Sunday, January 8, 2012

2 spots from qualifying in St. Johann

After six days of GS training in and around the Schladming area of Austria, I was feeling ready to take on the hectic piste of St. Johann. I was also looking forward to a change in scene, and getting back into racing! Unfortunately the Australian contingent is now one member short, with Scotty Kneller returning home to Australia with a broken hand after a GS crash during training. Hopefully he’ll have a hasty recovery, and be back by the end of the season to compete in the last few World Cups.

This year (unlike the past two years), the ski cross track wasn’t the usual ice block it is renowned for. Fresh snow all week meant that snow conditions were soft and difficult, however probably more suitable for ski cross racing than double-injected ice. On the training day, I was confident and skiing well. The split times from training showed that I was laying down some fast times amongst the women; a positive sign coming into qualifications. On quali night, the women ran after the men at 7:30pm, so we had a bumpy track to contend with. It was, however, an incredible atmosphere competing under the lights.

For the top 16 women, the weather held off and the snow conditions were consistent. Unfortunately by bib 16, it started puking down with snow; heavy, wet snowflakes literally the size of golf balls. Each run was visibly getting slower and slower, and by the time I went down with bib 20, only one minute after bib 19, I couldn’t see any tracks in front of me. I felt that I skied the pitch really well, but as soon as I hit the flat it was all over. I couldn’t carry my speed on the fresh snow, and it was a desperate fight to the finish. I finished in 18th place, 0.2 of a second from qualifying. I big improvement from 28th and 22nd in San Candido, but still frustrating to be outside of the top 16.

I guess this is all apart of the sport. You can’t control the weather! Rather than remaining annoyed and frustrated with something that is out of my control, one positive I could take out of not qualifying was an epic powder day in KitzbΓΌhel on the day of finals. If I wasn’t racing, I figured I may as well enjoy the freshies that had fallen the night before. These powder days are few and far between, and I made the most of it! True to form, finals was a great spectator event, with thousands of fans lining the course to watch the show.

(Deep freshies through the trees)

(Liam getting comfy in the snow)

After a long 10 hours in the car, we have made it to Alpe D’Huez for the next Ski Cross World Cup. Qualifications are on the 10th and finals on the 11th. Keep you posted!