Bozeman podium and onto the WORLD CUP
I can’t believe I get to say this: I am racing in my first WORLD CUP races this weekend!
This was my goal for this fall, but I was having a lot of doubts the past month or two, especially after the races in West Yellowstone last week. Goes to show that you can’t give up on your goals, even when you don’t get off to a good start. I found my form in Bozeman this week, just in time, and actually qualified to race the next two weekends of World Cups. Goal accomplished.
I can’t even contain my excitement, I don’t know what else to say. This is the real deal. WORLD CUP.
I guess I’ll start with what vaulted me into a qualifying spot. I already wrote about the skate sprint on Thursday. Friday was an “off” day, and by off day I mean we didn’t race but we still did race prep to get our bodies fired up for another sprint on Saturday. Friday was nerve-wracking. Not because I was nervous to race but rather because I was nervous we were NOT going to race. The course was moved from the skate sprint course to an upper meadow that had more snow, as the lower course was melting fast with warm temperatures. Race prep and ski testing in the morning was smooth. Then, after lunch, it started raining. I’m talking a heavy downpour for several hours. I don’t think there is anything that makes a skier more nervous that rain. The little snow we had in our driveway was complete slush, and since the trails were only a few hundred meters from our house, we were a little concerned. The race course held up well though, thanks to a huge effort by volunteers shoveling extra snow onto the course the days prior. There was only one muddy section going up the first hill.
I was a little bummed when they changed the course because it went from having three substantial hills to having one small hill and pretty much all slightly-downhill double pole. I think I am a stronger sprinter when there are hills, but I was determined to double pole the hell out of it. Turns out, all the double pole intervals and speed we did this summer helped! I finished 8th in the prelim, although I was well off Sadie’s blistering winning pace, about fifteen seconds faster! The great thing about sprints is that you get another chance (or potentially three more) to throw down. So guess what I did? I threw down. I knew I needed a really great race to qualify for the World Cup.
My quarterfinal and semifinal went fantastic. My new Rossignol skis were money and the wax techs nailed the wax. I had great kick to stride up the first hill strongly, and amazingly fast skis on the double pole section and ended up winning both heats. As the quarterfinals progressed, I watched Sadie, Rosie, Becca and Fitz all qualify for the semifinals. My semifinal was stacked. Becca and Rosie were both in my heat, as was Sophie Caldwell, who won both skate sprints. To our excitement, Becca, Rosie and I finished as the top three to go on to the A-final along with Sadie and Fitz from the other semifinal. The A-final contains six skiers and FIVE of us were from APU. The sixth was Corey Stock, a Dartmouth freshman who trained with us this summer! As we waited for the final to start, we were all laughing about how awesome it was. It was basically just like an interval session at home! Erik Flora even joked, “Uh, well…who do I talk strategy to?!”
It was by far the most fun, yet scrappiest heat of the day. We may be teammates and friends and training buddies, but ultimately we all want to win. When the gun goes off, it’s a race, not a training session, but it becomes a lot more interesting and exciting when you know so much about how all your competitors ski. The start was fast and furious, and fighting for lanes up the first hill brought a lot of pole clanging and near crashes. Rosie took out a hot pace up the hill, I tucked in behind her, and Sadie behind me heading into the downhill. Sadie and I probably knocked poles, stepped on each others skis and almost took each other out at least three or four times. Coming into the last 300 meters or so, the course had a hairpin turn and then 75 meters of slightly uphill double-poling, went through a stand of trees into the finishing stretch of slightly downhill double pole. We were all still really tight coming around the hairpin. Rosie and I were leading side by side, when all of sudden Sadie pulls even with us in the far track, and then starts to pull ahead with Corey on her heels. I thought I was going as hard as I could but somehow I was able to dig deeper. My tempo and power output increased dramatically and I was double poling better than I thought possible and was staying even with Sadie. I took a few quick strong strides in the woods to pick the tempo and as we came into the home stretch, I was still even with Sadie.
A bunch of our male teammates were screaming at all of us as we wnter the final fifty meters “Whoever wants it most, go get it! Who wants it?!?! Come on push it!” Then there was the moment when I realized that I was going for the win! I gave it my best effort and it came down to a photo finish lunge with Sadie. I came out just a toe-length short and Sadie got the win, but I still got SECOND for my first SuperTour podium. Corey was a foot behind us in third, and Rosie, Fitz and Becca were four-five-six.
This may make me sound super dorky and fresh-faced, but it was pretty awesome to stand on the podium knowing I had turned in a result that was enough to clinch a coveted spot on the World Cup team. It was also special to be surrounded by five of my teammates. I don’t think I would be nearly as successful without my team. I feel so lucky to have such amazing teammates who inspire me every day at training to be better and work harder. Then when we line up together on the start line, whether it’s the sprint final, or a mass start, you know there are people out there that you ski with every day and it makes you push yourself that much more.
Sunday was an 11km classic mass start. The conditions hadn’t improved any, but the racing was still quality. Because of the marginal snow, we skied three laps of a 3.8km loop. There was one monster of a hill in the middle of the loop, a lot of working downhills and a couple moderate striding hills. The mass start was crazy hectic, as usual, and I ended up getting stuck in the middle of the pack, had at least three or four people fall in front of me, but I just stayed calm and made moves where I could. I actually had a great second lap and caught a ton of people and was sitting around 8th place. Unfortunately, my skis slowed considerably on the last lap and I lost three places to the finish, coming in 11th.
Regardless, I was really happy with my race. I had a solid distance race, something that has evaded me for quite some time. Sure, I was still three minutes behind Sadie’s winning time, but I felt like I was actually racing well. Next time I just need to get to the front of the pack before the chaos ensues. I also found out that I had made the World Cup sprint team about twenty minutes before the start. It took a lot of pressure off the race, and I was so elated and relaxed that I was able to ski a smooth and relaxed race.
Now I am en route to Quebec City for the World Cup this weekend. AHHH!!! (still excited!!) Friday is a team sprint, Saturday is individual sprint, both skate. Then Sunday we will travel to Canmore for another weekend of World Cup racing. There are three races in Canmore, a 10km classic mass start, a skate sprint and a pursuit. I only get to race the skate sprint, so it will be fun to be able to watch and cheer during the other races. I’ll fly home for Christmas and some Besh Cup racing at home, and then head off to US Nationals the first week of January. Exciting times!!