Monday, 9 December 2013

Lillehammer WC

Having a world cup in Lillehammer is the closest I will ever get to having a home world cup. So when I was planning which races I wanted to do for the season, of course I decided to do Lillehammer.
The stadium there is completely new. The old stadium from the 1994 Olympics is now too long for modern competition. Back then they did loops of 10k, 15k, and even up to 16.3k, so to have 1k of flat in the stadium each lap wasn't really a problem. But now we use 5k loops. So the stadium had to be moved closer to the hills. Apart from the addition of a new bridge the tracks used for the world cup were old tracks from the '94 Olympics. All be it, going in different directions and adding bits of different loops together to make up this new and modern 5k loop.
The new track was quite special, in that there isn't really any other world cup venue like it. Or any other ski venue like it. The closest I could think of is Val di fiemme. But even then its not quite the same. The tracks in Lillehammer either went up or down. It was pretty much diagonal up the hill... tuck down the hill... and repeat. In my opinion it is not the best track ever. I think a good race track should challenge everything and every aspect of skiing. I don't think Lillehammer did. But it was fair. It was the same course for everyone, and everyone knew what to expect.
Before the race everyone was talking about the hills, how long they are, how hard it was. The general assumption was that heavy people where going to struggle. I bumped into Muzzy's private team manage Emil at the stadium the day before the race. He said to me, rather sarcastically "oh, see you've lost weight then"... whilst nodding towards the course, in a sort of manner that said "Mate, what you even doing here, your done for it tomorrow." He clearly thought it was amusing.
I'd like to point out that Norway knows 4 things... (in order) Skiing, taco (yes mexican food, every house, every friday night. I don't get it either), elk and oil. In Scotland we know 3 things. Deep fat frying, obesity and kilts. Now, you rarely see a scotsman going around telling a Norwegian how to wax a pair of skis. So I'd kindly ask them to refrain from talking about obesity to me.

We had Kåre and Åsmund helping us out with waxing a coaching. Both of them worked for Muzzy's previous private team that folded last year. So both of them weren't up to much and said they could help out. Åsmund was on waxing duty but came down with the flu the night before the race. He was really, really ill, but Kåre insisted it was only because he ate too much pudding. Åsmund managed to finish off some good skis before collapsing onto a bus back to the hotel... about 48hours ago now... so hopefully he has been able to get of bed by now.
Classic races are always hectic with ski testing and getting the grip at the level I want it to be. I had 2 pairs to test. Firstly I went for the pair I felt glided better and felt freer when I kicked forward. The grip wasn't quite good enough so we put some more grip wax on and got it up to scratch. But now the skis felt a bit slower. So we got the second pair out. Now they were easier and lighter to go on. But the kick wasn't quite right. So got some more kick wax on them, but not as much as the first pair. And then discussion time came... I'm hopeless at making the last minute call on skis. And this time we had two pairs working. One with better kick, one with better glide. Kåre and I both decided on the ones with better kick on the grounds that there was a lot of uphill, and also they had perhaps a bit too much kick wax on. The wax would only rub off after a few corners and the glide should get better.
After a hectic testing session like that there isn't much time left for warm up... and in this care there isn't any snow left. The race track closed 5min before the first start in the time trial format. And the warm up track was about 300m long on the flat. All the snow was man made with a few cm's a natural snow that had come on top.
The race went quite well. I was a bit frantic in the start but quickly settled down into the second lap and focussed on my technique. A few of the later starters came past me. They were going at this really irritating pace. They sort of eased up to me and cruised past but didn't really pull away from me. Then when they were about 10seconds in front I'd think "I could have hang on to that". I few came past where I considered getting in behind them and seeing how long I'd last at their pace. But I decided against it. In retrospect I probably should have done... but in all honestly I was too scared of the last part of the course on the last lap. It would have been possible to loose a lot of time there if I was too tired.
I finished 74th of 83 finishers and 85 starters. I was quite a way behind the winner, but the course is quite typical of one that spreads the field. I beat quite a few good people, such as Kris Freeman, and I wasn't far behind a good group of people. I skied well and my technique was good throughout the race which in classic skiing i have struggled with for the last season and a half. On a course that didn't suit me. So I can only be happy with how I did. It is promising for the rest of the season as well. I don't feel I'm in particularly amazing shape now, so hopefully when my shape is better, I have a better course for me, and I manage to ski as technically well as I did in Lillehammer, then I will jump up the results list.

We didn't do the relay yesterday for number of reasons. But mainly so we could have a travel day and get down to Switzerland. The next world cup is in Davos at quite high altitude so we need time to adapt  before we race. We got here late last night after an eventful journey. Firstly the bus crashed/slid into a tree in the car park of one of the team hotels in Lillehammer. So after waiting for an hour and getting pulled out by a tractor we set off. The window of the bus was broken but only the outer window. So the buss driver just got out a broom and knocked out all the smashed glass and drove on like it was nothing. He drove quite fast in a snow storm to get us to the airport on time. Then our flight to berlin was delayed an hour. It meat we should now miss our connection in Berlin. But we arrived a bit early so it gave us a chance. We sprinted through the airport and made it. Once in Zurich we had to wait for just over an hour for the norwegian women's team. Their flight from Oslo had been delayed an hour. Then we got a bus from the world cup organisers up to Davos.

I'm looking forward to getting a good week of training in here, before the spring on sunday. I'm not planning on doing the 30k on saturday.


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