Cracking a Milestone – Canmore World Cups

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15km Classic. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

After a successful weekend of racing in Quebec it was a quick turn around back to Canmore and what an incredible place to come back to. Here is a photo of the sunrise that we were lucky enough to catch on a morning run.

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With the 15km classic starting on Thursday, there was very little time to relax before it was time to start race prepping again. The unfortunate part of getting myself mentally ready was that I thought it was a 15km interval start. It did seem very strange to me that the course was set up with a full grid start and 4 classic tracks right the way around the 3.75km loop! So the actual race prep the morning before wouldn’t have changed at all, however the whole time I was just thinking about how I could pace it myself and not worry about holding onto a pack. So yeah, this all changed and got me quite nervous!

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15km Classic. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

What I dreaded the most in this race occurred! The pace was very hot at the start, which made holding onto the main pack very difficult, so a group of us dropped off after the first lap. What was fortunate however was that this small group I was in began to catch up to quite a lot of guys that had burnt themselves trying to hold on. As we caught them however, quite a few held onto our pack. By the finish the group was about 7 skiers together, and it was devastating that I struggled with the finishing pace on the final hill and got taken by all in the group. So I manage to finish in 56th, which matched my PB placing on World Cup, around 10.5% off the winner. I was very happy with how I felt but definitely need to work in my pacing towards the end of the race.

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15km Classic. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

Friday was a rest day, however I found I really needed the rest. That 15km had taken it out of me as it was certainly the hardest I had pushed all season and as explained in previous posts, the course is known to be the hardest on World Cup. When they call the major climb ‘The Wall’ and when the only flat is the 300m in the stadium you know you’re in for a killer course.

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Freestyle Sprint. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

Saturday’s Sprint day was colder than any day we’ve had this season with temps around -12degreesC. There was an exciting atmosphere in our team however as Team Mate Paul Kovacs would be starting his first World Cup. I unfortunately still felt pretty flat during warm up and wasn’t happy with how I skied the Prologue. The result wasn’t too poor by placing 65th and just over 15s off the winner’s time but I was definitely hoping for more. Pk didn’t sign the list which was a great accomplishment for a World Cup Debut and Phil unfortunately crashed on a fast section of the course. Who knows what he would have actually placed but I’m going to throw it out there and say even better than his Quebec result of 50th. Esther also pulled out a strong result by placing 46th, 16s off the lead.

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30km Pursuit. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

The final event of the weekend was the 30km Skiathlon (15km classic, 15km skate). I went into this race pretty psyched. The warm up felt good, and I knew that the pace at the start would be a lot more calm being a longer distance over such a demanding course. This wasn’t exactly the case, however I felt very comfortable sitting right in the mix for the first few classic laps. The pack began to spread however I could tell that I was handling the climbs much better than a lot of the guys around me. The Kiwi skier Andy Pohl who has upped his game hugely recently seemed to be feeling the same and together we began working our way up the field again. At the half-way point after changing to skate skis Andy and I began really working it. For 2 sectors on the first 2 skate laps I skied the 30th and 31st fastest times and climbed all the way up to 40th place! Just being this far up the field was a dream come true – the magic top 30 all of a sudden was not that far off! This excitement just acted as a mental fuel to keep hurting, however unfortunately it was just that little bit too much. On the last lap my Lats began cramping and as the pace of the group I was in upped the pace my body just couldn’t handle it and I unfortunately fell back to 47th. Despite this poor final lap I am so happy with the result. It was a huge step up compared with any other World Cup I’ve ever skied. It was the first time I have managed to crack the top 50 and was only 7.5% off the winner’s time – Maurice Magnificat of France.

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30km Pursuit. Photo Credit: Robert Whitney

Special thanks to coaches August Teague and Finn Marsland. A lot of effort over the last year has been put in by both August and Finn and it is clear with all team members stepping it up already this season that they are doing something right! Also big thanks to Robert Whitney for taking all of these great photos over the weekend!

We have now survived the brutal road trip back to Tahoe, California and its back to playing with that ‘red line’ a little more in this small training block before we head to US Nationals!

Quebec World Cup City Sprint

Quebec is crazy. I feel as though I am back in Europe, but every now and then a massive American Truck or Van passes by and it makes you realise you are still back in North America! What is most notable however is the atmosphere that the crowd creates here. It is not often the World Cup Circuit travels to this part of the world and with both US and Canadian National teams being exceptionally strong right now, the support it amazing. I’ve always loved the atmosphere at City Sprints but this trumps all of them by a long shot!!

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Phillip Bellingham and I teamed up once again for Friday’s Team Sprint. We use to joke after last year’s Milan Team Sprint that we are Team Sprint Specialists, however after this weekend, we might just be onto something! We managed to both ski well and really showed that we could mix it up with some pretty strong teams! We finished 22nd overall, ahead of 3 teams and so close to pipping another 2 which included the Swiss A team.

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The conditions got even softer for today’s individual Freestyle Sprint which made putting the power down very difficult! As I made my way to the start gate and watched the better ranked skiers out on course it shocked me to see that they weren’t looking that fast! It kind of made me think positively as I knew I could ski that fast, it would just be a matter of whether I would be able to hang onto an all out effort the whole way around. Once I got out there, it soon became very apparent why these guys weren’t looking so fast, it was impossible to complete the movements fully and it felt as though every second push you would find yourself caught in another rut and off balanced. I ended up finishing feeling extremely annoyed at how I had skied; I had been able to hurt myself a lot more in the team sprint and it frustrated me that I couldn’t push to that maximal level. Looking at results though made me surprisingly happy though. I had just skied a sub 100 FIS point sprint race in a world cup – a first for me and placed 63rd ahead of a good bunch on skiers and only 15s of the winners time. Phil put those massive quads to use today and managed to ski better than any male AUS sprinter has skied in a very long time by placing 50th!

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Now it’s back to Canmore for the next lot of World Cups which start on Thursday and include another freestyle sprint, a 15km classic individual and a 30km mass start skiathlon!

15km Classic Canmore Noram

The day to really test myself on the classic skis finally came on an extremely demanding course. As I was saying in previous posts, this course is my bread and butter for classic skiing with steep long climbs and just enough rest in between each to really maintain a solid pace.

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The great news is that my pacing was right on – fastest on the first lap, then negative split’d on the last lap compared with laps 2 and 3. The unfortunate news was that my skis were not quite up to standard. The wax choice was spot on as Pk had good skis, however I opted for a lot of kick (grip wax) to ensure I would climb with no troubles. This however significantly effected ski speed. Probably the most devastating part of the race was catching a starter in front of me who was obviously suffering big time. Well entrenched in the ‘hurt box’ would be how us boys would describe it. I passed him on the top of the major climb and pushed hard over the top as I new my skis were not quite on par with the rest of the field. Half way down, he zoomed on past again and put in a good couple of seconds by the bottom. I not sure just how much this cost me over the entire 15km but it is good to know I still achieved a decent result placing 24th, 3min 30s off the winners time scoring points of around 85-90pts. What is more promising is that as I joined the fastest ranked later starter skiers on the 3rd and 4th laps and I found that I could match their pace on most of the climbs. With a lot learnt from this race, I’m even more excited to see what I can produce here in the world cups in 2 weekends time!

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The most exciting news that came from Sunday’s race is the addition of another team mate who will be joining us for the 2013 Val de Fiemme World Champs. Can you teach a hulk to ski? Evidently so because Paul Kovacs skied a personal best race scoring below the 120 FIS point qualification used for the World Championships. Check his blog for his race report.

For now, its preparation time for my first World Cups of the season to be held in Quebec on Friday and Saturday this week!

As the training here in Canmore has tapered off ever so slightly, I can feel my body start to give a little more spark. The rest day on Thursday was well needed and re-generation was achieved in the form of  checking out the town of Banff, gorging on the best Caramel dipped apples and hitting the natural hot springs in style:

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It was down to business here today with the Canadian NORAM freestyle sprint openers. After a disappointing sprint last weekend in West Yellowstone, i’d be lying to say that I wasn’t at all nervous. I really was wanting to show that all the sprint training has paid off over the last few months, and luckily it did. I had a solid prologue placing 24th and 7.9s off the the winners time (Tambornino from Switzerland).  This gave me personal best FIS points of around 80 and a lot of confidence in what I should be able to achieve in the upcoming World Cups where I will be even better rested and prepared!

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I felt as though I skied the quarter final tactically very well, and found myself in 3rd at the start of the 2nd climb. This unfortunately changed as I couldn’t match the faster ranked skiers by the top and dropped to 5th place in that quarter. Phil Bellingham also crushed his first race of the season by qualifying 0.5s ahead of me in 22nd. Unfortunately like me, he faded in the heats and placed 6th in his quarter. Even more impressive was Esther’s heats where she was 0.003s off qualifying for the A final! I will give the overall placing and  official points once they are published.

 

Tomorrow is the 15km classic on a very steep and demanding course. Very excited to see what I am capable of on those climbs! For a bit of humor, here is our little contribution to assist Philpot’s recovery process with a little foot ice bath…. Take care to listen out for Pk in the shower very concerned about a particular piece of garment…