The World Cup season wrapped up with World Cup finals in Québec City and FasterSkier was there. Three photographers and three interviewers worked together to gather information from 150 racers, including 56 North Americans.
While top skiers chased glory on the tracks, 500 volunteers toiled out of sight. Alex Harvey retired in a public blaze of glory, Lenny Valjas and Ida Sargent retired in a flood of interviews but without a press conference, and a few more skiers retired discreetly.
Each day at the World Cup, three skiers of each gender stand on the podium and enjoy the celebration of success. The rest of the field trudges through the media zone, some hoping to be noticed, some hoping to not be noticed, and some too angry or frustrated to care. We caught almost all of the North Americans during the weekend, although a few of the interviews have too much crowd noise to be transcribed.
World Cups in North America
“I think it’s huge for every step of the sport, both developing levels, [to] engage the community, try to find sponsors, new sponsors, retain the actual sponsors for the team, it’s the best way to showcase our sport for our country. My first podium was at the Whistler World Cup in 2009, and that was in a team event with George Grey, so I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life, and it’s kind of for me a good way to finish – we’ve gone full circle now. So this has been special, but I think racing at home is always a unique experience. And for me to finish, not just in my home country, but in my hometown, it is just amazing. You saw there were big crowds today, there were big crowds in 2016, 2017 as well, and Whistler Olympics were also really fun for our whole team, and that World Cup the year before. We need to keep having events like that and it’s great that the circus will come back next year.” — Alex Harvey, on having World Cup racing at home.
“It is awesome here and a perfect place to end the season. Everybody is happy and relieved and satisfied. So now we are going to have a party and enjoy each other and have a good time. I feel like we deserve it and it is going to be nice to celebrate with the whole crew here, including the waxers and the coaches and other people, so it’s going to be awesome.” — Emil Iversen, before shooting that music video…
“It was a super crowd, incredible to race in front of my family, all my friends. I will definitely remember this. It was super cool when I took off my warm-ups and did a lap and everyone was there.” — Antoine Briand (translated)
“I have to say, I don’t think I have ever, in my life probably, had so many cheers on a qualifier for a sprint. That was the most exciting, cool, fun experience. The wall of noise when I started was just inspiring, it was just one of those really cool things that you just gotta appreciate and soak up the atmosphere when you can. It was just so cool to have my boyfriend here and my family and that is just such a fun way to end the season. Racing aside, just feeling this awesome supportive atmosphere has been pretty awesome.” — Jessie Diggins
“It’s so exciting, by that second hill there were so many people cheering, and it was like ‘woah,’ it just gives you some extra energy for sure.” — KSJ
“Nothing special, but I think it will be a really good type of race here. They really like us here and it is amazing to be here and I don’t think we can end the season better than what we are doing here with this weather and this people and so many people cheering for Alex and for us. It’s amazing, so we are really looking forward to coming back next year and it will be really good races.” — JHK
“It’s really cool, it was really unique to be in this competitive setting, still hearing the voices from rollerski practice every day in the summer. And I think it’s an invaluable experience for younger skiers to have, to be able to watch and compete and see what it’s like at the high level.” — Ben Saxton
“It’s awesome. You know, it’s pretty rare that we get the loudest cheers for the Americans, so it feels really special being on the start line, having so many friends and family here, and the fact that it’s my birthday makes it even more special.” — Sophie Caldwell
“You know, it’s amazing. I love that we end our season here because it feels like you have all your friends and family be a part of what you’ve been doing all winter. I mean, that big climb – it’s so loud, and just waving to the crowd on the start line was just like such a reminder of how much I love what I’m doing, and it’s so cool to share it with people because then you get to enjoy it ten times more. So I appreciate all the love out here.” — Sadie Bjornsen
“Fourth time in Quebec, so I think I know the city pretty well now, but it’s always a different track, but I think the atmosphere is great. And also I think that it’s really good to see all the Americans and all the Canadians that are starting today.” — Maiken Caspersen Falla
“I have never made a podium in Québec before so I think I can do it again next year.
I heard a lot of noise, ‘Pellegrino, Pellegrino.’ In Europe, it’s hard to get people to come out and watch in bad weather. There was a lot of emotion in Alex, but next year I hope they will still come watch even without Alex. The courses were in good shape in spite of the conditions and the crowd here is amazing!” — Federico Pellegrino, translated from French
“I was expecting it to be a lot colder and wetter because the weather forecast was kind of shitty, but we are feeling great. We came Monday and we have done some acclimatizing and we are happy to be here. It was so cool to be here two years ago and it is the same now.” — Eirik Myhr Nossum, Norwegian coach
“It was one of those things where the course sorta broke down, very similar to Falun actually, where it was just like, I guess the best descriptor is mashed potatoes. It was wet and deep and you just couldn’t get a lot of purchase. It was this soggy, saturated snow but instead of compressing, it was starting to get deep and mushy. They did the best they could, they had people literally sidestepping, packing down the downhill, and people raking the course. They did everything they could, it was just one of those days where it was just not great conditions to ski in to be totally honest.” — Jessie Diggins, on sprint conditions
“The crowd is awesome, best of the year.” — Sophie Caldwell, on Saturday.
“It’s really nice here. The city is beautiful and there are a lot of people on the tracks here so we are really happy to be here and to have the final season here.” — Therese Johaug
“As always it’s good to be here with the home crowd and seeing Alex on the podium was super cool. You feel that North American energy and it’s just awesome being here.” — Simi Hamilton
“Almost every day in the season, you are traveling in Europe and have the competition there. To travel a bit farther and have a competition here is really cool for us. It’s a new experience, and like I said, it’s an amazing atmosphere and I really appreciate everyone is cheering for us. Canada is for sure a very special place, and a cool place to have the ski races.” — Johannes Høsflot Klæbo
“They’re crazy! The fans are amazing, they’ve been cheering so hard. There’s a couple of corners out there where you forget where you are. One of the best World Cups, honestly, this season, crowd-wise.” — Russell Kennedy, on the smaller audience for Friday’s sprint.
“Today, the best thing was the crowd. One of the best of the World Cup, for sure. I felt like in Cogne, in my hometown, where we did a World Cup during this winter, and a lot of people came to cheer for me. The same time, here in Canada, a lot of people came for Alex, and this is good for cross country skiing.” — Federico Pellegrino
“It’s so fun to race here. The last two days have been also better weather so there are more people here. In Norway, we’re used to that everyone knows what cross country skiing is, but maybe not everyone knows what it is here, so it’s good that there’s a lot of people here and cheer for us. That’s nice.” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg
“It looks like a fun tour. A lot of traveling and racing, so it’s going to be a really tough tour, but I’m really looking forward to it. And we also go to the US, so that will be exciting.” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg on the 2020 schedule (ending in Québec City, Minnesota, and Canmore).
“I think it has been good competitions here. It is my first time in Canada, I have really enjoyed it.” — Ebba Andersen
“It was beautiful. It was really amazing to go here when it’s sun and blue sky. It’s a lot of people out on the tracks. I know that I’m fighting for a place on the podium, for the overall World Cup and also for the spring tour here in Canada, and I get to the second place in the spring tour, and the third place in the overall World Cup, so I’m really happy with the race today.” — Therese Johaug
Competition and Rivalries
“Of course, the thirty-five or forty minutes a day we race, I mean, I’m not going to say that I want to rip off the heads off the guys next to me, but it’s close to that, like it’s hell out there, it’s hard. Everybody’s suffering, and you’re fighting, but when you cross the line you can become friends again, and have a good time, and I’m already excited for the party tonight, to hang out with all those competitors that I’ve had epic battles throughout the years, and to say a last goodbye to them.” — Alex Harvey
“I think with the Canadians it is much more friendly than with the Russians. I don’t have any bad things to say about Russia at any time. It’s good to have this type of duels I think. It’s really fun and exciting for the sport that we have this tight duel. I don’t know how many points it was at the end there, but I don’t think it was that much. It’s cool to have this type of competition and today was a lot of points to ahead today. The Canadian guys, it’s just friendly. No enemies at all, so it’s really cool and I think we all are very happy about Harvey and the way he can end his career.” — Johannes Høsflot Klæbo
“I do know what happened, because Charlotte came and apologized afterwards, and I was like ‘Yeah, you know it sucks.’ I was on the inside so I had nowhere else to go and she just came in a little too tight and yeah, it happened, it’s frustrating.” — Jessie Diggins, describing her tangle with Charlotte Kalla during the sprint.
“The fourth or the fifth lap, with the bonus sprints, we try to take as many bonus as we could, and avoid that Bolshunov got, but he is strong. It was like Klaæbo had two bonus sprints and win so he got a total of 45 seconds, so that was the important thing.” — Didrik Tønseth
“Because Østberg is a really fair sportsman, [laughs] no sportswoman. With the Norwegian, we have a really good contact and communication. They want the best to win, no like when it happen like this.” — Markus Kramer, Russian team coach,, who speaks at least four languages better than English.
“Everybody want to win, and there is a lot of emotions. After five minutes, then it is okay and they shake hands. Sometimes in the summer, we do training together. No, we have a good relationship with them [the Norwegian men].” — Markus Kramer
“When Therese catch me, then we try to ski together, but Stina, she was too strong. In the end, we knew that Therese could fight for the third place in the overall, if she beat Krista in the today’s race. I think she beat her with just a few points.” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg
“Me and Krista started at almost the same time, and together we could keep up a good pace. It was a tough race in the windy conditions, but we fight all the way to the finish line.” — Ebba Andersen
“You don’t have to persuade him [to lead] anytime! He does it in a sprint, in a mass start, in a 50k, 10k. You don’t need to persuade him, he doesn’t want… the Russians don’t like to follow, so it’s pretty easy.” — Alex Harvey, on getting Bolshunov to lead the chase to Klæbo.
“I maybe started out a little aggressive, trying to catch up. Fortunately, I had Charlotte to just stick my mind on, and she was incredibly strong today. Every time at the top of the course by the cannon, she was pulling away and I just kept trying to push: ‘hang on, hang on, hang on’. Unfortunately on the last lap, I just couldn’t, so she made a little gap, and I’m glad I was able to hold off the group behind us, because it was just painfully close the whole time.” — Sadie Bjorsen
Plans vs Reality
“I was also in the jury room, and they show me a video of this part. You can see it was very soft, and pole goes in the snow [demonstrating], and when you push, the pole broke. It was very bad moment.” — Markus Kramer, Russian team coach, on Bolshunov’s broken pole during Saturday’s race. Bolshunov pushed his pole through the crust cresting a hill with 2km to go, and the crust snapped the pole. Harvey said in French that he didn’t have the same problem because he isn’t as strong as Bolshunov.
“The sprint was too awful and then my chances went away, but yeah, I am happy to get the 5th place and ‘end the season with style,’ as we say in Norway.” — Emil Iversen
“It was pretty good, until the last 1k. I had an accident with 1k to go. Then I lost some positions, but overall it has been a good weekend.” — Sindre Bjørnestad Skar
“This weekend, we are not lucky. Nepryaeva, she crashed the first lap. She was excellent, together with Johaug, but she fall, broke a pole. It was one part where some tourist give her a pole, but then she lose so much places, and it was not possible. […] In Falun, she was sick and the distance race, she cannot start. Only one week for recovery, and it was too short. […] This season, at the end, we are not lucky.” — Markus Kramer
“I thought I was skiing smooth, I was having a great race and just when I was going to one-skate and get the bulk of the hill behind me, I sort of caught the outside of my ski, there is a big rut there. Sort of pulled to my right, I killed my speed and began offset much earlier than I wanted. I have not even seen the results but I thought I skied OK. If I am near anywhere close it is frustrating to have a mistake like that.” — Lenny Valjas, on the sprint qualifier
“Still didn’t feel like it, I’m still trying to come back from my back injury; I had a bulging disc about eight weeks ago. It feels better than it did at World Champs, but still having a hard time putting some power down but we’ll see how it feels in distance races, and just try to go from there.” — Andy Newell
“You know, believe it or not, I happen to love these conditions. It’s what I train on all summer on the glacier, so I have a lot of practice, but it was very soft.” — Sadie Bjorsen, on the sprint course
“It looked like Jessie and Kalla collided. But the problem was my skis were stuck underneath them. So I had to just stand there and really hope they got up fast, but they kept sliding on each other and stuff, and I was almost like ‘COME ON,’ and it was just like ‘wait,’ and then it was like a huge… I’m glad Jessie got up and we both were kind of fighting with each other, it was a huge surge to get back on the group, so it was a miracle I somehow still qualified. … But the finals – I was definitely feeling the effort from the semi-final, I just barely had anything left, so it was definitely not the final I would have dreamed of, but given what happened in the semis I have to be happy.” — Sadie Bjornsen
“You know I think I’ve gotten better at skiing in those kinds of conditions, but still not totally there and it was just really soft and slow, made it extra hard with the headwind in places and it’s not fun skiing, but that’s ski racing. It’s not gonna be super enjoyable all the time. I think probably everyone feels like they can’t really ski out there today because it’s so hard.” — Simi Hamilton
“It’s pretty wet and deep on that corner especially and a snake jumped up and bit me and down I went. That’s how it goes I guess, but it’s tricky conditions out there and even on the downhill leading into it was grabbing the skis and going everywhere. You have to be light on your feet, which is not my forte.” — Logan Hanneman
“The team tactic would be best if we had a lot of Norwegians in front but Bolshunov was so strong. The other guys hadn’t a chance. He [Bolshunov] is quite strong and I expect him to be the two next days as well, this will be a hard battle.” — Eirik Myhr Nossum, on stacking the first quarterfinal in an attempt to eliminate Bolshunov
“No, I’m having a really good season and it has been a dream. Every race I’m ‘go’ and today it was a special race. It’s a 10km classic mass start and it’s also really easy tracks here and we have ice out there so it was difficult to get a big gap, but I feel that I do a good race and I’m going in front the last two laps and did a good job. I am happy that I also had the great finish that I had.” — Therese Johaug, on winning all but one distance race this season.
“When there are the surges in the pack, if I try to go I just flood and I can’t really recover the way I’m hoping, but it was fun today. I think it might have been the first time I was leading a World Cup for a bit. There was a gap, a hole and I just went for it and then it just felt easy to be in the lead there for a bit so I was like ‘oh, this is fun, I’ll just try it out.'” — Erik Bjornsen, on the classic.
“Yeah, I am psyched for tomorrow. I feel like my skating is my strength and hopefully, it will firm up, freeze up overnight and get really fast and hard tomorrow.” — Simi Hamilton, looking ahead to Sunday.
“I didn’t have the best day, or the best skis, and it was going really fast, so that was an awful day. I think the plan was good, but I wasn’t good enough yesterday.” — Emil Iversen, looking back on the sprint.
“I think I never skied in these kinds of conditions. It was really hard. It will definitely be a tough race tomorrow as well. Yesterday, was perfect conditions. Too bad, that’s kind of outdoor sports.” — Pål Golberg
“It’s been a while since I’ve done much sprinting, and I found it hard to psych myself up for the quarterfinal. I was just a little bit urrrrgh.” — Andy Musgrave
“Today was quite bad weather, luckily no raining. Of course, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday was really good training, but we have been a little bit unlucky today.” — Krista Pärmäkoski, on the sprint.
“I was expecting it to be similar to yesterday, but it froze up really well. Icy and tricky conditions, but it was a lot of fun racing out there today.” — Emily Nishikawa on Saturday.
“I knew I am not the one who is going to try to get rid of Therese uphill, so I just wanted to be as close as I could. She was strong on the last uphill, so she had a gap. Then the last 100m, I could close that gap.” — Stina Nilsson.
“I am not expecting to be alone the whole race, so it will be a tactical and really exciting race tomorrow.” –Stina Nilsson, speculating about Sunday.
“One of the best distance races of my career. I have had a few really good ones, but I don’t think I’ve been near 30 in my career, other than the two podiums. I was bib 69 and I was skiing with guys in the top 20. … I’m happy that I’ve had a race that I can be proud of to end my season.” — Lenny Valjas
“It was a strange moment, down through the trees. Alex did a little bit of [gestures to indicate snowplow], he tried to stop a little bit. We were smash together and someone has to go down, and I was the one.” — Federico Pellegrino, on getting up close and personal with Alex Harvey.
“Today, you see it’s very fast conditions. For the men, only four laps, so maximum 30 minutes I think. 42 seconds, I think it’s not possible to get this. But you never know. We hope, we hope until the finish line.” — Markus Kramer
First World Cup Experience
”The crowds are incredible. They’re so loud, you skate up the hill and you can’t hear anything but the screams of the crowd.” — Rémi Drolet, on the sprint qualifier.
“It’s been cool, I would say that people warned me it’s going to be kind of just like every other race, which is very true up until you’re racing, and then the crowd out there was crazy, and it almost took my breath away on one of the hills, and I was like ‘oh wow, I’m not used to this.’ So that was really cool, just to have so many people out there.” — Alayna Sonnesyn
“It feels incredible just being here and racing with so many people cheering you on, just the energy is just contagious, it makes you feel like you want to go faster.” — Hannah Mehain
“I wasn’t really [nervous] going into it, but skiing around this morning and seeing the whole scene I got pretty nervous. It’s pretty crazy.” — Ben Ogden
“Really exciting, really fun. It was nice because I didn’t have too much pressure, I could just race how I wanted to race.” — Gus Schumacher
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere. This is so much more of a party than it was [at Junior Worlds]” — Gus Schumacher
“It was kind of weird, because at the beginning the pace didn’t feel super-fast, except the pack was just so close together that you couldn’t just couldn’t pass anyone, so you were just cruising.’ — Rémi Drolet
“It was awesome. I really realized how fast these guys are, but at the same time, it’s encouraging, ’cause I feel like I’m not too far off. [Inaudible bit, as Harvey steps on the podium] When you pass by, it’s deafening all the time. It’s really encouraging to be in front of the home crowd, it helps you push that little bit harder.” — Rémi Drolet
The Plains of Abraham venue is unusual in that it is an open, rolling field with very few restrictions or impediments to choosing a course. Each season, the course is redesigned with different goals in mind. With very soft conditions on Friday, the sprint course skied much longer than the 1.6 km it is on paper. Fast conditions on Saturday and Sunday allowed a lot of rest and regrouping, on a course that had almost no rest on training days.
“I think it’s a good course, but it’s not a great course. I think that they could do a much better job with being creative with the course here and I don’t think they were this year so I was bummed about that. But you know with such a super long finish into the stadium at the end, coming down that downhill and with this headwind right now, that makes it super tactical, so I think it’s going to come down to that today and getting a slingshot on the downhill into the finish.” — Simi Hamilton
“The track, it’s too easy to make a difference. It’s a nice area, but the track, it’s too easy.” — Markus Kramer
“It’s a nice course. High speed, a lot of turns, and a lot of action.” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg
“I feel it’s a little bit many corners. I don’t like the downhill from upstairs, the trees is a little bit tight. The other tracks is good, it’s not so long hills, like this loop [pointing to city walls] but I don’t like that track [pointing to the descent from the cannon corner] where the trees is so tight.” — Heidi Weng
“I don’t know [if we will have more races in Cogne]. As athletes, we are pushing a lot to do less venues. I think that for Italy, it is not the best place for where to race, talking about the ski tracks. We have Val di Fiemme, [with the] most ski championships in cross country history. I don’t know if in our ideal calendar, it’s the right venue. But for sure, the crowd was good. We always have to look at the race, not only by the well ski tracks, even by the compromise ski tracks and the crowd. And for sure, [Québec City is] a success because the compromise was perfect. And Cogne too.” — Federico Pellegrino
- FS: How’s your French?
- Maiken Caspersen Falla: Not so good. [laughs] Merci beaucoup!
“This adds to the long list of second place behind Johannes…it will be a long list.” — Chicco Pellegrino, translated from French
“The shape is really good.” — Chicco Pellegrino, channeling Marit Bjørgen.
“It feels amazing. And it was heavy!” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, on the crystal globe.
“Then I heard there were some problems with the Russian guy, with Bolshunov. Harvey came up beside me and said, ‘Go! Go! Go!’. And then I said, he’s the boss here, I had to listen to him.” — Didrik Tønseth.
“Oh, that’s a good question. I’ve been three times on the podium in the overall. In the distance, I’ve also done, and in the sprint’s, second and third, but never the first.” — Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, trying to remember how many times she has been on the overall, sprint, and distance podiums before taking the big globe.
– Kelsey Dickenson, Bryana van Leeuwen, and David Brown contributed