Stage 4 – 16km Skate Pursuit Start

Stage 4’s Pursuit was definitely one of the toughest race I’ve ever experienced. With the race being run on a 4km lap, and our 30 athlete strong wave starting 5min behind the leader, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to waste before you could be potentially lapped off and pulled out of the tour entirely! This was a high stress situation, and every one of us 30 athletes was feeling the same thing. As a result, the pace over the first 4km was hot, so hot in fact that we almost caught up to the wave that started 30s in front of us. This fast pace really took it’s toll and for the second lap, I was really battling to regain control. I was in survival mode, just forcing myself to hang onto the pack that was quickly getting smaller with people dropping off quickly. It hurt more than I have ever dealt with in any race and it certainly wouldn’t have looked pretty as it felt as though I almost entirely lost control of my technique but I managed to hang in there until the pace settled ever so slightly for the 3rd lap.

Photo Cred: @Flyingpoint

Photo Cred: @Flyingpoint

Finishing that third lap came with a great relief, however turns out we had skied so fast that we weren’t even close to being lapped off! It was all down to achieving that best placing possible. I came good for the second last climb and went with the faster guys in the pack, but it quickly became too much on the final part of the loop. I lost a few places in that final part of the race, however finished 69th, only 2 minutes and 50 seconds back off the winners time. This was one of my best distance results this season and is right up there with my best in terms of percentage back! I improved my rank to 73 and find myself right in there with some talented athletes.

Photo Cred: @flyingpoint

Photo Cred: @flyingpoint

The efforts of that 16km really took it’s toll. Yesterday for the travel day I felt completely burnt out and with a long travel day, I felt far from rested afterwards! After a solid 10.5hr sleep (which is almost a record for me!) I felt dramatically better in today’s pre-race session, however could certainly still feel the fatigue in my legs along with the strain on my lungs from the altitude. It’s a demanding schedule for this tour, and it’s a bit of a competition to see which athletes survive the best. Tomorrow’s Classic Sprint will be the first of 4 stages to be held here in Canmore and with a backdrop like this, life is pretty great!

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Stage 3 – Quebec City Sprint

After a pretty unlucky second stage, today completely made up for it. The Sprint course set for today was incredibly challenging. Any 1.8km sprint is tough, however when you factor in most of the rest being in the first part of the lap, it becomes a very hard thing to pace well. I was stressed trying to work out how I was going to avoid completely flooding myself with lactic acid on the last climb, but in the end it was good to just have the key focus on skiing as open, powerful and efficient as possible.

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I managed to achieve my best ever sprint result on World Cup placing 69th and just 18 seconds back over a 3min 30 winning course. In terms of percentage of field and percentage behind the win, it was a new achievement for me and I’m very happy to have found some good speed in my legs! The skis were absolutely perfect which of course is always a help. So huge thanks to Randy and the support crew that we have here along with Atomic for supplying me with quality equipment to work with.

Tomorrow is most likely the toughest stage of the tour to get through. It’s a pursuit start 16km skate and I will start in the 5min wave. This means we will have somewhere around 4mins of time loss up our sleeve before getting lapped off and pulled out of the tour. But I’m going into this with completely positivity! My shape is only getting better and I have a support crew behind me to create some of the best skis on track! I’ll work harder than anyone out there tomorrow to stay in this race.

Stage 2 – Montreal 17.5km

Stage 2 was a very tough day, right from the very start. After a bit of drama on the first lap getting pushed wide by another skier I found myself right at the back of the pack. Turns out, on a course like this where there were several bottlenecks, it was a huge disadvantage with the concertina effect. On the steep section of the course, I found myself waiting for a good 15s just until the skiers in front of were able to start moving again! Noah Hoffman, who was in a similar position to me in terms of start rank found that he lost 45s in just the first half lap – not because we were skiing slow, but just because the field strung out so far and there was no-where to move!

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I then settled into a good rhythm by the 3rd lap and was reeling in a lot of places, working with Russel Kennedy from Canada. There was a big pack, with some big name skiers all in a pack just 25s or so in front that we were working on catching back onto to. On the 4th lap, disaster struck when I broke a pole in a stumble. It was fortunate in one way that I received a pole after just having to ski one hill will one pole but unfortunately it was far too long. It must have been for a giant like Len Valjas or someone because it honestly felt a good 15cm too tall! I then received another pole after the next hill but to my frustration, it felt no smaller! After half a lap of skiing like an unbalanced fool, I finally got the right size pole from Petr who is working with us this tour.

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The issues continued, because of the imbalance, the chest cramping that I was getting from the lung puncture last year came back with a vengeance! I had felt nothing before the broken pole and nothing all season, but this at the time felt like a real deal breaker. It was to the point where I was feeling light headed because I couldn’t expand my lungs properly. After a long downhill section, I managed to release it by forcing my fingers up under my rib cage and after that I was good to go!  With only 1 lap to go there was minimal distance left to make up for the time loss but I managed to catch back onto Russel and another Canadian Skier which is basically where I fell off. The frustrating fact is that my body was feeling really good and I knew that I would have been able to catch that bigger group and pulled out a really good result if luck hadn’t have completed evaded me!

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Looking forward is all positive though. I know I am in good shape and I have a lot to prove and intend to really put that into action in these next stages. Today is a much needed rest day here in Quebec city where we are staying in a rockn hotel overlooking this massive castle. Just behind that castle is where the race loop will be so I’m looking forward to getting out there for a light session later to check it all out!

Ski Tour Canada Stage 1

Today was the opening stage of the World Cup’s Ski Tour Canada. After my somewhat abysmal performance in my first World Cup sprint in Lahti, I was determined to prove that I can do better. I still can’t expect much with no sprint training all year, however I managed to pull out one of my best World Cup Sprint performances. I was ranked 83 and finished 79th, 9.4% off the winners time. It is the distance stages where I’m really going to be pushing to move up the field, but to go up the ranks even just a little bit in a sprint is always a good thing!

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This Tour schedule is quite full on so this afternoon we traveled straight to Montreal City. After a nice short jog with the team so loosen the legs again, I’m ready for tomorrow’s Stage 2, a 17.5km Classic!

 

Ski Tour Canada Opening

Yesterday we moved into World Cup Accommodation and despite the food being rather sub-par, the rooms are right up there!

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Last night, the World Cup’s Ski Tour Canada was officially opened. We were the first nation called onto stage and the warm greeting was quite an experience!

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Today was the first day that we were allowed to train on the first stage’s course – a 1.7km sprint loop. Finally this tour is kicking off and I’m feeling well and truly ready for it! The course is actually reasonably hilly for a city sprint and with minimal rest, this is going to be one killer of a sprint! Luckily, the vibe in City sprints is really sweet with lost of people usually coming to watch so that will certainly help get us through. I’m excited to try and find some of my better sprint form like what I had in Estonia about 1 month back.

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Canada!

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View coming in to land in Iceland

The trip from Finland to Ottawa, Canada was unfortunately far from smooth but I suppose looking back at our travel histories, what can you really expect? Upon arrival in Ottawa (which was the equivalent of 5am Finnish time) I was dealt with a lost ski bag courtesy of the airlines along with no transport to my accommodation… The lack of car came about because the car hire company didn’t even have a desk at the airport. They never actually tell you that and they are suppose to be there for when your flight arrives to drive you to their depot directly. When no-one is there to do so, their cunning, shady operation quickly falls apart, particularly when their ’24hr phone number’ goes straight to message bank every time! After a $60 taxi ride, I was not a happy customer. With a free upgrade to this beast, along with free insurance for the duration of the rent, I suppose it makes up for the inconvenience somewhat.

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After badgering Air Canada for 3 days straight, I finally received my ski bag. So training for those first few days with a mixed array of equipment was certainly not ideal, but with great skiing conditions here in Canada it was hard to be too upset.

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I really knew I couldn’t be too upset with my situation when 3 days after I arrived, Phil had only just made it in…. He got caught in the unstable weather and managed to get an unlucky sequence of cancelled, delayed and almost crash landing flights for those 3 days straight! After all safely arriving, training and preparation for the Tour went really well and it was a great time staying with our generous hosts, the Allain family.

OW Glove Support!

Gloves are always a product that skiers generally go through in rapid fashion! I however seem to have the knack of going through even more standard and as a result I have often decided to rollerski and ski in warm conditions without gloves. This means an initially painful process of toughening up the hands, however quickly becomes worth it especially when you don’t wear holes through every last pair of gloves that you own!

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With thanks to our National Team clothing sponsor OneWay, this is now less of a problem with recent glove support. Thanks OW

Lahti World Cup

I would much prefer to do shorter posts with more photos however unfortunately due to no race photos actually being taken, that is not the way this one is going to go! Instead I will just use another picture taken from World Cup races in Falun – the weather was good and the photographer is a pro, so why not!

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Photo cred: Adam Johansson

Saturday was my first sprint race back on World Cup since early last season. I have done close to no sprint training this year and I could really notice this in the tricky glazed conditions. Essentially, it felt like I reverted back to the technique I had back when I was 16! There’s no way you can ski fast looking like that and that’s exactly what the result shows. There’s much to work on with my sprinting, however that will be one of the focuses for next year. The positive to take from it was that my body actually felt really good and it was a good awakener for Sunday’s race.

30km skiathlon’s have been where I have seen my better results in the past. After last weekend, with a strong result in Falun, I had high hopes for Sunday’s race. Wet, fresh snow falling always creates tough waxing conditions for classic skis and yesterday was no different. I opted for zeros and due to having Randy back waxing for us, the skis were some of the best compared to some of the competitors around me. I started off relatively slowly, but worked into the race well finding a good pack to ski with. I was often leading this pack trying to catch up more skiers as they dropped off the main bunch. Here is a link to a video courtesy of Michael McClusky – Thanks for all the support out there guys:

https://www.facebook.com/michael.mccluskey.391/videos/vb.537130564/10156620843170565/?type=2&theater&notif_t=mention

By the time the skate leg came around I was in a comfortable position and our pack had broken up somewhat. I was now working with fellow DSA athlete Robin Norum and another Finnish athlete but we worked well together pulling in a couple more skiers. I felt better and better as the skate leg progressed, however by the final lap I could feel my arms beginning to cramp. No-one had perfect grip in the classic leg and my arms had suffered a bit as a result. I sent almost no power through my arms for most of that last lap until the final major climb where I decided to go for a break. Unfortunately that was ineffective and I ended up losing the sprint to both Robin and the other Finnish athlete. But with a final result of 65th, I feel quite satisfied with my performance.

Today we fly out to Canada and I know I have more good shape to come so I am excited to see what sort of result I can produce there.

Travel Day Done Right!

Travel days, as you may have figured from a previous post, are frequently troublesome for us boys. Maybe our trip to Estonia was enough bad luck to last us a while because the trip went almost unbelievably smoothly! I was quite certain that we hadn’t paid for bags in our air tickets but luck was so good that they all went through for free! Since when does that happen?

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The only unlucky part of the trip so far is that our coach Mattias got a severe case of the deadly ‘man flu’ and is stuck at home recovering and feeling sorry for himself. In all seriousness though, it was smart for him to stay home and recover as risking getting us sick at this point would not be worth it. Get well soon Boss!

As a replacement, local skier and Redbull Nordix / Jerry of the day Superstar Johan Eriksson has joined us as coach and wax tech assistant for the Lahti World Cup. Him joining up with our legendary wax tech Randy Gibbs makes an unbeatable team. Unlike last weekend, I’m sure getting fast skis will be entirely hassle free.

 

 

Falun 15km Mass start World Cup

Traditionally I haven’t really enjoyed mass start races at World Cup level, however yesterday was simply fun! I started well, and found myself in the bunch feeling quite relaxed. With the pace starting to lift, other skiers began dropping off and gradually I too lost contact with the lead bunch however found myself in the mix with a good group of skiers. I worked hard on the second lap to gain more positions and felt as though maybe I’d pushed it a little too far with a lot of lactic acid building. Luckily Philpot, who had been skiing with me in that group began to pull me along a little to allow for some recovery which I desperately needed!

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Photo Cred: Adam Johansson

Going onto the 3rd lap, I regained my energy and pushed my limits to gain a few more positions. It was a tough day with all the ski preparations once again (read my previous post in regards to our waxing setup for the weekend), however we managed to give ourselves skis that were competitive enough. That’s probably the most rewarding thing, to know that you didn’t have it anywhere near as easy and any other skier in that field, yet you still showed you deserve to be there. I was ranked 94th but placed 77th, just over 8% behind the winner’s time. This is my 2nd best ever percentage behind on World Cup and shows that my coaches plan of having me peak in the later season is really coming into effect!

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Photo Cred: @Joersa

I’m excited for the World Cup’s to come in Lahti and Canada!