo it always is. The courses are staples on the circuit and the Ottawa/Gatineau area is great. Plus I have a lot of family in the area so it’s great to visit with everyone.”


The atmosphere of the races is incredible, and I think that has a lot to do with all the participants- both older and younger.  One thing I’ve noticed in particular here is that the race feels really important, which it is.  I think often times if races aren’t a World Cup or some big European race people don’t put the effort in to make the race feel like a big deal.  But for the senior athletes here the races are important, and for the younger kids maybe even more so, and it is much appreciated to have the reflected in the race quality.  I’ve been so impressed with the organization and volunteers, and having racers starting every 30 seconds from 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon is awesome.”


Easterns is amazing, it has a great community vibe and there are so many teams out here and so many young skiers that are all super pumped to be racing!”


It is really inspiring to see all the young skiers here and makes me excited for the future of skiing in Canada. It was also a ton of fun for me because both of my siblings were racing Easterns!”

The Montreal style bagels at lunch and the hundreds of young Nakkertok racers running around!”


What I love about Easterns is the community. We are all working as a group. We get to work with the other clubs, get to know them. We are working as a region, really. It makes it special to be a volunteer at the Easterns. I love it because I get to talk to everyone.”

—Sue Holloway, Volunteer Organizer and first Canadian to compete in both Summer and Winter Olympics (1976)

“AMAZING.  It has been an absolutely wild winter with rain, snow, blizzards, negative fahrenheit conditions…so to have some sun, hard tracks, and mild winter weather was just incredible.  The Nakkertok club did an incredible job with the grooming and race set up, the volunteers were so friendly and helpful, and I must thank Nic from the Carleton University team for helping me out with wax last minute!  I walked into the Fresh Air ski shop yesterday [Thursday] at about 2 PM, and asked if there might be anyway someone could help for the weekend of waxing.  He offered immediately, and he did an amazing job.”


Friday: Classic Sprints

Sophie Carrier-Laforte (101) leads Alannah Maclean (105) and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (104) towards the no-double-pole zone. (Photo: Elisabeth Fink)
Sophie Carrier-Laforte (101) leads Alannah Maclean (105) and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (104) towards the no-double-pole zone in the first women’s classic-sprint semifinal. (Photo: Elisabeth Fink)

The women’s 1.3-kilometre and men’s 1.4 k classic sprints were held on hard, cold tracks with the air warming up enough to allow a bit of glazing. With some of the younger racers stuck in school, this day had the smallest turnout of the weekend with 714 finishers.

Results: Qualifier and Prologue | Heats

Women’s classic sprint podium:

  1. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, NST U25, 3:42.06
  2. Sophie Carrier-Laforte, CNEPH, +0.66
  3. Anne Hart, SMS Elite, +3.40

My qualifier today was OK, but I was really happy with my heats. I went into the day not knowing what to expect, especially with a fairly small field this year at Easterns in the Open categories, but was really happy to come out with a win!”

In the final I basically tried to tuck in right behind Sophie. She has a really solid herring bone, so I knew I would have to push hard over the tops of the hills to stay with her. I was able to stick with her and got a good draft coming into the finishing straight, and was able to use that draft to pass her and pull ahead at the finish.”


We had a very relaxed first 45 seconds- Maya got out in front and really just controlled the pace going into the first time up the hill.  I pulled up next to her and we were both doing our best sprint herringbone, when Sophie came up between us in the most impressive herringbone-run I think I’ve ever seen.  I was on the inside and got a little bit pinched in the corner, and by the time I got all of my ducks in a row both Sophie and Maya had taken off down the hill.  I then tucked in behind Andrea, and used the draft and some double pole horsepower to get myself back into third!”

— Hart

Men’s classic sprint podium

  1. Dominique Moncion-Groulx, AWCA, 3:14.84
  2. Angus Foster, NTDC TBay, +0.07
  3. Russell Kennedy, Team R.A.D., +2.75

I decided to go really light on the grip and just run the first part of the striding zone, and with a lot of harringbone on the climb that was basically the only place you had to kick. I lost a bit of time on the climb but my skis were flying on the downhills, and I could make it back up in the finish pretty easily.”

Going up the hill the last time in the final I was behind Dominique and Ricardo. Ric had pushed the pace pretty hard early, and i think was feeling it a bit going over the top. Dominique got away a bit and I couldn’t really get around Ricardo, so I lost touch with Dominique going into the last downhill and had to come from a long way back in the finish. Really put everything I had down to close the gap but ended coming up just short in the lunge.”

—Angus Foster

I have never made an A final in a classic sprint so I was pretty pumped. I played the waiting game and slowly moved up to the front.”


Saturday: 10/15 k classic

The individual start classic provided lots of herringbone work (Photo: Rob Smith)
The 10/15 k classic interval starts provided lots of herringbone work (Photo: Rob Smith)

Saturday brought classic interval-start racing with 10 k for the women and 15 k for the men on a 5 k loop.

Full Results

Women’s 10 k classic podium

  1. Anne Hart, 30:03.3
  2. Sophie Carrier-Laforte, +9.3
  3. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, +20.0

“I had only skied the 5K lap once before, so the first lap I definitely had some surprises (namely some downhills) and didn’t take the best line in a lot of places.  Luckily the course was two laps so by the second lap I had a better idea of what was coming.”

“I think pacing was probably the biggest thing today!  It’s always hard to gauge output versus recovery the first time racing a course, so I think if I could do it again I probably would have skied some parts a little bit harder.  The herringbone sections are always tough when your legs get wobbly, so I think making sure you had enough in the tank to really execute those efficiently was important!  Other than that I picked the right skis, and had great wax once again from Nic and the Carleton University team.  I was really able to stride it out, and still have enough glide for some good double poling.”


I was really happy with my classic race. I was really happy with how I held it together mentally and kept my technique solid throughout. The Nakkertok 5km course is a ton of fun to race!”
“I just tried to ski a consistent pace throughout. For skis, I went a bit lighter on the kick, because lots of the climbs are herring bone anyways, which made it really nice for the rolling double pole sections.”


Men’s 15 k classic podium

  1. Andy Shields, Lappe Nordic, 39:14.7
  2. Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, +0.7
  3. Russell Kennedy, +34.6

Tight race today but I wasn’t getting splits off Ricardo so I had no idea it was that close. I was able to close really hard over the last 1.5 km thinking that getting as big a margin over the field would be ideal in advance of tomorrow’s pursuit start. It the end that extra effort gave me the win today. I’ll have Ricardo to ski with tomorrow so we’ll be able to work to keep the rest of the field behind us.”


After my best sprint of the season Friday I was very confident going on today! A start fast and skiing power for the first 2 laps. In my last lap I was receiving some splits and that push me to finish strong!”

—Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, CNEPH

I was pretty happy with my race it was definitely my best classic distance race and I think my classic has come a long ways this year alone.”


Sunday: Freestyle Pursuit

The final day was a pursuit for the open categories and distance mass start for the rest of the skiers. The men did four laps for 20 k and the women three laps for 15 k. Fresh snow caught some of the skiers unprepared.

Results: Pursuit | Distance

Women’s 15 k freestyle pursuit podium:

  1. Anne Hart, 47:36.10
  2. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, +31.36
  3. Jaqueline Mourao, Brazil, +1:08.97
Anne Hart feeling it as the field chases her through heavy snow. (Photo: Rob Smith)
Anne Hart (SMS Elite) feeling it as the field chases her through heavy snow in the women’s 15 k freestyle pursuit on Feb. 5, the last day of Eastern Canadian Championships in Cantley, Quebec. (Photo: Rob Smith)

Again, I am very pleased with my effort today.  After a season of snow storms, the falling snow and soft tracks definitely didn’t catch me as off guard as they would have in November.  The race was really fun, but also very hard.  Going out first in a pursuit is always a little bit scary (while I’m happy to have won yesterday, I very much prefer being the chaser and not the chase-ee).  This weekend was a chance for me to get three high quality races at sea level under my belt to prepare for the rest of the season, and they accomplished exactly that.”

Having been the chaser before, I know that once a person is out of sight it is much harder to catch them.  So I went out of the gate quite quickly, in an effort to put a big enough gap on Sophie and Maya that they couldn’t see me up the big hills.  Plus going out quickly meant that if Sophie or Maya caught me, they would have to be going extra fast, which I figured would be to my advantage in the end.  And looking at the splits and the ultimate result, I think my tactic was a good one.  My first lap was very quick, and then from there I dropped my speed a little bit and just maintained.  There are a couple of places I know I didn’t ski the most efficiently or effectively, but I really attacked as best I could and was quite relieved when the finish line came into sight!”


I’m really happy with my race today. I wasn’t sure how my body would handle three races in a row, but I was happy to see that my fitness is decent and I was able to have three consistent races this weekend. I started 11s behind Sophie, so I tried to make up that time on the first climb. The course has a long rolling section that I wanted to be able to draft her throughout, so I wanted to catch her before then. I pulled away after the first lap and did my best to pull back some of the time to Annie who was in front, but she had a really strong first lap so I think the splits between us basically stayed the same for the 2nd and 3rd laps.”


Men’s 20 k freestyle pursuit podium:


  1. Russell Kennedy, 53:42.68
  2. Jack Carlyle, AWCA, +1.68
  3. David Palmer, Black Jack, +14.98

I was really happy with my race today I felt very strong and had great skis. It was a pretty big snowfall today so tactics kinda went out the window and it became a hammer fest.”


Bit of a rough day for me. We had a lot more snow than was forecast but I had skis ready for it. But for some reason my new snow/soft track skis weren’t testing well before the race so I decided to race on my generic skis. Bad choice as I was outclassed on the downhills.”




The snow kept falling on the open women's podium. Left to right: Andrea Dupont, Maya MacIsaac-Jones, Anne Hart, Sophie Carrier-Laforte, and Jacqueline Mourao. (Photo: Rob Smith)
The snow kept falling on the open women’s podium at 2017 Eastern Canadian Championships. Left to right: Andrea Dupont, Maya MacIsaac-Jones, Anne Hart, Sophie Carrier-Laforte, and Jacqueline Mourao. (Photo: Rob Smith)

Women’s overall podium:

  1. Anne Hart, 1:17:39.43
  2. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, +51.39
  3. Sophie Carrier-Laforte, +2:14.81

Men’s overall podium:

  1. Russell Kennedy, 1:33:22.12
  2. Andy Shields, +36.46
  3. Dominique Moncion-Groulx, +58.53

Overall Results


Photo Galleries

Day 1: Dianne Galus, Robert Smith, Elisabeth Fink

Day 2: Ian Austen, Dianne Galus, Robert Smith

Day 3: Rob Smith, Dianne Galus, Elisabeth Fink

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Gerry Furseth

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