The cross-country skiing World Cup concluded in Quebec City with the final event of the season from March 22 to 24.
Competition started with the free sprint on March 22, then continued with a classic mass start on March 23 and a free pursuit on March 24.
In the ladies’ sprint race it was an all-Swedish podium. Stina Nilsson won with Maja Dahlqvist second and Jonna Sundling third.
Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa both missed out on qualifying for the heats, finishing 40th and 47th.
Beatty said that conditions for the sprint changed overnight.
“The day before the event started, the conditions were great,” said Beatty. “Overnight it snowed and made for really tricky conditions that were difficult to ski in. You really had to temper your power so you weren’t pushing too much.”
Nilsson again found the top of the podium in the ladies’ 10-km classic mass start on March 23. Nilsson finished the race with a time of 25 minutes and 51.6 seconds. Second place went to Norway’s Therese Johaug, finishing in 25 minutes and 51.8 seconds, and third place went to Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, another Norwegian with a time of 25 minutes and 53.1 seconds.
Nishikawa was 38th with a time of 27 minutes and 47.7 seconds while Beatty was 44th with a time of 28 minutes and 41.3 seconds.
The slush from the opening day was gone, having frozen and turned to ice.
“The soft snow the previous day just turned to a sheet of ice,” said Nishikawa. “So it was tricky conditions in that sense.”
Beatty said conditions made it difficult for skiers to stay on course.
“It was fast, firm and icy to the point there were a ton of crashes in the race,” said Beatty. “Both Emily and I were lucky enough and it worked out that we were able to stay on our feet and didn’t get tangled up in any of the crashes.”
In the final race of the weekend and the World Cup, Nilsson completed her sweep by winning the ladies’ 10-km free pursuit with a time of 23 minutes and 55.1 seconds. Johaug was second in 24 minutes and eight seconds and Oestberg was third in 24 minutes and 10.2 seconds.
Whitehorse’s Nishikawa was 31st, finishing in 27 minutes and 49 seconds, and Beatty was 45th with a time of 29 minutes and 42.8 seconds.
The Quebec event is setup as a mini-tour — similar to the Tour de Ski, but with three races instead of seven — and the overall winner was the skier with the fastest combined time from the three events.
With three wins in three races, Nilsson was unsurprisingly the overall winner, followed by Johaug in second and Oestberg in third.
Nishikawa finished 31st overall and Beatty was 45th.
Both skiers said competing at the World Cup on Canadian soil is a special experience.
“It was an incredible experience. There were tons of fans out there,” said Nishikawa. “I could hear people cheering my name and we had a big contingent of Canadian athletes racing, … so it was a great experience.”
The weekend was also the swan song for Canadian skier Alex Harvey, who went out in style with a podium finish at his final event.
“It’s always a really energizing atmosphere regardless of how your body is responding to racing,” said Beatty. “This was made event a little bit more special because our teammate (Harvey) raced his last ever World Cup and he was on the podium there and it’s his hometown, so the atmosphere was pretty electric for that.”
While this is the end of the season for Nishikawa, Beatty is in Presque Isle, Maine, for the U.S. Spring Nationals that wrap up on March 30.
Looking back at the season, Nishikawa said completing the Tour de Ski was a memorable moment from a good season.
“I had a lot of results in the top 30, which I’m really happy with,” said Nishikawa. “To be able to do the Tour (de Ski) and complete the tour was a huge highlight for me. Early season, I had a breakthrough result in Davos in December and then I did the Tour — to cap it off in Quebec with another really solid result, this whole season has been great for me.”
Beatty said she “wasn’t too far off” what she hoped to accomplish this season.
“I think it’s pretty rare you fully meet your expectations each year, but I had some really good races this year and a lot more consistency than I had last year in both sprint and distance,” said Beatty. “I definitely have a long list of things to go back to the drawing board and keep working on because by no means do I think I’ve hit my limit. I think there is a lot to work on and a lot more to strive for.”
Both skiers say they’re going to take some time in April to rest and recover before diving back into training for next year.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org