Ooh la la! We had the good fortune to take in the World Cup Nordic sprint races in Québec City this weekend and what a weekend it was!
First of all, I'd estimate that one-third of the crowd was from the US — many representing Vermont. This was the first World Cup event to be held in eastern North America in 27 years, and lucky for us it was withing driving distance of the Green Mountain State. With a handful of racers hailing from Vermont, you bet they had friends and family lining the twisty-turny course.
Even family members from farther afield (such as Alaska) came to this lovely old city to see their favorite racers perform in person. It's a heck of a lot easier that flying to Europe!
The racing was done on the streets and in the park that is in front of the handsome Quebec Parliament building. It was a short course (skiers did multiple laps during each race) of manmade snow with tight turns, uphills, downhills, a bridge and a small jump. The start was under the stone St. Louis gate. The crowd watched from beside the course and along the 400-year-old city's stone ramparts. It was a terrific setting.
The most exciting part was how the American women took charge. The amazing Kikkan Randall of Alaska won both the individual sprint race, and the team sprint race with Jessie Diggins. WICKED exciting!
The North American racers remarked at how wonderful it was to have an entire crowd behind them. That is not the case in Europe, where most of the racing is done; the home team always gets the most support.
In the crowds we rubbed elbows with super-friendly Quebec residents, who gladly cheered for the Americans in addition to their Canadian team. And the Americans were also cheering and ringing bells for the Canadians as they passed by.
Vermont was well represented in the pool of athletes who competed on Friday and Saturday. Sophie Caldwell of Peru, Vt., had her very first World Cup start and placed an amazing 14th place in the individual sprint race, and 14th in the team sprint with Sadie Bjornsen. How's that for a first outing!?!
Andy Newell of Shaftsbury, Vermont, had an excellent day by placing 5th in the individual sprint and 12th in the team sprint with Simi Hamilton. It was great fun to see him in the finals!
Ida Sargent of Orleans, Vt., placed 9th in the team sprint with Holly Brooks, and 44th in the individual race. Meanwhile, Skylar Davis of Jericho, Vermont, had his third World Cup start and he placed 69th.
I found these blogs by Vermonters <link http: sophiecaldwell.blogspot.com first-world-cups.html external-link-new-window>Caldwell and <link http: blogs.fasterskier.com skylerdavis quebec-city-world-cup-wrap external-link-new-window>Davis, which give their own impressions of the weekend. For full results, visit the FIS website; <link http: www.fis-ski.com uk disciplines cross-country results.html external-link-new-window fis>click on the “R” next to Quebec on this page.
Two things would have really made the weekend unbearably fun. First would be to have seen East Montpelier, Vt., native Liz Stephen race in Quebec. She's a very strong distance skier and was not on the US start list for Quebec. She's competing this coming weekend in Canmore, Alberta, however.
The second thing would have been to see Canadians up on the podium. They have some very strong skiers, including Alex Harvey who hails from Quebec, and boy it would have been amazing to see him on the podium. The crowd gave their hometown skier some of the loudest cheers.
After the awards ceremonies, we'd walk into the old city and find a beverage and snack. Watching racing can really work up a thirst! On Saturday afternoon in a pub with live music we were pleasantly surprised to be seated next to Kikkan Randall's family. They were super friendly and we chatted about their hometown of Anchorage and ski racing and Vermont connections. (Hope you found the yummy crêpe place, guys!)
If you haven't been to the old part of Quebec City, it's like a little slice of Europe without dealing with jet lag. It's very quaint and it's also the only walled city in North America. What a great venue for attracting a crowd to a cross-country ski race!