So we packed our bags and drove from Seefeld Austria, via Germany, to bad ischl Austria. Yes a little weird I know but you feel very obliged to do what the little female voice says from the GPS. She’s very persuasive… Now I know I promised some exciting road tripping adventures and stories. But for once the drive to our accommodation went smoothly (that is apart from Phil getting crazy cabin fever three quarters in and us having to stop so he could run around a bit and release some energy). Once we arrive we quickly checked into our accom before we headed up to the trails, however there was just one little issue. We had no idea where they were. Coach Finn came to the rescue and found the race office and was told where to go. So we all piled in and headed up there.
For a while I think most I of the team thought we were going to some remote location to be murdered because there was no way this road led to the Austrian champs venue. I have never been on such a hectic road. It’s around 15-20 minutes of driving on a single car width road with no idea if another car is coming the other way. Not to mention that it’s sheet ice with off cambered corners and a cliff drop on one side…
Bad Ischl was marked the beginning of the last racing block before our final training block and the crescendo of World Under 23’s. The sprint on Friday was also the first of 6 races in the follow 10 days.
The Sprint was a 1.6 km, which is only 200m shy of being max FIS distance. The course itself had one very long steady climb after a turn out of the stadium with a pinch after a small descent before another climb into the stadium. After four weeks of hard training I had fairly high expectations of myself and was hoping for a lot in the sprint seeing as my last one wasn’t as good as I was hoping. I will admit that I’m much more of a steep climber than a gradual grinder so this course wasn’t quite perfect for me but I was still excited for it. Out of the start I push hard and went for it, as I hit the bottom of the major grind I tried to find a solid tempo. Half way up the hill I was starting to hurt, the grinding tempo was starting to get to me. Over the first hill I and into the descent I was feeling ok and the pinch came and went find. The hill back into the stadium doesn’t look like a hill but it still was there and I sadly felt I lacked the last gear in my legs to attack over the top. In the end it was actually my best Sprint race to date (in terms of FIS points) so I can’t complain however when I finished I was sitting 29th but got nudged out of the top 30 by the end which was quite frustrating (top thirty go through to the heats).
A lot of focus for me has been on distance so I was pretty keen for the 10km classic on Saturday. The 10km was also the time trial for the purist the next day so it was fairly important to go well. The Classic was my kind of course with two very long striding climbs and two pinches. The first lap felt solid and I was looking to really hammer the second lap. However I managed to do one of the dumbest things I’ve done in my racing career. As I came through to do a lap I was chasing down another Australian who had started a minute or two in front. I was charging hard trying to chase my teammate down when I looked up and realized I’d started skiing into the finish lane and not the lap so I had to do a full stop and turn about and backtrack around 10 meters into the lap lane. Not my best moment. In the end I skied ok with my second lowest FIS points to date but as always you question what could have been and realistically what should have been. Not really what a professional athlete should do.
The Sunday then wasn’t set up to well for me being a little way off the front. In the warm up I was feeling already very tired. Two days of racing really takes it out of you and to back it up with a third straight day hurts. So I sat in the middle of the start list waiting to be released. After being released I knew Mark Van Der Ploeg was only starting 12 seconds in front so I was keen to bridge the gap as quickly as possible and get a bit of a train going. However on the first climb I finally realised I’d left my legs back in our hotel. On the first hill my legs felt like they’d already run there race and Vandy powered over the hill putting more and more time into me. Knowing my legs were cooked I tried to ski as technically efficiently as possible to save what ever was left in my legs.
The race for me was one of the toughest I’d ever raced, it really tested me mentally to push on. Im really happy to of pushed on and finished but it certainly wasn’t fun.
This whole weekend of racing wasn’t what I had hoped for. I felt I lacked a top gear for most of the races but on a positive I felt I had the engine and I just couldn’t quite put it down.
We move back to Campra in Switzerland tomorrow and I’m looking forward to racing back there. I have gotten a lot of good point there and I know the trails well so I’m keen to get there. Also the junior Swiss boys we had New Years with will be there so it will be good to catch up with them again. In the end I still feel I have so much more to give in races and can’t wait for the morning where I wake up feeling sparky the day of a race and I can just through it all down.
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.