Ski Tour Canada Wrap Up

The first days here in Canmore were particularly tough on my body. I was completely wrecked from the 16km skate race in Quebec and to add to that fatigue was a long travel day straight afterwards. I think it was the altitude which really made things dramatically worse! Successful racing at altitude requires good preparation leading into the event. The adaptation from being at altitude several weeks earlier can still have big effects on how well your body handles the low levels of Oxygen. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow for any time at altitude since I was back home in Australia in September! It was safe to say, I felt the full effects…

For the race prep day just before the Classic sprint, I felt horrible! Low energy, irritated lungs and generally lethargic from the altitude. The next day was slightly better in terms of feeling, however still not anywhere close to the way I had been feeling in Quebec. With this also being my first classic sprint of the season, I was certainly worried about the 20% cut-off rule. I won’t for a second try and say that the result was anything great, but I made it through the sprint stage placing 79 and not really losing many seconds to the guys around me.

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The 30km skiathlon is an event which I have seen my best results in the past. Less than 4 weeks ago I had a solid result in Lahti in the skiathlon and wasn’t close to being lapped off on the 3.75km lap. With the conditions being so warm in Canmore this week, it really effects how much the field stretches out. I actually had really good energy, good skis and a solid race, however it just wasn’t quite enough. It’s pretty frustrating really, mostly because it could easily have been avoided if they had of just used the 5km loop! The result was actually good and that’s what I should stay positive about. I placed 63rd, and improved me rank in the overall, however due to the field stretching out so far, it wasn’t enough. Along with 11 other athletes I was lapped off and as a result, my tour ended there.

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It’s a tough one, especially when I know that I had good form and a good feeling returning back to my body, however that’s just ski racing! The results have been a step up and I need to really be proud to have achieved those results! For anyone that was out there watching, they would have know I gave absolutely everything I had out there!

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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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.

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!

Falun 10km Classic World Cup

Today was my first World Cup in 1 year and I have to admit it was a tough re-introduction. This weekend is unsupported and this is never an easy task to deal with. It’s a juggling act of wax tech vs. athlete. For the day before the race, consider carting all the equipment from the truck, setting up the wax cabin, prepping and zeroing skis to test and then testing those skis all in order to find the fastest 2 pairs. Then the day of the athlete starts where we complete the pre-race session – about 1hr 15mins of skiing in total with some threshold and race pace intervals. When other athletes go back to the hotel to rest up for the following day, we return to the life of a wax tech to race prep the skis. Finally after organising entries, team captains meeting and other duties are complete; the day is done.

Race day is no better, particularly on a classic day with fresh snow falling. The skis need to have the final coats of glide wax applied along with being grip waxed and tested to ensure they are working in the conditions. Then once the best pair out of the two is found, we gladly had Mattias there to fix the top coat and make last grip adjustments. Then after >2.5hrs on the feet already, its back to the life of the athlete with a warm up and finally onto the race. After the race when everyone is feeling completely wrecked, we get to go back to life of the wax tech by prepping the skate skis and testing them for the following day. It’s a tiring schedule that no-one else has to deal with but we just work with it the best we can. It’s not a complaint as it was our own decision to come here unsupported – it’s just a way to raise awareness of what is actually involved in just getting ourselves to the start line. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing our Wax Tech (and all round good bloke) Randy next weekend in Lahti.mms_img-3903384181

The race today for me was very tough indeed. The tracks were completely skied out and I need to be honest and say I am simply terrible at classic skiing in un-even, broken up tracks. I always have been bad at it and even though today was slightly better than usual, I still wouldn’t class it as technically solid skiing. It’s frustrating because my body felt good, but I was just unable to turn that into fast skiing. The result wasn’t disastrous and in terms of percentage back, it was probably one of my better classic World Cups that I have skied recently with about 13.6% back in 90th. Considering not being healthy all week, I am satisfied enough, but I am a lot more excited about tomorrow’s 15km skate. I am confident with my skating at the moment and really excited to see what I can do!

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Intervals and an explosion

Today’s training was a tough interval session in the morning with Japanese Skier and DSA member Akira Lenting. Unfortunately it has been ridiculously warm again for the past 2 days here in Falun and the once perfect race trails are beginning to suffer. Race organisers are doing everything to preserve the courses and this means no heavy machine grooming in these warm temperatures. What this means is that the classic tracks are melted out and hard as an ice skating rink! Skiing in general is not the easiest, but keeping up with one mighty strong Japanese lad in 5min intervals is bloody tough!

Due to the lovely Swedish weather offering more light rain to cool us off in this tropical climate, I didn’t risk the phone getting drowned so no photos were taken. But that’s probably a good thing, because honestly it’s beginning to look a little sad out there. The other unpleasant thing about warm weather and icy conditions is that klister is the only option for classic skiing. I have always hated klister, but after today’s latest explosion, I hate it that little bit more…

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