World Cup Finals! As if simply earning the right to be here and race wasn’t enough, there have been some amazing results coming from the North American crew! World Cup Finals started in Stockholm with a classic sprint, then the mini-tour moved to Falun for a prologue, mass start 10km classic and today wraps it up with a pursuit start 10km skate, with your time back from the leader coming from the results of the previous three races. To compete in Finals, you have to be either top 50 in the overall World Cup standings OR be a Continental Cup leader. So the competition has been amazing here with so many talented athletes fighting for their final places of the year!
The course in Falun has held up really well despite sunny days and temperatures hovering betwen 5-10 degrees C! The “big deal” about the course here is the Mördarbacken…the “killer hill”. It runs alongside the ski jump so basically it’s like winding your way up a jump; the first 2/3 of the hill are a gradual, grinding climb and then you turn a corner and it pitches up. It’s actually really hard not to kill your momentum there, but the real trick is to then naviate the downhill corners without wiping out because your legs are fried! There are three bridges you go over during the race, and two of them get you going really, really fast. The first time I went down them in warm-up I did’t know they were coming and I caught air off them! In the races I’ve remembered at the last second to pull my knees up so I don’t go flying off the bridges, but it’s still pretty scary when the course gets icy or when ruts form.
Our first race in Falun was the 2.5km prologue (3.3 for the dudes) and it was such a tough distance to race because you can’t flat out sprint the entire thing, but you really can’t pace it either! I tried to go out smooth and controlled but planned to leave only enough energy at the top of the hill to get myself back down in one piece. I ended up with the fastest last kilometer of the day so props to the Salomon boards and our techs for doing such a good wax job! Alex Harvey won the men’s race, with his Dad there cheering him on 25 years after he won here! What a cool day.
The 10km mass start classic was another solid day for us; I was quite happy with how close the main packs stayed and it was my best “slush race” ever! I tend to struggle with classic klister days so this was a great way to end my classic World Cup races. The exciting part of the day came in the men’s race, when Len Valjas of Canada placed 3rd! It’s super cool to see a “sprinter” kick it in a distance race.
So now it’s off to start in our last World Cup race of the year! I start in 17th place, but mostely I’m excited to go and skate as hard as I can, and then see what happens. Wish North America luck!