Coast Cup brings out young skiers 

French skier blows away competition

Sunday’s Coast Cup cross-country race, hosted by the Whistler Nordics Club, was a success with more than 110 participants taking part – including 80 kids ranging in age from five to 18.

Most of the participants were affiliated with clubs like the Whistler Nordics, Spud Valley Nordics and Hollyburn Nordics. A few travelled from Vancouver Island as well with the Stratcona Nordics.

The Coast Cup Series includes events across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, and is considered a stepping stone to the provincial and national series.

For the adults, Whistler has met its next super-athlete in Florian Beliard, a newcomer from France who blew everyone away at the last Thursday night Loonie race. He proved untouchable again, finishing the 10 km race in 26 minutes and 48 seconds – almost three minutes ahead of Brent Murdoch’s time of 29:47. Mike Gilhooly was third in 29:50.

Beliard arrived in Whistler in November, and plans to spend a year here telemarking, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. He used to race cross-country in France, but mostly at the provincial level.

Despite his obvious speed and fitness, he found the course challenging.

"It was not too easy," he said. "There were steep uphills and downhills, and the snow was soft. But it was very nice, too, it’s a nice place to ski."

The women’s race started 30 seconds behind the men, but some of the top ladies managed to skate their way into the top-10.

Jessica Heyes of the Hollyburn Nordics finished in 20:21, first out of the women and seventh overall out of 32 starters. Whistler’s Joanna Harrington was second in 31:02, and Barb Zimich of Hollyburn was third in 31:14.

Heyes said she didn’t have a plan, but focused on keeping up to the fastest woman through the first lap of the course – Joanna Harrington.

"The course was fast, there were some good uphills and some fast downhills with twists and turns, a few scary moments," said Heyes. "Basically I just drafted the fastest woman as long as I could. The trail was really narrow so when I passed I had to do it strategically, really wait for the moment, and when it presented itself just go for it."

Heyes got involved with the Coast Cup series through her daughter, and together they will be heading to the B.C. Cup series championships in Prince George this weekend.

For Harrington, her only goal was to stay with the men’s field. "I was just hoping to stay with most of the guys I race against on Thursday night Loonie races, I wasn’t looking back for that first lap," she said. "I made a mistake in one section, (Heyes) pulled ahead, and I was thrown off the pace a little."


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