This blog could be a lengthy one as I’ve left it a while and in the meantime been cooking up some substantial levels of fail. So if you’re not a big fan of the long blogs, maybe this one’s not for you.
Have done a lot of racing lately starting with Davos World Cup in Switzerland. This race had a fair bit riding on it as it was an Olympic benchmark event and also had the potential to qualify me for the World Cup Tour de Ski. It went fairly well (68th) but not well enough. My main goal for this season is to go Top 30 on World Cup and qualify for finals. I was around 3-4 seconds outside this so there were a lot of people packed in between 30th and 70th! Either way the result was within the top 75% of field and qualified me for the Tour, which was something.
This next day we left to Val di Fiemme for World Uni games, managed to get a bit lost adding an hour or so to the trip. This was after August had proclaimed “Nah nah nah, I don’t need the GPS, I know where I’m going”.
First race at Uni games was a 10km Skate, was a solid race for me, 42nd out of 80ish starters. Two days later was the 4 X 10k relay. I had first leg and classiced. It was one of my more enjoyable races as I managed to hold onto the top guys for a fair while and handed over to Cal in around 10th. Third race was another two days later, a 30k classic. Somehow I managed to have an awesome day, feeling great and reeling people in all the way to the finish. Not sure how this happened as distance isn’t usually my strong point but I had a blast out there and it is my best race this season so far. 23rd of around 75 starters.
After 4 races in 7 days we were pretty cooked and went to the AIS European Training Center, in Milan (Italy) for Xmas and a few days off snow. The Ski-X and Skeleton teams were there too and the staff put on an awesome day and a solid feast for us! As per usual I ate way too much, feeling like a bloated whale!
Then the epic Shemozzle of attempting the Tour de Ski began!
On Boxing day Cal, Ewan and I were in the van at 7:30am. I had a ride to Oberhof (Germany) from Davos (5hr drive) with the Russian lads leaving at 1:30 but first we had to drop Cal off at a place called Campra for a race. We made most of the 2hr drive to Campra alright until about 2km from the top where we were battling with epic amounts of snow and a poorly cleared road. It had snowed almost 1.5 metres over Xmas and minimal snow clearing had been done. We were doing fairly well without chains until we got to an off-camber section and the back of the van slid sideways into the snow bank. We thought we should put the chains on. Cal and I got out trying to push the van out with no luck, so we had some digging to do before we could even get to the wheels. In the meantime we had caused a traffic jam with cars banking up either side. A 4WD tried to pass us but only managed to bog itself so deep in snow. The chains we had were a few years old from a previous trip and too big for our wheels so we got about 15 metres before the first one fell off and we were stuck again. After digging and pushing the blokes 4WD out, we put the chain back on and had another crack, we only got so far before we were blocking a van and a snow clearer. The one car width of clear road didn’t allow for passing so the snow clearer tried to clear snow around us but with no chains he was about as successful as we were feeling. Then another snow clearer came from the other direction to save the day. We made it about a further 300m before the snow was too deep again. At this point we had to ditch Cal on the side of the road with a bloke in a land cruiser to find his own way up. We were starting to cut it fine for my ride waiting in Davos. On the way back down we saw Steve and Aimee Watson briefly and by the looks of it they were failing as badly as us, talking about fallen powerlines, blocking about 4 cars, only one chain on, the other potentially wrapped around the axle. But we had to bid them good day and leave them to deal with their own shemozzle.
Ewan and I had about two hrs easy driving before we got to a snowed in tunnel blocking our way. We were told it would be a 2hr wait. With no phone reception to let the Russians know we wouldn’t make it Ewan said he would drive me the rest of the way so we sat out the 2hrs. Then the next report was it was going to be a 4hr wait so Ewan drove me to the nearest train station, handed me some wax and said “on your way son”. I then bought a 225 dollar train ticket and decide to board the wrong train, god damn, I only realised this because the first stop was the end of that trains line. So I got on the next rain back to where I’d come from to try sort out the ticket. It was about 5:30pm and I was only around 2hrs drive from where I had started that morning at 7:30, at this point I was about ready to sit down and cry myself a river. I was only ever going to make it to Frankfurt that night and was due in around 1am. After multiple trains my second last one was a little late and so I missed my last connection to Frankfurt. I looked up more trains but it all seemed too hard so at about midnight and without any dinner I walked out of the station and into the first hotel I saw for the night feeling pretty knocked about.
5-6hrs of sleep later I was on another train reattempting (for the millionth time, it felt) to get to Oberhof. This attempt was more successful and after 29hrs and almost 400 dollars worth of train tickets, I made it. I was feeling absolutely roasted and the Tour hadn’t even begun.
As it turned out I hadn’t missed anything anyway as the 1.5km race track which resembled a chocolate milkshake, was closed to athletes and so we were told to go ski in the indoor ski tube/tunnel where they had been storing some of the snow while it had been raining cats and dogs for the past week. The following day, prologue race day, I woke up feeling so rough from all the travel almost as if I had a fever. If it were any other race I probably wouldn’t have started but I had to race today to race on the next few days. I had basically started the Tour as it gave me another opportunity, on day 3, at a skate sprint and hopefully achieving my goal of top 30. So at 4pm, in the rain, fog and almost darkness I started the 4.5km skate prologue ranked 105 out of the 110 starters. I actually felt I was skiing it alright until the last 300m when Simi Hamilton from the US went past me crashing that thought. Despite feeling alright I ended up 99th, for some reason I just went really slowly! In the dark and pouring rain I had a nice, half hour, walk back to the hotel which gave me a lot of time to contemplate my future in the sport, which at that point didn’t seem real fruitful. The walk basically turned into a bit of a depression session.
Stage 2 was changed from a 15k classic to a skate sprint due to snow conditions. Yep Goooood! I was pretty happy with that! I raced again still feeling not great but at least this time I actually went round the course with a bit more pace. I finished 70th, a step up from the day before but nowhere near where I wanted to be. Initially I had thought that the Tour could have had a slightly weaker sprint field due to 6 of the seven stages being distance stages but that was seaming to not be the case.
That arvo I took a ride to Davos with the Russian boys, the next day being a day off. I had hoped to go down and ski the course with them as well but they decided they didn’t want to so again I couldn’t ski the course until race day. I still didn’t feel great on race day but I tried to convince myself that it was going to be one of those days where you ski awesome even when you feel rubbish. Didn’t happen. It wasn’t disastrous, I just didn’t have the spark. 70th again, 4.4secs outside top 30. Pretty frustrating! Maybe now is the time to give away the thought of going top 30 this year. It seems so close yet so far at the same time.
August wanted me to consider racing on in stage 4, a 15k classic mass start but I was feeling cooked and decided to save myself the embarrassment.
I need to thank the Brits, especially Thomas and Benkt so much for waxing etc for me, they saved my bacon relentlessly and gave me great skis! To Rito, from the Russian team, for driving me around and sorting out my accommodation in Davos. Also to Salomon and Swix for some new kit!
For now its PK, Ewan and I in Davos for a training block in preparation for next racing period which includes U/23 World Champs and World Cups in Czech, Poland and Italy.
If you got this far through the blog I do apologise for the length, but I did warn you! I’m personally not a big fan of long self indulged blogs (my typing sucks, this took a loooong time to write) but a lot has been going down. I’ll try and keep the next one under control…
Photo credits to Ewan, PK and Finn