Tuesday, March 25, 2014

National Championships

The Canadian Championships have just wrapped up here in Corner Brook, as has the 2013-2014 race season. The week of racing finished as well or better than it started with some exceptional results posted by the YES men. 


Skate 15km individual start:
While this race was the weakest results-wise of the week for the championships, it was still a good, hard effort and a test against the best in the country. Knute and Colin again finished within a few seconds of each other in 17th and 18th place, 30 seconds from the top 10.

Skate sprint:
On a fast, twisty course, Knute won the qualification for the open men and Colin finished 10th. In the heats, Colin was eliminated in his quarterfinal and finished the day in 14th. Knute moved on and skied smart to put himself in the A-final. After gaining a lead up the first climb, Knute maintained his lead until the final 100 meters where a surging Graham Nishikawa took the lead and claimed the gold. Knute finished a career-best 2nd at nationals.

Classic 50km mass start:
The final day of the championships, the hardest race of the week. After a show loop of 5km, the men skied a challenging 7.5km course 6 times. Once again, Alain nailed the wax for us and we had skis that could grip and glide as good or better than anyone else in the race. The pace was relatively slow for the first two laps and then increased with Colin and Graham Nishikawa going to the front and pushing the pace for a lap. The pack began to string out around 25km and a group of 10 or so formed at the front. At 35km, Ivan Babikov attacked and skied away from the group, gaining a 45 second lead on second place. Knute and Colin found themselves skiing strung out between other racers. Skiing the last lap together, Knute finished 1.5 seconds ahead of Colin to finish in 6th and 7th respectively, less than 2 minutes behind the winner.


Knute leading the sprint

Men's sprint final, Graham Nishikawa leading, Knute second

Sprint podium, the Yukon takes 1-2!

Knute skiing on a training day at Blow-Me-Down

Post-50km moose steak.

Monday, March 17, 2014

First weekend of Nationals 2014

The first two races are over at Nationals and the YES men have been racing fast! Here's how things happened at the Blow-Me-Down cross country trails.

Classic Team Sprint.

The team sprint this year was shortened from a 1.5km course to a relatively flat 1.0km course. The day before the race, Knute and Colin decided they were strong enough and the course was easy enough that double poling it on skate skis would be faster than using classic skis with kick wax. The tactic worked in the semis, we were the only ones to double pole the course and were consistently in the top two the entire race. With a long rest between semifinals and finals, we again decided that we would be strong enough to double pole the finals.
As the laps went on in the finals, the race shaped up as a battle between Foothills, Canmore Nordic and Whitehorse for the medal positions. Two other top teams (Lappe and Nakkertok) crashed early in the race and were taken out of contention. After leading for much of the race, the anchor leg skied by Knute came down to a three way sprint for the win. Knute was within a second of the top spot and put Whitehorse in the bronze medal position.

10km Classic.

We suspected weather was going to be a factor while racing in Newfoundland, and in the short distance classic day it didn't disappoint. The night before the race saw snow, howling winds, rising temperatures changing to mixed precipitation (snow, ice pellets, rain) and falling temperatures later in the day. It was a toss-up between racing on sticky hard wax or 'rub' skis and we wound up making a decision on skis ten minutes before the race started. The whole Yukon team decided to race on zero's and it turned out to be the right decision. Most of the tracks on the course were icy, glazed snow and the climbs were steep herringbone with no track. Strong double poling and a quick tempo climbing were essential to do well. Colin and Knute both started the race fast and were sitting in 2nd and 3rd respectively after the first 5km. Knute skied a consistent second lap while Colin faded in the last few kilometers. In the end, Knute was 3rd and Colin 4th. Both these results were personal bests at individual races in the senior national championships.

Team Sprint Podium!

Three Yukon teams on the podium in the Team Sprint

Thanks to Alain, Michael, Amanda, Jan and Fischer for the fantastic skis so far!

Men's Podium for the 10km classic

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Home

There's no place like it. There hasn't been a cloud in the sky since I arrived back in Whitehorse nearly two weeks ago. The air is so still and so clear that it feels like everything you look at is in high definition. Mountains that are on the horizon suddenly feel close, like you could reach out and touch them. The sun is back too, every day is longer and brighter than the one before. I'll let the pictures say the rest.

Northern Lights over Whitehorse

Looking up at the Northern Lights

Bald Eagle on the ski trails

Frosty ski with Mike

The Ascent!

Fraser Loop

Freshly groomed Descent Trail

 Top of the Pierre Harvey loop

Rendezvous Fireworks

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gatineau Loppet

With Knute still racing in Europe, Colin capped off three weeks of racing in Eastern North America with the Gatineau Loppet. The most popular ski race in Canada, the Gatineau features two 51km races back to back in one weekend. This year the classic race was run prior to the skate race. Colin skied the 51km Classic race on a fun point to point course from Wakefield to Gatineau. At 25km on the first big climbs of the course Colin skied away from the front pack and didn't look back. By the end of the race he put a four minute lead up on second place. Not a bad way to end a trip!

Pushing to the line

Men's podium: 3rd James Coulton, 2nd Chris Zeigler, 1st Colin Abbott

Champagne!

Thanks again to Air North for getting me back across the country!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Craftsbury Supertour Races

Craftsbury, Vermont. You can't really call it a town. A region, hamlet or place maybe, but not a town. A town implies bustle, business and a backdrop for human drama to take place. Craftsbury is backwoods, laid-back and back to the land. Farm-land forms a mosaic with extensive forests, winding rivers, evergreen covered mountains and rolling hills. Ski trails wind their way through this landscape in a network similar to the roads that twist their way over the hills. You can ski to the general store if you like, or to the race trails, or to a friends house for dinner. 
Upon arrival in Craftsbury for three days of Supertour racing Colin Ferrie and I were welcomed into Tim Patterson's home. Tim is a hunter and fisherman and all-around nice guy that happened to have a floor for us to sleep on and kitchen for us to cook in. We were also welcomed by Wilson, a giant Schnoodle (Schnauzer-Poodle cross) and Lucy the cat, a stray that showed up at Tim's door one day and never left. 
The race weekend was another 3-day series starting with a 10km interval start skate race followed by a 20km interval start classic race and finished with a skate sprint. Following what seems to be a pattern for me now, the skate distance race was less than good, the classic distance race was excellent and the skate sprint was average. The distance racing was made more interesting by the 15 second starts and the large fields for the men. Courses were crowded and there was always someone to ski with, no matter how fast or slow the pace. With the large field of competitors, a small difference in race speed translates to a big difference in results. I was 39th the first day of racing and 6th the second day.
A big thanks goes out to Tim Patterson for the place to stay, Chris Jeffries and AWCA for wax support and Alexis Turgeon for the ride to and from Ottawa. 

Colin Ferrie and Wilson

Wilson!

Skiing home after the first race


Amazing team spirit by Dartmouth. Yes, those are green mohawks.

6th place and not far from the podium on the classic day.

Race shot courtesy of NENSA

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U23 World Championships


 My European Journey started off in Seefeld, Austria. We had a week and a half before the first races to allow plenty of time to recover from jet-lag. The first couple days it was hard to not doze off mid-day but before long I was fully adjusted. The skiing in Seefeld was less than ideal for my picky standards but I'm starting to see now (having skied in several locations around europe) that it was actually pretty good. 


A few days out, we moved our training to Toblach, Italy. The trails here were awesome. I was feeling great all week, which was backed up by a time trial we did where I had one of the best races of my life… I hate it when that happens. Needless to say, the races couldn’t come soon enough.

We finally made it to Val di Fiemme in time for one day of training on the course before the races. If you’re wondering why we didn’t just train in Val di Fiemme the entire week leading up to the races, I was too. The Marcialonga, a very popular loppet was happening that week and the place was already at full capacity.

The sprint was the first race. The conditions were fast, hard packed snow. I didn’t care much for the steep hills on the course. I’m more of a one skater than an off-setter. I thought I skied a decent race but fell well below my expectations in a disappointing 42nd. It felt weird to not qualify. Almost like I was cheated out of hammering out the next three rounds. Last time I didn’t qualify for a sprint must have been my last world juniors; I forgot what it felt like.

I refocused for the 15km the very next day. The conditions went to shit overnight with sloppy wet snow falling. It was hardwax, but barely. My skis would ice up on the hills, I’d run up them and kick off the built up snow at the top. I prefer long striding where my years of classic skiing in the Yukon (we didn’t skate much back in the day) shows through and I can glide up the hills. These hills however were really steep so I had to focus on staying upright and not falling onto and tiring my arms. I crossed the line for my best international race ever, 21st place! Too bad I wasn’t 0.3 seconds faster so I could have sat in the leaders chair and say I was top 20.

Riding high off my last race, I couldn’t wait for the 30km skiathlon. It was pouring rain for the last 2 days. I knew I didn’t have great skis for these conditions but man, I had no idea what I was in for. My first reaction as the race started was “oh boy, my skis are real bad. Everyone is in a tuck and I’m double polling”. For the first few kilometers I told myself “if I can just hang on until we switch to skate”. It was very hopeless though. Anyways if you don’t know my result, good.

So that was it, the 3 races that I trained for all summer long. I was lucky enough to have one good one and got invited on the b-tour in Latvia and Estonia. I was glad to have this opportunity because 3 races did not seem like enough after traveling all the way to Italy.

I spent last week training in Seefeld, Austria again before making our way to Latvia. So far I am pleasantly surprised. There’s still very limited snow but the internet is way better than Italy and I bought an entire smoked fish today for 50 cents. The streets here definitely have a lot of harsh history in them. I get the feeling that the second world war was yesterday.

I'll race Latvian Nationals this week and travel to Estonia for some Scando Cups next week.

Knute











Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eastern Canadian Championships

While Knute was off racing at the U23 World Championships, Colin headed to Ottawa for the Eastern Canadian Championships. Over the three days of racing he finished 13th in the skate sprint after losing a basket in the quarterfinal and having to get a new pole partway through the heat. The next day was a 15km individual start skate race, and one of the rare times the open men get scheduled to start in the afternoon. With over 700 starters over the course of the day the last of the open men didn't get on the course until after 3pm. Colin put together a consistent race and finished 8th in the open men.
The night after the skate race it snowed 25cm and despite the best efforts of the groomers the course was soft and beginning to disintegrate on the climbs before the race even started. The last race of the weekend was a mass start 20km classic race and featured a field of more than 120 open men. After skiing with the lead pack for most of the race, Colin finished a strong 5th place, less than a minute from the winning time set by Yukoner Graham Nishikawa.
A big thanks goes to the Allain family for hosting the Yukon Elite Squad a second year in a row here at Easterns.

Thanks too for John Langstone for the following videos:

Sprint day, swapping a pole
video

Longer collection of video from the Classic Mass start
http://youtu.be/cYJ9nzGpxG8

Here are some pictures from the racing:

Sprint day, swapping poles after losing a basket

Jackrabbit climb

Finish stretch


5th place and some more Nakkertok pottery on the classic day!
 Full podium: