The XC race season kicked off at the end of November with the first Alberta Cups at home in Canmore. It was an unusually competitive field as many teams from across the continent were staying in Bow Valley to get in some training before moving on to the NorAms in BC. Limited snowfall prior to the weekend meant that the races were held on Frozen Thunder. This created some logistical problems that resulted in some interesting loops and distances. On Saturday’s skate race, the men did 7.5 loops of the course for a total of 13.5km, while the women completed 4.5 loops and 8.1km. Junior girl India McIsaac raced up in the Open Women category and posted an awesome finish in 10th place overall. Anna MacIsaac-Jones came away with a silver medal in the Juvenile Girls 4.5km race. The next day was a shorter classic individual start day. This time, the men raced 8.1km and the women raced 6.3km. After taking a year off of training and racing, Nick Bardak had a fantastic race and placed 7th in the Junior Men category. Andrea Dupont finished 6th in Senior Women, while Sara McLean placed 3rd in the Junior Women category.
The next races for the team were in Silverstar, BC. This venue had plenty of snow and looked like a winter wonderland! It was a little on the chilly side, but not cold enough to cause race delays. These races were a combination of the Canadian NorAm circuit and the American SuperTour, so there was a lot of new American competition. The weekend started off with a classic sprint. The American field showed its strength, claiming 9 of the top 10 places in the Open Women category and the top 5 spots on the men’s side. Andrea Dupont finished 13th overall, 2nd Canadian. The next day was a skate race, with the men doing 15km and the women doing 10km. Conditions were interesting, with snow falling heavily throughout almost the entire duration of the races. India McIsaac showed her skating strength again, finishing 25th overall and 6th among the Junior Women.
From Silverstar, the team travelled directly to Rossland, BC for the next weekend of racing. Unfortunately, the author of this article got sick and had to arrange a rather sketchy and last-minute trip home involving strangers and the internet to avoid infecting her teammates. When she asked her teammates what happened in Rossland, the helpful answers she received were “I don’t remember”, “Nothing really happened”, and “Uh Nick can’t cut potato?”. The team learned that Nick Bardak is unfamiliar with the shape of French fries and cannot be trusted with cooking any kind of vegetable. But back to the (slightly less) important information about the actual racing. It was a cold weekend and most of the races were quite near the cold weather cut-off. Friday started the weekend off with a skate distance race, in which the men skied 15km and the women skied 10km. RMR’s top finish of the day was Andrea Dupont in 8th place. Saturday brought the skate sprints. The team had a strong showing, with Andrea in 7th and Emma Camicioli in 15th for Senior Women, Emma Holmes in 8th for Junior Women, and Nick Bardak in 12th for Junior Men. Sunday’s race was a 10/15km classic pursuit start. Andrea finished the tour in 8th place, Emma Camicioli was 15th, and Emma Holmes was 8th in the Junior Women category.
After a nice holiday break, the team travelled to Soldier Hollow for US Nationals and Canadian WJ/U23 trials. The weather was interesting, to say the least. Over the course of a week, we saw temperatures ranging from -20 to +5, as well as an entertaining assortment of every possible variety of precipitation. The first race of the week was on January 7. It was a skate day, with the men doing 15km and the women doing 10km. This was our only race day with clear skis and no precipitation, so stress levels were fairly low. India McIsaac had an incredible day, finishing 37th overall and as the top Canadian Junior woman, she punched her ticket to World Juniors! Erik Carleton had an awesome performance as well, placing 10th in the men’s category. The next day was the classic sprint, and that’s when the fun weather really got going. Sudden and constant changes in the type and amount of snow/rain/hail made waxing a challenge. The coaches put in a huge amount of effort to get our skis as fast as possible, but we were also lacking a place to test skis that accurately matched the conditions on the course. It was a tough day for the team and Andrea Dupont was our only skier to advance to the heats, qualifying 21st and finishing 25th overall. We had the next day off, during which it rained approximately 2 inches and washed away a significant amount of snow, as well as drastically changing snow conditions. After our rest day, we were ready for the classic mass starts. The rain’s negative effect on the snow meant that our courses were changed and instead of skiing a 5km loop, we were on a 3.75km loop instead. The junior women did two loops for 7.5km, the junior men did 3 loops for 11.25km, the senior women did 6 loops for 22.5km, and the senior men did 8 loops for their 30km. With the sheer number of people on course, there were points where the entire pack would come to a standstill as people herringboned up steep, narrow parts of the course. Erik Carleton had another great day with a 15th place finish, and India McIsaac finished her race in 19th place. Most of the team went home after the mass start, but Andrea Dupont stayed a few extra days and raced in the skate prologue, placing 15th.
Western Championships were in Whistler this year. A snow storm the night before the team departed Canmore resulted in an exciting 16-hour drive, complete with a midnight arrival in Whistler. But we didn’t die, so it was a success. Three days of racing started off with a skate sprint. Due to low registration numbers, Junior and Senior categories were combined for the heats and separated for results afterwards. Maya MacIsaac-Jones placed 7th in Senior Women, and Sara McLean and Emma Holmes were 5th and 6th respectively in Junior Women. The next day brought heavy snow for the 10/15km classic race. Maya had a great race and finished in 3rd. The final day of racing was a team relay. Each team had 3 athletes who each skied one leg of the race (7.5km for the men and 5km for the women). Everybody seemed quite excited for a fun new race format that many people hadn’t done before. Unfortunately, quite a few athletes in the Open categories had to miss this day due to a pre-Worlds training camp in Canmore. Despite the small categories, everyone had lots of fun! Sara McLean and Emma Holmes were on a team with Edmonton’s Sarah Tipples and finished 2nd in the Women’s category. Canmore’s Laurence Dumais and Australian Ellie Phillips were joined by Beth Fowler for a 3rd place finish. The drive back to Canmore was a lot less snowy and our deaths didn’t seem quite as imminent.
At the beginning of February, the team made the yearly trip out to Gatineau for Eastern Championships. The venue had plenty of snow and conditions were awesome! The weekend kicked off with a classic sprint for the Open categories and a 3km classic prologue for the younger skiers. Maya MacIsaac-Jones took the win in the Senior Women category, while Andrea Dupont finished 4th. Nick Bardak moved up to 20th after qualifying 28th in Junior Men, and Sara McLean finished 12th in out of the Junior Women. In the prologue, Anna MacIsaac-Jones skied fast and took the silver medal in the 2001 category. Tatiana Tilley lost some time while getting up close and personal with a creek and ended up 28th in her 1999 category. Saturday was a classic race, where the men skied 15km, the women skied 10km, and the Juvenile and Junior B categories skied 7.5km. Andrea Dupont had another 4th place finish, edged out by teammate Maya in 3rd. Anna was second in her category again with another great performance. Sunday was a 15/20km skate pursuit for the Open category, and a new wave start format for the junior categories. Skiers started in 10-person waves every 30 seconds, and all the times were compiled after the final wave finished. The Junior B athletes raced 10km and the Juveniles raced 5km. Heavy snow throughout the day made Nakkertok’s steep uphills extra tough and everyone put in an incredible effort. Andrea was consistent with another 4th place finish, while teammate Maya placed 2nd. Sara McLean also had a strong performance, finishing 12th in Junior Women. Anna MacIsaac-Jones finally made it to the top of the podium, dominating the Juvenile 2001 category by over 10 seconds.
This season, RMR was well-represented internationally. Maya MacIsaac-Jones and India McIsaac raced for Team Canada at World Junior/U23 Championships in Soldier Hollow and achieved some great results. Emma Camicioli also got some international experience at the Winter Universaide in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The team is now back at home and beginning the final preparations for Nationals, which will be held in Canmore starting on March 18.
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