With the World Cup season now in full swing, racers from all over the world are converging on snowcapped peaks in remote locales to battle it out and test their mettle against some of the best racers … in North America.
You thought we forgot, didn’t you?
With all of the hubbub surrounding the creme of the crop on the White Circus, it’s easy to neglect the up-and-coming talent on the Continental Cups battling it out for coveted World Cup starting rights. Not here at SkiRacing. Here’s your Canadian NorAm catch-up:
Following snowfall that forced some creative schedule changes at the opening NorAm speed series in Lake Louise, Alberta, racing got underway with the first downhill of the season on Dec. 10.
The following day, Croatian World Cup regular Natko Zrncic Dim took the men’s victory with a time of 1:19.02 seconds. In a close second was American multi-talent Tommy Biesemeyer, fresh off a runner-up finish the previous day and career-best 11th place finish in the Beaver Creek super G, a scant 0.17 seconds behind the Croatian. Making his second third-place appearance of the week was Finland’s Andreas Romar, 0.20 seconds back. The top junior on the day was the U.S. Ski Team’s Erik Arvidsson, narrowly missing the podium in fourth.
On the women’s side, American development teamer Breezy Johnson upgraded her wooden spoon from the day before to a gold one, taking the win with a time of 1:22.08 seconds, 0.29 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Valerie Grenier of Canada. Joining Johnson and Grenier on the podium was Slovenian Marusa Ferk, who ended the day 0.77 seconds back in third place.
Johnson, who was held in the start for some time before her run, was unfazed by the delay and managed to collect her maiden NorAm win.
“I was a little nervous, so I think it actually calmed me down,” Johnson said of her unscheduled pre-race down time. “It was pretty good … I don’t know if it was necessarily my best run, but I think it was still very good and I was happy about it.”
After the weather forced rescheduling in Lake Louise and unfortunately led to the cancellation of the super G races, action moved over to Panorama, British Columbia, for tech races, as well as a super G and alpine combined race Dec. 12-17.
Day one saw men’s super G and combined action, with Canadian NorAm powerhouse Tyler Werry taking the speed portion of the day with a time of 1:15.13 seconds. Coming 0.49 seconds back in second was the young American Arvidsson, who, interestingly enough, has had each of his four NorAm podium results come in Panorama. Adding another piece of hardware to his luggage was Biesemeyer, who was third, 0.68 seconds back.
In the afternoon’s slalom run, Canadian Erik Read of the University of Denver scorched the field, clocking in the fastest run and leaping from a 1.5-second deficit after the super G to take the win by 0.22 seconds over Arvidsson. Werry had to settle for third, 0.37 seconds back.
For Read, his unfortunate disqualification after a career-best World Cup finish at the Beaver Creek giant slalom no doubt served as motivation for an inspired run of slalom.
On the following day, American veteran Anna Marno took the super G win with a time of 1:24.85, followed by another familiar American, independent racer Megan McJames, 0.32 seconds back. Third place went to BC Alpine junior Stefanie Fleckenstein, 1.11 seconds back.
In the afternoon’s slalom run, McJames put forth a veteran effort and claimed the combined win by 1.18 seconds over Canadian national team athlete Candace Crawford in second, with Marno slipping to third at 2.37 seconds back.
“I’m happy, I had a couple of mistakes but I was actually in race mode and I was going for it,” said McJames of her performance. “I’ve been working on finding that switch so that’s why I was happy that today I was going for it. I’ve been skiing well, I just need to get it on race day and to have two runs in one day is really exciting.”
For Fleckenstein, who ended the day in fifth overall following the slalom portion, her first taste of success at the NorAm level could be an indicator of things to come for the skier from Whistler.
“I’m pretty excited! I’ve never placed in a NorAm, so this is a first and a learning experience for sure,” she said. “I was definitely hoping for a top five in the super G … but I never expected to come third, that was an exciting surprise.”
In Monday’s GS for the men, Read took his second win in a row with a combined time of 2:32.52 seconds, 0.26 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Giulio Bosca of Italy. Ryan Cochran-Siegle captured his first podium since knee surgery forced him to sit out all of last season, finishing 0.79 seconds back and good enough for third place. The top junior on the day was American C Teamer Kipling Weisel in seventh place, 1.41 seconds back.
The U.S. Ski Team’s Lila Lapanja, also on the return from injury, won Monday’s slalom with a combined time of 1:43.32. Following Lapanja was the Norwegian and University of Denver duo of Kristine Haugen and junior Tuva Norbye in second and third – 0.19 and 0.91 seconds back – respectively.
Racing action continues in Panorama through Dec. 17 before the NorAm circuit heads to Quebec for technical races in February.