Monday, January 16, 2012

7th in Les Contamines World Cup

I can finally stop to take a breath after the past 11 days of non-stop action. This time of the season for the World Cup ski cross athletes is jam packed with racing and travel. Three World Cups back-to-back in 11 days, as well as over 15 hours of driving is a massive feat!

After my somewhat ‘unlucky’ world cup race in St. Johann, we drove over 10 hours from what felt like one side of Europe to the other (Austria, through Switzerland, to France). The next World Cup was in Alpes D’Huez. This track is renowned for being a ‘gliders’ course. Mellow terrain, not ultra technical, with some big floaty jumps… definitely a fun course to ski! It  almost feels like a roller coaster ride on skis. After training on the course in beautiful bluebird conditions, I was pumped and ready to go for qualifications. Half way down my quali run, out came the dreaded yellow flag, meaning course hold. The racer before me, Sasa Faric from Slovenia, had a massive crash off the final jump, and was in no condition to move herself off the course. I got a skidoo to the top and had a re-run. I skied well, however being a wax race (and my skis were basically skied out after the one run), I just didn’t carry the same speed as I did in the first run. Looking at my split times afterwards, my first run was fast and would have qualified me for finals had I not made any mistakes in the last 20 seconds of the course. Pretty frustrating, but hey, that’s life! Luck just didn’t seem to be going my way at all this season!

(Sunrise in Alpes D'Huez)

(Above the clouds)

Turning a negative into a positive, I made the most of the sunny bluebird weather on finals day, and went free skiing before the race. Not something we actually get to do all that often whilst we’re racing.

(Enjoying the sun in Alpes D'Huez)

(The diet of athletes whilst in France....)

Next stop, Les Contamines, France (where it happened to be "crochet-week"). This was my fifth year here (how times flies!), and was actually where I competed in my first ever ski cross World Cup in 2008. This year the course was water injected, making it unbelievably icy and technical; something I thought I could use to my advantage given my alpine background. I skied very well in training, and despite making some mistakes in the qualification run, finished in 15th position. Finally, a spot in finals! 

(Crochet week in Les Contamines! My Oma would love this...)

(Excited to qualify for finals)

(Official bib draw in the town centre)

(The Aussie team with our stylin' Les Contamines freebee hats)

In my quarterfinal heat, I was up against two Frenchies and a Polish. Because I was the slowest qualifier of the heat, I had no choice in start gate. I fired out of the start fighting for my life, and jumped straight into second position behind Alizee Baron of France. I fought the entire way down to finish in second place. Little did I know that the other two girls had a collision higher in the course and weren’t even behind me at all. In the semi finals, I didn’t have a great start and was in third place, until a silly mistake put me back in fourth. Unfortunately not fast enough to make the big final, but I still had a chance to fight for a place between 5th - 8th in the small final. In the small final I got caught up with Marte Hoie Gjefsen of Norway out of the start. I managed to get passed her and jump into second place behind Hedda Berntsen of Norway. Half way down I slipped on the ice and lost my momentum, giving Marte the chance to pass me. I finished the race in third, placing me 7th overall.

(Quarterfinals. I'm in the blue helmet / green pants)

(Through to the semi-finals)

(7th place finish)

I’m very excited to have my first top-8 world cup result. I knew it was there somewhere; I just had to drag out the animal in me! Given the result, I have been invited to compete at the Winter X Games, which are in Aspen, Colorado in late January. This has always been a goal of mine, and something I’ve very excited to be apart of. It is like the Winter Olympics of extreme sports. I leave for Aspen on January 23rd, and will be there for 6 days before I head to Blue Mountain, Canada, for the next World Cup.

Will keep you posted. The next few weeks are going to be big!