Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty are both off to strong starts at the FIS Tour de Ski, considered the highlight of the cross-country skiing season behind only the Olympics and the World Championships.
The Tour de Ski is an annual competition that takes place over nine days in three countries. This year, the Canadian contingent consists of Beatty and Nishikawa on the women’s side and Alex Harvey, Len Valjas and Bob Thompson on the men’s side.
Action got underway in Toblach, Italy, on Dec. 29 with a free sprint event.
Top spot in ladies’ qualifying went to American Sadie Bjornsen with a time of two minutes and 35.95 seconds.
Beatty was the top Canadian in 49th with a time of two minutes and 45.37 seconds. Nishikawa was 61st, finishing in two minutes and 48.83 seconds.
In the finals, Sweden’s Stina Nilsson secured first place while teammate Ida Ingemarsdotter was second. American Jessica Diggins finished third.
Racing continued on Dec. 30 with a 10-kilometre free race, also in Toblach.
Natalia Nepryaeva of Russia was the first to finish, crossing the line with a time of 23 minutes and 19.9 seconds. Second place went to Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg with a time of 23 minutes and 20.2 seconds. Rounding out the podium was Russian Anastasia Sedova in 23 minutes and 30.8 seconds.
Nishikawa was the first Canadian, finishing in 35th place with a time of 25 minute and 4.5 seconds. Beatty finished 56th with a time of 25 minutes and 43.5 seconds.
After a day off on New Year’s Eve, the tour moved to Val Müstair, Switzerland, for another free sprint event.
Nilsson qualified in first place with a time of three minutes and 30.52 seconds. Beatty was 39th in three minutes and 46.23 seconds, followed by Nishikawa in 48th place with a time of three minutes and 49.03 seconds.
In the finals, Nilsson again finished first, followed by a pair of Americans — Sophie Caldwell and Diggins — in second and third.
The tour moved again, this time to Oberstdorf, Germany, for a classic mass start race on Jan. 2.
Norway’s Oestberg was the ladies’ winner, finishing the 10-km race in 32 minutes and 8.9 seconds. Nepryaeva was second and Sedova was third with times of 32 minutes and nine seconds, and 32 minutes and 14.2 seconds respectively.
Nishikawa skied to a 34th place finish with a time of 34 minutes and 27.6 seconds.
After four of seven races, Oestberg sits first overall in the standings with a time of one hour and 5.6 seconds. Nepryaeva is in second, just 24.1 seconds back, followed by Yulia Belorukova in third.
Nishikawa sits in 36th position, six minutes and 4.3 seconds behind the leader.
In the ladies’ sprint standings, Nilsson is first followed by Diggins in second and Oestberg in third.
On the men’s side of things, victory in the free sprint at Toblach on Dec. 29 went to Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo.
The top Canadian was Harvey in 50th, followed by Valjas in 55th and Thompson in 62nd.
In the 15-km free race on Dec. 30, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov was the winner.
Harvey was again the top Canadian, finishing in 14th. Valjas was 70th and Thompson was 83rd.
In the sprint in Val Müstair on Jan. 1, the win again went to Norway’s Klaebo. The top Canadian was Alex Harvey in 37th, followed by Thompson in 62nd and Valjas in 72nd.
Victory in the men’s 15-km classic mass start went to Norway’s Emil Iversen.
Harvey was again the top Canadian, finishing 14th, while Thompson was 64th and Valjas was 67th.
Four races into the tour, top spot belongs to Klaebo with Ustiugov in second and Iversen in third. Harvey sits in 15th place while Valjas and Thompson are 65th and 66th overall.
In the sprint standings, Klaebo is first, Iversen is second and Norway’s Sindre Bjoernestad Skar is third. Harvey is currently in 19th place.
The Tour de Ski continues on Jan. 3 with a skate pursuit event in Oberstdorf before moving to Val di Fiemme, Italy, for a classic mass start on Jan. 5 and the final skate pursuit hill climb on Jan. 6.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com