Straight after the races in Chamonix we said goodbye to our Norwegian dynamic duo of Kåre and Åsmund who had filled in as our primary support staff for the week. Following lunch and a quick shower we got in the cars and headed across the Swiss border to Leysin for the Swiss national championships.
After some negotiations with the Hotel manager from the team linguist Posy, we were shown to our chalet for the week. Not only was it one of the nicest places we have ever stayed as a team, one of the double beds had two single duvets! After the many instances of duvet stealing and snuggling (no spooning as yet) on previous occasions, Alex and I made sure we got this room.
As with the previous weekend the race course wasn’t in existence on arrival but another set of tracks on the other side of the valley was in great condition so we did our first few sessions up there. By the day before the race the course had been transformed from a couple of farmers’ fields and two tennis courts into a very useable, although a little dirty race track.
With Saturday being a classic race we tried to do some wax and ski testing on the course on the Friday, this proved to be a little difficult due to the varying origins of the trucked in snow on different parts of the track. One wax could be utterly useless for the first 2 km of the track then for the last 3 you would have so much grip it was difficult to walk, never mind ski. Fortunately we had some new snow overnight which evened it all out nicely.
So, races- Saturday was, for senior men a 15km classic time trial. Having felt very tired during the first part of the week following the races in Chamonix I really wasn’t sure how it was all going to go. I started out full bore and just hoped I could hold it, being a relatively easy course I felt this was the best strategy. With it being a pretty small field there was no possibility to follow other skiers on different laps, the only other skiers you saw were either those you had had caught or skiers who had caught you. Fortunately I had none of the latter and managed to finish in 7th with a new PB for FIS points with 53.
Sunday was a 15km skating pursuit race meaning the winner from the previous days race started first with the next skier starting as far back he finished the day before. Dario Cologna- multiple world champion etc, still not quite at full fitness following return from injury won Saturdays race by a margin of 1 min 25 seconds meaning everyone else had some work to do! I started in 7th place 17 seconds behind 2nd, I was lucky to start right behind Swiss national ski team Skier Candide Pralong who pulled us both up to the chasing group after the first lap and a half. Unfortunately I had to drop off as I could feel the pace was two hot for me to keep up for 15km but thankfully a couple of others did the same. We stuck together for the remainder of the race until I tried to drop them both on the final lap, this was partially successful in that I got rid of one, however as I really started to tire coming into the stadium for the last couple of hundred metres the other just took off and I had no chance of keeping with him. I waddled in to 6th place. Although a little disappointed not to get 5th I was very pleased with the weekend overall and it gives me confidence going into the coming weeks…
On Monday I was selected for Team GB at the Olympics in Sochi this February, although I had qualified back in December my place was by no means certain so I was delighted to have this confirmed! It was just as well because I was already on the plane to Manchester for kitting out before the official news.
The Team GB kitting out was a completely different experience. The Olympic team was picked up from the airport and driven out to an Adidas warehouse that had been taken over by the British Olympic association. The closest thing I could liken kitting out to is a huge shopping trip in a small department store in which you try on every single item of clothing and don’t have to get your wallet out. We were sized up for everything including a formal suit and our competition wear, my racing suit was even altered by a seamstress to make sure it was a good fit. Following an hour and a half of trying on clothing we had a photo-shoot before being put in a room full of journalists. Whilst all this was happening 3 large bags for each of us were being filled with our Olympic kit. Having worn the same three T-shirts for the last two and a half months I’m a little overwhelmed with the 12 or 13 new T-shirts and goodness knows how many jackets I now have to try out!
I’m now in Misurina in northern Italy preparing for the World under 23 champs next week and of course Sochi (leaving the 3rd of February).