|Haywood National Team Report: An OPA Coach's Tale|
- By: Eric DeNys
Friday, 21 January -15/20 km Pursuit
Joel, Eric Bailey and I arrived at the ski site at 6:30 to wade through 15 cm of standing water outside our wax cabin. It had then been raining buckets for 20 hours. The rain continued for another four hours, before turning to sleet for an hour, groppel (a new term from the Coach's Glossary of Weather Terminology) for an hour and then full on snow for the rest of the day. Due to high winds, an extremely dirty course and the men's 3.3km course being knocked back to 2.5km due to the rain, the Jury delayed the race start from 10:00 to 13:00 for the women and 14:00 for the men. This was unfortunate as we had what we thought were the perfect skis and were excited for the races to start.
The day was long and hard on all involved - from the organizers, to the athletes, to the staff. Joel, Eric and I got a few laughs out of the day and we learned a lot. Perhaps the best story of the day was when I was heading out to try our test skis again and as I stuck my head out the door, there was only one ski. I shouted back inside the wax room at Joel to see if he brought the skis inside. He hadn't touched them. I guessed that someone must have stolen them. Lo and behold, six wax rooms down from ours, there are our test skis leaning up against another nation's cabin. It was at this point that I determined that the wind had blown over our skis and the skis floated in the water to their final resting spot. We all got quite the chuckle.
This was just the beginning of the day. It was tough to have the three hour delay of the race when the women had been warming up and were soaked to the bone due the rain. They changed and heading back to the hotel to re-focus, dry out and fuel up. The coaching staff stayed on site and continued to work with the consistently changing conditions. At the end of the day, it turned out to be quite good as we worked hard to adjust to the conditions and tried to foresee what "could" happen next. In the men's race, Devon skied the first 10 km very well and transitioned in 7th place. Graham Nishikawa skied a superb classic leg to transition in 12th. They dropped back in the skate leg to finish 17th and 18th. Dave Nighbor had an extremely tough day and DNF'ed along with 15 others. Slippery skis on the tough classic course brought people's days to quick ends. In the women's race, Madeleine Williams had a technical problem with the toe pin of her boot popping right out forcing her to quit the race. Chandra and Dasha finished in 14th and 17th respectively.
Saturday, 22 January - Classic Sprints
Another difficult and early morning for the coaching staff! We arrived on site with very light snow falling and temperature slightly below zero. Early in the morning, klister was working due to the ice "chunks" that formed the major part of the track. Hairies and hard wax were not working. The snow became heavier and extremely heavy at times. This caused the track to fill up and soon the icy bits were covered, now making klister extremely grippy with zero glide. Hairies started to work as well as the warmer kick waxes. It became extremely evident that not only does one need to have good wax but more importantly the ski to go along with it. We had some athletes who had marginal kick, and others with great kick - all on the same wax, which from what we could tell by "spying" on the Norwegians in the warm up area, was what they were using as well. All Canadian athletes made the top 16 except for Dave Nighbor and Drew Goldsack. Dave missed by .03 seconds and Drew went with his hairy skis which turned out to be the wrong decision, as a lull in the snowfall caused the tracks to glaze over from the previous heat. The girls all made it past the first round and in their semi-finals were out-muscled by their competitors. The men all got knocked out in the quarter-finals, being up against the best sprinters in the world. All three men finished third in their heats, beating one competitor. Devon had the best heat of the day, narrowly missing advancing after a come from behind sprint to the finish. Devon ended up 10th after qualifying 10th, Dan 11th after qualifying 13th and Gord 12th after qualifying 14th. Graham was also in tough and after qualifying 11th, finished 12th. Dasha qualified 2nd in U-23 and ended up 7th, Madeleine qualified 6th and ended up 6th. Chandra raced the open category and qualified 2nd to end up in 6th.
Sunday, 23 January -10/15 km Free MS
Arriving on site we were greeted by consistent and beautiful conditions with temperatures of -6C. Finally, a day without chaos! We tested skis for a long time before the athletes arrived and came to a decision on the cover wax we would use for the women's race. Joel continued to test skis while the women's race was on to make sure things were staying consistent. After warming up a few degrees, the temperature plateaued. This made our waxing decisions even better. The women's race went off without a hitch. Dasha finished 16th and Madeleine 18th in the U-23 class and 24th and 26th overall. The men's race was extremely exciting. Our open men had to start behind all the U-23 class to make their way towards the front. Devon had a great start and skied with the lead pack the entire race. At one point he broke a pole and had to ski 500 meters before getting a new one. Devon also led the race for a short period. The other men moved up a significant number of positions. Devon ended up staying with the lead group only to lose contact on the last small climb to finish in 10th, only 9.7 sec from the lead. It was a fantastic effort. Dan finished 5th in open men and 24th overall, Drew 7th in open men and 27th overall and Gordon was 12th in open and 45th overall. If memory serves me well, Graham finished 24th and Dave 29th in the U-23 class.
Overall, it was a good weekend of racing which was extremely valuable for those who will be back here for the World's in a few weeks. As a staff, we worked well together, learned a lot and were able to stay on top of the most difficult conditions I have ever seen.
That's all for now from snowy Oberstdorf. Off to Italy!
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Source: Cross Country Canada
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