Tag Archive | "Alex Harvey"

Kershaw Report – Spring 2013

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April 22, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – The 2012/13 racing season is now long over. The snow, clinging desperately to the mountains, rocks and trees, is in deep discussions, begging to let go, turn to water, spurring the “actual” beginning of next season – one of growth, new beginnings and if you are me – debilitating allergies: spring.

Spring is losing here in Canmore as of now. Snowstorms still blow through the valley and the ski touring is still light’s out delicious in the ranges behind the Bow Valley. But winter is waging a losing battle and while all good things come to an end – so too will the snowy peaks, cold temperatures and well, winter.

Speaking of winter – it’s no secret that I envisioned last season going better. I was coming off a career best season in 2011/12. Those feelings of winning World Cups, finishing 2nd overall and 2nd in the distance cup were definitely fresh in the mind. Throughout the training season I was feeling stronger, fitter and faster physically for months on end – even though emotionally I could have been categorized easily by any high school girl within 30 seconds of hanging out with me as “a total mess.” I can admit it. Still though – I was sure that this year I was going to be able to take that next, last little step needed after the strong foundation laid in 2011/12.

Instead, back in November I took a little step in the wrong direction – on a stronger concrete foundation in the shape of stairs – and tore a ligament in my foot. Not the best move only a week out from the season opener. I let myself get the better of myself – if you follow that – and instead of taking a step back and recovering fully I pushed on – taping it, getting therapy, icing it and wishing with all my energy that it’d heal magically.

It didn’t and for the first 8 weeks of the racing season I had plenty of reminders that sometimes no amount of wishing and hoping can combat reality. I kept it within the team and asked that the team not discuss it publically. I guess I was just so motivated and hungry to have a good season, that if people started talking about it – it would get more real. It’s hard to explain if you aren’t an athlete and maybe you don’t understand, but I felt as though if I was racing – even if it hurt – then it wasn’t a huge deal….

As the winter rolled on, the results remained disappointing. I had some glimmers of “ok” feelings – a few top tens, 12th overall at the Tour de Ski, 4th at the World Championships with Alex in the team sprint – but on the whole I just wasn’t feeling myself. Gone were the weekends of winning and on the podium. Coupled with the torn ligament, I contracted some rough food poisoning in France that reoccurred three more times from mid January to late February which wasn’t a barrel of laughs either.

These aren’t excuses – I know that I made some mistakes in my training season, we made some mistakes with regards to my race calendar, and some other smaller ones along the way, too, that seemed to have a bigger impact that we thought. I take full responsibility for that – but it wasn’t the best to having health issues on top of that. At this level, it’s a precarious place to hang out – between success and failure. Everything needs to come together and sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned or wanted them to for whatever reason.

The last month of the season continued to be tough. I had some more stomach issues early at the World Championships – which translated into one race where I felt good (the team sprint with Alex). After the World Championships – the spring World Cup was a rough period for our team too – as we just weren’t able to deliver the results and good feelings that we’d become accustomed to when the World Cup heads back to Scandinavia in the spring.

Looking back, it’s amazing that we had the success we had at the World Championships at all – which I think speaks volumes of our team as a whole (staff, athletes, techs, everyone). Alex won a historic bronze in classic sprint – traditionally one of his weakest events. Babs was 4th in the 15km skate, and Alex and I finished agonizingly close to the bronze – 4th – in the team sprint.

Now it’s time to inject some positivity – the cool and simply reality of spring is that things melt and start growing again. Those feelings of disappointment are melting away – we’ve had great discussions about what we did, what we can do better, and what we’ll do moving forward and I’m 100% confident that we still have a great team and new plan moving forward.

I was pretty tired emotionally/mentally upon arriving in Canada and I’ve spent most of my time in the mountains back country skiing – healing the mind and letting go of all the disappointment. I’ve got out 14 days of the last 20, which has been both fantastic and rejuvenating. For me, in the spring time there’s nothing better than backcountry skiing – you are way back in some mountain range with just you and your buddies, no internet, phone, nothing – it’s simplicity at it’s best and it’s amazing.

Up next in the two-pronged “get ready to rock and roll” is the “real” rest – as I’m off to Maui tomorrow to check in on Lenny’s tan – kidding! It’ll be awesome to get some vitamin D, eat some delicious fish and tropical fruit, get completely thrashed in the waves and vibe out. I know that after that I’ll be 100% ready to go for the Olympic training year. Hard to believe that this quadrennial came and went so quickly. I have some unfinished business there after finishing 4th and 5th in the last Games in Vancouver – so this year will be about simplifying things, training well, making good decisions and enjoying it.

We’ll learn, adjust and attack going forward. My good friend and Canadian sports psych’ extraordinaire likes to quote Andre Agassi’s “I can live with disappointment, but I can’t live with regret.” Damn right. I was disappointed with how the season went – no question. But I don’t regret it. I did what I thought was best at the time – it ended up being wrong. I made mistakes, I’m learning from them, and I’m fired up moving forward.

Lao Tzu wrote, “Succeeding is the coming together of all things beautiful and perseverance is the foundation of all actions.” I couldn’t agree more.

Enjoy your spring everyone and thanks for the support!

Devon

Interview w/Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth in Falun

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March 25, 2013 (Falun, Sweden) – SkiTrax caught up with Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth after the FIS World Cup finale in Falun, Sweden this past weekend to get his take on the 2012/13 season, the highs and lows, and what the squad will do differently next year to get the team back on their game.

While many teams would love to have Canada’s record this season with half-a-dozen podiums and the first ever individual medal by a Canadian man at the World Championships courtesy of Alex Harvey, the Canucks were striving for more following an astounding 14 medals last season.

Things did not go as planned this season admitted Wadsworth, but he is positive the team will turn things around in the upcoming Olympic year – when it really counts.

For a quick 2012/13 season Canadian team medal recap: Len Valjas scored two medals this season, including a bronze in the Sprint FR in Val Mustair (SUI) and silver in the 15km CL Mass start in Val di Fiemme (ITA), both during the Tour de Ski. Alex Harvey finished right behind Valjas in the latter race to share the podium with his teammate winning the bronze.

At the end of the TdS, Ivan Babikov scored the silver in the final 9km FR Pursuit stage up Alpe Cermis (ITA). Babikov was also the top NA skier in the overall WCup in 20th (Devon Kershaw was second overall last year while Harvey was 6th).  Then Harvey came around again near the end of the season to be the first ever Canadian man to win an individual World Championship medal when he placed third in the classic sprint in Val di Fiemme (ITA).

On the women’s side, the highlight was when Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova scored third in the team sprint at the Sochi World Cup (RUS).

Interview w/Justin Wadsworth

Canada’s Harvey and USA’s Randall on Norwegian Late Night TV Show

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March 21, 2013 (Norway) – Alex Harvey and Kikkan Randall were recent guests on Norwegian late night talk show Senkveld (Late Night) with Thomas & Harald. Check out their great interview on YouTube (in English)!

Kershaw Report – Tour de Ski 2012

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January 17, 2013 – The 2012/13 Tour de Ski is over and remains in all our rearview mirrors. There were Canadian highlights abound during his year’s German and Italian odyssey – the major ones being Ivan’s career-best 7th overall, Lenny Valjas’s two podiums, Alex’s podium and 4 top 6 results and last but not least – the bulldog’s absolute annihilation of Alpe Cermis  – where he posted the 2nd fastest climb up that nasty, nasty slope.

It was a great completion for Canada, yet I must say my own Tour de Ski was a disappointment. Ok, a big disappointment. It was a good thing that Ivan, Lenny and Alex threw down because my body was no help – as it just wasn’t recovered and ready for such an arduous event. While there were a couple glimmers of “ok-ness” during the week – for the most part I was missing that top gear needed to compete atop the results page.

After a nice 9 days in Switzerland over the holidays, it was off to the Tour and first up was the fog engulfed hilltop village of Oberhof. While the weather is some of the worst I experience every year, traditionally I love the courses and race well through the grey half-light. Not wanting to disappoint, Oberhof stayed true to its reputation and was pretty warm and foggier than San Francisco’s “June Gloom” by a factor of 7. The snow barely held up for the first few races under the German grey – with some sections of the 3.75km loop showing some black pavement during the 15km classic!

The races this season in Germany though did not go well. After a great intensity workout a few days before the Tour – the first in awhile – I was hopeful that the Tour would start well. It didn’t. The prologue was more of the same – I’d start controlled and then have no gear to switch into for the last kick to the line. The 15km classic (pursuit start) the following day felt like Groundhog Day – as the feelings in the body were the same – feeling great until I didn’t – struggling home and losing oodles of time in the last lap of that 4-lap race to finish in 27th. Conditions were tough – soft and slushy snow – which are usually favorite classic conditions of mine, but this season my legs felt like they were as stiff and had more weights attached to them than a whole group of tanned geriatrics working out on a Miami Beach boardwalk.

After a small turn-around in feelings and celebrating the MAN Lenny Valjas’ 4th career World Cup podium on New Year’s Day on the tough sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland (Len was 3rd, I ended up 15th), it was off to Italy for the last 4 stages in a row in Toblach and Val di Fiemme.

If you would have told me that my best race feelings of the year to date after the Tour was over would be in the 35km loppet style skate race from Cortina-Toblach and up the fabled climb of Alpe Cermis, I would have laughed myself silly. But that’s how things ended up. The two classic races that I was most fired up for ended up being super disappointing (the 5km classic in Toblach and the 15km in Val di Fiemme), whereas in the two “special” skate races I ended up feeling “ok and ok ++” in. Especially the climb – which is usually the site of the annual “epically ugly/slow monkey skating filled with the hollow eyes and slobber beard that any golden retriever in a cheese factory would be proud of.”

I ended the Tour in 12th overall.  All things considered, I’m surprised I ended up there. Most days I felt drained and it was a difficult set of races mentally – as I was so hopeful and trying to stay in that positive “maybe today I’ll be back feeling good!” for the duration. I moved up for the first time ever on the climb – which was the personal racing highlight – from 18th to 12th.

While I was left wanting more and disappointed – the Tour was so exciting everyday for Canada. Lenny snagged two podiums – 0.1seconds away from his first ever World Cup victory in the 15km classic in Val di Fiemme, Babs was a total boss all around and blitzed the climb to move from 17th – 7th snaking the 2nd fast time on that beast in the process for his second World Cup podium – and Alex was a few centimeters behind Len in the exciting 15km to finish 3rd (we had two on the podium and Babs had a career-best classic race in 7th!!) and like I said up top – had four races in the top 6. It was a Tour for the ages again and the stoke is uber-high for us Canadian Nordies. The women are getting in on the action too and I’m psyched for Dasha’s 4th in Liberec a few days ago and for Peri’s career-best 9th in the same race. Momentum for the team is building, as the days get longer. Good news with the 2013 World Champs only 5 weeks away under the Italian sun. The “team behind the team” – our absolutely bad-ass/awesome staff are killing it this year too. The techs (Micke, Yves, Joel, Joel, Sacha, and Timo) were lights-out good during the tour (and every race so far this year!!), Anne (Osteo), Wolfman (need’s no introduction…) and Justin (the only coach on the ground at the Tour) were on their A ++ game, so huge thanks to them for their hard work and unwavering passion.

After the Tour, I fled to… Norway! I know right? Lenny went to the beaches of Egypt to recharge, Alex joined his girlfriend in Nice, France and I headed up to Scandinavia – I guess I missed the shorter days, brown cheese and waffles. There must have been a good reason right? Well there was – I really enjoyed spending time with Kristin who was coming off a boss 3rd place overall Tour de Ski finish and there was nowhere else I’d rather be. We hung out in Oslo for a couple days enjoying some great times with her crew there and then headed up to Sjusjoen for some quiet days at her cabin. It’s a beautiful spot and while the week went by far too fast – I had a great time and feel like my body did a decent job recovering from the stress and beat-down that the Tour does to a racer.

I’m now in France, in the small mountain village of Praz de Lys – which is about 45min from this weekend’s races in La Clusaz. I had never been here before, but I swear every year for the past 5 all Dasha can say when the question of “where should we go train in-between races?” comes up is an enthusiastic “Praz de Lys!” about 19 times in a row. Well Dasha, you were right. The skiing here is some of the best I’ve ever done. It’s unreal – gorgeous views of Mt. Blanc, meters of snow, and tons of perfectly groomed trails to enjoy daily with mountain views at every angle. Aside from Seisser Alm, Italy, it’s the best skiing I’ve had in Europe. I must say that seeing all the back country skiing happening leaves me with a sore neck (looking up the whole time!) but other than that – paradise.

I’m looking forward to this weekend to get some racing action in before another two weeks of World Champs prep/training “sans racing” before we head to Sochi to scope next year’s Olympic trails and scene.

Other than dreaming of ripping the surrounding powder – I’m listening to some older stuff these days – Wilco is on heavy rotation, as is the Shins, Kishi Bashi, and this band called “Say Hi.” (Formerly “Say hi to your mom”). I’ve also been spinning a lot of old school blues actually – some BB King (Live at the Regal), Muddy Waters (Hard Again/I’m Ready), and John Lee Hooker – eclectic I know. Reading-wise, I’ve been cruising through a Brent McMurty recommendation “the Leap” by Chris Turner (great book man!). The Globe and Mail’s review of it HERE.

On the Team Canada Bus – Interviews w/Babikov, Kershaw, Valjas, Harvey and Wadsworth

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January 07, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – As the 2012/13 FIS Tour de Ski wrapped up on Sunday with the grueling handicap-style Alpe Cermis hill climb it was time for goodbyes until next time as teams dispersed and some were on the road soon after. We caught with the Canadians on their magic bus en route to Munich to get their final take on a very strong Tour.

Ivan Babikov, who won this stage in 2009, finished a fantastic second place to take seventh overall in this season’s TdS nailing a personal best along with the top Canadian result this year. Devon Kershaw posted a personal best 13th place on the Stage 7 ascent up Cermis to secure a respectable 12th overall in the Tour, followed by TdS rookie Len Valjas in 23rd on the day and 23rd overall. Alex Harvey was forced to abandon the Tour to protect his left leg, which was operated on in 2008, but scored a podium and showed his form is getting stronger. And finally we chatted with Head Coach Justin Wadsworth for his take on the Canucks at the Tour and beyond aka relay…

Ivan Babikov
– 7th overall



Devon Kershaw – 12th overall


Len Valjas – 23rd overall


Alex Harvey



Justin Wadsworth

The Sasseville Report – Things I Think I Know after Ruka

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December 05, 2012 – The World Cup passed through its second stop of the season at Ruka, which is just outside of Kuusamo in Finland, this past weekend and this is what I think I know after the three races that took place there:

– Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug are the best skiers in the world right now. Bjoergen dominated winning all three races and is undefeated on the season in the World Cup. This comes on the heels of some talk in the Norwegian press that she was losing a step after having been beaten in some early season races. Northug did not win any of the races on the weekend – he was 2nd in the sprints to Russian Nikolai Kriukov and 2nd again to another Russian, Alexandr Legkov in the 10 km but he won the overall sprint at the end of the third race from another Russian, Maxim Vylegzhanin. He is now leading the World Cup overall.

– The Russian team is ramping it up in preparation for the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. In addition to the above mentioned men’s results they had 5 men finish in the top 10 overall at the end of the three days and that did not include their sprinters like Kriukov. The Russian women’s team is also getting better and better with Julia Tchekaleva 3rd in the 5km and Evgenia Shapovalova 2nd and Anastasia Dotsenko 3rd in the sprints.

– Justina Kowaczyk (POL) is still the 2nd best female skier in the world. She is starting to round into form after a very hard summer and fall of training and she finished 2nd to Bjoergen overall at the end of the weekend. She will be a force in the Tour de Ski after Xmas for sure.

– Kikkan Randall is the real deal in distance racing with a second podium finish in the 5km. It is interesting that she is doing better in distance than in sprints so far this season. She will challenge Bjoergen, Kowalczyk and Terese Johaug of Norway for the overall World Cup this year.

– The rest of the American women are also the real deal. Ida Sargeant had a career best 9th in the sprints and joins Kikkan, Holly Brooks, Liz Stephen and Jessie Diggins to make up one of the strongest women’s teams in the world right now. They should do very well in the Canadian World Cups over the next two weeks.

– Perianne Jones (12th)and Dasha Gaiasova (14th) had great sprint races but continue to struggle in distance races. Chandra Crawford is struggling everywhere and needs to get it together quickly if she is going to race well at home in Canada.

– Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey are starting to come out of their funk. Both had decent results over the weekend but it is nothing like how they finished the year last year. The pressure is on to perform in Canada, especially for Harvey in his hometown this weekend in Quebec City. I wonder what they will do?

– Noah Hoffman is starting to shine. As a junior he had a great engine but poor technique but it seems that he is starting to put it all together. Last year he was a medalist at the World U23 games and his 19th place in the 10km and 26th place overall shows big improvement over last year. The other men on the US team are still back in the pack and need to pick it up soon.

– Many of the top skiers will not be coming to Canada for the World Cups. Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug stated after the races in Ruka that they would not attend. The Finnish team will only send 5 sprinters to Quebec City, but will send more to the distance races in Canmore including Aino-Kaisa Saarinen. This means that there will be more World Cup points available for North American skiers, as the fields will be diluted.

– Having World Cups in Canada is also a great opportunity for younger, less experienced North American skiers to show what they can do against the best. Careers can be jump started by having a great race over the next two weeks. These are the skiers that I will be watching closely. Now is the time for them to get on the “escalator” that will take them to Sochi in 2014. By skiing well now they will get more opportunities to ski at this level later on in the year which will give them more chances to qualify for their National Teams and for their Olympic Teams. It will be very hard for skiers who are not on the escalator now to make it to Sochi next year.

– All of the Canadian races will be shown on either CBC or Bold over the next three weeks. Consult your local listings for time and dates and set your PVR – there is going to be some great racing!

FIS XC WCup Men’s 1.4k CL in Kuusamo – Kriukov Scores, USA’s Hamilton 26th

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November 30, 2012 (Kuusamo, Finland) – Vancouver 2010 Olympic CL sprint gold medalist Nikita Kriukov (RUS) won the 1.4km CL sprint in Kuusamo today, scooping favourite Petter Northug (NOR) at the finish by a mere double pole. Northug had been in the lead after throwing down a strong attack on the climb with only Kriukov able to maintain contact. Kriukov used a last-second surge to take the victory – see pics below.

Emil Joensson (NOR) was the fastest qualifier, but suffered an unfortunate crash in the semifinals and was out. The USA’s Simeon Hamilton was the top North American finisher in 26th, qualifying 29th.

He appeared strong in the first half of his semifinal, but faded at the end. Things went similarly for Andy Newell (USA), who wound up 29th. No Canadians made it past the qualifiers including World Cup #1 Dario Cologna (Sui).

Alex Harvey (CAN) finished the day in 46th, with Len Valjas (CAN) 53rd, Devon Kershaw (CAN) 62nd, Kris Freeman (USA) 63rd, Sylvan Ellefson (USA) 74th, Ivan Babikov (CAN) 85th, Noah Hoffman 86th, and Kevin Sandau (CAN) 98th.

Results

Men’s Qualifying HERE.
Men’s Final HERE.

The Sasseville Report – Gällivare and the Start of the Racing Season

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November 29, 2012 – So here we are – at the start of another World Cup racing season with the first races in the north of Sweden in Gällivare. Last season, when there were no Olympics or World Championships races on the schedule, the races on the World Cup were the most important contests of the season and no one was really peaking for any big event, other than the Tour de Ski.

But this season, many racers are taking a different approach to their training with the Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme in February. By focusing on peaking for these championships, many skiers plan to train hard right through the first races of the season before Christmas. As a result, you will see that some of the top skiers do not have very good results during November and December. The other side effect is that many of the top skiers will not travel to Canada for the World Cups before the holidays, preferring to stay at home where they can train more and have less fatigue from travelling.

This could be seen in the individual race in Gällivare in the results of some of the top racers – most notably Dario Cologna (Sui), Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol) and even, I think, in the results of Canada’s Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey. Cologna was 19th, Kowalczyk was 27th, Harvey was 36th and Kershaw was 44th in the freestyle races.

But it doesn’t matter what the racing program is, or whether you are peaking or not if you are as strong as Marit Bjoergen (Nor). She and her Norwegian country woman, Therese Johaug, finished 1st and 2nd, followed by American Kikkan Randall in 3rd. Bjoergen won the first race last year, too.

Randall was on the podium for the first time in a distance race – a sign that she is continuing to improve over her stunning season last year where she won the Sprint Cup and was 5th overall in the World Cup. Randall, who has been walking around in an air cast most of this summer and fall due to a stress reaction in the bones of her foot, must be relieved that this injury has not affected her results.

Her teammate, Holly Brooks, has also kicked it up a notch or two, finishing 5th. Brooks, who is on the US B Team and is primarily self-funded, started well last year too, but a wrist injury slowed her down at the end of the year.

The American women were the talk of the XC skiing world on Sunday when they finished on the podium for the first time ever in a World Cup relay, taking 3rd. As well as Randall and Brooks, Jessie Diggins and Liz Stephen skied great relay legs to nip the 2nd Norwegian team finishing behind Norway 1 and Sweden 1.

The Canadian women’s team results were disappointing for everyone on the weekend with a best in the individual race of 61st by Dasha Gaiazova and a relay finish of 14th out of 18 teams. Three of the four women – Gaiazova, Chandra Crawford, and Perianne Jones, are primarily sprinters, so the hope is that their results will be better in the sprint that is scheduled in Kuusamo, Finland this coming weekend.

In the men’s individual race, the surprise winner was 28-year-old Martin Sundby of Norway. This was his first World Cup win, but he did win all three races at the Norwegian Championships last winter and was on the podium at two World Cups last winter at the end of the year.

Sundby finished ahead of another surprising skier, Alexei Poltoranen of Kazakhstan, and Marcus Hellner of Sweden. Perennial favourite, Petter Northug was 7th. Poltoranen has a history of doing well in the early season races and I think that Northug likely falls into the group of skiers who are training very hard right now for big races later.

It was nice to see Canada’s Ivan Babikov finishing 14th in this race. Babikov has had a couple of slow years since Vancouver, but he has re-dedicated himself to training hard and it is showing. Kris Freemen had the best US team result at 33rd and I am sure that he is looking forward to going to Kuusamo this week where he has had great results in the past.

In the men’s relay the Canadian men finished a terrific 5th just 3 seconds from 2nd place. Norway, anchored by Northug won the race followed by Sweden and Russia who out-sprinted the Swiss and Canada for the podium.

There has been a change in the format of the men’s relay races on the World Cup level now as they have gone from 4x10km races to 4×7.5 km to make it more exciting for the fans and shorter for TV. This shorter distance will not change the results but it will get the races to the finishing sprint sooner.

Len Valjas made his World Cup debut this season in the first leg of the relay and met his goal of finishing within 20 seconds of the top skiers. Valjas skied with a cast on his hand after breaking a knuckle and should be very happy with his result.

The American men were a disappointing 15th out of 22 teams. There is a strange parallel between the US men and the Canadian women and the US women and the Canadian men. It will be interesting to watch if this changes over the winter.

So now it is off to Kuusamo in Finland for the next leg of the World Cup. There will be a 3-race mini-tour for the men and women including a sprint race, an individual start race and a pursuit race.

From there the World Cup comes to Canada for races in Quebec City on December 7 and 8 and in Canmore on December 13, 15 and 16. I am fortunate to be involved again in the broadcast of all of these races on CBC and Bold. All of the races will be telecast so check your local listings for viewing times.

Canadian Skiers Participate in Movember

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November 06, 2012 – On November 1, men across the country shaved their faces in preparation for Movember, a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men’s health. Canadian XC skiers are participating in the event and Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Gord Jewett, Kevin Sandau, and Ivan Babikov are among the nine-man Sno Mos squad. Check out their team page HERE.

Canada’s Kershaw Podiums Again as Peterson Wins Moscow WCup Men’s 1.5km Free Sprint

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February 02, 2012 (Moscow, Russia) – Canada’s Devon Kershaw grabbed a bronze medal in today’s cold and windy World Cup 1.5km Sprint in Moscow after topping the qualifications with superb skiing. Fifth-place qualifier Teodor Peterson (SWE) pulled out all the stops to snap up his first World Cup win, with Anders Gloeersen (NOR) wearing the #10 bib powering to second.

The mostly flat course winds itself around the famous Luzhniki Olympic Stadium in Moscow. A total of eight North Americans advanced to the heats in the men’s and women’s competitions today – read more about the qualifications HERE.

The result marked Kershaw’s second podium in as many weekend’s as he attempted to bring home Canada’s first WCup sprint gold medal. “My goal today was to just get to the front in each heat and I thought that would be the key to winning,” said Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont. in a team release. “My body is shocking me everyday. It was a long cold day, but I felt great again and it was a super solid race today.”

In the quarterfinals, Kershaw handily won his heat, skiing at the front the entire race and pulling away over the second hill for the win. Alex Harvey (CAN) also skied well, finishing second in his heat, with American Andy Newell in fifth. Len Valjas (CAN) was leading his quarterfinal, only to be nipped by Norway’s Eirik Bransdal at the finish as both advanced to the semis.

Kershaw placed a prophetic second to Peterson in the semis, despite sharing the lead with teammate Harvey for most of the distance until Harvey faded to wind up fifth and ended up 9th overall. Fellow Canuck Valjas finished sixth in his semi final and did not advance claiming 12th.

Kershaw looked strong in the final, skiing solidly in third and fourth positions. He made his move on the final hill with a powerful attack, but couldn’t hold off the storming Scandinavians, Peterson and Gloeersen, and had to settle for third.

“You should never be disappointed with a podium at a World Cup, but I am a little disappointed because I really felt like I was going to win,” added Kershaw, who also won a bronze medal last week in the 15-kilometre classic ski race last week in Otepaa, Estonia, his first race since placing fourth overall in the grueling Tour de Ski.


Looking at the big picture Kershaw was philosophical about his back-to-back podiums – one distance, one sprint. “It (these results) is crazy. The body is so good right now and I just always seem to be in that zone when the race is on. Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, but right now I just feel like racing is a sanctuary for me and I feel so present.”

The world’s XC ski powerhouses take to the snow in Rybinsk, Russia this weekend, Feb. 4-5, for the distance races for the next round of FIS World Cup competitions.

Qualifications HERE.
Final results HERE.

Kershaw Scores Bronze as Cologna Takes Men’s WCup 15km CL in Otepaa

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January 22, 2012 (Otepaa, Estonia) – It was a great day for Canada’s Devon Kershaw in Otepaa with a bronze medal performance in the men’s 15km classic and yet another podium for the Canadian team in as many days. In fact it was Kershaw’s best-ever distance result in a non-Tour de Ski World Cup commented Justin Wadsworth, Canadian Head Coach.

The Sudbury skier was in the zone and lead at both intermediate splits on the Otepaa course, arguably one of the toughest cross-country ski courses on the circuit. But in the last portion of the race he was overtaken by Lukas Bauer (CZE) who surged near the end, and eventual winner Dario Cologna (SUI).

“I went out really hard today. I went for the win and I don’t regret it,” said Kershaw in a team release. “It has been a hard couple of weeks for me personally and I didn’t know what to expect coming off the Tour. Today I was able to mentally switch off the brain and focus on skiing which felt amazing.”

“The climbs out here are are relentless and punishing. They are so long which we don’t normally ski,” added Kershaw. “The Estonians know how to set up a course to ensure the strongest man wins.”

This was his first weekend of racing since his remarkable fourth overall at the grueling nine-stage Tour de Ski that ended Jan. 8. The team jetted to the Canary Islands for a break after the Tour which may become more popular with WCup skiers given Kershaw’s medal performance today and his teammate, Alex Harvey’s 4th place in the CL sprints yesterday.

Harvey finished 19th for a solid effort and was followed by the USA’s Kris Freeman (USA), the top American in 22nd place – his best distance result so far this season. Noah Hoffman (USA) also had a strong day scoring points and a personal best World Cup classic distance result, with a 26th-place finish (he was 25th in the pursuit in Whistler at the pre-Olympics).

“The race today felt really good. I went out focused on starting under control. The course was incredibly difficult, possibly the hardest I’ve ever raced on, but more than that I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes from the 15km at US Nationals,” Hoffman explained to SkiTrax post-race. “I executed that part of my plan pretty well. I also had great skis and good energy. I was happy with the way things went. I’m looking forward to building on this result for the rest of the season.”

Canada’s Len Valjas crossed the line in 31st just out of the points coming close to his best-ever World Cup finish in a distance event which was 29th in Kuusamo.

With today’s result Kershaw is now 5th overall in the World Cup ranking while Harvey sits eighth overall. Harvey was impressed with his teammate’s skiing saying, “Just so everybody knows Devon Kershaw is the man. Third place in Otepaa but special mention for gutsiest skiing!”

For Kershaw his stellar day didn’t quite erase his disappointment at placing fourth at the Tour de Ski but he’s stoked with the Canadian team’s overall performance season

“Finishing fourth has been tough to take and it was at the Tour. It is heartbreaking, but that is the thing about cross-country skiing – there is always more,” said Kershaw. “The biggest factor for me is that I’m now feeling much stronger and more comfortable every race because of the people I’m surrounded by on our team.

“We have had an athlete in the top-five at every World Cup stop this year, which I think is a credit to the athletes we have on this team, and the support from our wax techs and coaches. Mentally it is so good for me.”

Results HERE.
Results detail HERE.
World Cup Overall HERE.

 

Alex Harvey and Davos Red Bull NordiX Highlight Video

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January 19, 2012 (Davos, Switzerland) – Check out this great highlight video from the 2011 Red Bull NordiX competition in Davos last April. Harvey, along with other stars of the cross country ski world, compete on a roller-coaster sprint course in which the races are typically won and lost on the downhills rather then the uphills. Every race is filled with action and surprises!

Watch the video HERE.

Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw Earn 2011 Canadian Sport Awards

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January 18, 2012 (Ottawa, ON) – The True Sport Foundation today announced the winners of the 39th Canadian Sport Awards, which recognize and honour excellence in Canadian sport including the sporting achievements of Canada’s finest athletes and the contributions of others in 2011.

“The Canadian Sport Awards play an important role in honouring our hard-working athletes, sport leaders, volunteers and corporations for their accomplishments and contributions to Canadian sport in 2011,” noted Peter Leyser, Executive Director, True Sport Foundation. “These winners, along with all finalists and nominees, have earned the praise of all Canadians through their immense talent, ongoing commitment and unwavering dedication to Canadian sport.”

2011 Canadian Sport Awards Winners

The Athletic Performance Awards recognize outstanding athletic performance. Winners include:

– Male Athlete of the Year: Patrick Chan, Figure Skating
– Female Athlete of the Year:
Christine Nesbitt, Speed Skating
– Junior Athlete of the Year:
Alex Harvey, Cross Country Skiing
– Team of the Year:
Jeff Stoughton (skip), Jonathan Mead (3rd), Reid Carruthers (2nd), Steve Gould (lead), Garth Smith (alternate), Curling – Men’s Team
– Partners of the Year:
Alex Harvey & Devon Kershaw, Cross Country Ski, Men’s Team Sprint

The Leadership Awards recognize and celebrate an individual’s outstanding contribution to the betterment of sport:

– Leadership in Sport Award: Tom Quinn|
– Volunteer Achievement Award:
Judith Tutty
– Athlete Leadership Award:
Michael Smith

The Corporate Excellence Award recognizes and celebrates a corporation who provides outstanding support to Canadian sport: Forzani Group

The Spirit of Sport Story of the Year category recognizes and celebrates Canadian heroes: Ottawa Senators Women’s Bantam AA hockey team

About the Canadian Sport Awards
Established in 1972, the Canadian Sport Awards brings together leaders from the sporting and corporate communities who represent the pinnacle of commitment and competition: Canadian amateur athletes, coaches, sport leaders and volunteers. The annual awards promote sporting excellence across Canada and remind Canadians how sport lifts the human spirit. It is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and victories of our country’s finest athletes. Managed by the True Sport Foundation, the Canadian Sport Awards boasts a strong relationship with its modern day founding partners, which include AthletesCAN, Canada Games, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada.  For more information about the Canadian Sport Awards, please visit www.canadiansportawards.ca.

About the True Sport Foundation
The True Sport Foundation is a national charitable organization that promotes values-driven sport.  As a leader in the True Sport Movement, the Foundation is focused on building and enriching communities and the lives of individuals by providing a safe, welcoming, and rewarding environment for all participants, at all levels of sport. The True Sport Foundation is committed to ensuring that sport makes a positive contribution to Canadian society, to our athletes, and to the physical and moral development of Canada’s youth. The Foundation also plays a pivotal role in the Canadian sport system by bringing together leading sport organizations to promote, celebrate and recognize sporting excellence. For more information about the True Sport Foundation, please visit www.truesportfoundation.ca.

 

For complete nomination rules and guidelines, and more information about the Canadian Sport Awards, please visit www.canadiansportawards.ca.

CBC to Broadcast Tour de Ski Highlights – Jan. 21-22

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January 18, 2012 (Toronto, ON) – Calling all cross country ski racing fans! The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has announced that it will broadcast highlights of the 2012 Tour de Ski this weekend, including Alex Harvey’s silver medal performance in the 8th stage in Val di Fiemme and the final climb up the Alpe Cermis.

The broadcast will feature commentary by Scott Russell and colour analyst Jack Sasseville (SkiTrax columnist) this Saturday, January 21st at 3:00pm ET. Relive the highlights of the race, including Devon Kershaw’s historic 4th place overall finish.

CBC’s broadcast schedule for the Tour de Ski:

CBC TV broadcast schedule:
– Sat. Jan. 21 @ 15:00-17:00 ET LIVE
CBC Sports Championship Cross Country Skiing: Tour de Ski 2012

– Sun. Jan. 22 @ 00:30-02:30 LOCAL
CBC Sports Late Night – Championship Cross Country Skiing: Tour de Ski 2012

cbcsports.ca broadcast schedule:
– Sat. Jan. 21 @ 15:00-17:00 ET LIVE
Championship Cross Country Skiing: Tour de Ski 2012

View the full CBC sports broadcast schedule HERE.

The Sasseville Report – Milan Sprints and Other Things

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January 16, 2012 – I’ve got to hand it to Juerg Capol and Vegard Ulvang from FIS. They truly have made an effort to bring cross-country skiing to the people of the world. The Tour de Ski with it’s various interesting stages concluding with a climb up a downhill slope is a great example of how they have turned what was once a boring sport to watch into something that is exciting for every kind of fan.

Another example of this is the city sprints like the ones in Milan, Italy, this past weekend. Milan rarely has snow and the Milanese usually have to travel a long way to ski. To bring the best sprinters in the world to this city is brilliant.

What is also brilliant is how well skiers from North American are doing on the World Cup this year. Kikkan Randall, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, and Chandra Crawford have all consistently been at the top of the results list and it has become a pleasure to report on their success this season.

As well, Len Valjas, Ivan Babikov, Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova from Canada as well as Simi Hamilton, Andy Newell, Sadie Bjoernson, Holly Brooks and now Jessie Diggins have also had good races and have scored World Cup points and in some cases have been on the podium.

Every week it seems that someone different from Canada or the US is standing on a podium. The most consistent has been Kikkan Randall who finished 2nd twice in Milan, once on her own in the individual sprint and a second time with young sensation Jessie Diggins in the team sprints.

Diggins had dominated the domestic racing scene in December after a stellar junior career. She is a legitimate talent who has the speed and endurance to be a star on the World Cup.

Chandra Crawford, after a 7th place in the individual sprints, hit the podium again this time with Perianne Jones in the team sprints where they finished right behind the Americans in 3rd. Chandra has been consistently in the top 10 over the past few races and is now a contender in every sprint race.

Len Valjas was the best of the North Americans in the individual sprints finishing in 14th. Simi Hamilton continues to improve finishing in 19th while Andy Newell continued to struggle in heats finishing in 26th after qualifying 8th.

Randall is showing incredible endurance by continuing to race in every World Cup. She has said that she wants to race every one and, barring illness, she will. She continues to lead the Sprint World Cup and sits 4th in the overall World Cup. I have stopped thinking of her as a sprinter. She is now a great overall skier who can succeed in any race.

Kershaw, Harvey and Babikov have taken a much needed rest this week before returning to the World Cup circuit next week in Otepaa, Estonia. There will be classic sprints on Saturday followed by classic individual start distance races on Sunday. The course in Otepaa is one of the hardest in the world and it is one where the best classic skiers and climbers in the world can shine.

This race is another example of how the FIS has created a World Cup circuit for everyone. It appeals to the traditional fan who likes to see an individual start and classic technique race like the old days – 15 years ago!

One last question that I would like to ask all of you – do you think that the Tour de Ski with 8 races over 11 days is as hard as a professional cycling tour that would be the same number of races? Do you think that it is as hard as the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia? And finally what makes it harder or easier?

Hop on the Team Canada Bus During TdS 2012

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January 03, 2012 (Toblach, Italy) – Justin Wadsworth, head coach of the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team, along with athletes Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey and Ivan Babikov bring you on the team’s unique bus they are using to aid in rest in recovery while traveling through Germany and Italy as they compete in the ultimate grind of high-performance sport – the Tour de Ski. Modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, the world’s best all-around cross-country ski athletes will compete in nine races in 11 days while traveling to five cities in two countries.

Check it out HERE.

Legkov Victorious at TdS Stage 5 as Cologna Now Leads – Kershaw Top North American in 18th

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January 03, 2012 (Toblach, Italy) – Russia’s Alexander Legkov finally broke through for his first podium of the season, a victory in today’s 5th stage of the Tour de Ski, an individual start 5km classic race in Toblach, Italy. Legkov finished today’s race in 13:49.5. Norway’s Eldar Roenning came in 2nd at 1.7 seconds followed by Dario Cologna (SUI) in third at 2.0 seconds back as he takes over the race lead from Norway’s Petter Northug was a little off the pace today, finishing in 12th.

The Russians were out in force in today’s race and surely nailed the wax or made the best of their zero skis, after placing six men in the top 11. Canada’s Devon Kershaw lead the North American men placing 18th as he finished 24.6 seconds behind Legkov. His teammate Alex Harvey had a bit of an off day, placing 29th at 37.5 seconds back of the leader. Ivan Babikov, who is nursing an injured arm after crashing in the Skiathon on Jan. 1, finished in 72nd place.

It was another tough day for the US team as well, with Simi Hamilton pulling out the Tour prior to today’s race, the victim of a stomach virus, according to Head Coach Chris Grover. The sole remaining US man in the Tour, Kris Freeman, finished 52nd on the day.

Cologna moves into the overall Tour lead after today, while Northug drops to 2nd, followed by Legkov in 3rd. Legkov’s victory today, including a 15-second time bonus for the win, has closed the gap to Northug  to less than 30 seconds, so the Tour is beginning to look more like a three-man race.  Kershaw holds onto 5th place, while Harvey has dropped to 15th overall after today’s disappointing result.

5km CL results HERE.
Tour de Ski Overall HERE.

Canadian Video Highlights and Interviews from Day 1 at the Tour de Ski

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December 30, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) – Check out this great video courtesy of the Canadian Team during Day 1 of the Tour de Ski, including training clips, action in the wax room, race footage, and post-race interviews with the athletes, including Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw.

Kowalczyk and Northug Claim Prologue Victories at Tour de Ski – Harvey 6th and Randall 10th

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December 29, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) – Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland staked her claim to the women’s Tour de Ski overall crown with a win in today’s opening 3.1km Prologue stage in Oberhof, Germany. Kowalczyk bested World Cup overall leader, Marit Bjoergen (NOR) by 0.4 seconds over the 2.5km course. Sweden’s Hannah Brodin was third.

Among the American women, Kikkan Randall finished a solid 10th, with teammates Liz Stephen and Holly Brooks (who is suffering with an injured wrist – read more HERE) coming in 37th and 53rd respectively.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Petter Northug backed up his intentions to win the Tour this year with a win in the men’s 4.0km Prologue, beating Tour arch rival Dario Cologna of Switzerland by .7 seconds. France’s Maurice Magnificat finished third.

The Canadian men had an excellent day, with Alex Harvey finishing 6th and Devon Kershaw 12th. Ivan Babikov was further back in 38th position while Andy Newell had the top result for the US squad in 29th place, followed by Simi Hamilton and Kris Freeman in 63rd and 64th respectively.

Full women’s results HERE.
Full men’s results HERE.

Canadian XC Team in Davos – Photos

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December 27, 2011 (Davos, Switzerland) – When the Canadian XC squad was in Davos for the FIS WCup earlier this month, new CCC sponsor One Way organized a photo shoot for the country’s top skiers. Check out the pics and put on your shades for the ones where the team is decked out in their “yellow flash” parkas!

Canadian Men’s Team – Livigno Update Video

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December 05, 2011 (Livigno, Italy) – Canada’s Devon Kershaw just tweeted this entertaining video of the men’s National XC Ski team in Livigno, Italy. Viewers are treated to wine-tasting with Alex Harvey and clips of the team training, all with some great background beats. Check it out.

Peterson and Bjoergen Win Kuusamo Sprints – Career Bests for Randall in 4th and Valjas in 5th

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November 25, 2011 (Kuusamo, Finland) – Teodor Peterson (SWE) and Marit Bjeorgen (NOR) were victorious in today’s classic sprint races in Kuusamo, Finland, the first of three days of racing in the first Viessman FIS World Cup mini-tour event of the season. North Americans had a decent day, with a handful qualifying for the heats and the USA’s Kikkan Randall and Canada’s Lenny Valjas making it into the finals. Norway’s Petter Northug, a threat in any race, was a surprise 16th, after failing to make it out of his quarter final.

Racing in icy conditions with fresh snow falling in the tracks as the finals got underway, Peterson notched his first World Cup victory with a convincing win over Russia’s Nikita Kriukov and Norway’s Oeystein Pettersen. Canada’s Valjas recorded a career best World Cup result, placing 5th in the closely contested final. Finland’s Anssi Pentsinen, something of a surprise winner in the morning’s qualifier, delighted the stadium crowd by making it into the final, in which he placed 6th.

Bjoergen, who qualified 5th, once again demonstrated her power, taking control of the women’s final at the halfway mark and never looked back. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla was second, with Vibeke Skofterud finishing third, just holding off the hard-charging Randall, who established a career-best in classic sprint result claiming 4th, and making her first World Cup final in the discipline.

A number of other North Americans qualified for the heats today in Kuusamo. Canada’s Chandra Crawford earned her way into the heats for the first time in five tries in Kuusamo, qualifying 10th, showing that her classic sprinting has come a long way. Crawford was  eliminated in the quarters and finished 22nd. Her teammate, Dasha Gaiazova, shook off the jet lag from her recent arrival in Scandinavia to qualify in 12th overall before also being knocked out in the quarter-finals and finishing 14th on the day.

The USA’s Andy Newell qualified 19th and Canada’s Alex Harvey was 29th. Both were eliminated in the quarter finals, with Newell holding at 19th and Harvey moving up to 24th.

It was a tough day for Canada’s Perianne Jones and Devon Kershaw, both of whom failed to qualify. Jones finished 44th and Kershaw 56th in qualification.

Results

Women

1. Marit Bjoergen (NOR)
2. Charlotte Kalla (SWE)
3. Vibeke Skofterud (NOR)

4.   Kikkan Randall (USA)
14. Dasha Gaiazova (CAN)
22. Chandra Crawford (CAN)
43. Ida Sargent (USA)
44. Perianne Jones (CAN)
47. Sadie Bjorsen (USA)
50. Alysson Marshall (CAN)
70. Holly Brooks (USA)
85. Liz Stephen

Men

1. Teodor Peterson (SWE)
2. Nikita Kriukov (RUS)
3. Oyestein Pettersen (NOR)

5.  Lenny Valjas (CAN)
19. Andy Newell (USA)
24. Alex Harvey (CAN)
56. Devon Kershaw (CAN)
82. Kris Freeman (USA)
87. Drew Goldsack (CAN)
91. Graham Nishikawa (CAN)
100. Ivan Babikov (CAN)
102. Lars Flora (USA)
111. Kevin Sandau (CAN)
120. Noah Hoffman (USA)
122. Tad Elliot (USA)
DNS – Simi Hamilton (USA)

Women’s qualification results HERE.
Women’s final results HERE.

Men’s qualification results HERE.
Men’s final results HERE.

The Sasseville Report – First World Cup is in the Can

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November 21, 2011 (Sjusjoen, Norway) – Without a doubt, one of the most stressful weekends for a cross-country ski racer is the first meaningful race weekend of the year. All of the skiers have trained for six or more months and it is not until you race these first races that you know even a little bit about where you stand in relation to your competitors.

This is the nature of cross-country ski racing. There are no personal best times or world record times in this sport. You can do all the testing you want, and compete in roller ski racers or early season time trials, but the only way that you can really measure yourself is racing against your peers.

This is true at every level right up to the World Cup and if you read the quotes from the skiers from Saturday (link to this article) you will see that a common theme is that they didn’t know how they would do before the start and that made them nervous.

Here are some of my thoughts after the first weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway:

– I think that the Norwegian women are going to dominate all year long. They had seven of the top nine on Saturday and their relay teams finished 1st and 2nd in the relay on Sunday. Only Charlotte Kalla of Sweden and Kikkan Randall of the US were able to break into the top 9 – it looked like a Norwegian championship race.

– Marit Bjoergen has lost nothing since last year. She won by almost 30 seconds in a 24-minute race. If they had been racing a track and field event she would have almost lapped the whole field. Last year Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) won the overall World Cup because Bjoergen was concentrating on winning at the World Championships in Oslo. This year is going to be different.

– it’s clear that the USA’s Kikkan Randall is better than last year – 8th in a distance race is a fantastic result. Watch out!

– I also think that the US women’s team is really improving. With Liz Stephen placing 18th on Saturday and then having a decent relay on Sunday – and Randall’s and Brooks’ strong legs – the team is now showing just how much they have improved.

– Johan Olsson is one of the best technical skaters in the world and when he’s healthy he’s certainly one of the best. He had a tough year last year after two bronze medals in Vancouver but it looks like he is back now.

– I think that NO ONE – and I mean no one seems to be able to beat Petter Northug (NOR) in a sprint. It was sad watching the last leg of the relay on Sunday. None of the lead skiers was willing to put it on the line and go for the win except for another Norwegian Sjur Roethe. The lead group was going SO slow that he was able to come from 45 seconds back to pass all of them and take the lead in only 5km. It looked like Northug was just playing with those guys. He has an almost unbeatable formula now for distance races. All he has to do is hang around the leaders, never leading and then in the last km he moves to the front and wins the sprint.

– but Northug IS beatable in the individual start races, despite the fact that he’s getting better in these events as well. He was second on Saturday and is having a much better start to his season than last year when he over-trained and did not have any good results until after Xmas at the Tour de Ski. I also think that he is pretty well a lock to win the World Cup this year unless someone can figure out how to beat him in a sprint.

– that being said Canada’s Alex Harvey may be the one to beat Northug. His 5th place showed that he is in great shape and his sprint win in Oslo over Ole Vigen Hattestad to win the Team Sprint gold at the Nordic Worlds have shown that he has the fitness and the sprint speed to win. He has beaten Northug in a sprint in the past and even Petter has acknowledged that Harvey can beat him. I think that if Canada wants to do anything in relays they have to have Alex on the team as the anchor skier. This is the second relay in a row including the relay in Olso that Harvey did not race.

Next weekend the World Cup moves to Kuusamo, Finland for a three day mini-tour de ski. The skiers will likely have to race on icy, man-made snow again, but it will be colder and darker and the hills will be bigger and steeper. It will be the first chance for the sprinters to come out and play as well as the classic skiers. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

THE Update: If You Only Read One This Year, Make This It!

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November 18, 2011 – Wow, another race season is roaring into action already! With one race under my belt and my first World Cup start of the year just over a week away, it’s high time that I update you on what the heck I’ve been up to all summer! I apologize in advance for the lack of detail but in lieu of a novel, I figured it’d be best to just give you the Coles Notes…

As it seems to be the case with most summers of training, the time flew by. I regret not writing an update sooner but my website was being held hostage by my previous web hosting company (long story) and I have finally completed the arduous task of moving my website to a new host. I hope you enjoy the newly designed drewgoldsack.ca, check back often for updates throughout the winter!

As is the case with most years, I started off the spring pretty much living at the ski hill. Sunshine Village near Canmore is generous enough to comp NST members lift tickets, so come April I’m a full time hill rat. Springtime in the Rockies almost always brings big dumps of snow and I enjoyed some incredible steep and deep days this spring!

From the majestic snow covered peaks of the Rockies, I headed across the prairies to Eastern Manitoba and the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield to try my hand at ranching. For a guy who grew up in the prairies, I am embarrassingly green when it comes to anything ranch.

However, it didn’t take long to tune into the cowboy blood that, as it turns out, has been coursing untapped through this Alberta boy’s veins…well at least that’s how I saw it anyway! I spent an incredible week horseback riding, crust skiing, sauna-ing, being entertained by newborn lambs, eating freshly laid eggs and relaxing next to a wood-fired stove.

Three lambs were born just before my arrival, which was good news as delivering lambs may have been just a little outside of my abilities. Plus, I got to experience all the fluffy cuteness and none of the gooey sponginess! After being repeatedly stared down and stomped at by the mama sheep, one thing’s for certain: “The older they get, the cuter they aint!” to steal a classic line from The Simpsons.

Though it was hard to leave the serenity of ranch life behind, the beach was calling, and I soon headed off to Miami for some sun and last bit of non-athlete fun before starting up with training for yet another season. Elated to find out that I had been named to the National Team for another year, I was also really looking forward to building on a great season of training with the Alberta World Cup Academy. This year’s training kicked off with the AWCA at an on snow camp in Silver Star in May, followed by a great road bike camp in Kaslo, BC in June.

From there, I made a quick trip up to the Haig Glacier (the best kind of trip to The Haig imho) with the National Team that was actually delayed for a week by TOO MUCH snow, so much snow in fact that they couldn’t find the buried Pisten Bulley on the glacier! The glacier camp was followed by a great month spent training at home in Canmore and a quick trip to the eastern beaches of Cape Breton Island for a friend’s wedding.

The late summer brought a training camp in Whistler with the Academy and then an incredible high altitude camp in Park City, UT with the National Team. From there, I headed back to Whistler with the NST for an intensity block which included four hard intensity sessions in six days and a week of torrential rain… luckily, spending the week shacked up at the Four Seasons Whistler offset the lousy weather!

With fall in the air and more leaves on the ground in Canmore than feral bunnies, I returned home for some much needed rest. It wasn’t long before Frozen Thunder (Snow stored under sawdust from the previous winter… I know, it sounds crazy but it actually works!) was rolled out at the Canmore Nordic Centre (October 15th) and before I knew it the ski season was under way! The last two weeks of October delivered outstanding ski conditions in Canmore and I was able to log a lot of hours on snow before taking off for Europe and the start of the World Cup season….

It’s shaping up to be a great year of racing, see you out there!

– Drew Goldsack

Overheard:
‘I’m going to log out of Facebook, Seriously.’ – Alex Harvey

In the Tape Deck:
Artist: Ben Howard, Album: Every Kingdom
Artist: Bon Iver, Track: Calgary (Cillo Remix)
Artist: Devil Makes Three, Track: Chained to the Couch
Artist: Active Child, Track: When Your Love is Safe

On the Tube:
http://youtu.be/8r1CZTLk-Gk

Quebecor Becomes Official Sponsor of Alex Harvey

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November 02, 2011 (Montreal, QC) – Quebecor announced its new partnership with Canadian skier Alex Harvey as an official sponsor. This four-year partnership is part of Quebecor’s strong commitment to support young talent and encouraging success.

“It is essential for our Olympic athletes to be supported by the international community,” said Pierre Karl Peladeau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Quebecor. “Alex Harvey embodies the positive values ​​that we wish to transmit to future generations and in which we recognize ourselves.”

Three-time Canadian junior champion in cross country skiing, U23 Pursuit World Champion, and team classic sprint Nordic World Champion, this rising star cross-country skiing is also pursuing a law degree from Laval University.

Translated from original French press release HERE.

Canada’s Harvey Hungry to Taste Victory Again in 2011-12

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October 31, 2011 – After the kind of season that Canada’s Alex Harvey had in 2010-11, climaxing with a gold medal in the Team Sprint event with Devon Kershaw at the Nordic World Championships in Oslo, Norway – a Canadian first – he couldn’t be blamed for resting on his laurels and relaxing for a little while.

But after SkiTrax caught up with him by phone outside Quebec City following the recent team press conference, it’s clear that Harvey has no intention of doing so. When his World Cup rivals take to the start line at the first FIS World Cup race of the 2011-12 season in Beitostolen (NOR) just under three weeks from now, they will find Harvey, a world champion, more motivated than ever to come out on top.

The son of the legendary Pierre Harvey wracked up an impressive list of achievements last season, establishing himself as a podium threat just about every time he strapped on his skis. After a couple of shaky World Cup starts in Kuusamo and Gallivare before Christmas, Harvey began showing his true form starting with last year’s Tour De Ski – he recorded four top-10 finishes and placed 10th overall in the grueling 10-day event.

Together with his teammate Kershaw – who won his first WCup gold in Toblach, Italy (Stage 5) and placed 7th overall – Harvey was in the mix or near the front in just about every stage of this daunting event modeled after the Tour de France.

A few weeks later Harvey put in a stellar effort at the U23 Nordic World Championships in Otepaa (EST) where, with the exception of Russia’s Evgeniy Belov, no one could match his gold-medal winning pace in the Men’s 30km Pursuit. Then in February he notched his best World Cup result to date, a close 2nd place finish to Sweden’s Emil Joenssen in a sprint event in Drammen (NOR).

But it was at Oslo 2011, in Norway’s famed Holmenkollen stadium, that Harvey revealed the form, ambition and confidence that made him a persistent threat in every race. After posting a solid 7th place in the Sprint event, Harvey sent a message in the 30km Pursuit race when he gapped the field and skied solo at the front until the closing few kilometres, where he was stricken with leg cramps and had to settle for a respectable 12th.

More was coming for fans worldwide and by far his best and most gratifying race, came in the Team Sprint. Skiing the anchor leg for Canada, with Kershaw as his teammate, Harvey out-sprinted Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad for the gold medal, stunning the boisterous and partisan throng of Norwegian fans. Proving his strength as an all-around contender, Harvey went on to finish 5th in the 50km race as well, on what is widely viewed as the toughest race course on the planet.

While Harvey can look back with pride on many of his feats from last season, his Nordic World Championship victory stands apart as the season highlight. To win Canada’s first ever World Championship gold medal in cross-country skiing, and to do it in the birthplace of skiing in front of the huge and enthusiastic crowds at the Holmenkollen was a dream come true.

Sharing the victory with his teammate, Devon Kershaw, while representing Canada, made the victory that much sweeter. “Winning with a partner, winning for our country, for Team Canada, was just amazing,” Harvey told SkiTrax. The victory in this particular event, against a world class field, also helped erase some of the painful memories left over from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, where Harvey and Kershaw placed 4th in the Team Sprint event.

The Oslo victory was “redemption for sure,” added Harvey, “Since the last day of the 2010 season, we had been thinking about and looking forward to the Oslo World Championships – we really were going for a medal that day. After Vancouver we wanted that medal pretty bad!” Small wonder the two erupted into their now famous air guitar victory celebration at the finish line in Oslo!

Our conversation then turned to training this past summer and Harvey’s preparations for the 2011-12 season. He explained that his dryland training has gone according to plan, with no interruptions due to illness or injury. He has increased his training volume slightly to about 800 hours, up from 755 last year, in keeping with his age and training base.

While his coaches, Louis Bouchard and Justin Wadsworth, have made no major changes to his overall plan, Harvey says his program, along with that of his teammates, placed  more emphasis on uphill skating and striding than in previous years, reflecting the importance of climbing ability in events like the Tour de Ski.

“Pretty much all of our camps this year were for doing uphill training,” he continued. With this year’s Tour de Ski serving as the de facto World Championships, Harvey wants to make sure he doesn’t lose ground on the final climb up Alpe Cermis like he did last year, where he fell from 7th to 10th overall in the final few kilometres.

Asked about his goals for the coming season, Harvey has his sights set on placing higher in the overall World Cup standings than last year’s 10th place overall. Doing so will depend on his ability to race with more consistency than he has in past seasons. “My goal is to score points in every race, and hopefully a lot of them,” he said.

Harvey also identified the Tour de Ski as key to overall World Cup success, given the number of World Cup points available during the event. “To be good in the overall you need to be good in the Tour … there are a lot of races, 9 stages, with 50 points available every day and then 400 points for the overall, so it’s a big event for points”. With that in mind Harvey declared, “I’ll try to be at my peak for the Tour de Ski”. Harvey has other unfinished business on the World Cup circuit. “I’ve never won individually either a World Cup or a World Championships, so I want to win individually as well.”

We concluded our conversation with a discussion about success, motivation, and pressure. I was curious as to whether the World Championship win had affected Harvey’s motivation in any way, and if it had lessened or increased any pressure to perform that he felt. His response reveals an athlete whose motivation is primarily internal and intrinsic, who competes for his own reasons, as opposed to those motivated by the opinions and expectations of others.

“I’ve never really felt pressure coming from anyone except myself. I put a lot of pressure on my self every day, every workout, every session… I really want to achieve specific things every day and improve, so there’s a lot of pressure coming from myself. Pressure from the outside, I ignore all of that. I don’t really care what people say on the outside, I know what I want to do, what I will do.”

And if his World Cup rivals were counting on last year’s World Championship gold to dampen Harvey’s motivation to compete, they will be disappointed. “I’ve tasted [victory] once and I want to taste it more and more.”

Look for Canada’s Harvey to attack off the front more often this season – then it will up to the field to see if they can catch him.

Maui Camp – Sadly, Over Half Done…

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June 24, 2011 (Maui Hawaii) – It’s hard to believe that we are over 1/2 done our Hawaii camp – actually, it’s hard to believe that we are even here on Maui training – but seriously – the training has been stellar here on the island so far! I’ll keep this “picture heavy” for now but what we’ve been up to is training both down here at sea level (really getting after it).

It’s amazing how hard you can push (in intervals and in the weight room with thick air around!) as well as doing some amazing altitude work up high on Mt. Haleakala. I don’t think there’s a better road in the world to work on uphill technique and training. Imagine – 0m above the sea to all the way up to 3055m. All of which has great pavement to bang out some sweet rollerskiing.

Aside from putting in solid days of training, we’ve been able to “play” a little too. The past three days we’ve spent “down” at our base in Paia (on Maui’s North Shore) and have been lucky enough to enjoy a south swell that rolled in over on the South/SouthWest part of the island for a few surfing sessions – which have been a blast. Nothing big or anything, but fun enough to catch a few vagues.

Paia is my favorite place to stay on Maui – so I was really glad that Justin/Eric/Louis picked it as our base. The road up the volcano can start right from town – no commute to training! – and the vibe, (albeit decently hippie) is cool. Great restaurants, amazing grocery store, interesting vibe, proximity to great training, beaches, ocean, etc… make it completely great.

Enjoy some photos y’all….Aloha.

Now it’s back up on Mt. Haleakala to finish off the last three days of our camp. Some big hours and more time logged at the campsite high on the volcano. It’s been a sweet camp, and I’d recommend Maui as a training camp location – we’ve been enjoying it.

I’ll try and get the coaches to snap a few more pics and I’ll take some more too – and post another update in a bit.
Peace-peace,
D.

Canadian XC Team In Hawaii for Altitude Training

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June 17, 2011 – The Canadian XC Ski Team is in Hawaii for its second off-season training camp. “We are going to be on Maui ten days doing altitude training on Haleakala volcano,” said Canada’s head coach Justin Wadsworth.

Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov, Lenny Valjas, Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones will carry out volume and intensity training. “We will particularly focus on long uphill climbing rollerskiing and good technique,” revealed Wadsworth.

The Canadian team gathered this month for its second off-season training camp. Kershaw, Harvey and Co. carried out the first one together with the U.S ski team at Mount Bachelor, Oregon. Both national teams praised good snow conditions and excellent joint training sessions.

Canada’s head coach Justin Wadsworth decided to go Hawaii because of June weather conditions in Canmore. “It’s a perfect time to get out of Canmore as June is the rainy season there. The locals call it “monsoon June,” he explained.

Cross-Country Canada team gathers every month for a team training camp that usually lasts two weeks. “The next one is going to be on-snow at the Beckie Scott Training center on the Haig Glacier just outside of Canmore. There we will have both our World Cup Team, as well as our Senior Development team focusing on distance training on skis,” revealed Wadsworth plans for upcoming weeks.

All Aboard – Canadian National XC Team Express Fundraiser by Canadian Pacific

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May 04, 2011 – A group of Canada’s medal-winning cross-country ski athletes, who combined to win an unprecedented 25 medals at the World Championships, IPC World Championships, World Cup and IPC World Cup races this year, will celebrate a season of excellence by hopping on a luxurious 1926 CP train with a handful of distinguished guests for a tour from Calgary through the spectacular Rocky Mountains to beautiful Banff, AB, on May 5 as a fundraising event.

Alex Harvey, who teamed up with Devon Kershaw, to win the nation’s first-ever World Championship medal – a gold in the team sprint; Brian McKeever, who won three gold and one silver at the IPC World Championships; Ivan Babikov, who is one of three Canadian men to win a World Cup gold medal; Daria Gaiazova, who captured her first World Cup bronze medal this season; Olympian Perianne Jones, who finished this season with her strongest World Cup result of her career; along with two-time Olympian George Grey will all be on board the Canadian National XC Team Express on Thursday.

The unique fundraising experience will help Cross Country Canada deliver the resources Canadian athletes require to continue achieving podium results on the track to the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

2011/12 Canadian XC Ski Teams and Coaching Staff Announced

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May 03, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – Cross Country Canada has released its 2011/2012 season National Team and coaching staff roster on the heels of a record-breaking 2010/2011 campaign, which saw Canadian skiers achieve World Cup and World Championship medals. Look for the following list of racers to be making history on the snow next season and for years to come.

Senior World Cup Team
Head Coach: Justin Wadsworth
Coaches: Eric de Nys, Louis Bouchard
– Ivan Babikov – Foothills Nordic Ski Club, AB
– Chandra Crawford – Canmore Nordic Ski Club, AB
– Dasha Gaiazova – Rocky Mountain Racers, QC
– Alex Harvey – Club Nordique Mont Ste. Anne, QC
– Perianne Jones – Nakkertok Ski Club, ON
– Devon Kershaw – Ona Wa Su, ON
– Len Valjas – Team Hardwood, ON

Senior Development Team
Coaches: Louis Bouchard (CNEPH), Mike Cavaliere (AWCA), Eric Bailey (NDC-TB)
– Jess Cockney – Foothills Nordic/AWCA, AB
– Drew Goldsack – Rocky Mountain Racers/AWCA, AB
– Graeme Killick – Banff Ski Runners/AWCA, AB
– Alysson Marshall – Larch Hills/AWCA, BC
– Brent McMurtry – Foothills Nordic/CNEPH, AB
– Emily Nishikawa – Whitehorse/AWCA, YK
– Graham Nishikawa – Whitehorse/AWCA, YK
– Kevin Sandau – Foothills Nordic/AWCA, AB
– Michael Somppi – Lappe/Thunder Bay NDC, ON
– Frédéric Touchette – Club Nordique Mont Ste. Anne, QC

Junior Team
– Dahria Beatty – Whitehorse, YT
– Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt – Club de ski de fond Fondeurs-Laurentides/CVTC, QC
– Raphael Couturier – Commission de ski Nordique Skibec/CNEPH, QC
– Janelle Greer – Whitehorse/AWCA, YT
– Zach Holland – Banff Ski Runners/AWCA, AB
– Knute Johnsgaard – Whitehorse/CNEPH, YT
– Maya Macissac-Jones – Rocky Mountain Racers, AB
– Alex Mahoney – Rocky Mountain Ski Racers, AB
– Camille Pepin – Club Nordique M.S.A., QC
– Rebecca Reid – Black Jack Nordic/AWCA, BC
– Geoffrey Richards – Black Jack Nordic/CVTC, BC
– Martin Schrama – Banff Ski Runners/CVTC, AB
– Sébastien Townsend – Club Nakkertok Nordique, QC
– Alexis Turgeon – Club de ski de fond Skinouk, QC
– Michelle Workun-Hill – Club Nakkertok Nordique, QC

Para-Nordic World Cup Team
Head Coach: Robin McKeever
– Mark Arendz – Foothills Nordic, AB
– Jody Barber – Bulkley Valley Ski Club, BC
– Colette Bourgonje – Snobuddy Ski Club, SK
– Chris Klebl – Lifesport, AB
– Brian McKeever – Foothills Nordic Ski Club, AB
– Robin McKeever (guide) – Foothills Nordic Ski Club, AB
– Erik Carleton (guide) – Rocky Mountain Racers, AB

Para-Nordic Development Team
Coaches: Pierre Pomerleau, Robin McKeever
– Sébastien Fortier, Skibec/Hus-ski, QC

** National Development Centre teams will be announced when all information is available**

Kershaw Wins Tellement Sport Male Athlete of the Year

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April 14, 2011 (Quebec City, QC) – Canmore, Alberta’s Devon Kershaw was announced Tellement Sport’s Male Athlete of the Year after the Canadian XC ski star logged a breakthrough season in which he won his first ever World Cup event during the FIS Tour de Ski. Kershaw was among a strong line-up of Canadian male athletes, including team mate and 2011 U23 Sprint World Champ, Alex Harvey. Click HERE to view the video (in French).

Audio Interview with Alex Harvey

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March 29, 2011 (Quebec City, QC) – Listen to this heartwarming CBC interview with Alex Harvey, one of Canada’s top XC skiers on the history-making men’s National Ski Team. Harvey and Devon Kershaw are blazing the way for men’s XC skiing in Canada with two top-10’s in the overall 2011 FIS World Cup standings.

Listen HERE.

Watch Devon Kershaw’s First WCup WIN at the Tour de Ski Italy

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March 23, 2011 (Toblach, Italy) – Check out this fantastic video coverage of Devon Kershaw’s (CAN) first World Cup victory during Stage 5 of the 2011 Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy. He beat out the world’s best sprinters with the ultimate breakthrough performance that paved the way for a historic season in Canadian men’s XC skiing, including a gold medal in the Team Sprint with teammate Alex Harvey at the Nordic World Championships, at the famous Holmenkollen in Oslo, Norway.

Video Highlights from Pierre Harvey’s First WCup Win

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March 23, 2011 – Check out these video highlights of one of the greatest moments in Canadian XC ski racing history – Pierre Harvey’s first World Cup win in 1987 in Falun, Sweden. Harvey’s amazing feat is even more significant as we fast-forward to the present where his son, Alex, and his Canadian teammates, have continued Pierre’s legacy, enjoying a break-out season, winning multiple medals on the FIS World Cup and World Championships circuit.

2011 FIS XC WCup Falun Finale – More Photos

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March 21, 2011 (Falun, Sweden) – If you missed the action at this past weekend’s 2011 FIS Viessmann WCup finale in Falun, Sweden check out this great photo gallery of some of the sport’s top skiers as the season’s final champions were crowned following the 10/15km Handicap start pursuit race. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug won the final mini tour while Dario Cologna (SUI) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) were crowned the overall season champions – read more here and here.

Stockholm WCup Sprint Photos

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March 17, 2011 (Stockholm, Sweden) – Here are some great photos from yesterday’s Royal Palace Sprint in Stockholm won by Petra Majdic (SLO) and Emil Joensson (NOR). With their victories, Joensson and Majdic sewed up the respective men’s and women’s 2011 World Cup Sprint titles, as the series now heads into the final weekend in Falun, Sweden. The USA’s Kikkan Randall claimed third overall in the women’s Sprint Series – read more here on the women’s race and here for the men’s race.

 

Canadian Olympian XC Skier George Grey to Retire

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March 17, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – When two-time Olympic cross-country skier George Grey hits the start line for Saturday’s 50-kilometre skate-ski race at the Haywood Ski Nationals, it will be his final competitive trip around the famed Canmore Nordic Centre.

After racing on the World Cup for nearly a decade against the top athletes on the globe, and competing in the Torino and Vancouver Olympics along with five World Championships, the 31-year-old Grey, of Rossland, B.C., has decided to retire.

“For me the timing just felt right,” said Grey, who started skiing when he was four years old, and racing at age seven. “In the last two years I felt like I accomplished many of my career goals and reached a performance level that was as high as I could attain. I am now looking forward to being a husband, father, and to new challenges and experiences in life.”

“I reached a peak in 2010 and thought maybe, just maybe, if I skied one more year I could contend for a medal in 2011 at the World Championships. To be able to hang in for one more season and experience the World Championships in Norway, and see Devon and Alex become World Champions, was an incredibly memorable final season.”

With Canada’s Beckie Scott having just broken through to win Canada’s first Olympic medal in the sport, Grey emerged onto the National Ski Team in 2002 with a group of bright-eyed, energetic young men from across the country poised and determined to follow Scott’s trail to the international podium.

Devon Kershaw was the first to find his way onto the podium. Kershaw became the first male in more than a decade to mount the international podium in 2006, and it didn’t take long for the others to follow suit. Four years later, Grey enjoyed a breakthrough moment of his own with his most memorable races coming at Whistler Olympic Park. The veteran teamed up with National Ski Team rookie, Alex Harvey, in 2009 to win a World Cup bronze medal in the sprint relay at the Olympic Test Event in Whistler. His best Olympic and individual career finish was eighth during the pursuit competition in 2010 when all three Canadian men finished in the top-10, and all four in the top-20.

“Getting my hands on just one medal was such an incredible high for me, and sharing it with such a talented athlete and friend in Alex made it even sweeter,” said Grey, whose best individual result outside the Olympics was a ninth-place finish at the Tour de Ski prologue in 2009. “My fondest memory has to be the 30-kilometre pursuit race with Ivan (Babikov), Alex (Harvey), and Devon (Kershaw) skiing right at the front of the pack with me. We were showing the world that we had finally arrived, and what we were capable of as a team. It was a career best for me, and to do it at a home Olympics with three of my buddies was amazing.”

After 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, Grey leaves the sport with the Canadian men’s squad amongst the best in the world.

“When I joined the Canadian men’s team we were described as ‘Canada’s most anonymous athletes,’ he said. “Now our team has World Championship medallists, World Cup medallists, Tour de Ski medallists. We have delivered a solid team. I know Canada is in good hands and there is loads of great talent coming up the system so I will sleep well.”

While racing was such a small part of his career, it was the countless hours of training with his friends and teammates that taught him to be patient, driven, tough and most importantly, goal-oriented along the journey.

“I get nostalgic thinking about all the hard training days that I endured with teammates at my side,” said Grey, who cites five-to-six hours of roller skiing in the pouring rain, nearly 50 kilometres of running and stomping their way up to glaciers as some of the most grueling training moments. “Only with your closest teammates is it possible to repeat training days like this every other week. My team and I have shed more sweat and spit on mountains than most would ever think possible.”

With the last goal remaining in his career to ski to the top of the podium on Saturday at the Haywood Ski Nationals, Grey would like to stay within sport if there is an opportunity to do so in the future, while also studying in the securities industry.

“The 2010 Olympics were sensational. The World Champs this year in Norway were staggering, but I am more than happy to wave a warm good-bye and smile at all the precious memories that I have accumulated. Thank you to everyone for your incredible support. My father always told me it is the process and not the outcome. I have fully realized that now, and I will never forget those who have helped me along this incredible ride.”

Canadian Team Sprint GOLD Videos

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March 04, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – Check out these cool videos of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey winning Canada’s first ever gold medal at the Nordic World Championships in the men’s Team Sprint Classic. Watch the Canadian team’s reaction courtesy of George Grey and lots of great race footage.

NRK video HERE.

Canadian Team Reaction by George Grey

Oslo Men’sTeam Sprint Final Two Laps

Holmenkollen Insider Day 8 – Oslo Attractions, Canada Wins, Inside an Oslo Ski Shop, Canadian Fans

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March 04, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – Last night we decided that we would take in the WC action and Oslo from a different perspective if the weather was foggy again. Well, it was foggy. We spent the morning with my cousin (Ahvo’s niece) looking at the Oslo Opera House (some fantastic architecture), Akershus Fortress, Vigeland Sculpture Park and a local ski shop (that sells about 5,000 pairs of skis per year!!) before watching the team sprint on the Jumbotron downtown. View more photos HERE.

The Oslo Opera House is relatively new building – construction completed in 2007 – and is an architectural masterpiece. The building is situated on the shore of the fjord and is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Click HERE for more info.

Akershus Fortress is also situated by the fjord and can be seen from the Oslo harbor. The fortress is one of the oldest structures in Norway (dating back to 1299) and includes a church, as castle and a number of museums. The fortress is still a site for official government events and military guards still patrol the area. More info HERE.

Vigeland Park (also known as Frogner Park) is Northwest-ish of downtown and is made up of both bronze and granite sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures depict men, women, and children at different stages of life and is definitely a must-see if you are a tourist in Oslo. Click HERE for more info.

We could see more from the Jumbotron than if we had been in the stadium today and it was one heck of a final (actually two)! As you have probably already read, Krista Lähteenmäki overpowered the Norwegian ladies to take silver behind a solid Swedish team and Alex Harvey axed the Norwegian men in the final stretch of the race.

Needless to say, downtown got pretty quiet. The Norwegians were clearly disappointed that they missed out on gold in back-to-back home-stretch sprints. The areas around the Jumbotron emptied quickly and quietly. A single shout of “Go Canada” was all that could be heard above Ahvo and myself shouting “Yes!!!” (which were admittedly preceded by “oh nohs” when the Finnish team slipped out of the medals… but these were drowned out by Norwegian fans having cardiac problems).

We found the source of the “Go Canada” when the park emptied before the flower ceremony (which we stayed to watch). It was from three Alaskans standing in the empty plaza who happened to be watching the race close by. We are a bit bummed that we were not near the finish line up at Holmenkollen for this one, but we think it is fate. Had we been up at the stadium, things could have been different and this was meant to be. Way to go Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey!

We did make it to the medals ceremony – got stuck in the back row, but were in the main area of the square – and got some comments from Canadians we met in the street.

Vigeland Park

Oslo Opera House I

Oslo Opera House II

Oslo Ski Shop

Canadian fan and Ahvo post-medals ceremony

Another Canadian fan (from Montreal) and Ahvo

OSLO 2011 Photo Slideshow

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March 04, 2011 – Check out this fantastic collection of Oslo 2011 photos with emphasis on men’s team sprint winners Canada’s Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey. The Toronto Star photo gallery features lots of pics of Kershaw and Harvey, including their famous “air guitar” celebration pic. Click HERE to view the slideshow.

Diggins Report – World Championship Pursuits

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February 28, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – Two days ago, I raced my first 15km pursuit ever… at the World Championships! Maybe not the ideal time to experiment with pacing, but it sure was fun while it lasted. It was an interesting day with heavy fog that made it hard on the spectators and racers alike; you couldn’t see the turns on the fast downhills till you hit them! I almost fell face-first a couple of times but managed to stay upright.

The crowds were fantastic; they lined the course and although 95% were totally intoxicated, the noise and enthusiasm really gave me a boost during the race. It’s impossible to give up when people are screaming “HI-YA!” at you! (it means GO! in Norwegian)

I had the best mass start I’ve ever been in, because I was situated #42, on the right outside track. I was able to hop out of the track and double pole up the outside while on the first hill out of the stadium people were going ballistic and tripping in the tracks. I snuck around the corner and caught onto the end of the big pack to be in the top 30. I was so excited because our skis were so fast – we had the perfect mix of good kick up the steep climbs and fast glide on the downhills.

However, I’d done a really poor job of hydrating and fueling up the days prior to my race, which proved to be a painful lesson to learn the hard way. I started to hit the wall at only 6km, and could taste iron in the back of my throat the rest of the race. I shouldn’t have needed a feed in a 15km, but the coaches had three stations ready, just in case.

And you know what? I missed all three! So embarrassing. I dropped the first bottle, and the second time around, I managed to grab the bottle… and gave myself a Gatorade facewash! So now every coach in the world knows that I had the worst feed in the history of world champs. What a prestigious title! To be fair, I’ve never tried to take a feed in a big race before. But now I’ve got good incentive to practice!

At the end of the day, Marit Bjoergen took the women’s title (surprise, surprise!) but the US women had a great day – Liz led the charge in 24th, Holly came in 25th, I finished 28th and Mo wrapped up our top 45 day in 43rd! Full results are linked HERE.

The next day was the men’s 30km pursuit, and Holly and I had a great time cheering them on. We got to be part of an international cheering squad as we hiked down a steep snowy hill to get right alongside the classic part of the course. It was really cool to see all the people camping in the snowbank; some had even shoveled out benches and settled down for the afternoon!

We hiked back to the stadium in time to see Alex Harvey of Canada pull the most ballsy move I’ve ever seen in a 30km pursuit – he broke the pack with like 6km to go and went off the front on his own! Sadly, his legs cramped up with about 3km to go and the pack sucked him back in. But it was super cool to see him off the front for a lap with a chase pack of 20 guys all scared to death that a U23 was going to beat them.

The men finished thus: Northug won, with Russians in 2nd and 3rd. Kris Freeman led the US guys in 29th, Noah Hoffman came in 37, Lars Flora finished in 53rd and Tad Elliott came in 55th. Full results are linked HERE.

Then we had a bit of a transportation snafu – due to the pedestrians crowding the street and the King of Norway getting back down the hill safely, they totally shut down the roads and we had to sit on a bus for an hour and a half before getting back to the hotel. It was a long day, but still worth it to see such an exciting race.

Today is the women’s 10km classic… and I’m headed out to cheer!

Holmenkollen Insider Day 5 – Predictions, Joensson’s Parents, Graves, Swiss Ex-President and Oslo Waxing Secrets

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February 28, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – At breakfast on Sunday morning, the sun started peaking from behind the clouds and by the time we got to the stadium, the sun was shining warm and bright (check out the interview with Peter Graves to see the sun).

As you can see from our photos though, the clouds started rolling in again and the sky was covered by the time [Petter] Northug made his final charge for the finish line. Thank goodness the jumbotron and stadium were visible today though, what a race!

The roar of the crowd when a Norwegian edged into the lead contrasted greatly with the hush of concentration, nervousness and anticipation when the skiers were out on the course and another nation’s skiers were making moves.

Northug gave us a peek at his cards each time the lead pack came into the stadium by making a quick move to the front as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m here”, which was followed up by a cheer from the crowd. The emotions were palpable when, for example, [Alex] Harvey (CAN) took a 16-second lead during the skate leg, [Alexander] Legkov (RUS) took a spill prior to the final climb and when [Marcus] Hellner (SWE) made a charge in the final 2km and again in the stadium but could not break away.

The energy bursting from Holmenkollen when a Norwegian wins is unbelievable!

Northug’s win today was big for both him, and the crowd. He commented after the race that he had met his goal for this World Championships and that the rest of the medals he might win are just icing on the cake. No word yet on weather he will race all of the rest of the events or if he will sit out the individual start on Tuesday to “save” himself for the relay and the 50km.

World Champs and Waxing
Waxing and weather have been a challenge so far during these World Championships for skiers and wax techs alike. Saturday’s women’s pursuit race was, as some said, “Won by wax techs”. As you may have seen in yesterday’s interview with Krista Lähteenmäki, or as might be written about the Swedes in today’s race, you can’t hit it on the nose every time… even with a knowledgeable staff that has tested “everything”.

Waxing at this level takes time, effort, experience, and judgment skills. Each team is testing skis and different wax combinations throughout the day. Wax techs, coaches and skiers compare notes and work together to find their magic combination for the day, while wax companies also have technicians and testers that are reading weather reports, testing and conferring with teams. It is exhausting work, but at the end of the day, can make a difference between going home with gold or not.

The wax techs here have told us that stonegrinding immediately before a race is not a problem. While the average skier can spend hours waxing one pair of skis for an event, the wax techs here can prep a whole teams’ worth of skis in one day (or less, if they have to).

We’ve been told, for example, that some teams have all of their wet-snow skis stoneground before each use and if necessary a ski can be prepped quickly with just some base wax, fluoride graphite molybdenum mix and a little more base wax, prior to race waxing (powders/gels).

As you know, snow conditions can change in an instant, which might spell nightmare for the average skier, but wax techs are able to switch gears and change race wax in a matter of minutes, if necessary. Despite hours of testing and years of experience, tested wax doesn’t always work after the gun goes off, and there is no mathematical formula for the perfect skis.

We can let you in on a little secret about waxing at large events like this one. Each wax company has newly developed products that are not yet on the market but are in tubes and containers with hand-written codes on them that are passed discretely to team wax techs sometimes accompanied by whispers and a wink (“007” like moves).

That’s it for the secrets today because either a) one of our sources might read this and refuse to tell us/show us more, b) this website is open for the world to see – we wouldn’t want the information to fall into the wrong hands (just kidding?).
What Swedish Fans Predict

Interview with Emil Joensson’s Parents

Interview with Peter Graves

Interview with Sochi’s FIS study group

Interview with FIS CC Jury member

Interview with former Swiss President

My First World Cup

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February 21, 2011 (Drammen, Norway) – I get it now…why people work so hard, train for so many years, push themselves right to the edge in races. It’s just so exciting to be a part of the World Cup! When thousands of people are screaming, waving flags, cheering, singing, and even camping on the side of the race trail, it’s impossible not to get psyched up and want to do your very best.

Today, I got to experience the excitement and energy of the World Cup for the first time – in Drammen, Norway, of all places! It was a beautiful, sunny day and not too cold; pretty much ideal, in fact. I was very excited and more than a little nervous. My stomach was in such a tight knot I’m surprised I was able to breathe at all. The sprint course was fast and short, but I loved it and soaked up the noise of the crowd for my entire race – all 2:26.35 seconds of it! I ended up finishing 46th, Sadie finished 42nd, Holly finished 57th… and Kikkan?

KIKKAN WON THE WORLD CUP!!!

She qualified in 6th and went on to impress the world as she skied smoothly with a blistering finishing kick that propelled her right past the other girls. Which other girls? Only a bunch of Olympians and Norwegian favorites. And yes, Kikkan kicked their ass. Alex Harvey from Canada got the silver in the men’s sprint, and it was awesome to watch since he also had a good finishing stretch that made the race very exciting.

It was simply amazing to be out on the side of the trail, watching it live (and on the huge screen behind us when the girls went over the hill). Being at a World Cup is such an incredible experience – the noise, the signs and flags, the people running around half naked, the live band…. I could go on for a long time.

There was a snowmobile that kept pace with the racers and filmed it for Eurosport, and the part of the US team that wasn’t racing watched the TV at the hotel. And they provided excellent coverage! That’s something I love about Europe. They follow Nordic skiing more religiously than deranged football fans at the Superbowl back home.

Another cool thing going on in Drammen this weekend was the fact that the World Cup races were on the ski trails for the first time. Usually, the sprints are held in the city around this sweet church, and they’d move the distance races to the venue in Oslo. But this year is the big 200th anniversary celebration for the city of Drammen, and the World Cup races were part of the celebration – which might help explain the 15,000 fans that showed up this weekend.

After the race we packed our things for the short 40-minute drive to Oslo, where we’re staying at a Radisson Blu hotel for the World Championships. I’m really excited to be back in Oslo and tomorrow I will get to train on the Holmenkollen venue for the first time. I will post pictures as soon as I can!

Sweden’s Rickardsson Takes 15K CL Win in Drammen – Kershaw 26th UPDATED

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February 19, 2011 (Drammen, Norway) – Sweden’s tough Daniel Rickardsson had both power and magic in his skiing on Saturday taking his first-ever World Cup win at the Konnerud ski stadium just six kilometers from this well known Nordic community, famed for it’s city centre sprints.

Rickardsson scored the win in the men’s 15km classic with a time of 37:19.1 on the tough trails over Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sunby winning by 29 seconds. Norwegian stud, Petter Northug, took third. More than 15,000 cheering fans came out to watch this final tune up just a week before the World Championships get underway in Oslo.

Fourth place went to Davos’ Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, who continues to lead the overall world cup standings with 1,247 points followed by Northug in second with 834 points.

While Rickkkardsson has been on the podium three times today was his first taste of the world cup nectar. He was thrilled following the race. “I had a good feeling the whole race, and I hoped to be on the podium. I will not start in Sunday’s sprint, as I will go home to Sweden and take it easy. I want to relax and will probably do all of the distance races at the World Champs.”

While the Canadian women struggled in their classic race earlier in the day, the men put in a reasonable showing. Devon Kershaw was 26th in 39:00.1, while Alex Harvey was 30th in 39:04.0, and prompted Head Coach and former Olympian Justin Wadsworth to tell SkiTrax following the race.

“For Devon it’s been since Jan. 9th without a race and he said he had a hard time getting into a rhythm. Alex has not raced a lot since the Tour de Ski as well and didn’t feel amazing, so it was a good tune up for both of them. I have 100% confidence they’re in good shape and it will show at the Worlds.”

Harvey weighed in with skitrax.com following the competition and said that his race went pretty much as he expected. “It was a good course for me, long uphills where you can stride it out and glide a lot. The course was really hard – the first 2km are basically all uphill – then you get 1km of downhill, and more uphill. Conditions were nice, a little on the cold side, especially on the last lap when it was close to -10.”

Ivan Babikov was 44th while George Grey was 68th for the Canadian National team.

The top American men was Kris Freeman who placed 57th with a time of 40:03.7. Freeman was quick to praise his skis but called it a frustrating day.

“My body just wasn’t there. I am not freaking out, but it’s not a confidence builder leading into Oslo.” The New Hampshire native said his blood sugar was ok, but just felt flat on the skis for no apparent reason but suggested that he may have over trained in the week prior to Drammen.

Freeman also said the US squad was very pleased by the strong Beitostolen results adding that he would skip Sunday’s sprint and would now head to Oslo for his final preparations for the Worlds.

“We had a rough one for sure today,” said US head coach Chris Grover. “I think Kris was a bit rusty from four weeks without racing. He will get going in Oslo for sure.”

Other American finishes included Noah Hoffman in 71st place, followed by teammates Lars Flora in 72nd and Tadd Elliott who was 77th.

All eyes will be now trained on Sunday’s free technique sprints in Drammen, the final world cup event before the start of the VM in Oslo next week.

Full results HERE.

The Way I See It – Diggins, Rybinsk, Kershaw vs Harvey, American Birkie, Western Champs

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February 08, 2011 – Jessie Diggin’s follow-up from the Scando Cup races in Madonna last week, as the junior races were cancelled, because there were too few juniors to put together race fields. As a matter of fact the senior fields were very lacking in numbers, but had some quality players, thanks to Finnish and Norwegian skiers at the top end of the order. This just confirms the quality of Jessie Diggin’s results at these races as a junior and her racing for the year – it is just outstanding!

In the sprint she qualified 3rd and finished up 5th and then in the 10km was 6th and only 30 seconds out and 14 seconds off the podium.

Another thing, that I think is good, is that this group is still in Europe on the Scando Cup tour, headed to Beitostolen, Norway this weekend – it’s been weeks – now they are getting to experience the ups and downs of racing in Europe and have to recover, from over-racing (maybe), sickness while they are on the trip – this is one hell of a learning experience. Kudos to NCCSEF and the USST.

Rybinsk, World Cup or Not, were the mutterings this past weekend in Russia. There was very small representation with just 12 countries for the men and a paltry six nations for the women participating. At there largest the fields had 54 men and 34 women on the start line – with 10 teams in the men’s relay and seven in the women’s. I didn’t check real close, but there were a few missing Russians as well.

Jurg Capol, Mr. Nordic Director for FIS, says don’t even consider the idea that this event won’t be on the calendar next year, as everything they have asked Rybinsk officials at all levels to do, they have come through in a big way. So, it is game on for next year.

I do have a suggestion for how I think they can make this work better for the future, just by changing the schedule. First off throw out the relays, it requires four skiers to make a team – we all know that – but more nations are more likely to participate with 1-3 skiers/sex if the relays are gone. Which means a nation can join in with 2-6 skiers, not the eight it takes to do the relays. It means smaller numbers of racers, and smaller numbers of support people.

Make the weekend a mini-tour of three races – prologue, sprints and then a 10 and 20 km pursuit – that is the order. This year they started with the distance races and then did the sprints and then the relay – ugly!! All the sprinters, which had the largest fields, slept in on the first day. All individual point races, more dollars in prize money, and a chance to build in preems will build the field and keep everyone happier. Hope FIS will try it.

Kershaw and Harvey in comparison, here is something that is interesting. In the World Cup overall standings they are Kershaw 7th and Harvey is 14th. Now when it comes to the prize money there is a premium on being in the top 10 in the WCup. Kersahw is in 13th place with winnings of $25,563 while Harvey is in 43rd place with $2,500. Alex is so close, but so far away from the money!!

American Birkie is growing and reached it’s 8,400 entries for this year quite early and closed registration on the 18th of December. I checked in with Ned Zuelsdorff, ED for the Birkie, last week to see how many people missed getting entered. He felt there were a few 100 that didn’t make it, but feels they need to do some finish line adjustments to be able to accommodate those additional numbers. Space is at a premium in Hayward. But, it has to be a good feeling to have those kinds of problems. Loppet racing all over the world is having the same growth problems – exciting.

Haywood NorAm/ Western Championships are over and Chandra Crawford ended up going home after doing the qualifier in the sprint (3rd qualifier and 4 secs back) – upset stomach.

George Grey had an OK sprint (reputation not built on sprinting), missed the Prologue with a migraine, but came back to win the 15km Pursuit by 21 seconds, which shows his form is coming back.

Surprised that Dasha Gaiazova missed these races and she isn’t entered in the Easterns this weekend at Nakkertok. These Easterns have 582 entries – will there be any snow left on the trails at the end of the weekend!

See you next time.

The Sasseville Report – Did you Know There was a World Cup in Russia this Week?

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February 07, 2011 (Barrie, ON) – What would happen if you held a World Cup and nobody came? Well, you would call it Rybinsk, Russia and there would be free world cup points for just about everyone who was there.

This past weekend there were three – yes three World Cup races on the calendar, a distance pursuit, an individual sprint and a team relay. For the distance race there were only 33 men (11 Russian) and 30 women (11 Russian). It didn’t get much better for the sprints with fields of 54 men (15 Russian) and 34 women (16 Russian). The relay for women had 7 teams (4 Russian) and 10 for men (again 4 Russian).

This is brutal. There has got to be something wrong with the schedule to have so few skiers in a World Cup in the first week of February. When there have been World Cups in Canada the last few years they have been better supported. The Ontario Masters Championship in Parry Sound had almost as many skiers! This has to be an embarrassment to the FIS Cross Country Committee.

Now, I’ve been to Rybinsk and it is not that bad there. I know that some countries were having National championships, but that should be no excuse. In fact, I don’t think that this should be allowed to happen either. We have the same problem in North America, but we still send our best skiers to compete at the World Cup.

Meanwhile, it should be no surprise that the Russian skiers dominated the result list for these races – at least for the men. Alexei Pethukov won the sprint, Ilia Chernousov won the distance race and the Russian 1 team won the relay.

It shows how far the Russian women have fallen when they cannot win a race with at home against such small fields. They couldn’t even win the relay with 4 teams out of 7 in the field – the Italian women beat them. Katja Visnar and Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia were 1st and 2nd in the sprints and Justina Kowalczyk of Poland won the distance race and was 3rd in the sprints. She has pretty well cemented the overall World Cup title for this season as the only person who could beat her, Marit Bjoergen was at home, once again, in Norway training for the World Championships in March.

In the 1990’s the Russian women were unbeatable. Of course, we now know why. A good, structured, well organized doping program will do that for you. Now they are ordinary and need to get their act together quickly in order to have a decent showing in Sochi in 2014.

There’s a two-week break in the schedule before the World Cup resumes in Drammen, Norway on February 19-20 with a short distance race and individual sprints. Hopefully we should see full fields for this event and truly have a “World Cup” race.

I can’t close this week without some commentary on the World Junior and World U23 racing from Otepaa, Estonia last week. In my opinion, a finish in the top 10 at either level is a great indication that a skier has the talent and potential to be a consistent point scorer (top 30) at the World Cup level.

A good way to look at it is to look at junior and professional hockey in North America. If a junior hockey player is drafted in the first round by a professional team then they have a good chance of becoming a National Hockey League player. Not all of them do, of course, and there are players who are not drafted in the first round who make it. I think that less than 5% of junior hockey players ever play in the NHL.

Most of these junior players who are drafted end up playing for a year or more in the AHL – kind of the equivalent of the U23 level in skiing. Not all players in the AHL make it to the NHL – again a small percentage and only the best move on. Some of the very best junior players go right to the NHL, but they are the exception.

When I look at the North American results from Otepaa I see the same thing. Alex Harvey is World Champion at U23 and finishes consistently in the top 20 on the World Cup. He was on the podium a number of times as a junior, as well. In hockey he would have been a top draft pick as a junior and would likely have been in the NHL in his first or second year as a pro.

The other skiers that finished in the top 10 – Kevin Sandau, Jesse Cockney, Len Valjas, Jessie Diggins and Noah Hoffman all have a shot at a career as a World Cup skier. Emily Nishikawa, Michael Somppi, Alysson Marshall and Sadie Bjornsen had top 20 finishes – kind of like being drafted in the 2nd round of a hockey draft. They have shown some talent, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Don’t get me wrong, there are no guarantees that any of these skiers will make it on the World Cup (except Alex Harvey – he is already there). It also doesn’t mean that the skiers who were there from North America but outside the top 10 or top 20 (or those who didn’t make the trip) will not make it eventually, but it is going to take them much more time and work.

Malcolm Gladwell in his great book “Outliers” told us that the difference most of the time between those who “make it” and those who don’t is not talent but work and opportunity. He points out that it seems to take 10,000 hours of work for someone to be the best in just about anything.

At an age of 22 or less, all of these skiers have not put in the time yet to know if they are going to make it. They also need to continue to have the opportunity to race and train with the best in the world. I hope that the USST and the Canadian NST continue to give these young skiers as many opportunities as possible to do this.

The Way I See It – Harvey, WJ/U23s, Oslo, Crafsbury, BNS, Canadian Men’s Worlds Team, Cool, Missing Skiers

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February 02, 2011 – Double Congratulations to FIS World Champion Alex Harvey! The first congrats is for the win and the 2nd is for saying he was going to Otepaa to win and then making it stick by winning – not always the way it happens when you think of all the variables and there is only one first place. First off he was at an altitude camp in Italy and putting in big hours, hasn’t raced in a while, and altitude is not a place you’re working on speed. I was also impressed on how much he knew about Belov and his inability as a sprinter, and that with the race ending with them together that he would, or could, take Belov in the sprint – which he did. A super effort by the World Champion on all fronts.

Another thing about the WJrs and U-23s is if your placing in the top 15 and you continue to progress in your growth as a skier – training hours, good program, coaching, international racing – you will more than likely be a top-30 skier on the World Cup in the future. People like Jessie Diggins, Noah Hoffman, Len Valjas, Jesse Cockney, Michael Sompii, Sadie Bjornsen, Kevin Sandau, Emily Nishikawa and Alysson Marshall are skiers showing these kinds of abilities and direction.

Across the board the young women (WJs) in both countries have a lot of work to do – their results could be better when you realize how many of them have been skiing for many years in formal programs with professional coaches.

One more thing about the World Jrs, is that if you’re blogging about your trip, make sure you do a good in depth job of talking about your feelings thoughts and what experiences you had. All this has a huge impact on your skiing peers and younger skiers and can accelerate their growth so they know what to expect. I know you have to do it once – go over THERE to get the stardust out of your eyes – but look at all of the guys we have at the senior level that are doing it. Kikkan Randall is the best at blogging – hands down.

Remember, at the FIS Worlds in Oslo, it is only four skiers per nation per event. So, in actuality the Worlds are easier then the WCup, except it’s the Worlds, and you’re in Norway, and every course will be totally lined with thousands of spectators. The crowds will be four times the size of the those in Vancouver if not more. A 100,000 people for some events is not out of the question – believe me. It’s one hell of a big experience.

The Craftsbury Marathon, has to be a must-do in your racing career, just for the sheer joy of every year being on one of the best and most fun XC courses in NA. The grooming is always superb and this is one fair course with all of its ups and downs. A seamless experience from entry to the final awards ceremony. I encourage you to get it on your bucket list.

BNS (Boulder Nordic Sport) in case you didn’t know, had a guide they put in the race packet at Craftsbury that you received when picking up your bib. I didn’t look at it until I got home and as I picked it up I was wondering what they were pitching as it’s 50 pages thick. Well here is how I assess it after taking the time to do a page by page – read this and you will have the information and education to help you move up in your age class. These guys at BNS have done their homework and are giving you the benefit of all this knowledge. Yes, they are selling – but in a good way – as they give you the knowledge to make the right choice for yourself if you do the reading. I was impressed! So, look for it, as they’re stuffing it at about 10-12 different marathons this winter.

One other thing about the World Champ, Alex made a quote, and the way he phrased it he insinuated that he wanted to get a World Championship title before going to Oslo – but it’s not out of the question to be thinking of another one in Oslo. I always felt, if you were afraid to talk about it, your chances of making it happen were just that much more unlikely. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Canada’s Men’s World Championships Team, is sure looking way stronger then last year’s Olympic Team that was so successful in Vancouver last winter. Much more experience, the addition of Valjas in sprinting, Phil Widmer’s return after missing the Olympics because of a shoulder injury, Kershaw has become a much better tactical skier, and they all seem to have gained international confidence from what they have done in the early winter. If George Grey is back to last year’s form, that is a real bonus. It’ll be fun figuring out who gets to ski which events – but there should be good coverage in the full schedule. Let’s get it on!!

Hey, this looks like it is going to be cool! Click HERE and give it a try.

My missing skiers for this winter, Sophie Caldwell and Fred Touchette, both are noticeably missing in a lot of the results – I hope both are well and still racing!

Talk to you soon…

The End of World Juniors – Out With a Bang!

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February 02, 2011 (Otepaa, Estonia) – Holy cow, today’s been an absolutely huge day! With 4 races going on I have no idea how the coaches and wax techs kept up with it all! First we had the junior women’s 4×3.3km relay, in which we finished 7th. I’m so totally excited because we moved up a place from last year!

The relay went like this: Amy Glen scrambled (classic) and tagged off to Kinsey Loan, who then tagged of to me for the skate half of the relay. I tagged Joanne and she anchored us for a solid 7th place. I’m also extremely excited about finishing second for lap splits to Heidi Wang (Norway) by 5.4 seconds. It was definitely a successful day – and we definitely had some crazy fast skis (yeah Salomon!)

After the relay, we travel waxed our skis, packed out bags and set out for a long day of spectating! And we did some HARD CORE cheering. We had numerous US flags and signs, and I do believe we also had the loudest voices on the whole course.

The junior men’s 4x5km relay went second, and they ended up finishing 10th in a close sprint with Canada. Then a short while later, the women’s 15km pursuit race set off, and Sadie led the US with a 17th place finish.

The last race of the day was the men’s 30km pursuit, and it was so much fun to cheer as the sun came out and it was an absolutely gorgeous day!

Noah led the US men with a 22nd place finish, but the coolest part of the whole day was seeing Alex Harvey crush it today and WIN THE WHOLE DARN RACE!!!! It was totally inspiring to hear an anthem other than Norway being blasted in the stadium.

I’m giving a huge shout-out to all the coaches and wax techs for all their hard work and patience in dealing with US. And thanks also to NCCSEF for all the support. It wouldn’t have happened without you!

So now I’m headed over to Madona, Latvia, with the Scando Cup team… and pretty much the only thing I know about Latvia is that car-jacking is basically a sport. The next week should be very interesting!

Canada Names 2011 Oslo World Senior Championship Team

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January 14, 2011 – Cross Country Canada is pleased to announce that the following athletes have been selected to the 2011 World Cross Country Ski Championships Team competing in Oslo, Norway from Feb.22-March 6 – selection synopsis to follow.

– Devon Kershaw  (Ona-Wa-Su/NST)
– Alex Harvey (Club Nordique M.S.A/NST)
– Dasha Gaiazova (Rocky Mountain Racers/NST)
– Chandra Crawford (Canmore Nordic/NST)
– Stefan Kuhn (Canmore Nordic/NST)
– Perianne Jones (Nakkertok/NST)
– Ivan Babikov (Foothills Nordic/NST)
– Len Valjas (Team Hardwood/NDC Québec/NST)
– Phil Widmer (Canmore Nordic/NDC Québec/NST)
– George Grey (Blackjack/NST)
– Brooke Gosling (Foothills Nordic/CXC)

Kershaw Report – Tour de Ski Wrap

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January 13, 2011 (Canmore. AB) – The fifth ever edition of the Tour de Ski is over and done with. I am comfortably sitting in a “Nighbor driving” laid back position up in B-Class flying home after over two months of European racing and am still in disbelief… first how fast this first half of the season has blazed by, and second how great our team performed over the last 10 days in Germany and Italy.

The Tour de Ski is the most grueling race that we do all year. We race eight distinct competitions in only 10 days at four different venues. It’s a fast-paced, high-stakes week and a half and considering how I feel at the end of it, I cannot even imagine how it is for our staff who work so hard indefatigably all day, everyday to give us every opportunity to perform.

I’ll break ‘er down race by race since I didn’t update as I went along this year.

Day One: 3.75km Skate Prologue – Oberhof (Ger) – December 31st/2010
I was psyched to get my 5th Tour under way. Ivan, Alex and I did our finishing  touches on our Tour-prep enjoying Davos’ great skiing and stellar café over the holidays. Everything went quite well for all of us in the pre-Tour period and with the added bonus of Hutchdogg tirelessly working on us over Christmas we were all feeling strong and confident – and for the most part I had great workouts and life was grand.

When December 31st finally came, I felt ready but not 100%. One aspect still lingered – some heavy legs that settled in after my last long distance ski earlier in the week. My legs were stubbornly holding on to fatigue like a dog that just won’t release that tennis ball. Justin and I had planned to push for that optimal training load before backing off but as the race day came and I was still feeling slightly sub-par – oops.

The good news was that the first race is short. The prologue is under 8 minutes and the Tour is never won or lost on the first stage. I hammered the one lap course willing my body to empty the tank. It didn’t take long before I knew things weren’t going my way. Early in the race I knew my legs hadn’t came back in time. While I was happy that my energy was back to 100%, and my legs no longer felt heavy while pushing hard, I lacked punch/power and in such a short race that’s not good.

I pushed as hard as my flat-feeling body would go crossing the line out of the points in 37th – same finish as last year. I was pissed off. No denying. I’ve been very hot and cold with prologues in the last and while I was happy that the body felt better I wasn’t expecting to be so bad on day one. Being a Tour though I had very little time to feel sorry for myself as the next day the 15km classic pursuit was quickly approaching. I did wallow of course being the drama-queen that I am blasting some Band of Horses during a cold bath, and afterwards for about an hour before putting the race in the rear view mirror and refocusing.

Day Two: 15km Classic Pursuit Start – Oberhof (Ger) – January 1st/2011

I was fired up for this race. I always am. I love classic skiing, I love the course in Oberhof and I love pursuit starts where you’re chasing the leaders. It’s exciting, fast from the start and suits my strengths. It helps that the previous two years I had finished 3rd and 10th in the same race. It was a classic Oberhof day, foggy with slightly soft tracks. Warming up I felt great far better than just one day earlier and our skis were top shelf. I was nervous, but pumped.

Still, I had a lot of work and dudes to go through to catch back up to the front. I played it patiently, slowly working through the pack for the first six or so kilometers before making sure I was hanging out in the top 10-15 out of trouble and close enough to react if an attack went.

It was a tactical affair, some surging and some half-hearted attacks but none that stuck. Then, on the last lap Cologna went to the front to assert himself. I followed; just focusing on skiing as well I could technically. Next thing I knew I was in the front with about 2km remaining. I made a snap-decision that it was time to punch it and starting a long drive to the line in the lead. Coming around the last corner and into the windy finishing stretch I was still leading. I was double poling as hard as I could, but Dario came around me with 50m to go and passed me. I slipped right in behind him and crossed the line in 2nd place.

Needless to say, I was pumped. It was only my second-ever distance podium, and after not hitting the podium at all last year it felt so good to be back. It was a great race for me, best of the year and I posted the fastest time of the day, moving from 37th to 2nd. It also confirmed that Justin and I had in fact got the training right. It would have been awesome to win but Dario was just too strong for me and to finish only 0.5 seconds from my first win wasn’t bad.

Alex was 9th putting two Canadians in the top 10 for the first time this season which was sweet!

Day Three: 1.2km Classic Sprint- Obertsdorf (Ger) – January 2nd/2011
After packing up and showering it was onto our badass bus that Justin had organized (you’ve all seen the photos and read about it. The thing ruled for recovery!) as we rolled Southwest to the site of the 2005 World Champs Obertsdorf.

I love the sprint course in Obertsdorf. It was the first time I was ever top 15 internationally back in 2005 as a 22year-old, and I watched Sara Renner make history sprinting her way to a bronze medal there. I knew the course well, and was cautiously optimistic that I could get through the quarter-finals.

Well, it went far better than I could have ever imagined. Again our skis were fantastic and Alex and I qualified 6th and 7th. I felt amazing in all my heats and moved through to the final for the first time in my life in a classic sprint on the World Cup. I was stoked!

In the final I made a desperate attack up the last climb and came over the top with a gap. The meters were flying by and I was still in the lead down the finishing stretch.

I may have even thought about what my victory salute would be but Joensson had other ideas. With meters to go, he pulled even with me and it came down to an epic lunge for the line for the victory. After some tense moments, it was announced that no, for the second day in a row I had been beat at the line. I lost the race my 1cm or something ridiculous. Joensson described it as his tightest victory ever.

After hitting the podium the day before I was shocked to snag back to back silver medals. I was choked to lose such a tight race, especially after a gutsy move over the top that I believed was enough to stick, but Joensson is the best sprinter in the world, and to even be competitive with him was more than I ever expected. Alex finished an impressive 7th so back to back great days for Canada all around!

Day Four: 20km duathlon pursuit Obertsdorf, GER January 3rd/2011
The fourth race in a row was the also the longest. The course in Obertsdorf was the same 2.5km that they used for some races back in 2005 as well, whith consisted of flatter terrain and one huge hill per lap. The only difference is that they used the same course for classic and skate (just groomed in tracks on the side) and that made for a narrow/sketchy experience.

People were attacking all over the place going for early bonus sprints and launching for the finish line. It was very messy, lots of crashes, and just pandemonium in the pack to be honest. The course was silly.

I felt great but ended the day in 7th getting caught behind traffic up the final climb  but I was still happy with how the race played out. Alex and I both thought it felt more like a zone 3 workout because of all the bodies around. That was the one positive it didn’t take as much out of me as I would have thought.

Day Six: 1.3km skate sprint Toblach, ITA January 5th/2011
After another sizable trip, but on our sweet bus from Obertsdorf to Toblach, we had a rest day which we used to test skis and train on the long 35km stage. This was the best day to date in my ski career – I finally won a world cup! I felt so good today. I qualified in 14th, then moved easily through my final. Once again that was the main goal get through the quarters, so I was pretty relaxed for the remaining rounds.

In the final, I got off to my normal snail’s paced start, and was content to hang in the back part of the pack. Then, with two uphills remaining I just went crazy and launched an attack with everything I had. I kept the pressure all the way to the line, and while I had a big lead at one point Cologna almost came right back to me, but he ran out of real estate. At the time I could not and still cannot believe it.

It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to lift your arms in victory on the World Cup after working and dreaming about it for over 10 years. Haha, it’s almost embarrassing when I put it that way, but it finally happened. Our staff did such a great job, and everything just came together perfectly. I will never forget that race!

Day Seven: 35km skate pursuit CortinaToblach ITAJanuary 6th/2011
From an amazing race, to an extremely frustrating race was the transition between the two Toblach events.

In the long race, I started in 2nd place but alone to tackle the long/fairly flat stage over the Italian Dolomites. Cologna had amassed a big lead so I wouldn’t come back on him, but my goal was to stay away from the chase packs that were sure to form.

The course is 18km of gradual climbing, before descending gradually back to Toblach, and then a final show lap of 3.3km to finish off the spectacle. I felt good, started at a good/manageable pace. Still, at 13km Hellner who had started 30-odd seconds behind me swallowed me up. I tried in vain to stay with him, but he was on another planet. I just got popped right away, and had to settle to ski my own pace keeping him in my sights to make sure I still had a good pace.

I made it over the top of the hill, but even though I was going all out down the other side in 2km the large 11-dude chase pack caught me. I was so frustrated – like in cycling it is so much harder on easy terrain to stay away. Guys that started over 2.5 minutes behind me were safely in the draft of the pack and with them working together they made quick work of me.

What’s worse, is when they caught me nobody was willing to work together. We were chewing into Hellner who would have been caught for sure but then all of a sudden everyone was thinking of the bronze medal and things got tactical in a hurry.

I ended up finishing in the first chase pack good enough for 10th. All that hard work for the overall that I did early in the Tour was erased. I was (and still am) bummed about it. It’s a tough race, and without question the most important race of the entire Tour as far as the overall goes.

Day Nine: 20km Mass Start Classic Val di Fiemme, ITA January 8th/2011
After another travel day, and another rest day training and scouting the Val di Fiemme classic course we had finally arrived at the last venue.

I love Val di Fiemme, and I was really excited about this race seeing how I had been feeling so strong in classic this year. I knew it could be good.

Conditions were pretty standard klister skiing with warm temperatures greeting us in the Northern Italian venue. Here’s a strange fact about Val di Fiemme – it was the first time this year that we saw races above zero degrees which is extremely odd for Europe. It felt like Hawaii out there!

I tried going for some of the plethora of bonus seconds up for grabs early but soon realized that it was going to cost too much energy, and that Northug and Cologna had both amazing skis and were gunning for all of them. I changed my strategy mid-race and focused on attempting to win the competition.

I sat near the front and stayed out of trouble keen with being patient and hyper-aware with what was going on around me in the pack. There were some pace changes, but for whatever reason this year no one was able to really inflict big damage. On the last lap the Swede Rickardsson launched a move with 2 km to go that could have stuck but we all caught him on a big descent. Then I launched up the final climb (600m from the line) and over the top I was in the lead going for broke.

Still, it was too early and on the flats of the stadium I was caught and passed by Northug and Cologna. Again. I finished 3rd which was my 4th podium of the week. Unbelievable. It’s been just such a great week of racing!

Alex ended up in 5th meaning with one stage remaining we were 4th and 7th overall. It was going to be a dog fight as not much time separated 3rd to 10th and both Alex and I aren’t exactly gazelles up Alpe Cermis but we were excited to see how things went.

Day Ten: 9km Skate Uphill Pursuit Val di Fiemme/Alpe Cermis, ITA January 9th/2011
The last stage. Always tough, the 9km skate consists of 6km of gradual descending before meeting the walls of Alpe Cermis, an Alpine run close to the ski trails in Val di Fiemme.

As expected, it was a large group heading down to the climb. We worked well together, exchanging leads often but it wasn’t enough to keep a hard charging Lucas Bauer at bay who caught our group (3rd-9th) on the bottom slopes of the Alpe.

Things splintered early on the climb especially when Bauer caught us, and I settled into the best rhythm I could. I am no specialist at this unique uphill event and tried in vain to stay with Perl, Clara, and Gaillardall who are far better at this event than me. Gaillard and I were dropped by Perl and Clara and in a battle with my friend from the French Team, Jean-Marc beat me to the line after I tried to attack and blew up with only 300m remaining in the race.

The Tour was over, and I ended up 7th overall. Alex had a tough climb as well, slipping to 10th, but both of us were excited to have completed a solid Tour and to have two Canadians in the top 10 was a great achievement. Babs had the 6th fastest time up proving once again that the bulldog IS climbing boom.

What now?
After traveling and racing for over 2 months, and I am now at home. It’s so good to be back in Canmore and I am already looking forward to training with friends and sipping cappos in the afternoons as I recharge and begin to get ready for the World Champs in Oslo. I can confirm that nothing is as comfortable as your own bed and I slept like a log last night.

I was able to catch up briefly with Chandra in Munich for one night as our trips overlapped (Chandra heading to the sprint World Cups in the Czech and Estonia, while I head home to recover/train for Worlds). It was great to see her – however brief – after weeks away from one another but I am already missing her here in Canmore!

After an easy week this week to catch my breath it’s back on baby. We have work to do if we want to keep this party going. Oslo and the World Cups after it are the next objective. I cannot wait!

I want to extend heart felt thanks to everyone who supported me and our team: Mostly importantly is Chandra and my family!

Thanks to Justin who has proven to be such an amazing coach, and has shown stellar leadership all year. Our technical staff is some of the best in the business. All the boys – Sasha, Joel J, Joel K, Yves and Micke – you all rule. Micke thanks for sticking with me for the past few years and putting up with my sketchy self every weekend (and during the week, haha), you’ve made a HUGE difference!

Most importantly thanks to my teammates. I am so lucky to be a member of such a bad ass/awesome Canadian Team. We respect each other, push each other and celebrate each other’s victories. It’s a lot of hours together but damn it’s fun! It’s been a trip – one that will continue for years to come!

We couldn’t do it without our loyal team sponsors (the crew at Haywood, AltaGas, Statoil and Teck) and B2ten for the mad hook ups all year most recently being instrumental behind our big black rock and roll Tour de Ski bus. Your continued support means that our entire team can push the limits all year.

Lastly, my personal sponsors, guys like Jamie Coatsworth who makes such a difference and who believes not only 100% in me but all of Canadian skiing, Stephen Dent and the whole Birch Hill crew in T.O., Chris out in Vancouver with Teck and Allison and the Stoneridge crew, thanks to all of you. Support matters, from all levels. Family, friends, team, sponsors, it all helps make