And the wind began to howl

Tough wind conditions in Duntroon (photo: Frances Norlen)

Tough wind conditions in Duntroon. Notice those guys are going downhill! (photo: Frances Norlen)

Did anybody ever say x-c skiing was just an old folks sport?

by Pierre Shanks

Thursday in Duntroon, Ontario, was a kind of day to put that thought to rest for good.

You can read about the day’s winter conditions and races here in the always reliable Haywood RACE Report.

But this was written politely! «…despite some strong winds with the temperatures rising to -12» is correct of course, but the wind was gusting at 60 km/h, the -12 was a «feels like -23», a whole lot colder with the gusts, and for most of the spectators, volunteers and race officials along the course, it felt like -350!!!

How the racers managed through it all is what’s most impressive. Those athletes had a meeting with destiny. This week-end are the selections for the World U23 and Junior Championships in Kazakhstan and a ticket is automatically awarded to the race winners in the junior and U23 age classes. Those skiers race, that’s what they do and that’s who they are. Mother Nature can throw just about anything at them, allez hop let’s go!

The day started with the Sr Men 30 km Skiathlon. Albertan Graeme Killick (AWCA) put the hammer down in lap 4 (of 8) and crossed the finish line over 47 s before Scott Hill from Team Hardwood. Michael Somppi, who’s in the National Senior Development Team like Graeme, took third.

The Sr women followed with a 20 km skiathlon and Yukon’s Emily Nishikawa was able to build a gap over Cendrine Browne in the last lap to cross the line with a 19 s lead over the ever impressive Browne.

Cendrine, as she finished top U23, also got her ticket to the Worlds. «Conditions were not easy today with the wind, she said. But I had fun. I’m super happy!» As she passed by on the third lap, her long blond hair had turned to frosty white!

Rocky Mountain Racers Andrea Dupont took third.

Here they go again

Then the juniors came along with their own skiathlons.

The Quebec boys burned the course, once again, and took the whole podium with Alexis Dumas (CNEPH) beating Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier (Fondeurs Laurentides) to the line in a devilish sprint.

«I had super good skis, said Dumas. My strategy also worked. I wanted to start strong and keep a strong tempo throughout the race.»

«I stayed in the pack during the classic portion, said Izquierdo-Bernier, and I accelerated in the skate portion. It played out in the sprint where I lacked a little speed.»

Zachary Cristofanilli, who’s also having an amazing first season with the CNEPH, placed third. «The classic portion was more difficult, he acknowledged. I felt a lot better in the skate portion. I did that portion alone behind the leaders.»

The performance du jour

The Jr Women skiathlon podium (photo: Jennifer_Jackson)

The Jr Women skiathlon podium (photo: Jennifer_Jackson)

In the Jr Women skiathlon, CNEPH’s Anne-Marie Comeau turned in the performance of the day. At the midpoint exchange station after two laps (in the skiathlon, skiers change their classic skis for skate ones midway through the race), she was in third place, 38 seconds behind then leader Maya MacIsaac-Jones.

To say Anne-Marie found her pace in the skate portion is an understatement. By lap three, she was in the lead by 15 s and closed the books with a commanding 34 s lead over National team teammate Katherine Stewart-Jones.

So Anne-Marie Comeau and Alexis Dumas are headed to Kazakhstan.

Albertan MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers), another teammate in the National Jr Team, finished third. And this girl was tagged a sprinter… Not anymore! Her extra hard work last summer is paying off. «I’m really happy to be back in the mix in the distance racing!» she said with a smile.

Friday will be rest day. Action will pick-up on Saturday with the sprints.

We’ll be all along the watchtower.

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