Continuing from my last blog, on to the weekend of racing.
Friday’s race was a skating sprint round a 1.5km loop with the major stand out feature of a small cliff we had to somehow scale. Although very short, a section of hill had been put in which climbed part of the banking alongside the river. This was steep enough that my main concern was not falling back down rather than getting up it!
Despite not being my favourite discipline I set myself the aim of a top 30 in the sprint prologue as this would allow me to progress through to the knock out heats. Although I felt I skied technically well and following a lot of practice with Norwegian coach Kåre I managed to get over ‘the cliff’ with only a couple of strides of skate 1, I was just outside of qualifying in 38th place and 10 seconds behind the leader. I did however score my best skate sprint FIS points to date so was happy enough.
Saturdays race was a Classic 15km which is more my thing. Due to the snow conditions and the days forecasted temperatures the senior men’s startlist was reversed in on order to give the highest ranked skiers the best possible conditions. Unfortunately for me my current ranking is poor as my points from this season haven’t been taken into account yet. My race went well, I tried to build up speed with every lap as in such warm soft conditions you can lose an awful lot of time if you go out too fast!
My coach Roy was positioned on a very muddy slope about a third of the way though the 3.75km loop. On my first lap I had him and myself a little worried when I came through in 65th place, however I soon moved up and with improvements on every lap I eventually finished in 48th position. I was pleased with the race especially as the tracks were notably slower on my final laps than on my first two.
Sunday had originally been down on the program as a 30km skiathlon (15km classic followed by 15km skating) but due to the lack of snow this was amended and instead we did a 18.75km skating time trial. Not going to lie, this news was welcome with me! The thought of skiing on that gravelly narrow track with 80 or so others for a whole 30km did not appeal after two days of racing.
As with Saturday the senior men went last and the startlist was reversed. I was lucky enough to get on the back of a Bulgarian skier (who would eventually finish 7th) starting his 3rd of 5 laps as I started. Although a little too fast for me I decided to stay with him and see what happened, it would be good training if nothing else. Once I got up the hills with him I could sit right in behind him and shake my legs out whilst he skated. This system worked well until he finished, leaving me to another 2 laps, by this point the sun was coming up onto the tracks so they were no longer hard and icy. To add insult to injury I was getting tired, the following 2 laps were pretty tough! I skied as hard as I could but I could feel I was getting slower and slower, I eventually finished in 55th having at one point been up in 32nd. I did however manage my best ever FIS points with 66.
Overall I was very happy with the weekend, our waxer for the week Åsmund did a fantastic job with the skis despite challenging conditions and the organisers put on 3 very good races where it would have been quite reasonable just to cancel it altogether.
The team is now in Leysin for the Swiss championships and the final weekend of Sochi qualifying, the Olympic team will be selected on Monday.
Climbing the cliff in the skate TT, photo doesn’t quite do it justice.
Following a Bulgarian
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Well done loon, everyone in Inverurie is rooting for you.