Canada Cup/SuperTour Individual Classic at Sovereign Lake

Gerry FursethDecember 9, 2022
Hailey Swirbul striding to victory at Sovereign Lake. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Race day four at Sovereign Lake was a 10km individual start classic in the sunshine. With humid new snow at -10C all day while the air warmed up to -4C, all the teams found fast skis and solid kick on a great day for striding.

Once again, the Open and U20 categories skied 2x5km first, followed by U18 and U16 who skied 2×2.5km, for a total of 385 starters Sunday.

Individual start races are about skiing fast, but also about pacing. Keep reading to the end to see the different pacing ideas from top skiers.

Andreas Kirkeng (618) leads Reid Noble (617) and John Steel Hagenbuch (616) on the second A climb. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

At the end of a hard week of racing, only 102 men of 118 would finish, with University of Denver’s Andreas Kirkeng (NOR) taking his second win in his second race, completing the 10km in 27:17.7. Bridger’s Finn O’Connell (USA) was second, 53.1 seconds back. Dartmouth’s John Steel Hagenbuch (USA) was third at 1:08.6.

Canada took the next three spots, with AWCA’s Scott Hill at 1:09.6, U of Utah’s Sam Hendry at 1:23.5, and National team member Xav McKeever at 1:25.3 (and top U20).

Kirkeng was pleased with his racing, having skipped Wednesday and Thursday to complete a volume block here.

“Today, I was really good. I felt super strong and my skis were perfect. They were like real good kick, more than enough to do the hills here and the speed on them in the downhill were just insane. So perfect day.”

Here is Kirkeng’s second time up the final ‘kicker’ climb with 500m to go:

O’Connell was more moderate about his second place: “It was pretty solid I’d say. The goal is always to go out there and fight for to win and I felt good today, skis were really good. Thanks to both my coaches and yeah, gave it everything I had.”

So many skiers commented on having great skis that it would become repetitive to quote each one.

“It was good,” Hagenbuch said. “It was definitely quite hard after a long week of racing and a lot of cold air that has been breathed so far this week. So like the lungs are definitely feeling that but I tried hard.”

Sydney Palmer Leger (719) on her way to a fourth podium in five days. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

On the women’s side, APU’s Hailey Swirbul (USA) continued her solid week with a third win, skiing the 10km in 31:55.9. U of Colorado’s Hanna Abrahamsson was 23.6 seconds back with U of Utah’s Sydney Palmer Leger (USA) taking third at 1:12.5. AWCA’s Sonjaa Schmidt was top Canadian, in sixth at 1:33.5.

Swirbul was happy: “Today was a really good one for me. I felt like I paced it well and tried to race really smart for me. And I think that paid off.”

Abrahamsson was all smiles on Sunday and FasterSkier has the video evidence:

FasterSkier missed Palmer Leger, but did get some video on the final ‘kicker’ climb:

The women’s field was also diminished by a hard week, with only 75 of 87 starting. There were a lot of smiling faces on those that persevered.

Results: Interval Start (click on Time, then All Times, to see all 28 splits!), Full Week

The Course and Pacing

For some, the Upper World Cup 5km is a course they can ski in their sleep. Or nightmares. For others, it was the first visit. The course looks simple on paper, with only 154m of climbing in 5.2km. With 14 splits per lap, there is endless opportunity to compare pacing.

Kirkeng won by 53 seconds. Almost a minute in a 10km with a deep North American field. Which means when he talks about pacing, FasterSkier records video:

Kirkeng took a different view of the course than most of the others and maybe that made the difference.

“I knew with fast skis that some of the downhills and flats that were tracked I would be able to rest quite a bit. So I really just pushed the hills and got up with as quick as I could, knowing that there was rest ahead.” — O’Connell

“It’s at altitude. And it’s there’s a lot of sustained climbing on this course. So I think you have to start out the first lap almost in threshold. And that actually is race pace on a course like this. I also had the benefit of, honestly, some of the best skis I’ve had in years. And my coaches did an amazing job with skis today. So that really helps to have good kick and also enough glide through the double pole you can make up time because there’s a lot of time to be made on those transitions. ” — Swirbul

“I started out a bit easier on the first lap, especially because it’s a lot. There’s a lot of uphill the very first half of the first lap. So I started out a bit easier. And then when I came around for my second lap, I really started to dig deep and give it all I had.” — Schmidt

“Oh, just crush it up hill and double pole like a maniac in the flatter part. I would say and just survive.  Yeah, enjoy a little bit of a nice view, it was so beautiful out there today.” — Abrahamsson

“You got to really keep it controlled in the first k. I almost feel like I’m warming up the first climb and then kind of get into the race. But yeah, thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve raced a race course in any part of the world more than this course, I’m used to it. ” — Hill

“It’s always hard to race at Sovereign because it’s high altitude. Always hard racing. So yeah, it’s probably one of the tougher spots to race in Canada.” — McKeever

“Just kind of settling into a rhythm on the long climb there [pointing to the first A climb] and just working it and then making sure you save something for those last two punchy climbs into the finish.” — Hendry

How Was Your Week

After a long five days that both Swirbul and her coach Erik Flora compared to the start of the Tour de Ski, FasterSkier asked skiers for their impressions.

The wax techs had skis dialed by sunrise. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

“Oh, I absolutely love SilverStar. And there’s no better day like today to finish off this really good week of racing and just well, well put on races by everyone here.” — Swirbul

“I really like this place. I don’t want to go home. We’re flying back to Boulder tomorrow. And I don’t want to do that. I want to be here. It’s like, it’s so amazing. The skiing is so good. And yeah, so beautiful.” — Abrahamsson

“It was great. I’ve never been to SilverStar [before] but the conditions have been unbelievable and races have been very, very well organized. The volunteers and race organizers did an amazing job and I look forward to coming back sometime.” — Hagenbuch

“I live over in Canmore, so as soon as Sovereign gets snow, I’m hopping in the car and coming here [and] did a two week training camp leading into these races. So yeah, the SilverStar magic is a real thing.” — Hill

It is an early start under the lights for the coaches. (Photo: Jacqueline Akerman, Sovereign Lake Nordic Development Academy)

Gerry Furseth

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