Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
Gord's Ski Newsletter Vol.5, No.6: Breakin' The Ice

- By: Gord Jewett

Things started with a bang today in my first World Championship race, the 30km mass start classic. The bang of the starter's pistol, and the bang as I broadsided a Swede while moving at top speed in the first few meters of the race. Just a few seconds into the race I had my head down, double poling with everything I had, and I broadsided a Swedish skier who had fallen and was standing sideways across the track. If I had of been looking ahead more it might have been avoidable, but by the time I saw him it was way to late to move. I ended up on my back in the middle of the stadium and was the last one to make my way out. Of course it bought me some fame on EuroSport, which is always keen to show some carnage!

The usual nerves for such a big race hit me hard last night and I had a tough time getting to sleep. I only ended up sleeping for a few hours, but I still felt fairly rested when I got up in the morning. I was able to bank on the good sleep that I have gotten over the past few weeks. I was also quite nervous as I warmed up for the race, but being around the race site all week had prepared me somewhat for the size of the event and the show that surrounds it.

After climbing up off my back in the first few meters of the race today, I set to the difficult task of chasing down the group. When the leaders hit the steep climbs with a large group like this, the rest of the pack usually slows down a huge amount at the bottom, to the point where they are almost stopped. This allowed me to close quite a bit of the gap to the group, but I was burning a lot of extra energy with those efforts early on. My legs started to tighten up from the effort about halfway through the first of four 7.5km laps, and I began to have trouble kicking my skis. I may have gone a little light on grip considering how difficult the tracks are here, and I was doing a huge amount of herring-bone on the steep climbs. I was never able to come back well from the hard climbs and the rest of the race was quite a struggle. I ended up finishing 55th, which was not a good result. In my mind it was awfully close to a last place finish, as the 10 guys that finished behind me were not exactly from nordic powerhouse nations: Denmark, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Armenia and Israel.

This was definitely a tough way for me to get my feet wet at the World Championships. Classic 30km is one of my poorer races, and that was compounded by the difficult course that includes many steep hills, straddling the barrier between diagonal stride and herring-bone. I am looking forward to the other races here so that I can redeem myself. The only race I know I will do for certain is the 50km skate race on the last day of the championships, although there is a chance that I will get a start in the duathlon on Sunday or the relay on Tuesday.

Fortunately, the other Canadian in the race today, Dan Roycroft, had a very good race. He finished 49th, but that result does not represent how well he really skied. He is also a stronger skate skier so finishing just 6 and a half minutes behind the leaders was a major success.

Racing continues tomorrow with the women's 10km classic race. Representing Canada will be Beckie Scott, a medal favourite, Sara Renner, and real threat for a top 10 result, and Tasha Betcherman, who started her first World Championship race yesterday, finishing 41st in the 15km classic. It is a really tough schedule for the coaches and wax technicians here, since the alternating women's and men's races bring a race every day. The men will see action again on Friday with the 15km classic, but I will be sitting out that race. Starting for Canada will be Devon Kershaw, George Grey, Chris Jeffries and Drew Goldsack. I will be laying low and taking it easy tomorrow, but I will be sure to be back at the hotel at 10am to watch the women race on EuroSport. Keep your fingers crossed for whole Canadian team over the next week and a half!

Gordon Jewett
Val di Fiemme, Italy

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