After Gålå in mid December i got a bit of a cold for a few days. It set me a little bit on the back foot going into the Sjusjøen Scandinavian Cup events just before Christmas. However i managed to ski ok, and produce a few good results.
The day before the first race i had an interval session. My first hard session for 2 weeks, and the last one being the sprint at Gålå. The first race was a skate 15k, time trial.
I started my race fairly controlled, and was getting some middle of the pack splits out on the course. After my first lap of 5k, Martin Andersen from Team Norgeshus started his race. He was obviously doing the opposite of me and starting really hard. I got in behind him and the pace was fast. I turned in a monster second lap jumping up into the top 10 in my splits (obviously there were still some people to start later who came and beat my times after i had already finished). I stayed behind Martin for my third lap, but i could see he was suffering the fast start already. The pace slowed down and eventually i went past with 2k to the finish. I dropped Martin and sprinted to the finish. I crossed the line in the top 10, and ended up in 43rd once everybody had finished. I had wanted to take points (top 30) but i was still quite happy and it showed i was on my way back after being ill.
The next day was a skate sprint in horrendous conditions with high winds and new falling snow. The prologue went ok qualifying in 22nd. I was in good form, and felt good for my quarter final.
The conditions meant that nobody could see anything, so it was a little bit of a "bingo race". If you got on the ice where the new snow had been blown off, you went fast. If you got in a snow drift, you stopped.
The quarter final started well and i was feeling good. Moving up a few positions into 3rd and ready to attack the final few sections. In the last big climb the guy sitting in 4th went to the right to attack and i went to the left. I ended up a half meter to far left. And no longer on the course. I got my skis out of the snow drift but by this time it was too late to catch the leaders. I tried but ended up 4th in my heat and 20th overall.
The final day in Sjusjøen was a classic 30k mass start. Wont spend much time on this. I was feeling horrific. Skied slowly and came way down the list.
After Sjusjøen i drove over to Geilo for a small training period before the Tour de ski. I had a good few days there, with some good training sessions. I worked a lot on my classic as obviously something hadn't been going right in Sjusjøen.
After Christmas i flew down to Munich for the Tour de ski. Muzzy had got the last space on the direct flight in the middle of the day from Oslo. So i was going via Berlin and 6.30am. Berlin lost my bag and i had to wait in Munich for hours for Muzzy to arrive.
We eventually made it to Oberhof. The next day i trained in borrowed clothes, and a picked up some new boots from Alpina. The track was really hard and icy. Perfect conditions for me and the other big powerful skiers. Icy conditions also make the race fast and the effect of up hills smaller so its harder for the leaders to get a big gap. I found some good skis, and some back up skis for the next day.
My bag caught up with me in the evening, and our new race suit from Salamon turned up.
The next day i turned up at the stadium and the track was mush. The ice had disappeared and was replaced with a disintegrating mix of slush and mud.
The snow was so dirty we didn't want to test skis for too long as they could pick up dirt and slow them down. The pair i chose for the ice the day before were no good. So we tested my back up pair, and then the back up, back up pair. A short discussion and one final speed test confirmed the back up, back up was the best.
I finished my warm up on what the organisers called a snow loop, but i call frosted mud.
Thomas had been watching the start of the race and said it was possible to lose or gain as much as 10 seconds in the lass 500m of the race. Which was only 4k. He reminded me to have some energy left there and that it will still feel horrible anyway.
I started my race quite controlled. The snow was so soft, and couldn't support my weight. Every now and then when i kicked i went right through and got now purchase. Then i got to the big hill and started to attack. The snow was a little better and felt as if i could push properly. I got to the top of the big hill and i was wrecked. I could hardly stand up i had so much lactate in my legs. The last hill back to the stadium was the worst. Really, really, really deep slush. I had no chance i just sunk in. I would have needed boats on my feet to float over it.
I made to the finished. Wrecked. I had wanted to be 30seconds behind the winner but i ended up 36 behind. It was an ok race but i know i could have been much better.
The next day was a 15k classic hunting start. You start at the time you are behind from the day before.
I felt horrific, skied slowly, didnt have the best skis in the world and lost a lot of time.
I found company at the back along with another heavy skier from Sweden. With every pole we sunk in and lost time. With every kick we sunk in. We pretty much waddled are way around. The track was in bad shape with us being pretty much the last racers to come through. Every corner had holes right down to the rollerski track.
All in all my experience from Oberhof was not a good one. Rubbish snow, favouring the lighter and smaller skiers, who could float over the top, had put me on the back foot before i even begun and then on top of that i skied badly. The prologue was ok, but the classic was far from what i was looking for.
After a massage from Thomas in the evening after the classic race, the next day we travelled to Switzerland. To Val Mustair, the home town of Dario Calogna. We got there after the 7 hour drive, ate some lunch and set out to test the track. It was a fun track with some tight turns, long enough straights to pass and a good climb.
After a New Year's eve dinner, we turned up the next day to test skis and get ready for the race. Thomas and Bernt had found something "magic" to put on the skis. But they held it close to their chest and wouldn't tell anyone until after the race incase someone heard in the waxing tent. Normally they are quite open with their waxing. They must have really thought they found something good! I tested skis with Thomas, and we tested some bindings. With different positions and with or without the spacer.
We found a good pair of skis and got the bindings right as well. I was racing in new boots which have a different sole to the old boot so i had to test and make sure things were set up right.
I warmed up on the arm up track, got my race skis and headed to the start. I started my race pretty well, controlled and fast, i knew i needed some energy for the second lap, especially at this altitude. I made it down the two switch back corners and then out onto the fast flat. I was pushing the corners fast, i knew i needed all the advantages i could get to get a fast time. On the longest corner at the bottom of the track right before the finish or the start of a new lap i was really pushing it to build up speed into an uphill section. I placed my inside ski on some ice and whipped out from under me and i was down sliding on my bum with the crowd cheering. I got up but i was full of lactate after that. I made it round and back to the same corner. The crowd banged the side boards in a drum roll sort of a way and cheered in "oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" as a cricket crowd does when a fast bowler is running in.
I hit the ice, wobbled, put my hand down, then my elbow. The crowd erupted into "wayyyyyyyyyyyy!" I sprung back up and made it to the finish, in with the back markers, all of which had fallen. At least i gave the (probably very drunk) crowd something to cheer about.
Thoroughly pissed off with Switzerland, Val Mustair, skiing, the Tour de Ski, corners, ice and falling over, i travelled home the next day.
It was always the plan to come home and train before going to the World u23's in Liberec later in the month.
Now we have ski trails just 2min from the house so it's easy to train without having to travel 30min each way to go skiing. And the rest of the Tour de Ski is on tv to watch!