January 19, 2015

World Cup Chaos

It seems no matter the distance, traveling anywhere as a nordic skier is exhausting. We drove from Houghton all the way back to Minneapolis where I was graciously hosted by my teammate Rosie Frankowski and her family for a few days of rest before jumping over the pond. The sun came out, which felt out of this world, but the temperatures remained frigid. With toughened skin from the week of racing, we ventured out to walk around the city, get in some shopping, and run some last minute errands. It is really nice to spend a little bit of time in the city when we can since most of our races are really out in the woods.

Tuesday came all too fast and before I knew it, I was back lugging my giant brigade of bags through the airport. Eventually, I met the US Ski Team Wednesday night in Tallinn, Estonia where we hopped on a bus headed for Otepaa, our venue for the weekend. I found it very pleasant skiing in temperatures hovering around freezing and snow that actually allowed your skis some glide. I think this helped me to feel artificially good after a long week of racing and lots of travel.

Saturday was a classic sprint. The course felt remarkably fast and short after our epic sprint in Houghton so I felt I had a chance to make the rounds. I thought I skied well, but it wasn't mistake free so I ended the day in 38th. It was easy to pick out the mistakes and they were all things I can quickly learn from so I felt good about the day overall.

I got a little bit lucky and due to different plans and schedules, it turned out that there were only four girls here racing from the U.S. including me, which meant I got to race in the team sprint on Sunday. I wasn't expecting to have this opportunity, but was ready to make the most of it. Team sprints consist of teams of 2. Each person skis one lap of the sprint course before tagging their partner. Each partner skis 3 laps total, making for an exciting race of speed and endurance. Ida Sargent skied legs 1,3,5 and I skied legs 2,4,6. The days starts with 2 semi-finals and the top 2 teams from each semi plus the next 6 fastest times from either semi make the final. The snow conditions were such that each lap slowed down so being in the first semi was advantageous. Unfortunately, both team from the U.S. were in the 2nd semi so we knew we would have to try for top 2. We skied comfortably near the front of the pack for most of the race and on the last lap, I did my best to get in the draft on the downhill and sling shot into the finish. We ended 3rd in our heat, but had just a fast enough time to make the final!

I have never skied a team sprint final and this was only the second team sprint I had ever done so I was ecstatic to make the final. I wanted to do everything I could to stay in the pack and make the most of things. Ida skied some very strong legs, always tagging me off in good positions, I did my best to hold on and was able to sneak into 6th place in the finish. It was very slushy and sloppy, making it hard to stay on your feet and even harder on the legs.  I was really happy with the way I skied and felt I did a good job of putting together 6 solid laps throughout the day. I think we both far exceeded our expectations and were happy with our result. On a fun side note, the 6th place team is the last team that gets a little prize money so this marked my first time winning money on the World Cup!

It's hard to take pictures while racing, but here is a link to watch the final as it appeared on Eurosport. USA of course is in the stars and stripes!

And here is a recap from the ADN, which also features my teammate Holly Brooks's win on the marathon circuit yesterday as well.

I shamelessly stole these photos from Nordic Focus...But here I am waiting for the tag from Ida

And climbing up the hill in the final

Sprints often come down to millimeters...This was the lunge for 2nd place in the Men's Classic Sprint, yikes that is a close one!

We head to Russia on Wednesday, which I'm sure will be filled with more adventure and hopefully more good racing!