|Gord's Ski Newsletter Vol.5, No.5: Asiago Sprint Relay|
- By: Gord Jewett
The world's fastest skiers are definitely fast, but they are by no means beyond our reach. That was the lesson for my team mate and me in today's 2-man World Cup sprint relay in Asiago, Italy. For my team mate Dan Roycroft it was the first World Cup of a young career while for me it was the second World Cup of a very slightly older career. It is fair to say that we were the greenest team out there!
Dan got things off to a great start on the first leg, moving up a few spots and skiing a relaxed leg. We were still in the race with the lead group by the time I finished my first leg as well. The pace was not overly fast at the beginning, but this must have been a trick of the adrenaline because matching our early lap times, which seemed fairly easy, was impossible towards the end. We each skied 5 alternating laps of the 1.4km course for a total of 14km, 7km each. Dan's legs began to tie up a bit on his second lap and we began to drift off the back of the group as it split in two. I wasn't able to close the gap on my second loop and from then on we were skiing mostly on our own, locked in a see-saw battle with the American team. The American's starter, Carl Swenson, was having an incredible day, leading on the first lap and skiing at a pace near to the leaders. Dan had his hands full with Carl, and would usually concede a little time to him each lap. David Chamberlain, Carl's team mate, is usually a great sprinter but he was having an off day. That allowed me to catch him on each leg and get a little extra time in the bank for Dan. Carl was smoking on his last lap and I had a formidable 14 second gap to close to Dave. I thought that it was going to be nearly impossible, but when it was down to about 5 seconds on the last hill I thought I had a chance. It came down to a sprint finish as I came from behind but Dave got me by about half a ski length, beating my by 0.3 seconds.
In the end we finished 12th, but an 11th ahead of the Americans would have been much more satisfying! The results that we have only list the 1st/2nd, 5th/6th and 9th/10th lap times on them since no more will fit on the page, but it looks like I had the 3rd fastest lap of the day! That was pretty exciting in a field like this and makes me realize that we do have the speed to compete at this level. The format was definitely difficult with just over three minutes to recover between each lap but it was definitely possible to go full out the whole time. The first three laps didn't seem super hard but my recovery couldn't keep up the whole time and I had a really hard time recovering for my last two laps. I was able to keep my technique together at the end, and turned in a decent 7th fastest time on the last lap. Our time was 32:54.1, which is pretty fast for a 14km race! We were one minute and 56.7 seconds off of the winning Italian team of Christian Zorzi and Georgio Di Centa, which is a lot but not an impossible margin.
Tomorrow is the 10km classic race for the men and 5km classic race for the women here in Asiago. Since our World Cup quota is only 2 men, Chris Jeffries and George Grey will be the only Canadians starting the 10km (Dan and I are not World Cup eligible since we have never scored under 50 FIS points). Beckie Scott and Sara Renner will be representing Canada in the 5km classic. Dan and I will be on splits duty, keeping the women updated on their progress through the race in the morning, and then we'll go for a ski and become the crazy cheering Canadians for the men's race. In the afternoon when we've all packed up we'll head back to Val di Fiemme, where we spent part of last week before travelling here. The World Championships start on Tuesday with the women's 15km mass start classic race. My first race will be on Wednesday, which is the 30km mass start classic race. The courses in Val di Fiemme, which we had a few days to preview last week, are incredibly difficult. We were there last year for the under 23 championship races but they seem to have dug out some new courses for this year with seemingly endless climbing. The hills are steep and the downhills fast, so it makes recovering very hard. The 50km skate race on the last day of the championships is going to be the hardest 50km I could really imagine. It is about equivalent to doing a 50km on the hardest 5km course you can find in Canada. This is going to work to our advantage though, because we are all great skiers on tough terrain!
It's time for me to head to the coaches room and get a little coaching on how to work the split machine! Hopefully I will be dealing out accurate information tomorrow!
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