It seems like my brain is starting to function again after a few rough days of jet lag. I'm back in the snowy homeland after my three week stint in what could almost be described as Europe during the spring. Kuusamo, Finland was my last stop on the trip with some world cup mini-tour action. In the end I finished 73rd, jumbled back in the pack but gained some good insight and experience in my 3rd, 4th and 5th world cup experience. Insert race breakdown:
Day 1: Classic Sprint
Well, there had been quite a bit of emphasis in training over the summer to improve my short distance and sprinting speed, but this wasn't exactly the race to best gauge how things fared. Not to say that it wasn't a fun race. The course in Kuusamo was to my liking, with some good steep climbs and little of the double pole stuff. I'd say of the sprint qualifiers I've done over the years, this one felt relaxed, fast, and with not a huge amount of pressure going into it, pretty controlled. I crossed the line in 111th and 20 seconds back. On to the good stuff.
Actually before we get to day two, a special note. Moustachioed Len Valjas started his season off pretty decently with a 5th place finish in the sprint, keeping the energy going from Harvey's 5th the weekend before in Norway. It must be the intimidation factor of his Movember Mo.
Day 2: Turkey Legs in the 10km
It's funny really. For dinner the night before we were served turkey, and the joke at the dinner table was if you eat too much of it, you'd be plagued with turkey legs the next day. The claim of turkey legs doesn't really have any scientific backing, or well so I thought. Saturday's 10km skate race was turkey legs buffet. Just after the first climb my legs locked up, unable to clear lactate quick enough to maintain any sort of fresh feeling for the remaining 8km. It was a battle between mind and legs as I tried to ski smooth to the finish line, and ended up with the 69th fastest time.
Day 3: Semi-redemption in the 15km
With yesterday's race behind me, I was focused on finishing the tour on a positive note. Because it was a pursuit style start, I started my race about two minutes after the leaders. Skiers were starting every second, so there was a long line of skiers going around the course and plenty of positions to move forward. The body was night and day compared to yesterday, and things started off smoothly and controlled. Things were going well until mid-way through the race on the downhill we had to repeat six times I had a small lapse in judgment.
Deciding to try the furthest right track for a change I got in my low tuck and gunned it on the downhill. Near the bottom of this hill is a slight left turn that flatten out before hitting a steep climb back into the stadium. Upon hitting the curve in the trail, I jumped out of my track to navigate the turn. Carrying a bit too much speed, and having to cross two other tracks, my one ski decided not to join me and gave me a sudden encounter with the ground. By the time I hopped back up, I lost all my speed for the next climb, and the time I thought I was making had slipped by. Shit happens.
It took me a while to get back in my groove and I did my best to try an regain some spots. By the end I finished the overall tour in 73rd, but withholding the result and the faceplant, Sunday's race felt good. So positive beats out the negative, 9 times out of 10.
I'm hoping a photo turns up, but in the meantime was reminded of the sweet crash I took of Brent McMurtry a couple years ago... O, the memories
So I'm back in Canmore... for now:
I've had a few days at home to ponder the overall early Europe experience, and well, I'd say it went by way too quickly. Seem's like not that long ago I was in Sweden praying for some cooler weather and less rain. Like all my trips across the pond, this one was a blast, with a sweet crew and some valuable racing moments to take home.
There isn't a pause yet, with Canada starting it's racing season this weekend with some Alberta Cups in Canmore. Next weekend I'm off to Vernon for the start of the NorAm series and then to Rossland. Awesome.
Have a good one,
It's my final few days here in Östersund before boarding a plane and heading to Kuusamo for the final and most important stretch of my trip; the World Cup mini-tour. Today there was a race organized with some of the local clubs and us because our original races in Roveniemi were canceled. I ended up 3rd in the men's 12km classic race, just 9 seconds from the win. It was a nice change of pace compared to last weekend in Bruks, with today's 4km loop involving some much steeper and longer climbs.
And I'm not calling it a comeback, but I've finally made my return to YouTube. Check out the slo-mo fun Lenny, Nish and I had one afternoon. (Hopefully this was a test for things to come in Kuusamo. We'll see.)
Until next time,
The first few days in Europe have been nail biting to say the least. Getting off the plane in Östersund, Sweden felt more like a mild April day in Canmore rather than the cold weather I was hoping for. Not a good feeling when I left some pretty good snow conditions back home.
The teams home for the first few days was Camp Södergren, where some saved snow from last winter was made into a 3km track a couple weeks ago. With the lack of sub-zero temperatures, and some rain the week before, the loop felt like it was in its final days. Ice, lots of pavement, rocks and sawdust made up most of the trail and it seemed like my early racing start would turn into a dry land training camp soon.
Len Valjas and I giving the loop a go for the first time. Credit Graham Nishikawa
My first ski in Östersund was depressing. Over the two hours I was out there, the little snow they did have left on the loop was melting quick. Parts you swore were snow ten minutes ago were starting to show pavement the next time you passed it. That evening around the dinner table plans were being made to get out the roller skis since there wasn't any snow, or cold weather for that matter, in the forecast.
It wasn't like they didn't have any snow leftover in their saved snow pile, they had plenty. But with an unpredictable forecast and an urgent call for there to be snow for the first biathlon world cups at the end of the month, Camp Södergren was being cautious on the snow use. Luckily for us, a little snow goes a long way, and the next morning some snow was added to the nasty parts. A quick job with the tiller and the loop was back in business, and seemed to have improved significantly everyday from that point on. If you listened carefully you could probably hear a collective sigh of relief from the teams.
Östersund getting it's final minutes of daylight, at 4PM...
Yup, starting to get into the sunset photography business. The view from the city is pretty sweet at dusk.
Today we packed up and drove to Bruksvallarna for the first race of the trip, a 15km skate. With the lack of snow, many venues have had to move or cancel their races, including Bruks, which had planned three races this weekend. 184 racers are starting tomorrow with some pretty big names (Northug showed up) so it should be a good way to kick the season off.
Well two races under my belt, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results so far. The weather here in Malles is exceptionally warm, but the snow in Schlinig (where the trails are) is doing a good job of sticking around. Because I can't really sprint worth a damn, I took Saturdays sprint off and focused on Monday's 10km classic individual race. So far this year 10km hasn't really been my thing; by the time I get in the groove the race is over. Since it was two 5km loops, I took the first lap pretty conservative and then skied the final lap a bit more aggressive. It paid off in the end, as I ended up 21st (to be honest I was pretty surprised, but happy at the same time). I was just 0.4 of a second shy of my top 20 goal but I had a good feeling a 20km would go a lot better.
Well, I ended up 25th in the 20km today. I was holding onto 19th by the end of the third lap, but just before entering the stadium I had momentary lapse in thought and caught my tip in the slush, doing a nice little face plant. On the bright side, that was the only time I fell, with plenty of opportunities presented to the racers throughout the race. The warm conditions made the downhills pretty sloppy and some racers actually skied off the ledge of the trail (the ambulance was busy today). Only an Italian passed me during my stumble, but by the end my fuel seemed to run out and didn't have the final little oomph to hang on. Although the finish was bittersweet, I felt like Lupe Fiasco when my young Italian fan base came to get my autograph (I later found out they betrayed me and asked for anyone that could breath for one).
The championships conclude Friday with the relay. It would be stellar if Canada could whip out the backside of their hand on the other countries, and it's looking promising with the abundant top 30 finishes from the boys and Mr. Harvey leading the charge. We can only wait!
Bon, je me suis désole. Cètte ans jai regardé a fait la compétition dans le France. Mes 6 éns de l’emersion French ettre tûte de la fruit. Mon dieut…
What an exciting day I had today, marking my best result in a NorAm race to date, a respectable 7th. No, this wasn’t in a 30km, or 15km or even a 10km race; this race was just over one kilometer. The NorAm’s are in Rossland BC this weekend and today’s was a free sprint. My goal for today: try to actually qualify and have a decent quarterfinal. Well I did myself one more, finishing seventh in an event no one would have thought possible for myself to accomplish.
I qualified today in 17th, some 12 or so seconds behind the winner, not bad I thought, squeaking by my arch-sprinting-rival Christopher Butler by just under 0.2 of a second; the stars were in my favor today. Come quarterfinal racing I saw most of the race in 5th place, until after I took the final corner into the stadium pretty tight, zooming myself into 2nd at the line (I was usually pretty good at drawing the shortest line from A to B). A little fist pump at the line and I was into the semi’s.
The semi final was pretty uneventful. I raced the course in 5th and finished 5th, there was no chance for A-final, but baby steps I told myself. Now this was my first “final” in over a year, so I was happy to just be able to start it. After the gun, I was surprisingly and was able to ski comfortably in 3rd. On the final turn, I pulled a “Kevin in the Quarterfinal” and sprinted to the line grabbing the first spot. Now its not usual that someone would do another hand pump, especially considering it’s a B-Final, but this was one personal victory I couldn't be happier about. This may be the first time since my midget days that sprint racing left me wanting more. So I finished the day in 7th, one spot from being near the podium and bringing home some serious cash, but tomorrow could go better, or else write sprinter on my forehead
|Gord trying to get his Cowboy on after his 4th in the sprint|
|A definite Cowboy (or girl) theme going on with AWCA|
Well I spoke too soon. Sunday marked another great day for me, claiming the 6th spot and grabbing a place in the money. Even after a rough sleep, and a little bout of morning sickness, our car getting a flat on the way up and hence colliding into a tree* and a sluggish warm up, I felt strong in the 15km classic race. Seems like most distance races I like to start things off easy (had the 9th or 7th fastest first lap) and then kick it into high gear on the final stretch (4th fastest final lap). The course profile was one a favorite of mine, nice long uphill’s with a moderate grade; this stuff I can push. The day went from good to really good when just before the awards they announced the World Champs team; Mr. Butler made the team. Can’t help but feel happy for a guy that missed out on U23’s but has now qualified for the event of the season. And then of course the day went from really good to class 3 good when we all stopped for some McDonalds just before leaving Rossland to enrich our lives with some wholesome junk food. Berardi had taken the day off. The fog that had surrounded us the previous few days had now left, leaving frosty trees with a sky brighter than blue itself. The birds that had been sheltered away strung out of the woods and began their masquerade of musical empathy. Something was different about this day.
“I don’t suppose we’ll ever see Rossland again” I asked mother hen while I stared into the distance with a tear in my eye. She glanced down at me, still wearing her raggedy apron, “We may yet, Mr. Sandau. We may”. [cue music]
*you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Havn't you seen the House-Hippo commercial?
It's off to Europe for me. I have qualified for some OPA racing in Germany and Italy which will occupy me for the most of February. Leaving on the 5th, I have some long travels ahead, flying to Toronto, then to Frankfurt, and then connecting to Lyon, where I hope to rest for a couple days rather than driving 9 hours to Zwiesel Germany where my first races will be. But who knows. My biggest concern at the moment is my international flight, as not only am I scared of flying, but last year a few of us missed our connecting flight in Germany. And that was a bunch of fun. That and custom agents are mean.
I will be doing five races total, two in Zwiesel, Germany and the last three a week later in Schilpario, Italy. Europe is a lot more interesting than Canada so I'll be spitting out updates like a new Lexmark printer. As long as Internet exists.
Some pretty exciting racing this weekend in Zwiesel Germany which apparently is the glass blowing capital of the world. Saturday was the 15km classic race which I finished 5th.
I was pretty pumped with a podium in my first OPA/European race of the year. The course was 6 laps of a hilly 2.5km, which was to my liking, and I tried to start out a bit quicker than I normally do. On my second lap I got a nice ride off Brent McMurtry that lasted a couple laps until I started to make a break from the group on the 5th lap. The race went by pretty quick although counting 6 laps gets a little tedious when your brain is oxygen deprived. Some point in the race I started to second-guess my counting and sort of lost focus until I did a few bib calculations in my brain. I didn’t really want to ski 17.5km.
Only technical flaw here is my bad hair day.
With Len Valjas winning the race and Graeme Killick the Junior, there was a lot of Canadian National Anthem for all the Germans to hear. Just Canada’s continued fight to mark their territory in the ski world.
Open men podium. Hats off for the anthem.
The guys enjoying the taste of trophy glass
And at last, comes the sprint day on Sunday which I think I was 50th or so... 4th last. I think the only good thing that happened today was my encounter with some cute German girl. I later found out that this woman was Stefanie Boehler, who apparently wins world cups. Sweet.
McMurtry, Valjas and Ellis all in one heat...
Amanda "givener" it
This was the cute German that asked for a photo with me. Turns out it was Boehler.
I have now returned to the comfort of Canmore after my 2 week trip in Europe. After the races in Zwiesel , we traveled to Schilpario, Italy which is surrounded by some of the best mountain views. Schilpario it turns out, has left me sort of bittersweet.
Schilpario, Italy was good on the eyes.
The last three races in Italy consisted of a classic sprint, 10km classic, and 15km skate. It was 3 day pursuit; top 30 in the sprint were given time bonuses for the classic race (the winner would have a one minute lead over 31st), and your time behind the leader in the classic race was your handicap for the skate race. It didn’t bode too well with me that the first race was a sprint, so I figured there would be some catch up to be done in the distance races. My qualifier wasn’t too bad, but not great. I finished 50th or so in the sprint, giving me a minute handicap off the winner. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but for those who didn’t qualify (bibs 31 – 70 or whatever), we all started in a mass start right after the last time bonus racer (which was bib 30 with an epic 1 second bonus). Because of the narrow stadium, there were only 3 lanes and 20 people ahead of me, so you can imagine the congestion I had to fight through in the classic race.
"Ode de Brent"
Brent McMurtry, host of "The Minute", doing his best to entertain the spectators in his semi-final heat.
Considering the amount of traffic I had to ski through, I had a pretty good classic race, ending up in 28th. Could I crack top 20 in the skate race the following day? No. Sunday February 22, 2009 will go down in my head as one of the worst races of my life. Right from the get go, my compartment syndrome (Chandra Crawford wrote a good update regarding this) started acting up; the worst it has ever been. Conditions were perfect for inflicting pain on my shins; sort of slow with broken down patches of trail that made me lift my toes even more. The only good thing about that skate race was it confirmed that my surgery in April was very necessary. Now let us move on and never bring up this race again.
Although the racing wasn’t too great, there will be some great memories to remember. Like the loitering that was done in Italy.
Jess, Graeme and I in front of cool graffity.
Graeme and Jess in front of green grafity. (Missing - Kevin (taking photo))
In front of rock wall.
Well the first set of NorAm races are finished, and it’s time to get ready for next weekend. The back-to-back racing at Sovereign Lakes, BC this past weekend definetely had its ups, along with things that could have gone better.