So as fast as the winter kicked off it has ended. I was hoping to write a lot more about the season in sections through out all the racing, but I was too busy and never got the chance. So instead Im going to do an overview with some photos to help spice it up! It was a pretty good winter for me and I’m really happy overall with how the season turned out!
The serious racing started in Perisher with the first round of National champs. A classic sprint on Saturday and then a 10km skate on the Sunday.
Both days were solid for me, I was third Australian and 4th overall. I took a lot of confidence out of the races and really started to look forward to the next round of races back in Falls Creek.
The Falls Creek races were a mixture of success and frustration. I was extremely happy with how the sprint races went for me. I was 3rd outright and 2nd Australian. In the semis I was in fourth and looking like I’d be knocked out, but managed to have a very aggressive attack up the main climb and slot into 2nd in the heat. The distance was a bit of a tough day, the weather was a mixture of rain and snow. With such tricky waxing conditions we just didn’t nail the wax and that’s just the reality of racing. We take for granted great skis all the time and sometimes it just doesn’t work.
I was keen to really prove I was in much better shape than my result from the Sunday suggested. Luckily for me the Kangaroo Hoppet was the next weekend. 42 km to see how I really was going.
Race day dawned perfectly, sunny and cold, with a good hard freeze overnight. The start of the race is always a bit chaotic with a few hundred people surging forward and then funneled into a fairly narrow gap. For the first few kilometers I sat in the top five, letting others do the work, just watching how people were skiing and reacting to others. After roughly 5-6 kilometres I decided to take a quick drink from my bottle I was carrying. After drinking I was clipped and dropped the whole bottle of sports drink onto the snow… I quickly swerved trying to pick it up, but at such high speed I didn’t even get close. However at that stage I was sitting 3rd and with me swerving around the track like a drunk a gap formed to the lead too. At the same time we hit the first hill of the race and a gap was really opened up as I settled myself and tried to regain the lead too. They seemed to put the foot down and I couldn’t do a thing but watch the lead two ski off the front. For a few minutes with my race plan in tatters I was so annoyed. I regained my composure and re evaluated the situation. With my attempt to chase the front two down, I’d created a small chasing pack of just two others.
Still knowing I was in the top five it was just game on and time to race. American, Tom Smith and Estonian, Vahur Teppan and I skied really well together taking turns on the flats and the hills. We hit the Paralyzer, a 6-7 minute hill with a deceiving gradient. The name pretty much sums the hill. I was hurting at this point fairly badly and I was quite worried I’d drop off the back. I managed to hang on over the top of the hill as we continued to work together. Tom gave me a sip of his drink after the climb which I’m extremely grateful for, just shows how awesome Nordic skiers are, helping out the competition. Tom had been brought over to help coach the Australian team this winter. So it was fun racing against a coach, but also a great friend.
Once you ski through to the second lap there is a bit of a climb out of the stadium and at the top my mum was waiting with a feed. After a huge drink I was starting to feel pretty good. Tom skied up beside me and said “3rd is yours mate, just go for it!’ At the next hill I put my foot down and managed to ski off the other two. I opened up around a 1:30 min gap between 4th and 5th and held it to the finish. I’m extremely happy to have come third in the Hoppet. I would have loved to have tested myself against first and second, but there is always next time! This year was the first time in a few years any Australians were on the podium so that was also cool. With third place, I also secured third in the Australian and New Zealand Continental Cup which I was stoked with!
Lauren again flew out from Alaska for a month, to train and spend some time in Australia with me at home which was awesome.
Since then it’s been back to training and I’ve just been loving it. The weather has been great and the temperature just perfect. I’m really excited about heading across and skiing for BSF Elite team this winter so I am on countdown mode until I can fly out and join them. It was a great Australian winter. Some massive “thank yous” need to be said. Biribeiner Nordic Ski Club sets up almost every single race at Falls, which is a huge effort! They also support me every year internationally, so thank you to the BNSC Club. Tommy Smith was a great coach and training companion this winter, so a big thank you to him. As always my personal and the team’s coaching staff of August, Finn, Allison and JC were great to work with and I can’t wait for the next winter! Train happy!
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.