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Cross-country hopefuls make inroads in the community

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While the national cross-country team will continue to train out of the national centre in Canmore, Alberta, both Cross-Country B.C. and Cross-Country Canada are keen to the make the most of the legacy presented by Whistler Olympic Park.

Enter the Callaghan Valley Training Centre, a national development program coached by Amy Caldwell. The nine-member team started training in Whistler Olympic Park last season, but was away most of the season at competitions and camps. This season will be different, with the team spending more time at their home base. And athlete representative Pate Neumann, for one, is looking forward to the opportunity to get more involved with the community.

“We do a lot of training with the B.C. team, but we also try to help out as much as we can with groups like the Whistler Nordics,” he said. “(Whistler Nordics coach) Maria Lundgren calls on us every once in a while to come out to practices, and we’re going to be there for younger kids to watch, to help out with their technique and answer questions. We’re a full-time team, we’re training all the time, but we want to be part of the community. The support we get has been pretty incredible.

“We’ll be in Whistler for the majority of November, then head to the first races in Silver Star before coming back to Whistler. There are World Cup races in January, so we’re going to be spending a lot more time around here, which is pretty exciting. The past few years have been pretty hectic with us on the move all the time.”

Members of the development team are between 17 and 23 years old, and while most are setting their sites on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games there are a few that will be doing their best to make the team for 2010. Most of the athletes live in Squamish, where housing is cheaper and places are available, but a handful call Whistler home. Some are taking courses at Quest University, and others are enrolled in correspondence courses. A few have part-time jobs to help cover their costs.

If past years are any indication, the team could be back on snow in the next few weeks. After the snow melted at Whistler Olympic Park last spring they headed further up the valley, where Callaghan Country provided trails for them to groom and train on. They managed to train on snow that way until mid-June.

A groomer was left in the area that can be used to make alpine trails as soon as there is enough snow to support the machine.

Not that the team has been idle. According to Neumann, dryland training started in July. Athletes have been using roller skis to ski the paved loop at Whistler Olympic Park, but have also branched out by using the Callaghan access road and heading into Whistler to ski hilly Alta Lake Road.

“It’s scary, really intense,” he said. “We don’t have brakes or anything, and we can’t snowplow. Basically we just go until we slow down on our own, you just have to sit tight until the road gets flat or goes uphill.”

Team members also run, cycle, and spend time in the gym training to compete at a World Cup level.

Neumann says he is impressed by the work at Whistler Olympic Park.

“It’s probably one of the best, if not the best training facility in Canada,” he said. “We’re getting teams from all over the place. The U.S. team is moving up here to take advantage of the facility, and last year we had the top Norwegian and Swedish team members here to check out the facility. Word is getting out, but right now it’s a hidden gem and our team is lucky enough to be up there training every single day.”

Neumann is encouraged by the response to Whistler Olympic Park, and how clubs in the region have embraced the sport. He also managed to land a local sponsor, with The Nordic Shop helping him out.

“It’s important for us to be out in the community and talking to clubs, and letting people know that we’re here,” he said. “We should have a development team here to take advantage of the incredible facilities, and we’re going to be in Whistler for quite a while.”

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