Tag Archive | "Dasha Gaiazova"

USA’s Randall Podiums at Falun 2.5km FR – Brooks 7th, Diggins 8th as Bjoergen Wins

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March 22, 2013 (Falun, Sweden) – USA’s Kikkan Randall is storming strong, even as the end of the World Cup season quickly approaches. Only days ago, she successfully defended her World Cup Sprint crystal globe, but the Alaskan star is not resting on her laurels.

Today in the 2.5km free technique event, Randall snapped up a bronze medal only 6.6s behind Norwegian powerhouse Marit Bjoergen and 2.2s behind second place, Charlotte Kalla (SWE).

“The times were really tight out there and I’m happy to be on the podium. I think we had great skis today and I’m really psyched for our performance as a team. Two more races to go now, hope we can keep this momentum rolling! The course was short but challenging. The downhill turn that everyone was concerned about was definitely a little wild but safe enough,” said Randall in a team release.

“It’s been an interesting last 24 hours here in Falun, but with a seemingly happy ending. Yesterday after previewing the course there were concerns from several athletes that the new technical downhill section was going to be unsafe. We called an athletes meeting and went back and forth with the jury to try and find a compromise on a safer course. For me, as the athlete rep, it was a lot of running around yesterday. But in the end I’m glad we found a good solution and everyone agreed to start today.”

USA’s Holly Brooks had a great race, finishing seventh, while teammate Jessie Diggins also made the top-10 with a strong eighth-place finish. Other North American results include Liz Stephen (USA) in 20th, Ida Sargent (USA) in 38th, Emily Nishikawa (CAN) in 41st, Rosie Brennan (USA) in 46th, and Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) in 47th.

“It felt good to race a skate prologue – I really like this distance. It was also nice to get a good race feeling back! I had been feeling really tired and pretty done after World Champs, but today my body was ready for one last race series as we finish World Cup Finals,” commented Diggins. “The coaches did a fantastic job on the skis and it’s really exciting to have three girls in the top eight! It really boosts confidence and it’s always nice to end the season on a high note.”

After significant athlete protests, the infamous Mördarbacken (Murder Hill) hill was cut from this weekend’s race courses. Read more about it in our coverage here.

Women’s 2.5km Free results HERE.

Stockholm WCup CL Sprint Qualifications – Gaiazova 4th, Newell 10th

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March 20, 2013 (Stockholm, Sweden) – Canada’s Dasha Gaiazova placed fourth in the Stockholm classic sprint qualifications led by Finland’s Anne Kylloenen. Fellow Finn Kerttu Niskanen qualified second, with Slovenia’s Katja Visnar in third. American results include USA’s Ida Sargent 11th, Kikkan Randall 22nd, and Holly Brooks in 26th. Jessie Diggins (USA), Rosie Brennan (USA), Liz Stephen (USA), and Emily Nishikawa (CAN) failed to make it through to the heats, placing 34th, 40th, 44th, and 47th, respectfully.

On the men’s side, USA’s Andy Newell logged the top North American time to qualify 10th with Norway’s Eldar Roenning leading the charge, followed by Russia’s Nikita Kriukov, and Emil Joensson (NOR) in second and third. Other top favourites, Dario Cologna (SUI) and Petter Northug (NOR) qualified fifth and seventh, respectively.

USA’s Torin Koos was the next-highest North American qualifier in 24th, while Canucks Devon Kershaw and Len Valjas managed to just squeeze into the top 30 in 28th and 30th, respectively. Alex Harvey (CAN) did not make it through with a 32nd place qualifier, along with teammates Michael Somppi and Ivan Babikov in 48th and 50th, respectively. USA’s Noah Hoffman was 52nd.

Women’s Qualifications HERE.
Men’s Qualifications HERE.

USA’s Stephen Stellar 5th in Women’s 10km FR as Johaug Wins Gold

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February 27, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – The USA’s Elizabeth Stephen raced to the best result of her career, finishing in 5th place, only 8.5 seconds off Russian bronze medalist, Yulia Tchekaleva, in women’s 10km FR Individual Start on Tuesday at the 2013 FIS Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme.

Taking the win was the diminutive Norwegian, Therese Johaug, who charged with her characteristic quick tempo to best her teammate Marit Bjoergen for the gold by 10.2 seconds. The win marks Johaug’s third career gold as super-star Bjoergen started to falter with fatigue in the latter stages of the race. Biathlete Miriam Goessner of Germany had an incredible day, missing the podium by only a half a second.

“I’d never skied the course as a skate course before. We always do it as a classic on the Tour de Ski, so I was psyched to be able to skate up those hills and just kept channeling the Tour de Ski energy and vibes,” said Stephen post-race. “Heck, it’s World Championships, there’s pretty good vibes here with Kikkan [Randall] and Jessie [Diggins] getting the win the other day. The mood of the team is outstanding right now – lots of energy kicking around.”

Teammate Jessie Diggins who placed 23rd, voiced her excitement to SkiTrax: “I am first and foremost super pumped for Liz! Nobody deserves it more and I’m so proud of her and excited to cheer for her at the awards ceremony tonight. As for my race, I definitely could have used an extra recovery day beforehand. The racing and emotion of the last two days has definitely left me without that extra gear, but I know I’ll be recovered in time for the relay.”

Kikkan Randall was disappointed with her 30th place, but expressed excitement over her teammate’s success. “Today was a tough one for me personally,” said Randall. “I felt like I was missing the power and capacity I had in my distance skating earlier this season. I was probably a little fatigued from the team sprint two days ago and since I haven’t done very much distance skate racing since the Tour, my aerobic system may have been a little asleep.”

“It was still, however, a spectacular day as my teammate Liz Stephen was fifth in the world, just eight seconds off the podium! I’ve been training alongside Liz for a few years now and have witnessed how hard she works. She has been reaching new levels this season, including skiing the second fastest time up the Alpe Cermis on the Tour’s final day, and she is so deserving of this amazing result. Her finish today is the best ever US women’s distance finish in a major championship. The whole team came out to the awards this evening to cheer her on.”

Coach Matt Whitcomb is pleased with Stephen’s success and after the gold medal performance by Randall and Diggins in the Team Sprint, and the team is moving ahead with excitement and confidence. “Today was just a perfect day for Liz, and one that makes pretty good sense given how our team works. Our athletes really get behind each other’s successes – they feed off of each other. And so with the gold medal from Kikkan and Jessie the other day you could feel the energy building. Liz skied an aggressive race under a lot of pressure to perform and she rose to the occasion.”

As for the Canucks, the top finish was Daria Gaiazova in 40th. “I really don’t have much to say today,” said Gaiazova. “It was not great, but I guess it was a good preparation for the relay, which I am really excited to do.”

Other North Americans included: Holly Brooks 27th, Kikkan Randall 30th, Daria Gaiazova 40th, Emily Nishikawa 57th, and Brittany Webster 68th.

The relay is up next for the women on Thursday. The Americans look to be positioned favorably. The foursome of Brooks, Diggins, Randall, and Stephen had already climbed on to the World Cup podium early in the season in Gaellivare, and they hope to carry that momentum towards World Championship gold.

Watch Canada’s Jones and Gaiazova Score Women’s 4×1.25km CL Sprint Bronze at Sochi WCup

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February 06, 2013 – Check out this great video of the FIS women’s 4×1.25km team classic sprint in Sochi, where Canada’s Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova snapped up a thrilling bronze medal with an incredible surge in the final leg.

Interviews w/Canada’s Gaiazova and Jones on Their Podium at Women’s CL Team Sprint in Sochi + Video

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February 04, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – SkiTrax caught up with Canadian Ski Team members Dasha Gaiazova and Perianne Jones after their bronze medal women’s team sprint effort in Sochi. It was a thrilling finish to the women’s 6×1.25km Classic Team Sprint as Gaiazova started the final leg in fourth, then stormed on to pass the USA’s Sadie Bjornsen in third, and then chased down Russia’s Natalia Matveeva to barely miss out on silver in a photo finish. Check out what the ladies had to say about their race.

Perianne Jones


Dasha Gaiazova


FIS video HERE.

USA’s Randall Dominates at Sochi World Cup Women’s 1.3km FR Sprints

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February 01, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – USA’s Kikkan Randall dominated the FIS World Cup women’s 1.3km free sprints today in Sochi, making her mark at the venue as the top contender for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic. The American team had a strong day overall, with five U.S. skiers qualifying for the heats. Read more here.

Randall started her day with a second place finish in the qualifier and then went onto win each of her heats, leading the final from start to finish for an undisputed victory over second place, Aurore Jean (FRA) who passed Norway’s Celine Brun-Lie near the finish to take the silver.

“I’ve been working really hard in my training to make every sprint course a good course for me so it was cool to get out there and see how it felt,” said Randall. “The course is deceptively tough and there’s not much rest out there outside of maybe 10 or 15 seconds on one downhill but you’re preparing for a turn so I think the weather conditions are really going to play in how the race goes but I think it’s a good course for me and I’m a strong finisher and it’s a really long stadium, so I like that. This is definitely a confidence boost for next year!”

Ida Sargent was the next-best American finisher with a personal best sixth after finishing second in her quarterfinal and then sneaking through in her semifinal as lucky loser to contest in her first ever “A” final.

“I like the course here,” Sargent told Trax. “It’s short but hard and technical and there isn’t much recovery out there so you’re working a lot. We had very fast skis today and I was 17th in the skate qualification which was a PB. In the rounds I tried to ski at or near the front and was very happy to make the final!  I was pretty tired by the time the final heat came around but it was still an awesome day for me.”

Jessie Diggins (USA) charged to third in her heat with Holly Brooks (USA) placing fourth in hers. Sadie Bjornsen (USA) was eliminated after her fifth-place quarterfinal. In the end, they ranked 15th, 16th, and 21st, respectively.

“I was disappointed to end the day after the quarterfinal, but considering that it was my best qualifier and my best sprint final place to date, I’m really happy,” said Brooks in a post-race email exchange with Trax. “It’s awesome to have a good experience at the Olympic venue, on the Olympic course … and be able to leave here with a great vibe. Kikkan [Randall] took the win easily which points towards success one year from now and Ida [Sargent] had her first appearance in the A-final!”f

Dasha Gaiazova was the top finisher of the two Canadian qualifiers, finishing 12th after she placed second in her heat and sixth in the semis. Perianne Jones (CAN) finished in 18th spot.

Elizabeth Stephen (USA) and Chandra Crawford (CAN) did not qualify, and finished 42nd and 51st, respectively.

Qualifications HERE.
Final results HERE.

Interviews w/Canada’s Gaiazova and Valjas after Liberec WCup Sprints

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January 14, 2013 (Liberec, Czech Republic) – Check out these audio interviews with Canada’s Dash Gaiazova and Len Valjas following the Liberec World Cup sprints on the weekend. Gaiazova had a stellar day on the 1.3 CL course, finishing just off the podium in fourth. In the team sprint, Gaiazova and Perianne Jones finished 11th. Gaiazova is coming off of recent podium finishes on the OPA Cup circuit.

Valjas was the top Canadian man of the day in Liberac’s 1.6 CL event in 10th place. It was the rangy Canadian’s first race back after the grueling Tour de Ski during which he delivered the country’s first World Cup medal of the season.



Oberwiesenthal Classic Sprints – Canada’s Gaiazova on the Podium

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January 04, 2013 (Oberwiesenthal, Germany) – Canada’s Dasha Gaiazova was on the podium in the 1.2km CL women’s sprint in today’s Alpen Cup event in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, finishing a strong third in the final behind winner Doris Trachsel (SUI) and second place, Alen Prochazkova (SVK). Gaiazova qualified second behind Prochazkova. Perianne Jones (CAN) finished 14th and Chandra Crawford (CAN) was 21st after qualifying 12th and 14th, respectively.

Gianluca Cologna (SUI) won the 1.4km CL men’s competition after a fourth-place qualification. Baptiste Gros (FRA) and Rok Trsan (SLO) finished second and third, respectively.

Women HERE

Women 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.

USA’s Diggins Makes Final as Kowalczyk Tops the Field at Moscow WCup 1.5k Free Sprint

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February 02, 2012 (Moscow, Russia) – Twenty-year-old Jessica Diggins (USA) scored sixth today in the 1.5km Women’s Freestyle Sprint in Moscow, her best-ever individual World Cup result. Diggins was on fire qualifying first with a 2.47-second margin and started the final wearing the #1 bib – read more on the qualifications HERE.

“When I heard the results after the qualifier I actually thought it was some sort of joke they were playing on me! And then I did a couple backflips on the inside. Sometimes it all comes together at the right moment and you’re just having a great day,” Diggins told SkiTrax after her race.

Veteran skier, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) put the power down when it counted in the final to take the win, followed by Natalia Korosteleva (RUS) in second and Anastasia Kotsenko (RUS) third. Diggins, who skied in third and fourth positions for most of the final, couldn’t maintain the blistering pace, and finished sixth. With her victory Kowalczyk takes over the overall WCup lead from Marit Bjoergen (NOR) who did not compete in Moscow but expects to be racing in Rybinsk this weekend.“The final was such an unreal experience for me, I was just so psyched to be there and tried my best to keep up but ran out of energy in the last couple hundred meters. But I was super pumped to be right there, in the fight and maybe someday I’ll be able to hang on longer,” said Diggins.

Diggins was the only North American to qualify for the final. Teammate and WCup Sprint Cup leader, Kikkan Randall, just missed out to finish seventh overall, with Ida Sargent 12th. Daria Gaiazova (CAN) was the top Canuck in 22nd, followed by team mates Perianne Jones in 24th and Chandra Crawford 36th.

“Wasn’t quite what I hoped for myself, but great to see my teammates ski so well,” Randall told SkiTrax. “Jessie looked like she has been doing this for years, skiing so smooth and confident. And great to see Ida get right in the mix as well.” It was an historic finish for the USA as it was the first time three Americans had made the semi finals.

Randall has been under the weather recently and we wondered if she’s 100% or still a little flat after being sick. “I think I’ve rebounded pretty well but I did feel like I was missing my final sprint gear today. I think I was about 95%,” said the Sprint Cup leader.

“It was pretty cold and windy out there!  Just like racing at Kincaid stadium in Anchorage,” quipped Randall.

The qualifying heats were exciting for Diggins, who led her quarterfinal from the start, only to be nipped at the line by Ida Ingemarsdotter (SWE). Randall was in the same boat, leading her quarterfinal, only to be taken at the finish, while Sargent squeaked into her first semis as a Lucky Loser.

Things heated up for the U.S. trio in the semis, with all three contesting the same heat. The Americans led for most of the semi, with Diggins taking the win, and Russia’s Korosteleva nipping Randall for second. Sargent finished sixth.

“In the semifinal I had a moment where I realized that USA was going 1-2-3 and I was just so excited to be there and be in that moment, making some history go down,” said Diggins.

Was Randall  surprised that Korostaleva nipped her at the line? “I knew she was coming on strong and I was having trouble digging into my sprint gear. I didn’t come off the bridge as strong as I wanted too and I think that cost me some momentum.  I gave it what I had but I didn’t quite have enough to the line today. Frustrating for sure to be so close,” she confided.

Diggins is stoked for her next chance to compete with the world’s best at this weekend’s FIS World Cup events in Rybinsk, Russia, Feb. 4-5. “I don’t have any big strategies for Rybinsk… just to go as fast as I can, and do my best.”

Qualifying results HERE.
Final results HERE.
WCup Overall standings HERE.

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.



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


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.

CCC and Dasha Gaiazova Rift Still Unresolved

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October 18, 2011 (Canmore, AB) – Cross Country Canada held a news conference in Canmore yesterday to introduce the various National Ski Teams for the 2011-12 season, against the backdrop of the newly opened “Frozen Thunder” ski loop at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Athletes were made available for photo ops while finding their ski legs on the 1.5 km loop. Also apparent, however, was something of a chill in the relationship between CCC and arguably its top-performing female athlete on the World Cup circuit, Dasha Gaiazova, who was quietly dropped from the Senior World Cup squad last summer and who was today named to something called the “Senior Team,” of which she is the sole member.

This is a puzzling development given that Gaiazova is coming off her strongest season yet, one in which she captured her first World Cup medal (a bronze in the Team Sprint with Chandra Crawford in Dusseldorf) and placed 6th in the Team Sprint (with Perianne Jones) at the World Championships in Oslo. Rumours of a rift between Gaiazova and CCC began circulating back in early July. The fact that the parties have yet to resolve the issues after five months suggests that both sides may be entrenched.

Tom Holland, CCC’s Director of High Performance, confirmed as much in a recent interview with SkiTrax, describing the issues between CCC and its emerging female star as long-standing. Things appear to have come to a head last May when Gaiazova was asked to leave a Senior World Cup team camp in Bend, Oregon, after, according to Holland, failing to abide by the obligations of team members, including participating in prescribed training sessions. “We are very emphatic that our World Cup Team is a group of people that are committed to all our camps and working under our coaching team,” and that are committed “to what our team does in terms of the best practices, principles and priorities that really got us this far,” Holland said.

Among other issues, Holland pointed to Gaiazova’s difficulty with the World Cup team’s extensive travel schedule during both the racing and dryland seasons, which this year included stops all over Europe and Scandinavia, as well as Hawaii, Alaska and New Zealand, to name a few. Holland also alluded to the need to deal with Gaiazova in relation to other team members: “The most important thing on our team is chemistry … everybody’s got to be committed to the programme, althetes aren’t going to tolerate people that aren’t 100% behind what’s happening on that team.”

Having said that, however, Holland underlined that Gaiazova has not been dropped from the National Ski Team, that she continues to receive support from team coaches and staff, and that she will race on the World Cup circuit this season. Both he and the Senior World Cup team coaches, Holland claims, are in regular contact with Gaiazova’s club coach, John Jaques (Rocky Mountain Racers), and have input into her programme. In addition, Holland, along with other CCC staff and outside mediators, have been working closely with her to resolve the outstanding issues. “We have spent a huge amount of time with external resources to work through the conflicts and any difficulty there so that we can move forward constructively,” he said, “I’m working quite closely with Dasha myself and with our support staff to make sure she has what she needs.”

For her part, Gaiazova declined to comment on the rift with CCC when contacted by SkiTrax, but insists that her training over the summer went very well, despite not attending any camps or training with the Senior World Cup team. Following a training plan co-designed with Jaques, Gaiazova spent most of the dryland season training in Banff, which she says suited her “homebody” personality.

“I’m not the sort of person who enjoys being on the road for months and months,” she commented. Having said that she made a number of trips to the Haig Glacier for altitude training on snow, and recently spent two weeks in Park City, UT, where she participated in a US Ski Team camp. While admitting that it was difficult to find training partners of similar caliber to motivate and push her during the long dryland season, Gaiazova was grateful for the company of her RMR team-mate Andrea Dupont, with whom she trained often.

An important and largely unanswered question is what kind of impact her absence from the team has had on other members of the Senior World Cup team, in particular fellow sprinters Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones. All athletes rely on the company of competitive peers to motivate and push them. When SkiTrax put the question to Jones directly, however, she declined to comment. Chandra Crawford was unavailable for comment, as she was in transit from Europe.

While both parties appear eager to mend the rift and resolve their differences, the fact that the matter has dragged on for five months suggests that Gaiazova and CCC seem to be in for the long haul. CCC has conceded as much having assigned Gaiazova to the new Senior Team, a placeholder created exclusively to deal with the anomaly that she retains her position on the national team and will race on the World Cup circuit, but still remains “outside” of the Senior World Cup Team.

At the same time, the creation of a formal placeholder can be viewed as a gesture of conciliation, considering the alternatives, such as relegation to the Senior Development Team. “We’re going to do what’s best for her,” Holland insists, “right now, the World Cup Team may not be the best model [for her], but we’re working towards it.” Still, it remains unclear how long CCC will be prepared to maintain the placeholder. “We only have so much flexibility,” Holland concedes.

In the meantime, Gaiazova is focused on making sure she is ready to race when the season begins next month. She will be racing in the first World Cup period, where she will enjoy the team’s full support. Among her goals for the 2011-12 season are to race with more consistency and to solidify her position within the sprinters’ Red Group (the top 30 starters), which she managed to break into a number of times last year, although she finished the season ranked 31st overall.

“I’m really focusing on racing well through the whole winter, and the overall World Cup standings is something that is important to me,” she said. Gaiazova will also maintain her focus on Classic sprint events, her traditional strength, in which she says she will be “fighting to make it into the semi-finals and finals every time I have the opportunity.”

What remains to be seen, however, is what impact, if any, the last few months of training limbo will have on Gaiazova’s form, as well as the other women on the World Cup Team. We’ll start to get some answers when the racing begins in a few 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**

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 – A Look at the Otepaa WCup

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January 25, 2011 (Barrie, ON) – It was so good to see a “traditional” cross-country ski race on Saturday from Otepaa. The 10 and 15km individual start classic races were great to watch. I grew up with this form of racing and it’s what attracted me to the sport in the first place. For me racing against the clock and yourself with no one to help you is the purest form of racing. I used to argue with cycling road racers about the merits of racing by yourself or in a pack, and we agreed that it takes a different kind of mentality to do these two types of races.

You can really see this in Petter Northug (NOR). He’s a pack racer and a sprinter with the perfect mentality and physiology for those types of races. He’s not nearly as good as an individual start competitor. His 8th place on Saturday in Otepaa was actually a good race for him. I believe that 20 years ago, he would not have nearly as many good results that he has achieved when most of the races were individual starts. I also do not believe that his compatriot, the great Bjoern Dahlie, would have been as good back then if they were using mass starts because he did not have a very good sprint. Most of his races were won long before the final 200 meters.

However the same cannot be said for Norway’s queen, Marit Bjoergen. She is the best at everything. She can win an individual start by over 30 seconds like she did on Saturday and also win mass start races and sprints. She is just so dominant that it has become a surprise when she does not win. Once again, on Sunday in the individual sprints, for the second week in a row she had problems with another skier and did not make it into the final.

The distance course in Otepaa is a very tough course. The 5km loop is very hilly with one big hill that goes up beside the ski jump seemingly from the bottom to the top. The last 200 meters feature 13%-plus grade and all of the skiers had to herringbone. To win on a course like this you need great fitness, great technique, great mental strength and you need to pace properly. Bjoergen had all of these and won easily.

Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland) and Teresa Johaug (Norway) also showed great skills. Kowalczyk is in great shape and very strong mentally and Johaug is the best female climber in the world. That these three women finished one, two, and three is no surprise.

The men’s 15km race was won by Elder Roenning because he paced it better than anyone else, especially fellow Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby who was the leader at 10km but faded to 7th. Daniel Rickardsson of Sweden and Maxim Vylezghanin of Russia also showed great fitness and pacing to finish 2nd and 3rd. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Andrus Veerpalu finished 5th on his home track even though he is 40 years old. He is the master of the 15km classic having won two Olympic gold medals at that distance. He also does not like the mass start races with a sprint at the end and I’m sure that this race format was set up especially for him.

While the individual distance course was a true test of the skiers the classic sprint course from Sunday was not. There were not enough hills in this course so instead of watching a classic sprint race we got to watch a double pole sprint race. Yuck! I hate it when this happens – it’s like going to watch a hockey game and all they do is fight.

So, once again, with all six men in the final only double poling someone you have never heard of before – Eirik Bransdal of Norway won. Back in 2008 the same thing happened in Canmore where Bjoern Naess from Norway won. FIS tried to fix this by forcing race organizers to change the courses (they added a big hill in Vancouver to the sprint course) and we’ve never heard of Naess since. It’s a shame, really, because Otepaa obviously has the hills to make a good course. The ironic thing is that the Norwegians have been trying for years to preserve classic technique from the onslaught of skating and you would think that the head of the World Cup committee, Vegard Ulvang, who is Norwegian, would not want to have double pole only classic races. The other ironic thing is that Norwegians keep winning these kinds of races.

The female sprinters used all of the classic techniques in their race and the best classic sprinter in the world – Petra Majdic of Slovenia – won convincingly over last year’s World Junior champion, Hanna Brodin from Sweden, and Maikan Falla of Norway. Brodin will be staying in Otepaa for another week to contest the U23 World championships and she has to be the favourite to win the sprints next weekend.

Dasha Gaiazova had the best result of her career finishing 8th. She continues to improve, especially in sprinting and she has taken over the #1 spot on the Canadian women’s team. Chandra Crawford finished 27th after qualifying 17th. Her qualifying time was almost 3 seconds closer to the top time than what she did in Vancouver, so she is improving. However, she is still 6 seconds slower than the best classic sprinters so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

There were no Americans at Otepaa this weekend and the rest of the Canadian skiers were all young skiers who were there for experience and to race on the same courses that they will use next weekend for the U23 World Championships. The best results from these young skiers were the 31st place by Len Valjas (he missed qualifying for the heats by .02 seconds) and a 33rd by Alysson Marshall, also close to qualifying in the sprints.

There are no World Cup races next weekend because of these U23 World Championships which held in conjunction with the World Junior Championships. Both Canada and the United States have full teams at these events. The World Cup continues on February 4-6 in Rybinsk, Russia with a full weekend of pursuit, sprint and relay races.

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)

Haywood NorAm Thunder Bay Classic Sprint Video

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January 12, 2011 (Thunder Bay, ON) – Here is another video  courtesy of Team Hardwood’s Graham Longford with highlights from the Classic Sprint heats and finals at the 2011 Haywood NorAm WJr/U23 Trials at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, ON last weekend. Brent McMurtry took the men’s win over Stefan Kuhn and Jess Cockney, who also snagged the U23 victory. In the women’s race, it was Dasha Gaiazova who chalked up another win to her name. NorAm leader Perianne Jones took the silver, while Alysson Marshall doubled as the senior bronze medalist and the best U23 – read more HERE.

Grey and Jones Earn 10/15km Skate Wins at Haywood NorAm WJ/U23 Trials

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January 09, 2011 (Thunder Bay, ON) – Competing on the domestic circuit as part of a plan to return to the World Cup circuit while their Olympic teammates wrapped up the Tour de Ski, Canada’s George Grey and Perianne Jones found their stride by winning the men’s and women’s skate ski races at the Haywood NorAms in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Grey, of Rossland, B.C., is starting to discover the shape that helped him capture his lone World Cup medal two years ago in a team sprint with Alex Harvey in Whistler, B.C. The two-time Olympian captured his second victory of the weekend after completing the men’s 15-kilometre skate-ski race with a time of 39 minutes, 21.9 seconds at the Lappe Nordic Ski Centre.

“It was good race and a tough course today so I’m happy,” said Grey, who punched his ticket for a spot on Canada’s World Championship squad this weekend.

“Right now I’m going back to the drawing board. I’m working on my distance and getting my shape again. I have six weeks to go until Worlds so it will be good to get back around the team, and Justin (Wadsworth – head coach), to ramp it up to where I want to be.”

Grey has spent most of his summer and early season rebounding from knee surgery this spring.

“Motivation is tough to find for any athlete, and when you have injuries a dark cloud just follows you because you want to go but you have to be patient,” said Grey. “Everyone this weekend was peaking because it was trials for World Championships. To win twice I know I’m not far off so I’ll keep working hard at it.”

Grey was pressed for the podium by Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, who claimed the silver with a time of 39:27.3, while Michael Somppi, of Thunder Bay, Ont., rounded out the podium in third (39:34.6).

Meanwhile Canada’s Perianne Jones is also patiently making her comeback to the elite international circuit. Jones, of Almonte, Ont., won her second race on North America’s premiere development cross-country ski race series after posting a time of 31:02.7 in the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski event.

“I felt really good out there and I’ve known all year that I’ve just been feeling a lot better,” said Jones, who said her body felt a little bit up last year pushing the paces with the world’s best on the World Cup circuit. “My body was just really tired last year and it is nice to be building that confidence and racing professionally again here. I have been working hard on my technique and things have been going really well.”

Jones was put to the test this weekend with Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., who made her return from the World Cup. Gaiazova, who won a World Cup bronze medal in the team sprint earlier this year with Chandra Crawford, won the first two races of the weekend but was pushed to the second spot on the podium Sunday with a time of 31:18.3.

“It was awesome to have Daria here and bring the level of racing up a little,” said Jones. “It was a good reminder for me of how fast things are on the World Cup.”

Calgary’s Brooke Gosling claimed the bronze with a time of 32:27.5.

Full results HERE.

Results (brief)

Open Female

1.    Perianne Jones (Nakkertok/NST) 31:02.7
2.    Dasha Gaiazova (Rocky Mountain Racers/NST) +15.6
3.    Brooke Gosling (Foothills/CXC) 1:24.8
4.    Sara Hewitt (Foothills/AWCA) 2:01.7
5.    Brittany Webster (Highlands Trailblazers/AWCA) 2:23.4
6.    Heidi Widmer (Foothills/AWCA) 2:34.4
7.    Alysson Marshall (Larch Hills/AWCA/BCST) 2:36.3
8.    Annika Hicks (Canmore Nordic/AWCA) 2:40.6
9.    Anne-Marie Comeau (Club Nordique M.S.A.) 2:44.3
10.    Erin Tribe (Team Hardwood/NDC Thunder Bay)2:44.6

Open Male

1.    George Grey (Black Jack/NST) 39:21.9
2.    Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse/AWCA) 5.4
3.    Michael Somppi (Lappe Nordic/NDC Thunder Bay) 12.7
4.    Brent McMurtry (Foothill) 55.0
5.    David Greer (Whitehorse/CNEPH) 56.1
6.    Erik Carleton (Rocky Mountain Racers/RMR) 58.4
7.    Jess Cockney (Foothills/AWCA) 58.8
8.    Graeme Killick (Banff Ski Runners/ NST) 1:20.9
9.    Pate Neumann (Canmore Nordic/AWCA) 1:33.0
10.    Kevin Sandau (Foothills/NST/AWCA) 1:34.1

The Way I See It – Exciting Racing, Canadian Uniforms, George Grey, US Nationals, Haywood Trials, Dynamic Duo, Worlds Selections

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January 09, 2011 – What a week of racing – so exciting at all levels – the Tour de Ski (TdS), US Nationals and  the Haywood Trials to both pick the Senior Worlds, Junior Worlds and the U23 Championship teams that will all be heading to Europe in the next few weeks for their championships.

First to the TdS where the Canadian men are making all kinds of astronomical break through’s when it comes to the results and standing on the podium. It’s a very grueling series of races, and if you don’t believe that, look at how many people will be on the starting line tomorrow for the final race and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Tour. A total of 79 men started this trek along with 58 women and there will be 40 men and 36 women left to attack the Alpe Cermis – a very huge climb – to  continue to takes it’s toll right to the last second.

Canadian Team uniforms are interesting when seen from a distance – the lower legs being all white gives the appearance that the Canadians are skiing in knickers – the old fashion way.

Coverage of all of the competitions has really lifted the level of media exposure – press reporting, pictures by the 100s flying all over the place, twitter, and the video links to the TdS are all really cool. I was at a dinner party tonight and half the guests knew all about what was taking place at the TdS, and knew the skiers names. They sure slaughter Northug’s name!!! All an outcome of last year’s Olympics in Vancouver and of course the excellent results help the big time media pick up the releases in both countries.

George Grey made a very interesting quote after winning the first trial race at Thunder Bay at the Haywood NorAm Worlds Trials.

“It was awfully tight and very technical out there today,” said Grey. “I don’t really have my shape but I think my experience put me in the front in the end. The last few weeks of training have been challenging because my fitness isn’t there. But it will come around.”

It’s getting late George, half the World Cup schedule is done, you were in Europe before Xmas and had less than good results and have had the better part of a month to get things in order. The “Big 4” from Vancouver is now down to the “Big 2” as Ivan is also struggling to find his shape. Rumours have it that you made only one training camp all summer and fall and of course we all know about Ivan’s reality trip to South America and car buying trip to the US. This sport takes a full year of training effort every year – hope you guys catch fire soon.

The US Nationals were one soggy mess the first day of racing in Rumford. Use your imagination and instead of calling this Rumford, call it Oslo, as during the time that the Worlds are being hosted there it can easily be that ugly and worse. Plus the next day can be ass rattling icy. You had some good practice – be happy.

Haywood Trials one more time, and where was Canada’s sprint champion, Chandra Crawford? I know that she is headed to Liberec along with Dasha Gaiazova next week for some more international racing. I would have thought she would want to race the T-Bay races to lift her racing fitness to be ready for this tour. I know that she has had only one race since coming back from Europe over a month ago. She could have gone to Rossland with all the boys and Dasha the next weekend upon return and given those races a real lift by being there. Her counterparts in Europe are now at the 16-18 races for the year level and Chandra is only at 6-8 races. If Chandra makes it as a sprinter only, she will be the only one in the world.

The women who are the top women in the world are both sprinters and distance skiers, at all levels. I would use Kikkan Randall, a close friend of Chandra’s, as an example of the necessary steps that have to be taken. She was trying to make it as a sprinter two years ago – the light bulb went on and now she’s becoming a really good sprinter (currently ranked 3rd in the world) and is slugging her way through her first TdS quite nicely – and ranked 23rd on the WC distance list as I write this. Racing fitness comes from racing – it is the only way! There are not enough sprint races on the WC circuit to get anyone in shape.

Update on Canada’s dynamic duo, Devon and Alex, as they have been working there way through the TdS, they have also been improving the standings on the World Cup. Devon stands in 7th place overall and Alex has placed himself nicely in 11th. Too bad Alex didn’t make a better effort of being ready for the WC races before Christmas, coming late to the tour and then going home for some school exams. Who know how good he would be now?

Who makes the US Team to the World Championships in Oslo, Norway – here are my choices and I don’t have a clue about the criteria.

Women – Randall, Brooks, Arritola, Stephens, Symth – and as a PS send both Diggins and Bjornson to the World Jrs and U23s with the proviso that if they can make the top 10 in any event they come to Oslo.

Men – Freeman, Newell, Flora, Southam, Elliott and Hoffman – and have Hamilton prove himself in Drammen.

Both teams are building towards Sochi with older leadership, maturity and youth and will be on the international long road to getting ready for the big show 2014.

PS remember, no one can ski the whole schedule and you’re bound to have some sickness. Also – Oslo will be one hell of a show – close to or the equal of Sochii. Great place for the newbies to get their feet wet – no pun intended.

Talk to you soon.

Gaiazova and Grey Top Fields at Haywood NorAm 15/30km Pursuit

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January 06, 2011 (Thunder Bay, ON) – Cold conditions and a moderate wind made for a frigid race, dropping to 20 below at Lappe Nordic Centre, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm and drive of 174 racers on site for the competitions. The continuous pursuit races held today were trials to determine who would qualify for positions on Canada’s team at the 2011 World Senior Nordic Championships in Oslo, Norway and the World Junior/U23 Championships in Oteppa, Estonia. A perfect set of classic tracks and a challenging, lung-bursting skate leg, greeted the skiers.

In the senior Men’s category National Ski Team (NST) member, George Grey, of Rossland, B.C. earned a spot to go to Oslo edging out Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse in the final meter of the men’s 30km race. The race was described by Grey as a tactical one with several unsuccessful breakaway attempts by NST members Drew Goldsack and Stefan Kuhn in both the classic and skate portions.

“Many of the skiers in this race are at a very similar fitness level so it was difficult to establish any gaps,” said Grey a two-time Olympian. In the end his World Championship spot was decided by toe over Nishikawa as NorAm leader Goldsack claimed the bronze.

“It was awfully tight and very technical out there today,” added Grey. “I don’t really have my shape but I think my experience put me in the front in the end. The last few weeks of training have been challenging because my fitness isn’t there. But it will come around. I’d love to be in Europe even just to watch Devon (Kershaw) and Alex (Harvey) because those guys are flying. It will be fun to get them home and train beside them again, and get ready to race with them again at the World Championships.”

In the Senior women’s category, National Ski Team member Dasha Gaiazova held off a skate leg charge by Brooke Gosling (Foothills Nordic/CXC) to take the win. Ottawa’s Perianne Jones took the bronze after skiing closely with Gaiazova in the classic portion but was overtaken by Gosling in the final 7.5km skate section.

“It was really hard today. I’m not going to lie,” said Gaiazova.“I had really good skis and it was fun to be racing in Thunder Bay. I have really good memories of racing here at the Nationals in 2006, and I was just excited to be racing in Canada and on these trails again.”

In the Under 23 competitions Kevin Sandau and Emily Nishikawa took top honors.  Sandau, of Canmore, Alta., was the top under-23 male, while Emily Nishikawa was the fastest under-23 woman.

Heidi Widmer of Banff, Alta., was the top Junior woman in their 10-kilometre pursuit race with a time of 32:38.8 while Thunder Bay-based National Development Centre skier Andy Shields dominated the junior men’s 20-kilometre pursuit. Shields skated away in the final 10km to a 51-second victory.  Both Widmer and Shields are now guaranteed to go to the Junior Worlds in Estonia.

Races continue Saturday and Sunday and predicted warmers temperatures will likely heat up the action.

With files from CCC.

Full results HERE.