Five and a half months is a long season and a long time to stay mentally and physically sharp. Now as the season comes to a close, I’m feeling quite exhausted and secretly hoping the rest of the snow will melt so we can say a final goodbye to winter. Luckily the season ended with as much excitement as it began so underneath many layers of fatigue I’m more inspired than ever for a new year and the challenges and adventures ahead.
Here are some belated stories and reports from the final races of the year.
The XC World Cup season ended with World Cup finals in Sweden. The top 50 in the World Cup overall standings compete in finals. Qualifying for these races was a “reach” goal for me so it was exciting to make it happen and experience the progress. Last year the USST had three women and two men qualify for finals and this year we had six ladies and four men racing in Sweden which showed our team improvements.
World Cup finals is a four race mini tour which begins with a city sprint in Stockholm.
After having had a few rough races in a row, I used the energy and excitement for a really good last World Cup sprint of the year. I qualified in 11th which was a personal best qualification for me. I used some poor tactics in the heat, attempting to take advantage of the draft on the windy track next to the harbor but let myself get boxed in and ultimately finished 4th in my heat and 20th overall. It was still a very fun day and re-energized me for the last few races of year.
From Stockholm we drove three hours northwest to Falun for the last three stages of the mini tour, including a 2.5km skate prologue, a 10km classic mass start, and a 10km skate pursuit. Falun will be hosting the World Championships in 2015 and built some new trails for the event. The trail designers wanted to showcase the infamous Morderbacken hill and push the limits with huge uphills and technical descents. Unfortunately they went a bit over the top and after the downhill had been skied a few times everyone was wishing they had metal edges to tackle the icy slope. It was steep, fast, and narrow but didn’t ski well with sharp off camber finishes to the turns which combined with ice pushed you into the fencing and trees. Skiing it alone in an individual start race would get your heart racing and in a mass start would be just dangerous. Skiercross on cross country skis on a narrow trail through the woods which was steeper than adjacent the ski jumping landing strip? Serious injuries and maybe career ending collisions and falls were deemed a possibility in Saturday’s classic mass start race so the athletes worked together to propose course changes. At first we were met with an absolute no since the TV cameras and timing had already been setup. With athlete safety on the line, we met multiple times the day before the race and threatened to boycott the first race of the mini tour if the course wasn’t changed. It became a very heated issue with lots of media involved. We made the Norwegian tabloids:
After several more meetings and a high proportion of athletes signing a petition to boycott the weekend if the course wasn’t changed, a compromise was reached on the morning of the first race. A new course was set which used only the bottom of the downhill and cut out some of the sketchier turns so everyone agreed to start.
We were all very ready to head back to the US but after months on the road what is one more day? We stayed to participate in the first Fast and Female event held outside of North America. It was cool to share this program with our Swedish friends and to meet some enthusiastic young Swedish skiers.
From Sweden I flew to California where I met up with the rest of the GRP. After having been separated across the globe competing in lots of different races, it was really fun to reunite with everyone and ski together as a team for the last races of the year.
While we had a lot of sun, we also had some other “less typical California” weather but our awesome wax team conquered all the conditions. The sloppy April conditions combined with 7200′ of altitude made for some hard racing! I’ve never seen the entire field walking in a race but when you’re herringboning up a big wall through knee deep sugar at high elevation in April, sometimes there isn’t another choice.
After the sprint, I decided to give my hacking lungs a rest and fly home a few days early, skipping the hill climb and the marathon. These last couple races sounded very epic but someone who actually survived them will have to post a report.
It was a long but AWESOME winter and now I’m loving being home where spring is trying to arrive.
This morning I awoke to a few more inches of fresh snow and there is still great skiing on the trails at Craftsbury so I don’t know if I’ll be putting the boards away for good yet but it’s also nice to be able to sleep in my own bed, explore some backcountry and alpine trails, and have the time to put up my feet and rest after a really fun winter.
Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support along the way!