It was a test, but it was also the real thing.
In B.C. nordic sports, little is more important to the competitors than the Teck Cup series of races, and a weekend’s worth of them just happened in Quesnel on Feb. 11-12.
Hallis Lake Ski Centre is where the 2024 BC Winter Games will be held about a year from now, and the host Cariboo Ski Touring Club (CSTC) volunteer team will be leading the action, so these races were also important for learning new tools and systems, and building the capacity behind the scenes to make the BCWGs really shine.
“The race executive members were happy that the important pieces that matter all ran smoothly: starts were on time, results were correct and fair, participants had a good time and left with a positive view of the club,” said race organization spokesperson Neil Davison. “We know we didn’t get everything right in the details but now we have improvements in mind for next ski season and the Winter Games. We hope to have another Teck Northern Cup event before the end of 2023 to prep again for different Winter Games races so we will have more experience with different race formats.”
The event was spread over two days. On Saturday, 74 racers attended Hallis Lake from the Tweedsmuir, 100 Mile House, Bulkley Valley, Morice Mountain, Nechako, Williams Lake and Caledonia nordic ski clubs. They all took part in the untimed sprint heats, to start with, then the knock-out sprints lead into the playoff heats that closed the day.
“The children enjoyed the course and the sprint heats, being able to race side by side,” Davison said. “Coaches thought the sprints were a new challenge for the racers. Moving up in the ages, you can see who has the (fundamental abilities) that inform their skiing style and their race tactics, even in the heats.
“The day had it all: excitement, disappointment, snow, sun, racing skill, and chili lunch,” Davison added. “U10 Girls brought the glitter, race start-crew brought the good luck fist bumps for every racer. The fast downhill, Fir Tree Hill, and Black Hole for the older racers, that led into the curved finishing stretch in the stadium was a particular highlight for the racers that brought the speed after the earlier hills.”
On Sunday, the racing styles shifted to the classic interval starts and longer distances. Forty-two racers took part in the second day. Davison said it was a first exposure, for many of the visiting racers, of the deeper Hallis Lake trail network, “and almost all enjoyed the rolling course used across the 500m to 10K distances.”
Head CSTC race coach Sunshine Borsato had Quesnel athletes aged 6 to 20 involved in the weekend’s events. There were 18 competitors from the local cross-country team, plus four more from the biathlon team who joined in for some pressurized practice, and another six Skill Development Program kids who got a taste of racing as well.
“This was the third and fourth Northern Teck Cup this year for the team and they have been excited to finally be the host club,” Borsato said. “The team has been committed to training four days/nights per week at Hallis Lake and has grown into a technical force as they pushed their competitors in both the skate skiing sprints and classic ski events over the two days.”
“It was great to try a different type of ski event on home snow,” said Rome Borsato-Stobbe, who won a silver medal on Saturday and gold on Sunday in the U16 division.
The weekend was an indication that the investments over the years in the Hallis Lake facility are working, both for winning economic injections like these Northern Teck Cup races and the upcoming BCWGs, but also in more experienced volunteers and more able athletes. She said it “further demonstrates the community commitment and ability to host competitive ski competitions, drawing athletes from around the province and providing more opportunity for our local athletes to compete and medal.”
The CSTC is not finished for the season, just yet. There is a loppet at Hallis Lake on March 4-5, with an endurance classic race that Saturday and a skate endurance race on the Sunday.
Some of the team will also be hitting the road for Teck races in Smithers and Vanderhoof in the weeks ahead.