Tag Archive | "Justin Wadsworth"

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

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

Inside the Fence – Canmore Course Preview w/USA’s Bjornsen, Interviews w/Kershaw, Wadsworth and More

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December 13, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – Check out the latest edition of  FIS’s Inside the Fence – the Canmore preview. Follow the USA’s Sadie Bjornsen for a lap around the women’s 3.3km classic course, and watch interviews with Vibeke Skofterud, Kristen Stoermer Steira, Devon Kershaw and Justin Wadsworth.

Alberta FIS World Cups – Canmore SET to Welcome the World from Dec. 13-16

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December 12, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – In only a matter of hours the FIS World Cup will roll into a town, into a place steeped in Nordic history. Canmore, the host of the cross-country skiing and biathlon competitions of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games will play host to three exciting days of cross-country skiing competition.

We talked with OC President Ken Hewitt to get an idea about what’s ahead. “At the earlier World Cup’s (2005, 2008) our focus was the “on-snow” aspects of a World Cup such as good tracks, proper stadium, good snow, team accommodations, transportation and communications etc. As we have learned to get those aspects to a reliable state, we have worked to enhance the “off-snow” aspects – the World Cup Festival, spectator experiences, and marketing.

“World Cup 2012 will have a significantly enhanced spectator experience with a new “Spectator Zone” at the end of the stadium, more and larger video displays, in-field entertainment, and improved signage. Also… the Town of Canmore has laid on an impressive “Nordic Festival” to accompany the World Cup — the downtown area will be literally ablaze with activities, and with many specials specifically for World Cup athletes,” Hewitt said in a recent interview.

We asked him about the Quebec World Cups and its impact and he said, “We are seeing that a majority of racers coming to Canmore are sprinters – probably because both of the first two races in Canmore (in Québec) are sprints.

Logistically, there are challenges getting athletes, equipment, timing gear and marketing materials from Québec to Canmore in three days – it’s over 3,300 km,” he said.

As always is the case many volunteers play a major role in making it all happen, “The Competition Committee and Organizing Committee consists of about 45 people. These are the ones who have been working on this event for the past year. We have a dozen contractors in specific roles, and 2 staff. Most important however, are the 470 volunteers who will be working both the race events and the downtown activities,” Hewiit concluded.

Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth told SkiTrax what it’s like competing on-home snows saying “It’s always tough to balance these home World Cups with all the extraneous stuff that goes down, but I believe the athletes will come with better bodies this week, and will fight for some podiums. It’s a new sprint course, so that should be interesting, and one that should suit our team well. Other than that we’re bloody but unbowed,” said Wadsworth.

Checking in with USA Coach Chris Grover he offered his hopes for the Canmore events. “In Canmore, we are expecting the women’s team to continue to carry the momentum that they created all fall,” the Alaska native said, “and we are looking for the men’s squad to make a step forward and realize the kind of results that these guys are capable of.”

Andy Newell said, “… I was happy to be back in the finals in Quebec so I’ll definitely be carrying a little more confidence into the next few races in Canmore. Both my sprint fitness and speed are feeling really good right now so I’m looking forward to getting more chances at racing through the heats. I will also be doing the mass start classic race on Thursday. My distance fitness has improved a lot this year but I haven’t really had a chance to perform at my best in any distance races yet this season so it’s a bit of an unknown. But I’ll give it my best shot on these tough Canmore courses and hopefully come out with a good points race.”

Canmore will be utilizing a new sprint course, 1.3 km in length, and it will be challenging, according to many. The World Cup events are non-ticketed, and shuttle buses will be used to transport fans to the venue as there is no public parking on site.

Hewitt indeed was optimistic about the Canadian squad at Canmore, offering, ” We know already that the majority of racers will be “top 30″ in the world, so the competition will be tough. That said, we also clearly anticipate Canadians on the podium.”

It looks like a series of races that will be too good to miss.

Alberta FIS World Cup 2012 Schedule
– Dec. 13, 2012     10 km C Mst     L
– Dec. 13, 2012     15 km C Mst     M
– Dec. 15, 2012     SP F Qual     L
– Dec. 15, 2012     SP F Final     L
– Dec. 15, 2012     SP F Qual     M
– Dec. 15, 2012     SP F Final     M
– Dec. 16, 2012            Skiathlon 7.5/7.5 km C/F     L
– Dec. 16, 2012     Skiathlon 15/15 km C/F     M

Behind the Scenes Interviews w/Grover, Wadsworth, Flora, Dyer, Jeffries, Whitcomb at the FIS Quebec City Sprint WCup

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December 12, 2012 (Quebec City, QC) – SkiTrax caught up with a few North American behind-the-scenes players at the inaugural FIS Quebec City Sprint World Cup this past weekend to get the inside scoop on how the event played out for their respective teams.

Interviews include US XC Team Head Coach Chris Grover, CCC Men’s Coach Justin Wadsworth, APU Head Coach Erik Flora, and an elated US XC Team Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb. Plus, the legendary Peter Graves speaks with CCC Director of Events Dave Dyer and CCC Director of Business Development Matt Jeffries.

Chris Grover

Justin Wadsworth

Eric Flora




Volcanoes, Glaciers and Rollerskis: 2012 Training Season Update with Coach Wadsworth

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September 27, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – It’s funny. The athletes came into this training season more excited than ever, when one would think that after such a successful last season it would have been just the opposite. The amount of work this team has done over the last two years has been exhausting and I thought maybe people would slow down a bit and need to be encouraged back into training mode. Well, that couldn’t be further from the case.

Champing at the bit, the athletes travelled to Bend, Oregon for an on-snow camp combined with the US ski team. We had amazing skiing and weather which helped make this our best spring camp ever. Everyone on the team came into this camp fit and pumped up to get things going-it was great!

A few weeks after the Bend camp, our newly formed women’s team, led by Coach Eric de Nys, went north to Alaska for a half dryland and half on-snow camp with the US women’s team. This camp was a major success, with one of the largest (and for sure best) women’s training groups ever assembled in North America. Although the weather on the glacier wasn’t exactly sunny the women laid down some serious K’s and hours and came away more fit than ever.

While the ladies were in AK, the guys and I were hammering up from sea level to 10,000 feet on rollerskis on the island of Maui. The men tallied up more than 60,000 feet of vertical over 12 days, while camping high up on the volcano. There are other places to do altitude camps but nowhere else where you can do this kind of full-on vertical training. By far this was the camp where I saw the biggest changes in the guys, and everyone knew they had just gone up two notches in fitness. Straight from Hawaii we finished off the altitude training at the Haig Glacier in Alberta with 3 days of skiing at 3000 meters.

Since we have camps almost every month with most lasting around two weeks, I thought this summer would be a good time to give our athletes a six week break to settle in, train, and visit friends and family. During this period, Joel Jaques from our technical team and Perianne Jones from the women’s team got married and it was a celebration shared by many in the Cross Country Canada family.

In late August the women’s team joined forces with the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) in Whitefish, Montana for another large women’s camp. Once again energy was high and the women focused on a good mix of intensity and distance, with a couple hard time trials to start engaging the racing legs. Chris Jeffries, Head Coach of the AWCA, and Eric de Nys worked well together and the energy coming out of this camp would carry everyone for weeks.

During this same period, the men were in on-snow in New Zealand banging out big hours and focusing on skiing technique. Coach Louis Bouchard and I were extremely happy with the work done there and left excited for the real winter to come.

Both the men’s and women’s teams are now off to Park City, Utah. Although the teams have different schedules, we’ll be doing some workouts together and eating dinners as a group. It’s our last dryland camp of the year and it will be fun to get everyone back together.

We’re all back to Canmore after Park City for skiing on our “kept” snow for our famous Frozen Thunder event. The Canmore Nordic Centre scrapes off the sawdust used to insulate the snow during the summer and rolls it out Oct 15th. It’s such an advantage for us to know we can start getting the edge on our competition by skiing so early, and right at home!

The World Cup races start Nov 24th in Gellivare, Sweden, and then move on to Kuusamo, Finland for the first mini-tour of the season. From there it’s time to head back to Canada for the much anticipated Quebec City and Canmore World Cups.

Our team is in a better place than ever and it’s an exciting time for everyone involved in cross country skiing in Canada. Without the support of our CCC members, fans and partners we would not be where we are today. Thank you!


From left: Lenny Valjas, Coaching Consultant Torbjorn Karlsen, Coach Wadsworth. Location:Canmore, AB

The Way I See It – US and Canadian Women’s Relay Teams

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February 14, 2012 – US Best – Sunday’s relay effort by the US women has to be one of the top racing days in the history of Women’s Cross Country skiing in the US – if not the top day. It opened a huge gateway into the future. There were many reasons for this relay to be a bomb of the year rather than an effort that would have everyone over here cheering in their offices, breakfast nooks, cars, and where ever they were watching this effort on their computers.

For starters Kikkan Randall, the team’s best skier, sat out another race. On top of that the four ladies on the team had skied a very hard 15km CL WC the day before, Holly Brooks (the starter) is still wearing her wrist splint (now and then) and doesn’t have a bunch of races under her belt the last few weeks and didn’t finish the classic race the day before. Ida, the 4th lady in the pecking order, was replacing Kikkan the leader – BUT – on race day they came to the start line dressed in their striped USA red, white and blue socks over their uniforms and painted red and blue USA’s on their faces to lay down four of the best performances in their careers landing the best-ever USA relay result – 5th place.

Not only missing 4th place by a second, but being less then a minute behind Norway who won – that is something to talk about. QUESTION: What does the future hold – it’s exciting for everyone – and kudos to the coaches and the skiers for their dedication to having such an aggressive approach to building the relay team’s going forward – here we come Sochi! They now have quality and depth in taking this direction that they decided on in the summer months. Sounds like a plan!

Now North of The Border – You have just the opposite direction being taken by the Ladies program in Canada. As I wrote last week the women never made it to Rybinsk and now moving forward (or backward) from there only Perianne [Jones] was in Nove Mesto, while Chandra had to go home for a family emergency and Dasha, the lone member of the newly formed “senior team”, was in Seefeld with her boyfriend for training and an Austrian Alps holiday. It’s been two weeks and only one of the three ladies has raced once in that period – not an international scope in focus that I can see.

Here are some of the numbers that will show you the disparity between the US and the Candian women’s program when it comes to racing starts from the beginning of the season in Sjusjoen, Norway to Nove Mesto, CZE.

Canadian Ladies:
– Dasha – 15 races
– Perianne – 17
– Chandra – 17 (emergency trip home)

US Ladies:
– Jessie – 24
– Kikkan – 35
– Holly – 34 (broken wrist)
– Liz – 33
– Ida – 25
– Sadie – 19 (off the circuit a couple of weeks ago)

I don’t place the blame on the Canadian girls, but on the coaching staff, mainly [Justin] Wadsworth and [Eric] DeNys as they work with the ladies and chart the course for the year. But mainly it’s the coaches direction and expertise that is counted on here for going in the right direction. You say I’m not being fair, what about the Men’s program? They’ve been pounding the circuit since Sjusjoen in mid-November, so why not the Ladies? It’s a program that is not building towards Sochi.

I can remember watching Devon [Kershaw] fighting his way through season’s 5-6 years ago and getting beaten down but going back for more the next year… and look at him now.

The Canadian Ladies are racing about 1.4 races per week (mostly sprints) which is not enough to be in racing shape. This plan has way too many breaks – the training should have been done in the summer. I think this was the way of the 90s, the old North American way, not the new dedicated “we will be in Europe all winter way” adopted supposedly by both team this year. Sorry Canadian Ladies – you got the short straw this year.

Can any of the Canadian Ladies make it to Falun for the WCup finals…? Not likely – Chandra has a chance, but it is slipping away fast. Time for this program to change gears – real fast.

Talk To You Next Time,

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.

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.

World Cup Teams Announce New Coaching Staff

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May 12, 2011 – The start of May also signifies the start into the new season – summer preparations have now begun for most Cross-Country World Cup teams. For the coming season, some changes in the coaching structures have taken place. Below a summary of some that have come to the attention of the FIS so far:

In France, Christophe Deloche will be responsible for the men’s team in addition to being the head coach. As his assistant, Patrice Paquier will join the team and work as a conditioning coach. The newly introduced sprint team will be led by Matthieu Fort. Anael Huard will take over the role of the ladies’ coach while former world champion, newly-retired World Cup racer Vincent Vittoz will be responsible for the U-23 team.

In Norway, Åge Skinstad has been appointed Head of Cross-Country Skiing and will be responsible for the national team, recreational Cross-Country and marketing. Vidar Løfshus will move to Skinstad’s former position as head coach. After the retirement of Morten Aa Djupvik this spring, the position of the men’s coach is still open. Meanwhile Roar Hjelmeset (33) will become new coach for the female sprinters succeeding Jon Arne Schejtne who stepped down after last season. Roar is the younger brother of Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset who retired in 2005.

In Germany, the coaching structure for the national team stays the same with Jochen Behle in the lead. Bernd Raupach will be returning to Germany after a spell in Austria to lead the training base in Ruhpolding. Norwegian Guri Hetland has extended her contract as the Swiss head coach and World Cup distance team coach whilst her husband Tor Arne Hetland stepped down as the sprint coach for the Swiss team. Christian Flury, who was coach of the ladies’ team last season, has become new head of the National Cross-Country Performance Center in Davos and will coordinate the training base there.

In Canada, head coach Justin Wadsworth continues in his role as does Finnish head coach Magnar Dalen. The Swedish coaching trio, Joakim Abrahamsson, Rickard Grip and Arild Monsen, will work at least another year together. The Czech team remains in the hands of Miroslav Petrasek.

In several countries, negotiations are still underway and new appointments will be announced shortly. For the latest updates, visit www.fiscrosscountry.com

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**

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

Kershaw’s Drammen Report – You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

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February 21, 2011 (Drammen, Norway) – Sitting in the ice bath willing my sore/tired body to recover I picked an old Rolling Stones diddy to keep me company and keep my mind off the 10 degree water temp. Mick kept belting out “You can’t always get what you want…” time after time during that particular 7+minute rock-saga while my muscles contracted in the sweet feeling of “recovery.”

All the while I couldn’t help but agree with those rocking Brits – decades later that refrain continues to ring true (although I am sure they didn’t pen those lyrics with Nordic skiing in mind). It has been five long weeks without competition after a banner 2011 Tour de Ski campaign and sadly with Drammen now in the books – things did not go the way I had envisioned them going prior to this weekend’s World Champ tune-ups.

Day 1: 15km Individual Start Classic
I was optimistic of my chances heading into the competition having had some solid intensity sessions the week leading in – which was a surprise since last weekend I had to forgo racing a Norwegian Cup race (which I was looking forward to!) in Beitostolen due to a flu bug I must have caught on my journey over the Atlantic.

Things felt on track and I psyched upon inspecting the course. It was a tough course, with long rolling climbs that I felt suited my racing style and any time I get to race classic races I’m usually pretty fired up.

In addition to that, racing in Norway is always an amazing experience. Skiing was invented here after all. Cross-country skiing is a big deal here and over 15,000 fans braved the cold to come cheer us on. It’s their #1 winter sport – and racing around the 5km course I was shocked at how many people new my name?!

Early on the race turned into a real fight. Even in the first few kilometers I was struggling to find any sort of rhythm – usually a given for me in classical races. After a lap (5km) I was outside of the top 30 on the splits and struggling. Hard. The climbs felt like they were going on forever and the body was hurting bad.

I fought hard, staying with the technique. I dug in, kept positive and kept fighting – all the while trying in vain to find that elusive race pace and rhythm.

15km later, it never did come. I crossed the line a disappointing 26th place, over 1:41 down on the tall, talented Swede, Daniel Rickarsson who shattered the field by a blistering 30 seconds. I expected more on the results board – but damn if I didn’t fight hard. I was completely bagged at the line taking solace in the fact that I gave it my best effort.

After not racing in so long, the main objective was obtained – feeling that hurt and racing with a bib on again. The reality is no matter how many interval sessions you do, or time trials – real competition can’t be faked and can only come through real racing – with a bib on, and the xc community watching.

Day 2: 1.6km Skate Sprint
This morning I was really sore/tired from the 15km classic but super excited to get another crack at it in another event that I truly love, the skate sprint.

The day started poorly. Warming up my legs felt like maple – hard and heavy. I stuck to the plan and did a good, hard warm up in hopes of shaking the body awake.

Bad feelings aside (you can never trust your warm up – I’ve had some of the best races of my life after garbage warm ups), I knew the course was well suited for me – quite flat, with some good corners to accelerate out of. I kept telling myself that I’d feel better when the race is happening.

After repeating that mantra all morning – in the qualifier I actually did feel better than in the warm up. I was skiing “big” and felt as though I was gliding well – but crossing the line and hearing the damage, I was instantly bummed. Turns out I was awful.

Talking with Justin post-race, he said that I “looked good, but didn’t look like I had the gear to attack the course really…” and that “perhaps I was skiing too smooth” That could explain why I felt better – but ended up 48th.

While I stunk – it was an amazing day for the “Quebec crew”- Alex and Lenny. Alex snagged his first-ever skate sprint podium – finishing an amazing 2nd place to Joensson and out sprinting Northug – which was so inspiring to see. He was on fire! Lenny – all 6’6 of him – had a major breakthrough at the right moment – 4 days out from Worlds – to crack the top ten with a gutsy 9th place, after qualifying a stunning 4th. He is such a talent and will be a stable on top of the sprint leader board in the years to come for sure.

While there’s nothing I loathe more than watching sprint rounds on TV after not qualifying and I was really disappointed with today’s sprint – I was straight up pumped for the crew. For me, I’ll try to keep telling myself life goes on. It’s just racing. I wanted to have a personal best today when I woke up – and it didn’t happen.

Every time I slip a bib over my shoulders I hope for a personal best – and it rarely happens. There are always other chances and luckily my next one is coming up quickly. I hope to make a quick turn around and be ready to go on Thursday for the maiden race of this year’s World Champs.

I’m confident in the training Justin laid out, and I know that it will come around at some point (I just hope sooner rather than later!). All I can do is continue to try my best – which I did this weekend. Sometimes it goes – like it did during the Tour – other times racing tests you – like it did in Drammen. That’s the game.

Maybe The Stones were right all along. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find – you get what you need.”

I obviously needed to blow out the carbon, put a bib on and race my guts out. I did that. It wasn’t what I wanted – but hell if I didn’t need it.

World Championships start Thursday. No matter what, I’ll be busy during the 10 days doing what I always do – getting after it and gunning for personal bests.

Word up to our staff today – the skis (as those that watched the races witnessed) were boss! We have the best staff ever!

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

Cologna Wins TdS Overall as Bauer Powers to 3rd – Kershaw 7th and Harvey 10th

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January 9, 2010 (Alpe Cermis, Italy) – It’s over. The 5th annual FIS Tour de Ski finished atop Italy’s Alpe Cermis today, crowning Swiss super star Dario Cologna as the best all-round ski racer in the world. Cologna had little trouble defending his commanding lead on the 9km uphill climb.

Norway’s Petter Northug claimed 2nd over all, but the real story was Czech Lucas Bauer’s phenomenal display of climbing prowess. Like Therese Johaug (NOR) in the women’s race Bauer hurled himself up the mountain, posting the fastest time of the day and vaulted himself from 10th to 3rd in the over all.

Canadians Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey, who throughout the Tour have posted some of their country’s most impressive World Cup results ever, finished in 7th and 10th respectively overall.

In come-from-behind moves of their own, Canadian Ivan Babikov and US skier Kris Freeman posted impressive results on the final day. Both skiers have struggled during the Tour, but today they left that all behind, skiing together and snagging the 6th and 7th fastest times of the day respectively – Babikov ended up 21st overall and Freeman was 28th.

For Freeman having the 7th best time up Alpe Cermis behind Babikov in 6th was a final coup for him at the Tour and retribution for yesterday’s waxing debacle in the 20km classic.

“For sure today was an attempt to make good on yesterday which was a 19-km sufferfest. I felt good going into the 20km on Stage 7 but knew after the first kilometre I knew that I was in trouble – it was a frustrating day out there and no one felt good about it.”

An interesting twist to Freeman’s day was forgetting his transponders, “a rookie move” as he put it. “I was distracted today because of yesterday and some personal issues and only realized at 1.5km into today’s race that I’d forgotten my transponders – a rookie move. Chris [Grover, Head Coach] appealed to the jury later and I was super lucky that they understood and allowed my day to count.”

For the first few kilometres of the race things stayed relatively calm. At 3.5km Harvey was skiing very well, having moved into 3rd behind Cologna and Northug with Kershaw in 6th. But by the 5.6km mark, Harvey had been overtaken by Italy’s Roland Clara and France’s Jean Marc Gaillard who had passed Kershaw now in 7th… as Bauer lurked behind in 10th.

Nothing much changed by the next interval at 6.5km but soon after everything did. Just as the skiers hit the toughest point on this toughest of courses, Bauer dropped the hammer and suddenly attacked vaulting himself into 3rd by the 7.4km mark. From there, it was all about masochism, and Bauer certainly knows how to punish himself.

So too, does Babikov, who last year took the win in the Tour’s final hill climb. The former Russian skier, and veteran of three tours said he felt strong on today’s stage.

“I always felt pretty confident on this stage,” said Babikov. “I knew I had a chance for a good time on the day, so I went for it hoping to get some points.”

He said this year’s edition of the challenging stage was especially tough.

“Every year it seems longer, or maybe I’m just getting older. Either way, it’s tough. Some places are very narrow and it’s hard to pass. With the 6th fastest time, I’m happy,” commented Babikov.

Devon Kershaw was quick to agree with his teammate.

“Hill climbing is super hard,” said Kershaw. “I moved into 7th, and I’m happy to have stayed in the top 10. Losing time in the overall is a little disappointing, but with four podiums and such solid races, we must have done some good training.”

With one bronze, two silvers and a gold medal from this Tour, Kershaw also takes home some significant prize money. Cologna will take home 150,000 Swiss Francs ($155,000US) for the overall win, with Northug picking up 100,000. Bauer get’s 50,000 thanks entirely to today’s powerful showing…not bad for a day’s work.

All told Kershaw will head back to Canada with 25,000 Swiss Francs. When asked about his plans for the cash, Kershaw joked, saying “The guys have been razzing me about my old ’96 Saab…maybe it’s time I passed it along and might get something newer in the spring.” A new set of wheels is certainly a well-deserved reward for Kershaw’s impressive results of late.

Canadian head coach Justin Wadsworth couldn’t be happier with how this year’s Tour has gone.

“I knew Dev and the guys would ski well,” said Wadsworth. “They’ve been working hard. I thought one podium for sure, but four… I couldn’t have predicted that.”

U.S. coach Chris Grover was also gratified with Freeman’s solid day to end the Tour. “Considering our wax issues yesterday it was really important for Kris to have a good day – it was a great finish for him on good skis.”

Freeman heads to Munich later today and will be home tomorrow where he’ll take a short break and then prepare for the Nordic Worlds in Oslo in Feb.

Alex Harvey echoed his teammates enthusiasm for their accomplishments over 10 days of grueling racing.

“It’s like a circle,” he said. “Dev medals, and we all get pumped, and it pushes us. Then it happens again and it keeps coming around.”

Harvey posted some very strong splits early in today’s race, even taking over 3rd place for a short while.

“It was really good, I’m really happy with how my body felt. The real skiing, in the stadium and early on felt really good…but when I hit that wall, man, with all that off setting…my legs just cramped up. That climb is just so hard.”

Harvey also heaped praise on the coaching and wax staff, pointing out how well taken care of he, Devon and Ivan were.

“Justin’s been really good, pushing us on recovery and stuff like that. Having the bus was a huge advantage. It’s a great lounge for us after the races. We’ll have it again next year.” The Canadians may just be on to something. The tour bus has been such a hit that it’s likely other teams will follow suit.

For now, the Canucks are heading home. Kershaw and Babikov will head back to Canmore, and Harvey home to Quebec for a month of recovery and prep training before returning to Europe for World Championships. But Harvey will first make a quick stop at the U23 World Champs.

“It’s my last year U23,” he said. “And I want to use that. I’d like to go for a U23 World Champs title while I can.”

Men’s 9km Pursuit Results HERE.
Men’s 9km Pursuit finishing order HERE.
Final Overall HERE.
Final Overall detail HERE.

Super Dario Wins as Harvey Takes 5th and Kershaw 10th at TdS 35km Pursuit UPDATED

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January 06, 2011 (Cortina, Italy) – Dario Cologna (SUI) hammered out a lonely 35km from Cortina to Toblach, Italy to maintain his dominant overall lead in today’s 6th stage at the FIS Tour de Ski. As leader of the Tour, Cologna started first in today’s handicap start, and no one could catch him. Swede Marcus Hellner came the closest, finishing second at 1:11.4 behind. Norway’s Petter Northug was the strongest in the chase group to finish third at 1:50.3 behind.

Canada’s Alex Harvey skied a very strong race today, finishing 5th. He helped control a chase pack of about 10 skiers that formed behind Hellner who broke away on his own attempting to bridge to Cologna to no avail. The group was intent on hunting down the leaders and by km 16, Harvey was pulling for Kershaw.

“It feels pretty good sitting in 5th! I’m kind of surprised, I was always coming to the Tour with the ambition of having 2-3 good days, not going for the overall,” said Harvey by email.

With Cologna skiing off the front at 5km, Canada’s Devon Kershaw had initially gained about 5 seconds on the leader and  was followed closely by Hellner but couldn’t maintain the pace.

“Today’s race was frustrating. I felt good again but when Hellner went by me he was on another level,” Kershaw told SkiTrax.  “I was going for it – but alone in the wind with a chase group of 10 breathing down hard on me – I was quickly swallowed up. I know I will celebrate my two 2nd place finishes and my career-first win when I get home, and I know I’ll be thrilled about them, but today I was left frustrated.”

Harvey said Kershaw’s three recent medals were on his mind as he raced. “I was motivated by watching Devon yesterday,” he said in a CCC press release.  “We saw Devon win a race and have three podiums – we know it’s possible. Today I was right there myself and I know I can get on the podium too.”

Along with the Canucks, the 10-skier chase pack included top skiers like Petter Northug (NOR), Lucas Bauer (CZE), Martin Jaks (CZE) and Daniel Rickardsson (SWE). The group skied well together at first, but by km 21 they seemed disorganized. When it became apparent that they weren’t likely to close in on Cologna or Hellner, they began to lose time as they each worried about the approaching finish line.

In the final few kms the pack began to splinter and it was every man for himself.

“The pack was very disorganized out there coming down the hill,” said Kershaw.  “Northug and Alex’s skis were definitely a notch above the rest, but with an opportunity for 3rd place in that pack – no one was willing to sacrifice to get back on Hellner.”

“I was pushing hard on the downhill part with Northug,” said Harvey.   “It seamed like people gave up on chasing Hellner and started racing for 3rd place, which is kind of stupid in a handicap start.  Who cares about the 3rd place really? I’d rather be 9th 30sec down on Hellner than 3rd 55sec down.  I was surprised that Northug was pushing the pace… he’s not known for doing that, but was 3rd in the end.”

Harvey said he felt that Kershaw’s pack could have done more to catch Hellner early on instead of resigning themselves to third, but as for catching Cologna, “No way in hell. He’s just better than anyone else right now, calm, strong and always putting himself in the right spot.”

As the skiers closed in on the finish line, Northug was able to best the few survivors of the chase pack, with Harvey taking a photo-finish over Rickardsson and Curdin Purl (SUI) to finish 5th. Kershaw finished 10th behind Matti Heikkinen (FIN) and Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA).

“It was OK for the guys today,” said Canadian head coach Justin Wadsworth. “Alex was in good company to move up well. I would say it was a good day for him. Devon was OK too – he maintained his spot for the whole way up the hill, but succumbed to the group on the gradual down. It would have cost a lot of energy today for him to really go for it, and it might have been too much of a risk, especially with the 20km classic coming up. Ivan had a good day and moved up which puts him in a spot to improve more in the following days.”

Wadsworth said the team’s “rock-star” bus proved yet again to be a great tool for the athletes. “The bus is really serving it’s purpose with great recovery between stages, and a sanctum for the guys to prepare for battle. It came in really handy this morning in Cortina where there was no good place for the athletes to be.”

Canada’s Ivan Banikov finished 25th and the USA’s Kris Freeman placed 28th after starting in 20th and is 28th overall. Freeman’s teammate Andy Newell decided to call it quits and didn’t start today’s race. He joins 34 others who have abandoned the grueling Tour including Tobias Angerer (GER), Axel Teichmann (GER), Alexander Legkov (RUS) and Emil Joensson (SWE).

“Kris wanted more for sure and was hoping to move forward instead of falling back,” said US coach Chris Grover. “However, I was proud of his effort, especially for his first time seeing and skiing such a specialized course. I think this course requires some experience.”

As for Newell’s decision to withdraw, Grover said, “Andy and I decided it was best for him to stop the Tour. His distance skiing has not been close to his ability or potential this week, so we feel we need to take some days off and re-evaluate his preparation for the second half of the season.”

Kershaw Wins First World Cup Gold at TdS Toblach Skate Sprint

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January 05, 2011 (Toblach, Italy) – In dramatic style that’s been building since his two silver medals at the Tour de Ski, Canada’s Devon Kershaw went for broke and claimed the gold medal win he’s been craving as he brought the nation to it’s feet.

His coach predicted it and Kershaw delivered winning today’s 1.3km freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy, the fifth leg of the FIS World Cup Tour de Ski.

Kershaw is only the third Canadian man to win a World Cup. Ivan Babikov won the final 10km freestyle uphill stage at the 2009 Tour de Ski while the great Pierre Harvey (father to Kershaw’s teammate Alex Harvey) won three World Cups, one in 1987 and two in 1988.

Kershaw’s been on fire lately laying down incredible results in the Tour this year. He racked up back-to-back silver medals first in the classic sprint, and then in the 15km classic. After his classic sprint performance, coach Justin Wadsworth predicted that “Devon’s first win was imminent.”

“I’m thrilled. I’m more than thrilled. I absolutely cannot believe it,” said Kershaw describing his win in a CCC press release. “Justin [Wadsworth – Canadian Ski Team head coach] kept telling me all year to be patient and the win would come. I wanted to believe him and I just kept staying with the plan. This is just unreal.”

Kershaw only narrowly sneaked into the final, taking the second lucky loser spot. Clearly, he took that near miss to heart, skiing an absolutely perfect final for the gold. He held back early on, staying in 4th and 5th position.

On the first climb he made a move to take over the lead, but it wasn’t until the final climb that he really blew the doors off, dropping the field and making for the finish like a man possessed. He opened a large gap heading into the final stretch and it proved enough to stave off the hard-charging Dario Cologna (SUI) and Petter Northug (NOR).

His break-away, which he called a “suicide move” wasn’t something he’d planned, said Kershaw.  “It kind of just materialized. I was tucked in the pack while some other guys were working for the first lap. When I saw [Marcus] Hellner making a bit of a move, I just went with it,” said Kershaw in a phone interview.

Waiting to hear about the lucky loser spot while the second semifinal raced must have been nerve wracking, but Kershaw said he was pretty relaxed.   “The reality is the goal was just to get through the quarters today,” he said. “I knew that worst case scenario I’d end up 7th…and the pace had seemed pretty high, so I was nice and relaxed.”

Kershaw had stellar skis under him today, and has throughout the Tour.

“Our hats go off to Yves (Bilodeau) and all our wax guys,” said Wadsworth. According to the NST head coach, their skis are turning heads in a big way. Even Cologna commented to Wadsworth that the Canadians have consistently had “the best skis in the field.”

American fast man Andy Newell qualified strongly in 6th this morning, and skied well taking the win in his quarterfinal. In his semifinal, he had some difficulties, getting boxed in on the last corner and finished third, but the pace in his heat was not fast enough to snag a lucky loser spot, both of which went to the 3rd and 4th skiers of the first heat – including Kershaw.

Newell’s teammate Kris Freeman qualified in a World Cup sprint for the second time in his career but was paired with Newell in the quarter finals and did not advance.

Canada’s Alex Harvey, 8th in the qualifications was also out early placing third in his quarterfinal heat – but gets more time rest is not a bad thing at the Tour de Ski.

Now with a win – and the 60-second time bonus that accompanies it – under his belt, Kershaw is closing in on Tour de Ski leader Cologna, but he said taking the over all win isn’t a priority for him.

“No, it’s definitely not a goal right now.” He said his goal for the Tour was never the overall, but to have solid races. He’s had four impressive results, including two silvers a now a gold medal, and he said he’s happy with that and is already thinking about preserving his form for World Championships.

Kershaw sounded a little nervous about Thursday’s 35km handicap start freestyle race, saying “I’ll be out there on my own for a lot of it, which isn’t the best. I just hope I can hang on.”  Even so, coach Wadsworth thinks Saturday’s 20km classic will be perfect for Kershaw. “That’s a race he could potentially win by 20 seconds or more,” said Wadsworth.

Tomorrow’s 35km handicapped freestyle race will be a challenge for Kershaw, but look for him to continue his medal streak in the 20km classic on Saturday. Finally there will be the infamous 9km hill climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy for the racers to contend with.

Video of Kershaw’s win HERE.
Press Conference HERE.

Sprint results HERE.
Overall HERE.