After the Alberta Cups in Canmore myself and my AWCA teammates packed our bags and headed west to Silverstar to start of the NorAm racing season. This is a very exciting time of year for me as Silverstar and Sovereign Lakes happen to be my favorite places to ski in Canada. The piles of snow and the Christmas vibe throughout the town make it a great place to start the real race season in style.
Our first race in Silverstar was the Classic Sprint and it was held on their redesigned and much improved sprint course. Over the past few seasons the sprint course had become too easy for traditional Classic sprints and it became common to double pole the entire sprint. With the addition of a bridge and some redirecting of the past course, the new track was much more difficult and it made for a great striding course with no one double poling it.
Generally I have had trouble with sprint qualifiers and this sprint was no different. It was a pretty typical qualifier result of 11th place and nearly 10 seconds behind my teammate Drew Goldsack. We skied our heats together all the way through to the A final where Drew won convincingly and I was no where to be seen coming across the line 6th, last in the A final. Overall a decent day of sprinting and lots to improve upon.Skate skiing has been quite a puzzle for me the past few seasons, I have spent my fair share of time discussing, tweaking, and reevaluating technique and fundamentals with four coaches over the past three seasons. After the sprint race I was actually really excited to hit the trails for the 15km Individual skate. The race went very well, everything from skis to pacing, I haven't felt that good skating since I was a Juvenile boy in Prince George. I finished the day 11th and 2nd U23 to my boy Graeme Killick. This skate race was also a qualifier for Alberta's Canada Winter Games team and I am happy to say I locked up a spot to Halifax!
With two races done and some time to relax in Vernon with friends, I jumped in the car to Rossland for the first NorAm mini tour. My coach Mike Cavaliere drove Drew and I to Rossland a day early from the team to take a look at the sprint course and do some intensity around the loop. A few days of training and we were back on course starting off the mini tour.
The first race was the Skate Sprint, this race was being used as Canada's qualifiers for the World Championship team racing in Oslo later this season. Being such an important race there was an added excitement to what turned out to be a very frustrating day.
Once again I qualified 11th only this time I was a bit closer only 7 seconds from Stefan Kuhn who was fresh off World Cup overseas. I skied with Stef in my quarter and things went well and then it was on to the semi final where things did not go so well.
Halfway through the heat I was side by side with George Grey and we were overtaking Lars Flora around the final corner. I felt great and thought I was in a pretty safe spot on the outside, and then I hit the ground. It was almost a year to the day that I fell in Olympic Sprint trials in Canmore and I could not believe I let a fall end my day again! I ended the day in 7th spot and moved on to the 10km skate wishing things had played out a little differently.
I have to say, I did not feel sorry for myself for too long about Fridays skate sprint. I hit the start line of Saturday's 10km skate feeling great and ready to hammer two quick loops. I had great splits the whole race and absolutley spent myself on the course. That was easily the best race of my life. I have never pushed myself that hard and held up that well, it was a great day. My time ended up being the 4th fastest and I narrowly missed the podium by 2.1 seconds to Drew. This set me up in 6th place 22 seconds behind George Grey for Sundays tour finale, the 15km Handicap start Classic.
Starting 22 seconds back I was very lucky to have Stefan Kuhn starting ony 3 seconds ahead of me. Stef really pushed the pace for the first lap and along with an American skier we caught the three leaders on our second lap of three laps. I did my best to hang on to the pack and managed to stay with the group until 13km where George really started to kick. I dropped off slightly and finished the day in 5th place posting the 4th fastest time of the day. Along with my fifth place overall I also was the top U23 and I had my chance to get on the podium after being close over the last couple races.
And here we are now, back in Canmore about to throw down some dinner and watch the Grinch with Marlis. The first block of this season has gone very well and I am looking forward to the next big race in Thunder Bay for U23 trials. So for now, I bid you goodnight and thanks for reading this Thomsen-esque epic of a blog post!
(Photo Credit: Jesse Winter for the 1st, 2nd, and 4th photos. Photo Credit: Dan Roycroft for the 3rd photo)