Today is the first day of the World Championships here in Val di Fiemme, Italy! The excitement in the air is so thick you can feel it. Everyone has so much excess energy from tapering training and resting up. I’m not racing the classic sprint today (or Saturday’s skiathalon, either, in order to rest up for Sunday’s team sprint race) but I felt as excited this morning as if I was headed to the start line. I came bouncing down the stairs just in time to shake glitter on my teammates and give them good-luck hugs before they headed out to the stadium. And I have great feelings about today – I believe in them 100% and everyone has trained so hard all year….they’re definitely ready!
The sprint course here is a new one, which is kind of fun because it levels the playing field. Nobody knows exactly how tactics will play out, and nobody has skied it in rounds yet. Here’s my take on the course: Right out of the start you have a long flat stretch, where everyone will be jockeying for position in order to get the best line on the upcoming hill. Then the course starts climbing, turning to the left as it does and passing underneath a bridge before sweeping to the right. Then comes a slightly downhill but mostly flat section which marks the high point of the course, before a sharp right downhill that people will probably get a great draft on. Then the women’s course takes a left about 1/3 of the way up the next hill (and heads over a small bump to the finishing lanes) while the men’s course finishes the hill, turns left and bombs back down into the stadium.
Here’s the interesting part – the men’s course has a much longer downhill (because they climb all the way back up the second hill) so they might be able to tuck all the way into the stadium. But if the snow is slow, the women’s course has a much shorter downhill and therefore they might be doing a lot more double-poling in the finishing stretch. I’m super excited to watch and cheer on my teammates!
This Championships, the team is making a big effort to stay relaxed and just stick to what’s been working all year. Which is awesome, because the effect is that people know that yeah, World Champs gets a lot of hype, but there aren’t extra nerves floating around and people don’t feel crazy pressure, or the need to change anything about their race-day routines.
One funny thing people are doing is every team meeting, someone will enter the meeting in a crazy way. Andy started it by dancing his way in dressed up in a tank top that said “Ciao!” because our meeting room is also the hotel’s “disco room”. Then yesterday Kikkan walked in on her hands 🙂 It’s a fun way to relax the atmosphere and I’m excited to see what the next entrance is (and who it is!)
Personally, I am really excited for these races. I was thinking back two years ago to my first World Champs experience, in Oslo. I started the race series having only started one World Cup in my life! I was super excited, nervous, and mostly just not blinking because I wanted to take everything in and not miss anything.
This time around, we’re coming into the Championships with more expectations, more pressure, more experience racing the World Cups…and yet somehow I get the feeling that this is still going to be a super fun experience with no pressure at all from the people who matter most!
I’ll be updating as much as possible through the Championships, so stay tuned!