Friday, January 27, 2012

Milan: cross country ski racing meets couture

I realize it’s been it’s ben approximately 75 days since my last blog post, and that is an absurdly long time. Truthfully, I have very few excuses other than I’ve been on the road for a long time, and sometimes the internet is hard to come by. But now we are in Ramsau, Austria, and I have a break from racing, and a decent internet connection, so I’ll take a few minutes and fill you in on what’s been happening!

Briefly I should recap the pre-Christmas period - for me personally, it was largely unremarkable. I had one top 30 result in Davos, Switzerland, and then promptly got sick the next weekend in Rogla, so I headed home to Canmore for Christmas wanting more. Christmas was a nice break from World Cup life, but I was chomping at the bit to get back on the start line and turn things around.

The first World Cup weekend for me following Christmas was the City Sprint in Milan, and it turned into a pretty good weekend! Saturday I qualified in the top 30, and advanced into the semi-final, finishing 12th on the pancake flat 600m loop that we zipped around twice before barreling towards the finish line. I learned lots on Saturday, and was excited to put that to good use on Sunday when Chandra and I teamed up for the Sprint-relay.

Here I must point out that sprint relays are probably my absolute favourite event. They are unbelievably hard, since you only get to rest while your partner is on course, and then you have to go again, but I love the format along with the excitement in the pit between legs more than anything. This I believe is at least partly due to the hundreds of relays I did at Nakkertok in my earlier years on Wednesday nights under the lights. If there is ever a World Cup on super narrow winding trails in the dark, I will be ready.

That being said, Chandra and I knew that this was going to be a chaotic day. We needed more than anything to stay out of trouble. In our semifinal we had the absolute best tag-off spot, and were making up positions each lap. I got in a bit of a bind, and almost ended our day early by crashing on one of my first few laps when my ski got stuck in the wrong spot (underneath someone else’s ski) and I ended up on my rear end. Luckily I was able to right myself pretty quickly, relax, and put my head down and catch the rest of the group before tagging off to Chandra who took care of it from there.

We squeaked through to the final as the only lucky loser team coming from our semi-final. New rules in the team sprint now take the first 2 teams in each heat, plus the next 4 fastest times. Our heat was the first semi, therefore we had no idea that the next one would ski much faster than we did!

In the final our strategy was much the same, we crossed our fingers that no one had noticed our amazing tag spot and tried to snag it from us, and agreed that we just needed to stay out of trouble and in a good position so that Chandra could make a move on the finishing stretch. Luckily all of these things happened. We used the same spot to tag, making up spots in the exchange zone, and staying out of trouble at the same time. We were hyper aware of our surroundings at all times. On my first lap (right off the start) there were poles breaking left right and center, at on point there was one flying through the air towards me, so staying relaxed and able to react to whatever came our way certainly helped us. The other thing that helped us was Chandra’s super fast sprint at the end of the last lap which took us to the podium behind the Swedes and our Americain friends Kikkan and Jesse!

It was an awesome day all round, and a great weekend to kick off 2012 on the World Cup, and get my first World Cup Podium.

We are now in Ramsau for a little camp before we head off to Moscow for our next City Sprint!

Special thanks to Scott, and Nordic Focus for the photos! I’ll aim to get the next blog post up in 74 days or less.

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