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Highs and lows for Bernier and McNab at ski-mo worlds
Last week was the time for eight athletes from Canada, including two from Revelstoke to shine at the Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Pelvoux, France.
Andrew McNab, Melanie Bernier and Reiner Thoni have now been in France over the last six weeks training in preparation for the high level week of events. With already more the 10 events under their belt, they were well prepared to face the strong international competition. Unfortunately, the top three Canadians athletes got violently ill a week prior to the event. As a result, their goals have been harder to reach this time around.
The week started on Sunday, Feb. 10 with the Teams race. The course was amazing, taking the mens teams through more than 2,400 metres of positive gain while the women climbed 2,200 metres. Revelstoke's McNab and Reiner Thoni from Valemount, B.C. teamed up and reached a respectable 15 place – the second fastest North America team. On the women’s side, Bernier did not race to let her teammates Carla McKirdy and Martha Burley gain experience together.
The Monday was the sprint race, which puts all the technical elements of ski-mo into a three minute burst. Pelvoux was covered with 60 centimetres of fresh snow for the event, which made for an even more challenging course. Bernier had a great qualifier round and moved onto the semi-final in a really strong heat. She unfortunately had material technical issue, which pushed her into fourth place in her heat, which was not enough to move to finals. She still managed to place ninth.
On the men’s side, McNab had a rather challenging qualifier but still showed enough speed and strength to move to the quarter final. From there, McNab reached beyond his hope to move on to the semi-final, finishing third in his heat. He faced the six fastest men in the world in his heat and concluded the event with a really amazing 12th place. This is the first time a North American male has reached this far into the Sprint event.
Tuesday was a rest day for everyone as the juniors were racing the individual race.
Wednesday was the classic Individual race for the Senior category. Blue bird skies and mild temperature made for a perfect day for the event. The race course was simply amazing, taking the racers all around Pelvoux Ski Resort and offering long challenging ski descents and climbs.
Reiner Thoni was the top North American, finishing in 26th place on the men’s side. McNab placed well, with a respectable 38th position out of 77 strong men. On the ladies side, Bernier placed in a respectable 14th place even while experiencing serious breathing issues.
Friday was one of the most challenging event in ski-mo racing – the Vertical race. This event is a full out 600-700 metre climb with no descent – just pure and simple climbing. The race course was particularly challenging in Pelvoux since there was a lot of steep sustained climbs and a few long kick-glide low angle traverses. There was no area for recovery, just simple human powder at it’s purest. Thoni and McNab finished within seconds of each other in 41st and 42nd place respectibely. As for Bernier, she took the 18th position.
The busy week ended with the really spectacular Relay Race. Teams of three women and four men had to complete a 10-12 minute loop including two descents, two climbs and a boot pack. The Canadians, including Bernier and McNab, showed their colors with a sixth place on the ladies side and a ninth place on the men’s side.
Bernier, McNab and Thoni are now back to Beaufort, France to recover and try to find their health back for the next leg of their trip. The three athletes will soon race in two more world Cup events in Italy and Andorra. They will also race in multiple team events over the month of March and April, including the famous four-day Pierra Menta. Bernier hopes to do very well in the event with her teammate from the United States Janelle Smiley. As for Thoni and McNab, they are hoping to place within the top 30 out of 170 plus teams.