Canmore and more

NorAm #4 (Western Canadian Championships) was an exciting one that took place at the Canmore Nordic Centre. What made it so exciting was the race format, a 3-stage mini-Tour. Friday was a 10km classic individual start, Saturday was a skate sprint and Sunday we wrapped it up with a 15km skate pursuit. 3 days of racing back to back on the hilly Canmore Olympic courses is no easy task however I enjoy the mini-Tour format and made it a goal to finish the Tour in the top 6 overall.

Friday’s 10km classic went well. I skied a strong first lap, faded somewhat in the 2nd lap, and then held it together to post a decent 3rd lap time and finish the day in 10th place. The course was really challenging and made for a gritty race. Pushing myself to keep the pace up on the final lap left me completely depleted post race. I walked straight inside, albeit slowly, and sat down to nurse my throbbing head.

Only a few strides into my morning jog on Saturday I knew my body hadn’t entirely recovered from the effort the day before. My legs were heavy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Nevertheless, there was a race to compete in! My qualifier was sub-par for me, as my legs still felt sluggish. I had difficulty coaxing them to push with their full power. Still, I skied well enough to get into the heats and fight for bonus seconds.

My quarterfinal was a fast one and after finishing 3rd place I squeaked into the semi-finals as a lucky loser. After a slow start in my semi I decided to conserve some energy for the B-Final rather than go for broke and attempt to get back into contention for a spot in the A-Final. With so many bonus seconds on the line for the mini-Tour I knew it was important to grab as many as possible. Sitting in 5th place shortly into the start of the B-Final heat we came around an uphill corner and I made my move. Any energy I saved I used now, skiing by everyone into 1st place. My teammate Harry Seaton finished strong to win the heat and I held on for 2nd place and 8th place on the day, picking up 38 bonus seconds.

The final day of the mini-Tour is the most exciting one. Each athlete’s time from the two previous races is added up and any bonus seconds earned from the sprint day are subtracted to give the athlete their current ranking. After two days of racing I sat in 9th place, only 17 seconds out of 6th place. I was fortunate to start Sunday’s 15km Pursuit at the same time as Jess Cockney and only 3 seconds behind Brian McKeever. The three of us formed a group and worked together to pull back time on skiers ahead of us. I should give special mention to Jess who took charge and led a fast pace for much of the first half of the race. I felt great on my skis today and nearing the finish our group of three had already moved past two skiers making a top six within reach. In the final km it came down to Brian and I. My effort on the final climb wasn’t enough to shake him and he blew by me at the bottom of the fast downhill into the stadium to claim 5th place, while I crossed the line just behind in… 6th! Top six overall in the mini-Tour! I was stoked!

Sixth place in the Western Championships mini-Tour

Soon after I found out I also had the 3rd fastest time on the day! Only 8.8 seconds behind the fastest time and 3.8 seconds behind World Cup skier Ivan Babikov. I’m still surprised at that result! It was an awesome way to cap off January’s races.

My first podium of the year! 3rd place in the 15km Skate.

So, what’s on the docket for February you ask? Europe I answer! I qualified for CCC’s February convergence trip and will have the opportunity to race OPA and Scandinavian Cup races in Switzerland, Latvia and Estonia. It’s a quick turnaround since I arrived home yesterday and will be departing for Switzerland this Sunday. I’ll do my best to put up a post or two while I’m across the pond.

On to the next racing adventure!


Esa Leinonen said…
Atta boy Mike! Have a blast in Europe! Ps Greetings from Whitehorse! I looked into the black toe thing, and apparently you actually put the toe in your cup and if you swallow the toe you have to provide a replacement haha, it's like 6 hrs away from Whitehorse though so I prob won't do it.
Michael Somppi said…
Haha, glad I wasn't completely off on the toe thing. Hope Whitehorse is treating you well!