Friday, 9 January 2015

The Tour De Ski

Happy New Year! My new years resolution was to blog once a week and fulfil the magic 52 blog year dream. However, seeing as it has taken me until the 9th to even write the first blog of the year, I can see this resolution ending quite quickly at the bottom of the canyon of failure. Hopefully something exciting will happen, requiring 2 blogs in a week. 

My 2015 started off with The Tour De Ski. I've now started the tour 3 times but always dropped out after the 3rd or 4th stage. A move that has always been planed. This year the tour started a bit later, after new year, instead of right after Christmas. It started in Oberstdorf, Germany instead of Oberhof, Germany. Although there where a few changes the programme was pretty much the same as it has been for the last few years. It started with a 4,4km freestyle "prologue". The following day was a 15km classic "hunting start", followed by a rest/travel day. My final day on the tour was for the freestyle sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland. The tour, now in its 9th edition, is fast becoming the second most important week of the year. In a world championships or Olympic year the tour serves as a side dish. But a bloody good side dish. The sort of side dish that makes the main course better. Once every 4 years there is no world championships or Olympics. The tour is then promoted to main course. This year is a world champs year, but the level of the tour this year is still pretty high. A few big names aren't competing due to illness, but otherwise everyone is there and in good shape. 

For the British team the tour is quite possibly the most hectic week of the year. Everything is full on, and there is pretty much no time to do anything other that race and focus on recovery. The races are so close to each other and there is often a lot of travel between so recovery becomes even more important than normal. A normal tour day started for me at around 8.30. The waxers are normally up and gone by 7, but I try to get up around 3 hours before my race starts. A good breakfast as often I won't be able to eat a proper meal again for several hours. This tour was a bit special as we were staying so far from the venues. So we left for the track 2.30 to 2 hours before the race started. Sometime the travel would be 45min long. I'd get to the venue and have to pretty much begin with ski testing straight away. After that I'd warm up and race. Straight after racing I'd head out running to try and clear as much lactate as possible. Finally after I'd cooled down I could eat another meal at the stadium. Thankfully the athlete tents were providing pretty good food. Then we'd drive back to the accommodation, or onto the next hotel, and get a massage from Kelly, our physio from the Scottish Institute of Sport. Then it would be time for dinner, after dinner I'd head out a jog for 20min before stretching. At around 10pm I'd head to bed. The waxers had pretty long days. They'd be up early to get skis ready for testing, and do the product and structure tests. Then they'd test our skis with us, before getting out onto the course to support us during the race. Then they'd have to clean and pack skis before playing Tetris to get everything in the bus. I don't envy their jobs at all. 

The racing went quite well for me. The first race, the 4,4km prologue was indeed my best ever distance result at world cup with 44th. I had a bit of a slow start, but I felt better and better throughout the race and finished strong, indeed on the last section of the course I had the 13th fastest time. The following day was pretty awful. I'm not really sure what happened, but I didn't feel good and ended up way down the field. But I survived and made it to the all important sprint stage in Val Mustair. I had a good sprint, qualifying in 17th and finishing 3rd in my ¼ final to end up 15th overall. I wanted to make the semifinal (top 12), but I made a few mistakes early on in the ¼ final, so I had to settle for 3rd instead of the top 2 that go through to the semi. 

The was quite a bit of controversy around various things during the first 3 stages. Firstly the Swedes and the Norwegians kicked off about the accommodation situation in Oberstdorf... or to me be more accurate, not Oberstdorf! Everybody was a long way from the stadium, some people taking over an hour to drive there each day. It seemed to me to be pretty similar for everyone, as long as it is equally rubbish for all I don't think there is any reason to complain. But it was quite annoying. 
The second thing that happened was that Sundby went the "wrong" way in the 4,4km prologue. It was a 2 lap course and on a big hill they split the course in 2 so it was easier for the tv filming the timing point at the top. At the team captains meeting we were told there would be a "big penalty" for going to the wrong side up the hill. Sundby went to the wrong side, which may have been about a metre longer, but it had much better/faster snow, and didn't get any penalty as the Jury said he didn't gain an advantage. Personally I think that is a bit silly for them to say one thing and then do another.... But it seems like that is a basic requirement to get on race Jury? 
The 3rd thing that kicked up a bit of spark was the sprint course in Val Mustair. We raced here 2 years ago so everybody knew the course. But this year we turned up to go out and test skis and the course was different. They'd added a jump/drop(40cm) and camel hump rollers. With no warning. There was no team information about this, we just turned up and they where there. Lots of people fell on the jump in training and the final decision was to remove the jump/drop but keep the rollers. Personally I think they made the right decision in the end. That's not to say I'm against putting a jump in a course, but it has to be put in a sensible place, not on a fast descent between two sharp corners. It also has to have prior warning, so all the teams no about it. However I'm more in favour of things like rollers and banked corners than jumps or drops. That way it is probably more compatible to the sport as a whole, instead of just freestyle sprints. And rollers are actually pretty fun to ski. 

After the 3rd stage of the tour I headed up to Sweden to race the Scandinavian cup. The races are in Falun on the world championship courses. I'm going to do the classic sprint and the 30k skiathlon on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully the races will go well. 

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