Moscow is COLD! And racing here is even colder…but apparantly, that’s good news if you’re from team USA! Yesterday’s sprint race was the best race of my life, and it was a great day for the women’s team.
Race day was warm enough to race, but that was about it. The course was the same for both men and women, and the snow was so slow from the cold! It was a flat course punctuated by two short and steep bridges, but long enough that you could blow up too early if you weren’t warmed up enough. So I put in a pretty long and sharp warmup, hoping to ski fast enough to get into the rounds. That was my goal for the day, so I pushed the qualifier as hard as I could! And somehow, for 3 minutes and 37 seconds, I was the fastest woman in the world. But don’t worry – I didn’t let it go to my head. In fact, when the coaches told me I won the qualifier, I actually thought it was a joke! I refused to believe it, because I didn’t want to get too excited, since I was sure that once they’d fixed the timing mistake I’d be way down the list. But I guess they don’t make mistakes over here! I did a couple backflips on the inside and did my best to prepare for the quarterfinals.
Can I quickly say how amazing our wax techs and equipment are? The new Salomon soft ground skis, with Zach Caldwell’s S1-OX grind (I usually don’t get all nerdy about this, but if you’re interested…that’s the grind of the day) were awesome. I’ve gotten so much help and support this year from all over, and it makes all the difference come race day. So thanks guys!
I think I must have been on cloud nine all day…it was just so exciting! So many North Americans made it to the heats, and there was so much positive energy buzzing around it was hard to stay in race mode. But after falling so many times in Milan, I wanted to stay out of trouble and stay on my feet, so I got out to the front as soon as I could. In hindsight, it might not have been a super good idea to lead the quarterfinal since there was a headwind and it sapped a lot of energy. But it allowed me to set the pace and ski my own race, which was super cool.
In the semifinal, I got to experience one the coolest feelings ever. For much of the race, Kikkan, Ida and I were skiing in the front! USA was 1-2-3 and it was amazing to be a part of that. Kikk and I lunged at the line with a Russian and I squeaked my way into the A final. For the final, I was so tired after treating each round like it was my last (because I thought, each time, that it would be!) so by the time the gun went off my arms and legs felt like jelly. I tried so hard to keep up in the final 100 meters but couldn’t get my limbs to cooperate and ran out of energy. However, I was still psyched out of my mind with 6th place! It was a good day all around for top-30 results as Kikk got 7th, Ida finished 12, Dasha got 22nd and Perri got 24th. Women’s results are linked HERE. Results from the Men’s race are linked here: Devon placed 3rd, Alex got 9th, Lenny finished 12th and Andy got 22nd.
Right after the race, we walked back to our hotel and started packing up. The distance crew joined the Norwegians on a bus and drove the 8 hours overnight to Rybinsk, Russia. Dragging my bag through the snow to our cabin at 4:00AM in -18*C definitely didn’t make my top-10 favorite moments, but travel is part of the job/life and you just have to get over it. On the plus side, we’ve got the girls team all together again, in a house! It’s such a great atmosphere, I couldn’t ever ask for more. It only takes one person to shatter team chemistry, but to have a team where everyone truly supports each other and will always have each other’s backs…that’s something special, and it takes input from the whole team to make it happen. Which is why I feel so lucky to be on this one.
A few notes on racing in Moscow/the World Cup in general:
- Training with an air-warmer in is crazy. It’s a little like breathing through a straw…you’re fine until you think about it, then you freak out because you think you’re not getting enough air since spit and water are frozen all over the end. So, so gross.
- The cameras are EVERYWHERE. You start jumping around, dancing or do anything un-professional…and they will find you, and put you on the big screen. It took me a while to figure this out, while my teammates laughed as I was bouncing around the start pen.
- It is very hard to figure out just what exactly the Russian tv crews are asking you in the interviews. I think I gave one of the worst interviews in my life because I had absolutely no idea what the man was saying!
- When Moscow pumps out MJ over the speakers during your warmup, it’s pretty awesome. When a singing, dancing crew gets up on the stage and starts belting out songs in Russian, it gets even better.
- The shuttles to the venue are, on average, 30 minutes late. So plan to catch a 12:00 bus for a 2:25 race, and then you’ll probably make it on time!
One of the coolest parts about racing over here is that even through we’re so far from home, we’re all feeling the love! Thanks so much to everyone for being so supportive through the internet and phone calls…the cheering really makes a difference. We wanted to give a shout-out to everyone back home and “reenact” yesterday’s sprint for you. Edited by the one and only Kikkan: USST Moscow Shout Out
And here’s another video put together by Newell while we were in Seiser Alm, Italy training. Kikkan and Simi took footage via camera and head cams, and you can see just HOW FAST we were sledding! Pretty fun stuff. Sledding with the US Ski Team
Tomorrow we race the 10km skate in Rybinsk, and Sunday we race a 15km pursuit. Hopefully it warms up enough to be legal racing temperatures!