Stages 4 and 5…and hello again Italy!

By January 3, 2014 No Comments

The Tour de Ski continues….and stages 4 and 5 are now finished! Only 2 more races left…geez time flies when you’re having fun. Or when you’re traveling and racing like mad. Either way works! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from the last 2 days, as I was just too tired and forgetful. Oops! 🙂

The last race in Lenzerheide, a 10km mass start classic, was an interesting one for me. It was the second day I’d had pretty low energy on the Tour, and I was really struggling to stay mentally invested in the race. When I get tired, my technique starts to deteriorate and it’s much more difficult for me to kick up the hills, and combined with an already tricky waxing day for me, it was a less than ideal combination! Some parts of the course had snow with a solid layer of ice underneath, and therefore you might get pretty great kick up one hill but be slipping every 4th kick on the next hill. I felt like I did the best I could, and while my weird technique up the hills might have made the coaches scratch their heads, my skis were slicker than cow slobber on the downhills, so that’s where I tried to make up most of my time – by riding a flat ski and just gliding it out. At one point in the race I’m fairly ashamed to say that I was completely mentally checked out. I just wanted it to be over – I wasn’t having any fun at all and I was really disliking classic skiing in that moment (ok, let’s be real, there’s many moment’s where I’ve struggled with kick that I’ve really disliked classic skiing. I’m working on it, ok?) But I was proud of myself for dragging my mind back into the race for the last few kms, and afterwards my first thought was “phew, only 5 more kilometers of classic skiing left in this Tour!” Shameful, I know, but that’s how I felt! So I guess you could say that was (hopefully) my lowest point in the Tour. I immediately focused on recovery, cooling down, getting food and water in and started looking ahead to the next race, the 15km freestyle pursuit start in Toblach. I really loved this race last year, and I was looking forward to doing it again!

The drive from Lenzerheide to Toblach/Dobbiaco can be anywhere from 3.5-5.5 hours, depending on traffic. I mean it. The last part of the road into Toblach is a narrow, winding single lane road, which somehow always has slow and jammed up traffic…both ways. And there’s always an RV in front of us holding things up 🙂 But that’s part of the deal, and by now we’ve come to expect crazy traffic in this part of the drive! We made it to our hotel, and checked out the course for the skate race.

Here’s the one thing about the Tour that I think is silly – I’d love to know who decided that women can’t even race half of the distance the men get to race. Seriously. It’s annoying. The men get to race this SICK point-to-point 35km race that starts in the next town over, Cortina, and winds it’s way through the woods (with a helicopter overhead filming the action) till it connects with the Toblach course. While the women race a 15km in the stadium…3 laps of a 5km course. I’m not saying the course isn’t great – I love the course here! It’s challenging and fun to ski – but I think it’s sad that the women don’t get to race longer distances and that we don’t get to do some of the epic courses that the men do. We can handle it. Try us.

Alright…ranting done with, I promise. Onto today’s race – stage 5 of the Tour de Ski! I was excited for the 15km skate because I really like the course here, and I love pursuit starts where I get to chase people down. The course was 3 laps of a 5km, that started with some flats and then had two long gradual climbs to the top of the course. From there the course swooped down and up 3 times on the side of a hill, before dropping back to the stadium level.

I started in the same second as two other girls, with Kristin Stormer Steira 4 seconds ahead of me and Liz two seconds behind me. The three of us worked together, and we sometimes were in a pack of 4 more girls, as people would join or drop based on how they were feeling on that part of the course. I couldn’t keep up on the climbs, but on the second half of the course and especially the gradual downhill I would catch up. Kristin, Liz and I all took turns pulling – I would lead the flats and downhills, doing the work where my strengths were on the course to help pull the group along, and then I’d try my best to stay in contact on the climbs. A lot of the girls in the larger pack never took turns leading, but that’s sometimes the way it goes. This was for sure the most fun I’ve had racing so far this year – working with the other girls to have a great race. It was painful, for sure – I could feel the acid rising in my throat every time I got into a tuck and by the finish my legs felt like lead, but it was still a fun race! I was also so thrilled with my skis – my Salomons were running so fast, thanks to such hard work from our wax crew!

Afterwards, we cooled down and then Steph, our massage-therapy angel, worked her magic on us before we took off in the van. By some miracle, there was nearly no traffic on the drive to Val di Fiemme, and we were able to check in to the Hotel Touring in Predazzo after a couple hours. I have been looking forward to coming back to this hotel for a while, because after spending so much time here last year for World Champs, it feels like a home. The staff is so kind to us and so friendly, and the food is awesome (well…duh…it’s ITALY)!

Tomorrow, we have the 5km individual start classic race, and then THE BIG ONE…the climb. Let’s talk about that when we get to it, ok?