Who in their right mind would pass up a chance to spend a week with the British Nordic ski team? Not necessarily famed for having the best skiers in the world (yet) the team is definitely up their among the teams with the best banter or loudest cheering or maybe even in the most swear words learned in another language category… So as you can imagine it was an eventful past week spent with the national team. Despite spending time with British people my Norwegian vocabulary increased by approximately 5 words all of which are completely inappropriate.
The week started in typical British fashion when neither of the coaches could get out of the UK due to the snow…. What snow? There is approximately a dusting of snow here in Norway… But no doubt back home there was/is metres of the stuff . Eventually the coaches arrived both a day later than they had intended… Roy on the Tuesday and Roger on Wednesday. It worked out ok, the team has been together for so long now, I think this is my 8th or 9th year with these people!, we just sorted it out our selves and got on with what had to be done. It is an impressive thing how the group has matured and how our experiences both on and off the track have changed the way we act. If there is a problem now we just move and adapt to fix the problem. All in all we are much more effective and I believe it is one of the reasons we are creating better results.
Training at Sjujsoen in Lillehammer was going well, I planned to do 2 hard sessions but had to move them a day early due to the cold temperatures forecast. My classic skiing went really well but skate felt bad but still I seemed to carry a lot of speed.
Training during the first part of the week went mostly without mishap, although there was one instance of a British Army skier getting in the way of one of our skiers… I am not sure if I approve of the way it was dealt with, but lets just say the skier from the Army was very apologetic… VERY!
The Army skiers from “Remi” had great attire for skiing printed with “DEATH OR GLORY” on the back of all their jackets. Apart from providing us with endless entertainment and piss taking behind their backs it does describe the tactics I tried to employ for the first race this weekend.
On the Thursday we travelled to a frozen Idre, the site of the races for the weekend. Tested skis on Friday and got ready to race for Saturday 10km skating.
The forecast for the race was meant to be cold in the morning rising to minus 12 by the time the race started. It would be great conditions for racing. However the temperature never rose… so the race took place at a shocking -17 degrees C. Wrapped up with tape over my nose and face to protect against wind chill, a buff neck warmer, hat and newly purchased racing mitts I set out for my warm up. The warm up for Saturdays race was completely uneventful, apart from the information we got back from the girls race – race in mitts as their hands froze!
So I headed to the start still all wrapped up for the cold. I Had planned to start really, really fast go out and take the glory or die trying to… But for some reason I couldn’t find that top gear, I just had a very high steady pace with no kick. I received splits telling me I was in first by a handful of seconds all the way round. I caught the guy 30 seconds in front and then the guy 1 min in front. I came across the line to win by 10 seconds in the junior class. I guess my single pace was high enough to win but not to take the Glory. I had wanted to win the overall and beat all the senior racers. It was a realistic goal, and in hindsight I should have achieved it… but I fell short finishing 4th in the overall 5,6 seconds down on the winner. Pleased with the junior win, but still work to be done for the key performance.
The Classic race was just short of a disaster. I chose my skis on the Friday, perfect for hard cold conditions. I tested them in my warm up - I had perfect skis. Then I started and it chucked it down with snow and warmed up about 3 degrees. My equipment was rendered useless, as a struggled fro grip in the kick phase and fought for every cm of glide. I struggled on through the hardest part and conditions eased up a little…. Then I could really attack the last lap of the 3.3km trail. I battled my way into 8th place junior and 8th overall, 25 seconds down on the winner. I started last junior and the seniors started behind me. The seniors had the worst conditions and this was proven by the fact that the best senior was only 9th place overall. The 17/18 year old category had the best conditions with 2 in the top 8… but in the skate race the day before they had been nowhere near the front.
A little disappointed with the classic race, yes bad skis played a part but also I lacked spark and aggression to really attack the podium as I had wanted to. But at least this is just the first race of the season. I still have time to add the finishing touches before the main goals of the season.
The week ended as it had started with another typically British fashion. We took over 3 hours to pack up our skis tidy the apartment and leave Idre . But time was still found to have a jolly good old cup or tea…