Canadian National Ski TeamContinental CupGeneralNewsRacingMSA NorAm Trials: Notes and Quotes

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 12, 2018
Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/Canadian National U25 Team) in bib 61 leading the women’s 15 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. She went on to take the win by 11.9 seconds over Anne-Marie Comeau (Université Laval). (All photos: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

The third NorAm of the season in Mont Sainte-Anne (MSA), Québec, was also a Canadian selection event for next month’s Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, as well as Junior and U23 World Championships, which start later this month in Goms, Switzerland.

The original schedule of racing from Saturday, Jan. 6, to Tuesday, Jan. 9, with a backup race day on Wednesday had to be modified when Saturday and Sunday were colder than International Ski Federation (FIS) safety rules allow.

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/Canadian National U25 Team) celebrates her decisive win in the women’s 15 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

The classic sprint was moved to Friday, Jan. 5, for the open categories only. The skiathlon was moved to Monday, the freestyle sprint moved to Tuesday, and the classic interval start races rescheduled for Wednesday.

The senior men’s races saw a new winner each day, while Cendrine Browne of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) and Canadian National U25 Team won both women’s distance races (the 15 k skiathlon and 10 k classic) and placed second in the skate sprint. She also finished fourth in the classic sprint (and second in the classic-sprint qualifier) to essentially earn one of the remaining spots on the Canadian Olympic team.

Another CNEPH skier, Antoine Cyr was a big winner in the junior division, winning three out of four races.

Race rundowns:

Day 1: Classic sprints

Day 2: Skiathlons

Day 3: Skate sprints

Day 4: Classic interval starts

Complete results

While you’ve already heard about the news (and did you catch these Junior/U23 Worlds team announcements?), below you’ll find athlete quotes from each race day.

***

Classic Sprints

The most probable spot remaining on the Canadian Olympic team was reserved for the top female sprinter at trials in the same discipline that will be contested in PyeongChang: the classic sprint. Browne, who had spent the first month and a half of the season in Europe on the World Cup and considers herself much more of a distance skier, qualified second and finished fourth in the A-final to earn that spot.

World Cup team member Dahria Beatty, also of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), who had previously met qualifying criteria for PyeongChang, won both the qualifier and all of her heats. National team member Julien Locke (Canadian U25 Team/Black Jack) edged out Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.) for the A-final win, but Kennedy won the tiebreaker for an additional quota spot at the Olympics, if Canada gets it.

Dahria Beatty (401) of the AWCA/Canadian U25 Team en route to a win in one of her heats in the women’s classic sprint on Jan. 5 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

It felt quite cold today with the wind and humidity but I believe it was only -14c. The course was in good condition.”

— Beatty (1st), on the conditions

When I was doing my intervals on the course the day before the race I felt rushed and bogged down on the herringbone and steep striding sections. I made sure to really focus on how I was going to ski each section technically. On this course that allowed me to be relaxed in my qualifier and ski faster than if I was rushing. I am pleased that I was able to stick to my plan and the heats went well. I led my quarter and semi and then in the final I put myself in a comfortable position off the start and attacked on the climb and led the second half of the race”

— Beatty on strategy

I didn’t have as much confidence in my fitness and I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to execute the perfect race. The snow was faster out of the track so that is where I tried to ski. I was out of the track and picked up a technique infraction around one of the final corners in my quarter final. I’m very disappointed in myself.”

— Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers/Canadian National Team), about her first race in 11 months after an injury ended her 2016/2017 season early. She skied a strong semifinal to qualify for the A-final, but was disqualified for a technique infraction in her quarterfinal

Julien Locke (National U25 Team/Black Jack) qualifying second in the men’s classic sprint on Jan. 5 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

I was quite relaxed coming into these trials. There was obviously a lot on the time, but at the end of the day, it’s just a ski race like any other. I knew that I had been racing well and was confident that I was in strong form. I was aware that both the qualifier and heats were up for consideration and was ready to fight hard in both.”

— Locke (1st in the A-final, 2nd in the qualifier), on his mental approach

The track was in excellent condition yesterday. After having done a race-prep intensity Wednesday evening in slow, soft, heavily-falling snow, the track felt considerably easier on race day. The atmosphere on the course was fantastic. Lots of excitement and a wall of sound at the start and up the 2nd climb.”

— Locke

I played the 1/4 final conservatively, following the Andy and Scott around the course before coming through on the final straight. I decided to be more offensive in the semi and started at a strong pace and skied from the front. With all of the twists in the 2nd half, I wanted to be out of trouble. It took a while to get the body feeling good but by the time the final came around, I knew that I was feeling strong. I pushed the pace from the start and attacked the course to the end. It was great to have the track to myself to just put my head down and ski fast.”

— Locke on his tactics

Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.) qualifying first in the men’s classic sprint on Jan. 5 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

I have had good fitness this year so I used the first two heats to try some strategies knowing Julian has a really good end kick. That being said the whole final could have taken a win so I just wanted to make sure I was near the front so I could take a podium since I knew that would be my best chance.”

— Kennedy (1st in qualifying, 2nd in A-final)

To be honest I don’t like reading criteria so I didn’t really realize how important it was. I was more interested in racing to my best ability and coming up with a course strategy with my coach Alain [Parent]!”

— Kennedy, on his mental approach

“Happy with my result. I was on crutches the day before and didn’t think I would be able to start so pretty happy with the outcome.”

— Evan Palmer-Charrette (NTDC Thunder Bay; 4th in the A-final) 

***

Skiathlon

Canadian World Cup Team members Knute Johnsgaard (170) and Jess Cockney (179, behind) leaving the ski exchange halfway through the men’s 30 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

“It felt really good to take the win today. Even though I’ve met criteria for the Olympics I know people were starting to question my deserving of the spot, and rightfully so. I think I was letting that get to me until today when I finally just raced one for Knute and not to prove anything to anyone else.”

— Knute Johnsgaard (Canadian World Cup team; 1st) on winning the mental game

“We had a solid group of 5 or 6 guys right through most of the race and of that group I was pretty confident I could take it if it came down to a sprint.”

— Johnsgaard

Jack Carlyle (AWCA) leading Knute Johnsgaard (directly behind) and Graham Nishikawa (162) during the men’s 30 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

“I am very excited about the race today, this is my first time getting a senior podium on the NorAm and that means a lot to me. I tried to just sit in the group and stay relaxed on the classic portion, and for the skate I wanted to stay near the front of the group.”

— Gareth Williams (Telemark Nordic/National U25 Team; 3rd) 

I am really happy with how my race went today! Throughout the classic portion, all the racers stayed pretty close together. I kept my place near the front of the pack, taking advantage of the draft of the skiers in front of me to save energy. On the last uphill before the downhill finish I managed to pull away from the girl I was skiing with and from there it was just a sprint to the finish! Since we don’t have many opportunities to race Skiathlons in Canada I was happy I had the chance to race this one!”

— Natalie Hynes (Whitehorse Ski Club), who won junior women’s 10 k skiathlon to earn trip to Junior Worlds

Antoine Cyr (92) celebrates his first NorAm win in the junior men’s 20 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

“I found myself alone with about 30 sec lead on the chasing pack. After the exchange, I paced the 10 km well and was able to keep a strong lead. When I crossed the finish line I was guaranteed a spot for Europe !! I jumped in my mom and my sister arm (they came down all the way from Gatineau to see me) I was so happy and then I celebrated with the rest of the team.”

— Antoine Cyr (CNEPH), on earning a Junior Worlds spot with his first NorAm junior win

***

Freestyle Sprints

Dahria Beatty (AWCA/National U25 Team) racing to fourth in the women’s skate sprint qualifier on Jan. 9 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. She went on to win the A-final for her second-straight NorAm sprint win. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

In today’s final, Maya [MacIsaac-Jones] started fast and Zina [Kocher] really attacked the climbs. I tried to make sure I was always sitting in 2nd or 3rd behind those two until the second last climb where I pushed the flat section at the top to go into the twisting downhill behind Zina. I was able to overtake Zina on the last little bump before turning back into the stadium, allowing me to take the best line into the finish.”

— Beatty (1st), on tactics

I felt soooooo tired!!! After the quali, I was wondering if I should do the heats. But as discussed with my coach Louis [Bouchard], my preparation for OWG has started and this sprint was a part of it.”

— Browne (2nd), on feeling the pain on Day 3

The final was rough, I got pushed and cornered but that’s part of the game in sprints! The tactic was to give everything I had left. I thought that maybe I would finish last of my heat because my legs were so heavy! But it turned out that I still had some energy left because I passed Maya and Zina in the last 150 meters to finish 2nd!”

— Browne

Zina Kocher (Foothills Nordic) in the women’s skate sprint on Jan. 9 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. She finished third in the A-final. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

In the final though I wanted to be in 2nd or 3rd for the final downhill because the draft was so important. But it didn’t work out that way. I ended up first and so I just kept going as hard as I could, & then was passed on the downhill by Daria. So I just tried to get into her draft and hold on. I lost it a bit though in the turnaround & mini downhill to the straightaway finish line & Cendrine was in my draft and had a bit more to give than I did in the last stretch to the line.”

— Zina Kocher (Foothills Nordic; 3rd), on the tactics that got her to the podium

Hannah Mehain led us off the start and there was some jostling for position between myself, Catherine [Reed-Métayer] and Hannah. It’s a good course to be out in front, or at least in the top two, so with Hannah making a big effort to lead the start I tucked in behind. I knew I had excellent skis thanks to our amazing support team so was confident that I would be able to make a move on the downhill and push over the small hill into the finish straight!”

— Annika Richardson (NTDC Thunder Bay; 1st junior woman) 

I’m happy with the heat skiing again today but I’m still needing to find the top level for the qualification. I’m confident I can get to the right speed but it hasn’t been totally there yet this year.”

— Jess Cockney (Canadian World Cup team; 1st)

Bob Thompson (303) leading his skate-sprint quarterfinal, ahead of Alexis Dumas (318) and Philippe Boucher (313) and others, on Jan. 9 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

Olivier [Hamel] was strong today and led out both my Quarter and Semi-finals to some really quick heat times. In the final there were a couple crashes that worked in my favour so I was able to claim second spot on the podium despite running out of gas well before the finish line.”

— Andy Shields (Lappe Nordic; 2nd), on the heats

The group stayed mostly together through the first two climbs with the main push happening on the long second climb. Knute had an unfortunate crash at the bottom of that hill and [Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier] had a crash on the last downhill. I was then in third behind Andy with Jess in front and just a bit too far back to challenge Andy for second.”

— Bob Thompson (NTDC Thunder Bay; 3rd) on the A-final

***

Classic Interval Starts

Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier (CNEPH) racing to first in the men’s 15 k classic on Jan. 10 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

This morning I was pretty motivated after my fall in the final of the sprint yesterday. I started fast knowing the course well [having] trained on it the last weeks. This help me very much to pace myself! The second half I just tried to keep my pace to the finish.”

Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier (CNEPH; 1st), on using local knowledge to get his first senior win at NorAms and a trip to U23’s

Just rushing to airport. Happy with my week overall in MSA. Shape is good. Skis were good. Will keep improving into Korea for Paralympics.”

— Graham Nishikawa (Canadian Para-Nordic Team; 3rd)

What a weekend! I felt great and I know I will feel even better during the Olympics. My preparation is on point! I did not think that I would perform so well in the two sprints, that was a surprise for me!”

— Browne (1st)

Katherine Stewart-Jones (NTDC Thunder Bay/Canadian U25 Team) racing to second in the women’s 10 k classic on Jan. 10 at Mont Sainte-Anna NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

There was a lot on the line today and I left it all out there.”

— Katherine Stewart-Jones (NTDC Thunder Bay/U25 Team), after her second place earned her a trip to U23’s, and the possibility of PyeongChang

What really did it for me in this race was the last double pole section about 1 km before the finish. I knew I needed to make up a couple of seconds so I double poled as quickly and as hard as I could using the circular double pole technique that my older sister Heather taught me.”

— Mehain (1st junior woman), who ensured a trip to Junior Worlds

“I felt no stress going into the race and I just wanted a fun race. It was sunny and super nice weather. so I decided to go as hard as I can for as long as I can and see what would happen. After 2 km I had a split and I was leading by 25 second.”

Antoine Cyr (CNEPH; 1st junior man), on feeling relaxed on the way to his third win in three days

***

Did Not Start

On Friday, there were five DNS in the heats and another seven in the qualifier. The number of DNS rose by the day.

“I’m battling a cold and a calf injury I sustained on Thursday before the classic sprint in crash/pile up. I actually started [the skiathlon Monday] but shortly into it realized despite trying to tell myself it I was good to go it was the wrong decision to start given how my body is doing. As for the other 22 athletes, there certainly is a bug going around here. As well some people decided to rest given the change in schedule.”

— Palmer-Charrette

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) racing to ninth in the women’s 10 k classic on Jan. 10 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

“There have been so many DNS’ this week! I think for everyone it has been partly strategic and partly due to health. These are trials races for everyone so a lot of people are trying to give themselves the best chance possible in their strongest event. Especially with everyone getting sick or feeling like they are getting sick or trying to fight through sickness, skipping a race meant one more day of recovery to prepare for the rest of the week. In my case, my body was not recovering from the sprint effort on Friday and I was also fighting off some action in my sinuses. I didn’t feel well enough race to Monday.”

— Bouffard-Nesbitt

It’s a really tough set of races here which is probably why you’re seeing so many folks DNS. Starting three days straight of racing with the 30km yesterday saps the body in a big way. Our heats ended late in the afternoon today so there’s not as much time for recovery going into tomorrow’s 15km classic. All I can do is get the recovery wheels spinning in preparation for tomorrow’s 15km classic.”

— Shields

“I’m really happy with my classic sprint. I was feeling really good. Unfortunately that race was really exhausting because it was a super cold day, I’ve been fighting a cold since Sunday night which is tough considering how important this weekend was. Monday was rough, I was not feeling very good. I decided to take Tuesday off to rest and recover for today which paid off in the end.”

— Stewart-Jones

***

What Happens Next

I was disappointed with how my season started and was struggling to find my race form during WC period 1, so I came home for Christmas to regroup and build up towards the Olympics in February. … I head back over to Europe Jan 15th for our Olympic prep camp and the Seefeld World Cup.”

— Beatty

Anne-Marie Comeau (Université Laval) racing to third in the women’s 10 k classic on Jan. 10 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. With the best results after Cendrine Browne in the two distance races at trials, she is the next pick for the Olympic team. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

This week has been a huge disappointment for me but I’m still so eager to get more training in me and get to a point where I can deliver performances I know I’m capable of.”

— Bouffard-Nesbitt

It’s hard to judge World Cup level racing until you’ve been there and seen how competitive it is for yourself. Some of the races in December where it looks like I’m getting crushed, I might have actually won a Noram, its a completely other world of competition over there. Nevertheless I think my shape is coming around for the games.”

— Johnsgaard

This has guaranteed me a spot for U23 Worlds, but the following days are still important to ensure I can start in more than just the Skiathlon. Some of the stress has been released today but it will still be full charge into the next two days!”

— Williams

The preparation for Pyeongchang is is coming along and seeing speed in the heats is encouraging and the 15km classic [on Wednesday] will be great training for my next block back in Canmore too.”

— Cockney (who changed his mind the next morning and skipped the classic day)

On the DNS front. I didn’t race today so I could rest up as I am leaving for Dresden this afternoon for all the period 2 world cups. The trip is now, myself, Julien Locke, Dominique Moncion Groulx and Antoine [Briand].  Antoine was added after Russell [Kennedy] had to pull out due to sickness since the weekend. After Dresden we will have one day stop in Ramsau, then Slovenia, and then I will be in seefeld for a few days before the rest of the team arrives from Livigno.”

— Thompson on competing at this weekend’s Dresden World Cup

I will be representing Canada from this Sunday all the way till 25 of February racing in Europe. A dream come true for me !! I can’t really believe it yet.”

— Cyr

Antoine Cyr (92) celebrates his first NorAm win in the junior men’s 20 k skiathlon on Jan. 8 at Mont Sainte-Anne NorAm Trials in Quebec. (Photo: Mario Walker/NorAm MSA 2018 Facebook)

— Gerry Furseth and Alex Kochon contributed. Special thanks to Mario Walker for the photos

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