To begin with, going to the OPA Continental cup races in St Ullrich was going to be pretty easy and straight forward. PK and I were going to drive our van there, and do our own waxing etc but then PK called in sick so I was going to be riding solo from then on and to throw another spanner in the works, Callum, realised only a couple of days out from the Slovenian world cup that he had no way of getting there and thought he might just take the mighty van leaving me with no ride… We had Valerio Leccardii (legend) from the Swiss team help me out and he arranged for me to travel down there with some of the Russian team athletes and coach. The 4.5hr drive was a little hectic as we had to drive over a real sketchy mountain pass while it was snowing solidly, the road hadn’t been cleared for a while and there was a good 10/15cm of fresh. Riito, the Russian coach was on a mission and driving the van like a race car, the amount of body roll we were getting was pretty hectic and I’m not sure what had happened to the seat belts in the back but they looked like they had been missing for quite some time. This trip kept me on edge and switched on ready to race.
The next morning we skied the race course for the first time and tested skis etc. The Russians were working with another athlete from Luxembourg and were really generous and waxed my skis for each race which was sick! When it came to the race, which was a 1.5km skate sprint, I almost fell on my face as I came off the line because my skis were running so fast. After I gathered my legs and arms back together I got into a bit of a rhythm, still skiing like a bit of a spud and scrambling a bit I managed to get round feeling pretty fresh. I finished around 50th out of around 100ish starters; it was fairly tight race as 15secs divided the top 80 finishers. I was fairly happy with my finishing position but even more happy that I had managed to go below the 120FIS point mark which meant I was now qualified for the World Cup circuit and will race my first sprint World Cup and team sprint with Callum Watson in Millan (Italy) around mid January 2012.
The next day for the 10km classic I was feeling a bit flat in the warm up but soon found my legs again. The wax cabin was going a little bonkers that day because it was only about 2m wide, 6m long and it was being shared by Russia, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Brazil and Australia. In this race I actually borrowed a pair of “Zero” skis off the Russian coach which were bomber fast and gave adequate grip; there was a lot of people out there who were struggling to get good grip as it was becoming really glazed in the tracks. I felt I skied pretty well despite being a little further back in the rankings and managed to go under 120FIS points again which will hopefully get me a World Cup start in distance races later this season.
The third day of racing was a 15km mass start with 116 starters being one of the biggest FIS mass start races I’ve ever been in. The start was an absolute shambles with people going everywhere and taking big risks to get past, guys were breaking poles left right and centre and crashing everywhere, some were trying to pass straight off the line and taking themselves out on the number steaks marking their start position creating mass pile ups. After the group strung out a bit I could once again get into a rhythm and work back into the field but I soon found that it wasn’t going to be a killer race from me as my legs were pretty cooked from the last two days of racing.
On a whole the weekend was pretty enjoyable and I would like to thank the Russian and Luxembourg teams providing me with lightning fast skis each day, driving me to and from St Ullrich and giving me someone to swindle away with. This weekend I was unaware that, going under 120FIS sprint points, not only qualified me for the World Cup circuit this season but also for the 2012/2013 season as well as the 2013 World champs in Val de Fiemme (Italy) so I was pretty stoked when I found out I had ticked a few more boxes the I had initially thought!
Sorry for no race pics but I had limited support…
p.s. New Race suits…
and giving Callum dreadlocks