Nordiq Cup/SuperTour Mass Start Skate at Sovereign Lake

Gerry FursethDecember 2, 2022
Hailey Swirbul (USA) leads the 10km Nordiq Cup/SuperTour at Sovereign Lake (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Continental Cup racing at Sovereign Lake continued Thursday with a 10km mass start skate for both genders, using the traditional Upper World Cup 5km course. The weekday races are U20 and Open categories only, with ‘smaller’ fields of 87 women and 127 men registered Thursday.

“I think this is probably the most competitive race in North America this year, so there were a lot of really strong and talented skiers.” — John Steel Hagenbuch, Dartmouth Ski Team

Mass start races at this level usually run in two modes. The group at the front has a tactical race, with most of the group skiing in control and making plans. Behind this group, all the skiers are drilling it, pushing hard to reduce the time gap to the leaders. Many of the men experienced their first 10km mass start today, as this has traditionally been a distance offered primarily in women’s racing.

The day was cloudy and cold, with temperatures hovering at -18C.

The women raced first, with APU’s Hailey Swirbul (USA) setting the pace to reduce the lead pack to 15 skiers by the end of the first 5km lap. The video is at the mid-point of the first A climb, just short of 1km into the race.

“I often find it comforting to be able to ski my own pace and take my own line,” Swirbul told FasterSkier. “I did that. And yeah, it ended up not working out for me, but that’s the way it goes.”

Swirlbul estimated that she led for 9.5km: “I tried making a move,” Sydney Palmer Leger (University of Utah, USA) said, “and then right at the finish, I ended up sliding on my butt.”

Palmer Leger stepped on a ski at the Tree Island turn leading into the finish straight, but was able to sprint back to take second place to U of Colorado’s Anna-Maria Dietze (GER). Dietze finished in 29:59.0, 0.6 seconds ahead of Palmer Leger, with U of Utah’s Karianne Dengerud (NOR) 1.1 seconds back.

“I feel like always kind of sitting in the back for the first loop,” Dietze said, “trying to figure out like which downhills I can take where I can like draft a little bit and was trying to stay relaxed and then when people started to attack, just trying to stick with them and then putting everything on the finish line.”

“I was just trying to take the [last] turn really well,” Dietze continued. “My legs were hurting and I was like I’m just gonna send it and I felt pretty powerful. Felt like I had few metres on them. I thought that was gonna be it and it was awesome.”

Dengerud followed a similar strategy: “I managed to stay like quite far up in the front from the beginning of the race and that helped me save a lot of energy so I had a lot towards the end. And then I wish I’d passed one girl earlier, but except from that, it was great.”

Dengerud skied the loop for the first time in her pre-race warmup and liked the course: “It’s really good. I didn’t ski it before this morning and I heard that it was really hard. But I skied it on my warm up and I figured out that it was as many downhills as uphills, as it should be.”

Dengerud, who grew up near the famous Holmenkollen venue, prefers this course which was built for a 2005 World Cup: “I like it better when you can work the flats a little bit more and it’s not only downhill or uphill, and this course has it all.”

Liliane Gagnon from the Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre Harvey (CNEPH) was the top Canadian in 6th at 9.8 seconds back, trailing Bridger’s Sarah Goble (USA) and Swirbul.

“It was pretty fast at first,” Gagnon said, “but then it calmed down a bit, but on the second lap, the pace got picked up. So you really had to be in the game for it to finish strong.”

Russell Kennedy leads up the second A climb during the Nordiq Cup/SuperTour 10km at Sovereign Lake. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

The men’s race played out in similar fashion to the Women’s, with 22 men finishing the first lap together, passing through the stadium at a comfortable pace.

“I will say that a 10k skate mass start is definitely fast and pretty hectic,” Hagenbuch confirmed. “So there was definitely some carnage out there.”

Wednesday’s winner Magnus Bøe (U of Colorado, NOR) broke a pole in the first kilometre, losing the advantage of his second row start.

Canmore’s Russell Kennedy (CAN) was one of the people pushing the pace, shown here at the top of the second A climb, about 2km into the race.

“[It was] a lineup of guys ripping it and then Johnny [Hagenbuch] started moving up and I saw the attack coming but I wasn’t sure when he was gonna go,” Kennedy said. “And then the second last hill, he pushed super hard. I got boxed in and then tried to make up time but I couldn’t see really what was going on in the finish for them.”

Ten skiers reached that second last hill, known locally as the ‘Wall’ climb together.

“There’s a pretty big steep kicker hill, about a kilometer and a half out from the finish,” Hagenbuch said. “I kind of felt the moment there and I went for it. And luckily, I was able to drop most of the field. But Tom Mancini, he was able to stick on me after that. And then we kind of duked it out towards the end, but I knew going up against Tom in the finishing stretch probably wouldn’t go my way given that he’s such a strong, older skier and obviously a 2018 World Junior Champion.”

U of Utah’s Tom Mancini (FRA) took the win in 25:24.2, 0.6 seconds ahead of Hagenbuch and 4.7 seconds clear of Kennedy.

“Yesterday, I was disqualified [for micro-skating], ” Mancini said. “I wasn’t totally agree with this decision. But so, today, I wanted to race nice. And also just enjoy my first race here. And this is what I did.”

Mancini moved to Utah in the fall and still thinks in French grammar. He also was seeing this course for the first time, unlike Kennedy who has years of experience here.

“I noticed that they have a nice finish,” Mancini revealed. “So I was like, I just need to stay in this game until the last two kilometres. And so the pace was hard since the beginning. So it started pretty high, so pretty fast. So at the beginning, it was a bit hard for me and then after maybe one lap, I felt better. And I was like, alright, no, just have to keep focus and wait until the end.”


It was a challenging day for clothing selection, with many athletes struggling to stay warm on course. “I think we got prepared by being in Alaska last year and Canmore two weeks ago,” Dengerud shared, “so had a lot of clothes on, for sure.”

If the Alaskan skiers (names withheld to protect the guilty) are complaining about the cold after the race, that is a sign that others suffered more.

Mass starts are ‘easy’ to host: today’s event used 65 volunteers over a 12 hour period, including this group building a start grid with numbered marks for 127 athletes. (FasterSkier photo)

Results: Mass Start, Full Week (including live timing)

What does the CEO of a National Ski Federation actually do? Stéphane Barrette was found clearing frost from the sponsor’s banners early this morning. (FasterSkier photo)

Gerry Furseth

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