Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello Europe!

Earlier this week we have been training at Molltaler Glacier, which is about 30 minutes from Lienz, Austria. A few other World Cup teams are here too, including the Japanese, the Slovenians, the Brits and a few others. High up in the glacier (approximately 3200m), the view is spectacular; mountains in every direction.

(View from the top of Molltaler Glacier, Austria)

(The daunting ride up to the glacier)

Up at the top is a small ski cross course with a start gate. And even the though the weather has been pretty average (wind and snow) forcing the mountain to be closed, we’ve still managed to get some start training in.

(Sami, myself, Matt, British coach and Sean heading up to training in the snowcat)

After much consideration, I decided to pack up my stuff and go to Norway for a 3 day adventure on my own. A Europa Cup and FIS ski cross race had been scheduled there (moved from the original location of Germany), and although it was a bit of a treck, I felt like I needed to give myself the opportunity to race before the first World Cup’s; and hopefully get some good results.

After spending the night in Salzburg at an airport hotel, I flew from Salzburg to Vienna and then onto Oslo. I then took a train from Oslo airport to Oslo city centre. From there, a change of train and onto Geilo; a 4 and a half hour trip. All was going to plan until the train broke down in Oslo city centre. A problem with the breaks apparently… So after lugging my 40kg ski bag and 35kg luggage bag onto the supposed final train, I now realise that I can’t collapse in a heap just yet. I have to move all my stuff onto the new train. And it seems like no one in Norway is very fond of helping people with their bags! At last, after a one hour delay, I can finally relax for at least 4 hours until it’s time to get off, in the dark, and search for my hotel in this very foreign town. Total travel time: 6am until 9pm. I’m exhausted and ready for bed. But the day’s not over yet. I have to prep my skis for tomorrow’s race! Another hour in the tuning room means I get to bed at 11pm. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a bad European pancake pillow!

Race Day. I’m on the ski hill warming up at 8:30am, and it’s still pitch black. The night lights are on in the stadium, yet the rest of the mountain is dark and quiet. By 10am, it’s starting to get light; however the sun never actually makes it over the mountains. It hovers just below the horizon like an extended sunrise.

(Sunrise at 10am, Geilo, Norway)

We inspect in the dark and then training starts. After only 6 people have skied the course, 3 have crashed and one is injured and taken down in the bucket. Not such a great start. Apparently the course wsa built just the night before, and some of the features weren’t running very smoothly. So the schedule changed and we spent the afternoon training on the course. The mountain get’s dark at 3pm, so we are forced to stop training. The race is then moved to tomorrow.

(Dark and lights on at 9am)

Today was race day. We did one training run, and I felt that I skied well. The course is very long, about 1 minute 20 seconds, so by the end my legs were burning. Good thing I did all that dryland training in Melbourne and Jindabyne, otherwise I don’t think my legs would have held out! My qualifying run wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for. I made a bit of a mistake on the pitch before the flats. There are a number of world cup teams here, making the competition quite difficult. The Germans, Swiss, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, Polish, Japanese (and a few others) are all here competing. I qualified in 12th place but then unfortunately didn’t make it through the first round of finals to get into the top 8. I’m glad I came however. It was a good experience, something I did completely on my own, and also a good introductory race to the World Cup.

Tomorrow I fly back to Austria to meet the team for a few more days training, then on to San Candido, Italy, for the first 2 world cups!