Carrying the momentum from the first day of racing into a second distance event, athletes lined up once more at the Whistler Olympic Park for a 10 / 15-kilometer interval start classic. Over 130 men and 90 women participated in the open categories, representing clubs across Canada and the United States.
Adding a springtime layer of complexity to remind us that we are officially past the equinox, temperatures in Whistler hovered above freezing while a mix of precipitation fell off and on throughout the day. Webcams of the venue showed the spectacular mountain backdrop hidden amongst dense clouds and conifers still laden with the week’s snow.
It’s a humidity-temperature combo that makes classic waxing tricky. Consequently, many athlete chose to use “hairies”, which are known as “rub skis” in Canada, essentially foregoing kick wax and opting instead for a sandpapered kick zone. For those with strong striding technique, this achieves grip without as significant a risk of icing issues, as klisters can be known create in such conditions.
Top Canadian U20 racer Xavier McKeever (Foothills Nordic), who was 13th overall today, explained how this changes the game for those who haven’t had the experience: “You have to be a bit more careful with your kicks and a bit more gentle, because they can slip out really easily. That was the biggest focus for me [today], just to try and ski technically well.”
Following 10 k sitting and standing events contested by Nordiq Canada’s Para Nordic athletes, the open men’s category headed out for the three 5 k loops. In a close race for the top podium spot, Craftsbury’s Adam Martin took the win with a time of 40:29.3. Martin was chased by today’s Canadian National Champion, Antoine Cyr (Skinouk) who hunted his times from 19 bibs behind.
Though Cyr led through the first 10 k, a strong closing lap from Martin moved the American to the lead in the splits, with Cyr skiing the third fastest final lap to take second (+1.3). Canmore’s Russell Kennedy was third overall (+13.1) for the second spot on the Canadian podium, while fellow Canmore athlete Sam Hendry, who now trains with the University of Utah, was third for Canada in fifth overall (+48.0). Both Cyr and Kennedy had also raced onto the podium in yesterday’s 10 k free.
“I felt really good today,” Martin wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “Particularly in the second half, I started to figure out how to best race this course and these conditions, and I found a good place mentally to push. I’m really happy with the outcome – that was a dream to win.”
A successful season of SuperTour racing has Martin ranked at the top of the rankings, and earned him starts in post-Olympic World Cup events. After taking third at the American Birkie, Martin headed to Norway to race the 50 k classic at Holmenkollen, where he finished 26th. The following weekend, he skied to 44th in the 15 k free in Falun, Sweden. A week later, Martin is back with his Craftsbury team and standing atop the US SuperTour podium.
“It’s nice to return from the World Cup and still feel in good shape. After two 50 k’s, and travel, and a season that I’m really happy with, everything is a bonus at this point. I think it’s great that we are able to combine with Canada for these races. There are a lot of guys at a similar level, so it makes for some tight, fun racing.”
A 23-year-old Quebec native, Cyr’s best results have been in classic this season, namely an 11th place finish in the opening World Cup 15 k classic in Ruka, Finland, and racing with Graham Ritchie to put the Canadian team in fifth during the Olympic classic team sprint in Zhangjiakou. After the team sprint, he was praised by both his teammate and coach Erik Bråten, along with armchair quarterback Devon Kershaw, for his classic technique.
“Classic is always good for me and is a race I love,” Cyr said of today’s 15 k in a post-race interview with Nordiq Canada. “It was tough conditions this morning, and a good skier normally comes out on top in hard conditions. I was able to ski well, focus on the race, and came second overall, which is a little bittersweet because it was a really tight battle in the end. But it was really fun, the track is amazing. It’s an Olympic standard track, so it’s just really good.”
In his second lap, Cyr had caught yesterday’s winner, Rémi Drolet (Team Black Jack), whom Cyr credited in supporting his strong result today.
“When I saw was closing the gap on him on the first lap, I decided to go a little harder than I planned to catch up with him. [I then tried] to relax behind him for a lap or half of a lap.. In the end, I was missing a little bit on the last lap. I think that that helped for sure, skiing with someone strong like Rémi.”
Finally, Cyr spoke to the importance of an international field featuring all age groups coming together this week, particularly on the heels of a two-year hiatus due to pandemic restrictions.
“It is so good for the young kids — us older guys, we’ve been racing on the World Cup, but like the juvenile and junior, they almost have no races in Canada. To have a big event like this is just amazing and we’ve been looking at the younger guys’ results for an hour yesterday, seeing who’s in good form, and who’s coming up, and you are the next guys to be like taking over. So for them, it is awesome, and for us too, racing with the US is always — it should always be like this.”
Joining Martin for the SuperTour podium, BSF Pro Team athlete Finn O’Connell was 7th overall (+1:06.4) and second American, with University of Utah’s Luke Jager half a second behind in 8th overall (+1:06.9).
In the women’s 10 k, SMS T2’s Julia Kern skied a strong second lap to take the win in her second consecutive day on the podium, stopping the clock at 29:54.3. Her club and national teammate, Jessie Diggins, took the second step finishing +18.3 back, while University of Utah’s Sophia Laukli skied to third (+1:03.2).
Looking at tough conditions, Kern explained she raced by trial and error today, exploring which techniques were most efficient on different sections.
“I kind of had an open mindset going in today,” she told Nordiq Canada after the race. “I knew that the tracks might be a little bit punchy or washed out in sections, and so I was double pulling wide or double polling narrow or just like power striding on the flats if it was getting too punchy out there. So just trying it all.”
She continued that she was looking to “have fun, send it from the start, and see if I could hold that pace the whole time,” which she ultimately proved able to do. It’s the time of year where the hay is in the barn training-wise, and athletes have had a long season, leaving them in varying states heading into the last hurrah. On whether she was looking to just have fun at these races, or whether it was a serious quest for the podium, Kern said “both”.
“I think the end of the season is always really fun. It’s so cool to have this many athletes here. And I’ve been feeling really good the last few weeks and so enjoying racing when it does feel good and when I’m able to push really hard. We’re all really tired at the end of the season, but also, when the body’s in form you might as well take advantage of it and send it on the course.”
Winning back-to-back Canadian National titles, Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok Nordique) was again on top for the Canucks, finishing sixth overall (+1:17.5). Finishing in the same order as yesterday, Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse Ski Club) was second for Canada in eighth overall (+1:55.0), while Cendrine Browne (Fondeurs-Laurentides) rounded out the podium in ninth overall (+2:14.5).
“I went out really hard knowing that that’s what I had to do if I wanted to make the podium,” Stewart-Jones said of her race. “I had a good first lap, and I definitely slowed down a lot on the first part of the second lap. I was just tired and was having a hard time staying in the zone and keeping the rhythm, but I was able to pull it together a bit for the second half of the second lap. So I was really happy with that. And I was happy with how hard I pushed. I just didn’t have it quite in me today, and sometimes that happens.”
On the importance of focusing on her technique on this type of course with sub-optimal conditions, she continued, “It’s really important, especially on the climbs. The grip isn’t always perfect in these conditions, so you really have to make sure to stay on top of your skis. If you get tired and you start leaning forward, then it makes it even harder to kick… And then on the flatter sections, it was a bit awkward, and you had to expect that. Either you’re striding awkwardly or you’re doing a kick double pool, but your poles are sinking. You have to just really focus on committing to whatever you decide to do and not like trying to switch too much between.”
Speaking to already standing atop two podiums, Stewart-Jones responded with pride, while also acknowledging that the overall win would be sweeter.
“Oh, it’s definitely nice to be winning the national championship title… because we’re racing against the Americans, I obviously care about the overall too, so maybe it feels a little less exciting, but for sure, I’m proud of that.”
In order to get closer to the overall podium, she said he would focus on resting as much as possible and maintaining the head space to perform her best. “It’s been a long season and I haven’t raced this much in a long time. I think everyone’s pretty tired. But also just being able to also be mentally strong [over the next races]. And yeah, you never know what’s gonna happen.”
Racing continues Wednesday with individual classic sprints, which will be live-streamed by the Black Tusk Nordic Events Society. If you’re looking for additional video updates, follow along on the Nordiq Canada and Black Tusk Instagram pages.
- 10 k classic
- 15 k classic
- 2021/2022 US Super Tour
- Adam Martin
- Antoine Cyr
- Canadian Nationals
- cendrine browne
- Dahria Beatty
- Finn O’Connell
- Jessie Diggins
- Julia Kern
- Katherine Stewart-Jones
- Luke Jager
- Nordiq Canada
- Remi Drolet
- rub skis
- russell kennedy
- Sam Hendry
- Sophia Laukli
- US SuperTour Finals
- Whistler Olympic Park
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646