The last weekend of Period 1 World Cup racing was in Slovenia. We had once again heard rumors of no snow and those rumors proved to be true when we arrived Wednesday evening to a heavy warm rain in Zrece, the town where we were staying for the weekend’s races. The venue was in Rogla, a resort village in the mountains and about a 30 minute drive up a steep, twisty mountain road.
Due to the lack of snow, we were told that the course wasn't going to be open on Thursday so all of the athletes stayed in town and went on a rainy team run. Keeping the running muscles ready has continued to be valuable this winter. The coaches went to the venue that morning to set up the wax cabins and check out the conditions. This picture was taken from one of the better sections of the course. Apparently the ground was muddy and unfrozen, the stadium was completely bare, and there were a handful of old tractors slowly moving snow onto a narrow ribbon of trail.
On Friday morning we went to the venue to ski and this was what we saw...not much! The weather was nasty on the top of the mountain. It was foggy, sleeting, and blowing over 50mph. The course was all out in the open so planting my poles into the crosswinds sometimes proved impossible and I landed on my face a few times. The waxing was just as tricky and we were struggling to find anything that would kick on the icy tracks but not completely catch and grab in the windblown snow. It was not the most ideal prerace workout.
Our hotel proved to be just as interesting. It was a combination between a Slovenian four star hotel and a nursing home. Everyone staying there was either a World Cup skier or 85 years old and in a wheelchair. It was a really nice big hotel with spacious rooms and a spa center, but everything wafted of an old folks home. They provided us with these super fuzzy bathrobes which Liz is modelling and were even more often worn by the packs of elderly people walking with walkers down the hallways. Also being located in Slovenia wine country, at 1.10Euro per glass, it was cheaper to order wine than water with dinner.
Saturday brought my first ever World Cup mass start race. I had previously scrambled in a couple relays and done a pursuit start but this was my first mass start race and it was a 10km classic, one of my favorite races so I was super excited. I was seeded 49th so towards the back of the field and I just wanted to stay out of trouble and move up through the field. I think I succeeded in both goals but the second one perhaps a bit too quickly. I moved up about 30 places in the first couple laps and was surprised to feel that it didn’t even feel that fast. I think the effort must have been masked by the adrenaline though because the last lap and a half were really tough. I was still in 30th with less than a half kilometer to go when a group of girls passed me and proceeded to put close to 15 seconds on me before the finish line! Yikes! I’m glad the race wasn’t any longer than it was! I finished a little bummed in38th but it was my second best distance finish. Fischer/Nordic Focus Photo
Sunday brought a really big first for me as I scored my first World Cup points and skied in a quarterfinal! I just squeaked into the heats with a 30th place qualifying place! Making the heats had been my goal for this trip so it was awesome to do it in my last race here. I was pretty ecstatic and couldn’t stop smiling or running around. I went into the athlete lounge to grab a snack and relax before the quarterfinals and found an espresso machine. So after hitting that up, my excitement level was seriously high.
In my quarterfinal I got a good start and was sitting in 2nd. I was content following but I guess I should have been more aggressive because I let up for just a moment and all of a sudden was in 6th place. It happened so quickly and made me immediately realize that this was a different level than anything I had experienced before. I tried my best to move up but with a twisty section and then a narrow hill, passing was tough.
I outsprinted one woman in the lanes and ended up 5th in my heat and 25th overall . Those two and a half minutes of racing were so incredibly fun and made all the tough qualifiers I had done earlier this winter totally worth it! I can't wait to do it again!
It was another great weekend for the US team with 8 top 30 finishes and six personal bests in the specific discipline.
This is the sunset from my last night in Europe. Now I’m back in Craftsbury and very psyched to be home! The crew here has done an amazing job getting the snowmaking system up and running and the skiing is really good. I have a lot of experience on short manmade loops of snow now and I think this is the best one yet! We are still doing our snow dances, though, with hopes for a white Christmas!