Next was the classic sprint held on saturday. The course was one of the best I have ever raced, a nice straight forward start of double poling followed by one hell of climb. Preparing for this race earlier in the week I practiced intensity on the climb and it took more than 1min 10sec for me to climb it in it's entirety skiing hard. Qualifying actually went quite well for me, the best of the season for me with a 7th place finish but over 8sec behind Len who ran away with the qualifier beating 2nd place by over 3sec. He was flying! Things went well in the first two heats, I had a battle with Gerard to move out of the quarters and ended up in quite a fight to the line to move on in the semi-final. A-final time and wouldn't you know it? It ended up being the exact same group of guys as last year's A-final in Val Cartier, a frustrating final that saw me finish last in the heat with nowhere to make a pass. This year went much better though, I skied smart for the first protion of the race and found myself in a good spot to make a move on the climb to put myself in a great position leading into the finish. Skiing in second place behind Brent I ended up losing another spot to Stefan but I was able to cross the line before Len which meant I finished the day top U23 and had done enough to qualify for U23 World Championships! This will be my third trip overseas in as many years and this will finally be the year I ski to my ability at the Championships, a year after being sidelined from a high blood test in Germany. So a small celebration (and some cussin') was in order and I went out to dinner at Lot 66 in Thunder Bay for pizza and beer with Marlis. Celebrations however were shortlived as we had our third and final race the next morning, the 15km skate which was once a race I hated more than anything in the world (mushrooms are high up on that list too) but has lately turned into one of my favorite races.Cold weather forced race organizers to push the race back two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, which didn't make things easy for catching our 3:45 flight out of Thunder Bay to Calgary. In the end the sun came out and temperatures must have been around -15C and racing in that felt pretty warm compared to earlier in the week. I really wanted to ski well in this race and lock down a spot in at least one of the distance races in Estonia, the last thing I want to do is put all my eggs in one basket like last season. I started the race pretty agressively and paid a bit in the last 2-3km of the race but overall I'm happy to walk away with 7th Open and 3rd U23. So after a quick cool down with Kevin, some waxing and a mad dash to the hotel to pick up bags we ended up at the airport with an hour to spare after finding out our flights were delayed.
So there you have it, a pretty quick but nonetheless long run down of how trials went for me, as for my team, we did amazing! 9 of the 19 athletes selected for World Junior/U23s are from the Alberta World Cup Academy. Thanks to the coaches, wax support and countless volunteers we're so lucky to have! Thanks for reading
Thanks to Martin Kaiser and Jim Cameron for the photos!