On January 20th, I landed in Stockholm, Sweden after flying via Iceland. I didn’t get too much sleep but at least it was easy flying, with lots of space for me to relax. I had a stopover of only 40 min in Reykjavik and I hadn’t thought about passport control at all…I thought I’d be processed in Sweden but instead I was told it would be in Reykjavik. Nervous as anything, thinking it would be like America and I’d be in line for an hour, I sprinted out of the plane and ran through the terminal. I rounded a corner and passport control was ahead. All of 2-3 people were in line. I was so relieved, and it then dawned on me that I was back in Europe where it’s nice and easy to get through customs. It takes all of five minutes. No need to worry.
From Stockholm I boarded a train heading north, hoping to find some snow. I hopped off in Falun, home of the 2015 World Championships and where I would race World Cups the following weekend.
I was staying with my AUS teammate Callum Watson and his girlfriend in a small apartment on the edge of town, close to the tracks. It was a great location. Falun, and Sweden for that matter, seemed to have minimal snow, relying heavily on man-made loops. Because of this, and a high amount of traffic on the snow, and always being re-groomed, the snow turns into a deep sugar quickly. It’s like sand, it just doesn’t have any cohesion left and underneath is just sheet ice. It makes classic waxing very difficult and skiing really hard.
A day or so before the races it rained, which was actually almost lucky. The rain helped re-bind the snow and the race organisers were able to pack it really well.
Saturday was a skate sprint. The course here is quite challenging for a sprint. The first 1:10 minutes of racing is almost entirely uphill, followed by a ripping downhill and then a right fishhook turn back into a steep hill. It’s basically a leg destroyer.
By the time I started, the course had started to turn to sugar again, breaking up and becoming soft. However it wasn’t too bad and realistically held up pretty well.
I had a frustrating sprint. The previous day of race prep and speed work, I felt really good. I felt like I had some different gears and could spring up the hills. Then on race day I was missing that feeling. I felt really flat, without the pop I needed for racing.
Sunday was a 30km mass start classic on a 5km loop going up the “little murder hill” 6 times. Yep, you know you’re in for a tough race when the hill is such named! I was worried about how the course would hold up, whether it would turn to sugar and become a nightmare for getting grip, or if it would hold together.
Fortunately our techs killed it and we had great skis for the race.
It was actually my first classic distance race of the year and I really jumped in the deep end. However, I was happy with how I skied technique and performance wise. I need to keep working and finding my racing gears and fitness but it was quite a positive start.
We packed our bags Sunday afternoon and yesterday we drove to Stockholm and flew to South Korea.
My next report will be from Asia which is pretty amazing!
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.