Dasha Gaiazova has waited patiently for World Cup classic sprints to come around.
Rarities on the circuit this year, they’re her bread and butter and best chance for top results.
Now that they’re here, she’s not disappointing.
The classic sprinter qualified with the eighth fastest time of the day, but was squeezed out of the semifinals at the line to finish 13th on the day in Lahti, Finland on Sunday (March 4).
“I set a new personal best in qualifying and had my best classic sprint result so far this season. I like skiing with a lot of glide and the race course on Sunday suited me well, because it featured a very long, sustained uphill section where strong kick and glide were crucial,” Gaiazova said.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won the women’s race. Russia’s Julia Ivanova was second, while Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk grabbed the bronze medal.
Although she missed the semifinals, Gaiazova was happy with her skiing.
“My goal is always to get into the semis, but I came up a little short today,” she said. “I really enjoy the classic sprint. There is lots of opportunity to move around and I have good technique. I tried to take advantage of that.”
Warm conditions meant wax choice was key, as the sprinters loaded up on klister wax to find the best grip.
Since the recent results are her best of the season, she’s motivated going into the final three weeks of racing.
“Even though I have been racing away from home since January 1, I feel really motivated and focused on performing well for the remaining two to three weeks of this racing season. It’s thanks to, in large part, the support and encouragement I receive from friends, sponsors, and my ski club back in the Bow Valley,” Gaiazova said.
The Canadian men had slower results, however, young Len Valjas led the charge with a 19th place finish. Alex Harvey was 44th and Devon Kershaw was 54th.
The weekend did produce another World Cup medal for Canada. Harvey won bronze in the 30 kilometre skiathlon on Saturday (March 3). Harvey, 23, finished the race, which combines classic and skate ski technique, with a time of 1:07:34.7.
“It was a good race today for me. Every time I am on the podium it’s good,” said Harvey following the fifth podium finish of his three-year career on the World Cup circuit.
“With 90 skiers on the start line, the race was tight, especially in the corners. I had to be careful, but luckily nobody crashed before me. I like mass starts, I like the adrenaline.”
Devon Kershaw finished 14th in the race and is currently tied for third overall in the FIS World Cup Standings. Ivan Babikov was 36th. Gaiazova was the top Canadian female in the distance race, finishing 37th. Perianne Jones was 50th and Alysson Marshall was 52nd.
The team’s next race is is in Drammen, Norway.