The weekend of World Cup racing in Otepää, Estonia was a 1.6km skate sprint and a 15km classic. After two weeks of fantastic sunshine and cold temperatures the weather broke. It went from great, fast downhills to hot sunshine- turning the snow to mush!Due to my body taking a long time to recover, Valerio and I discussed skipping the skate sprint. The thinking being I would save my energy for just the 15km and almost more importantly next week at world champs.
However, I had been feeling good and my energy was at a fairly high level so I made the call that I wanted to sprint. But before my race there was one pretty bloody import race that only comes around once every few years it seems. The World Cup wax tech relay race!!!
It’s such a big deal, so many of the techs talk about it for days leading up to it. There are a lot of bragging rights up for grabs! Our crew was just as pumped as any of the other teams and we were in with a big chance we felt as a bit of an underdog team. We were ranked 15th- yes, even the tech teams get ranked!!! But that meant we were starting in the third row!
The race is made up of three techs doing a 1km loop before tagging off to the next skier, and they do that twice for a total of six laps.
Ironically, we had no Aussies on our team; Valerio was starting us off (Swiss), Paul was the motor in the middle (Canadian) and Brian was brining it home for us (American). But behind the scenes were Randy and Rob waxing the guys’ skis. For the race, Phil and I had lent them our race skis, and Randy had found a bunch of old half used waxes to concoct some magic on their skis.
Phil, Nick, and I just drove in to watch the race, and we were on the main climb but able to see most of the course. The gun went and it began- 20 odd men dreaming of World Cup glory (slightly past their prime) charged the start. Utter chaos ensued. Madder than a tree full of galahs, every man wanted to be leading that pack! A tech in the second row was first victim, falling down, carbon splintering everywhere blocking the left. A man beside Valerio hit the deck and tumbled to the right. An opening up the centre was there, and V-man shot from 15th-5th!
However, the actual Swiss team went out like they had just robbed a bank. They opened up a big gap! Valerio tried to follow, but Norway and Russia were pacing it and blocking any moves. For the next 5 laps, us boys just screamed our lungs out on the hill- finally getting a chance to cheer for the guys that always cheer for us.
Paul, on his first leg, came off slight second best after tangling with the USA for the inside line snapping a pole. But Phil managed to get a quick pole change across to Paul, and we only lost a few places. Brian, on his final lap (pushed by Phil and I running beside him screaming), managed to make lots of ground back up- blitzing past Finland and another team.
In the end the boys finished in tenth place- 5 better than our rank, and doing us bloody proud! Its a lot of fun running beside the guys and yelling at them to push it all the way to the top!
Oh, and as for those Swiss Boys that charged the start? Well they hit the wall harder than you can ever imagine. An exploding star would of been proud of the eruption.
After that it was down to my races- and my chance to charge the hills. The men’s sprint qualifier was at 10:30am, but already by the time we started the mercury was above zero and it was hot! The snow hadn’t really frozen overnight, meaning the course was instantly boot deep mash potatoes. Now to make things just plain cruel, the course had two big category ‘A’ climbs in it, the second basically resembling a wall not unlike the one the Swiss boys hit.
My race was frankly disappointing. I haven’t managed to put a really satisfying skate sprint together. I just suffered really hard, and my legs flooded with acid just too early for me to really blast the last hill like I had planned. The skate sprinting just doesn’t seem to be clicking for me at the moment.
Now after a disappointing sprint I was eager to make amends in the 15km classic and blast it out. I really liked the course; the more hill the better for me when it comes to classic, and this course had no shortage. The main climb rose from below the bottom of a 90 meter ski jump to well above the take-off point. Basically, it was a big climb.
Now just to keep things spicy the day dawned windy and wet with puddles of water forming on the course.
It was extremely hard waxing, and I was extremely fortunate to have the whole crew waxing just for me in the race. The guys killed the skis, and considering how gnarly the tracks were I had fantastic skis.
I ended up having a really solid race. The plan was to just gun-it from the start and try to hold on for as long as I could keep the tempo up.
After such a disappointing sprint the day before, it was pretty satisfying to have a strong classic race again. I know that I still have good form and confidence going into the World Champs; I think I’ll be able to have some solid distance races.
I don’t have any photos from the race because the weather was so bad and our techs so busy.
World Championships starts in 2 days now with the skate sprint.
Train hard, rest easy, Live for the moment.