Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - Athlete Perspective
Gord’s Ski Newsletter Vol. 6, No. 5: Europe on a Shoestring

By: Gord Jewett

I’ve now been traveling around Europe with two of my teammates for just over a week, and I’m happy to say that I don’t have any exciting adventures to report. Lack of exciting adventure is a good sign in this case; it means our planning has been sound and our luck has held.

When Dan Roycroft, Adam Kates and I decided about one month ago that we would organize our own two-week European trip prior to the National Team’s OPA Tour we went into overdrive on planning and we really didn’t know what to expect. It seems that our futures as travel agents may be bright, because we’ve done quite a job. There are however a few areas that will need some serious work if we’re to open our own racing tour company, and those include language skills in both French and German and waxing skills when it comes to race day.

Dan flew out of Toronto on February 2nd while Adam and I flew out of Calgary, and we met up in Frankfurt, Germany the next morning for the short flight to Zurich. As soon as we landed in Zurich Dan and I left Adam at the airport to watch the bags and we hopped the train to downtown Zurich to pick up our rental car. It turns out that renting a car from the airport is about $200 more expensive, so we figured the $10 train fair was a minor inconvenience to avoid the extra charge. We found the Hertz office with surprisingly little difficulty, and as soon as we got in the car Dan revealed our secret weapon. The pillar of wisdom that would guide us flawlessly across Europe was his laptop equipped with AutoRoute and a car power adapter. AutoRoute is software with driving directions that are remarkably accurate. We just plug in our location and destination and it lays out the route for us. I should probably add that Dan is no ordinary user of AutoRoute. He is to AutoRoute navigation what Mozart is to music. Needless to say, we traversed Zurich back to the airport with little trouble, and it sounded something like this: “Get in the left lane, traffic circle in 30 meters, turn left 30 degrees, reduce speed, the next corner is a tight one, straight for 1 kilometer now and then a hard right…” I am finally achieved my dream of rally car racing across an entire continent!

We picked up Adam at the airport, loaded the skis on the roof of our Opel and headed for La Clusaz, France, which is about an hour from Geneva. I’d like to report some exciting adventure, but we made it without incidence or a single wrong turn thanks to Mozart beside me in the passenger seat. By the time we had checked into our small apartment in the evening we were all fighting to stay awake as long as possible and we fell into bed. The next few days were devoted to acclimating to the time change and it’s possible that none of us have ever felt so bad on easy training workouts. Adam and I were chosen to join the World Cup team of George Grey and Chris Jeffries in the World Cup relay on Saturday in La Clusaz and we skied the third and fourth legs respectively. I was nervous about my form since the first race in Europe can always be a surprise after jetlag.

Chris got the team off to a great start, but he was hindered by slow skis and dropped off the lead group towards the end of his leg. Regardless, he skied a very strong leg and we were in 12th when George started out. By the time George went our wax technicians had solved the problem of Chris’ slow skis and George was on fire, passing the American team like they were standing still. He also passed a French team, but was passed by the top Italian team, who had totally missed the wax on the first leg. George handed off in 11th and from there on in it was the two jetlag boys. Adam skied a strong leg, following the top Norwegian team for the first few kilometers and skiing strongly until the end. He was definitely feeling his heavy legs though, and was passed by a French team and the Americans, so we were in 14th when I started. I fought hard during my leg to try to catch the French and American teams in front of me, but I just didn’t have the gas to close the gap. I was suffering from heavy legs but pushed really hard throughout my leg, and we finished in 14th in the end. I was able to hold off the Swedish #2 team which I was happy about, and my time for the 4th leg was not bad all things considered. It was a positive start to the European campaign for me and I was looking forward to the next race.

I shouldn’t have been! Right after the relay in La Clusaz we jumped in the car for a 6-hour drive to Gibswil, Switzerland to race a 15km classic Swiss Cup on Sunday. Dan’s directions may have become over confident at times as fatigue set in, with comments like: “This traffic circle shouldn’t be here!” and “This road definitely doesn’t exist.” Nevertheless we made it to Gibswil and even managed to get our hands on a start list the night before the race to confirm that we were properly entered. We arrived at the racecourse on Sunday morning to find icy tracks with new snow falling, and our lack of waxing expertise caught up with us very quickly. We tried everything we could think of, which admittedly wasn’t much, and arrived at the start line with no grip at all and no warm up other than running from the wax room to the start line 5 minutes before the start. Needless to say it was a long 15km with a lot of double poling, and my arms were screaming the whole way. Adam managed a halfway decent race to finish 5th, while I was further back in 12th and Dan was 13th. We should have been contending for the podium so the results were disappointing. We learned our lesson about waxing though: always bring a wax technician!

On Monday morning after the race we drove from Gibswil to Oberstdorf where we are now, and the 60 centimeters of snow in the past three days have ensured that the conditions are great for training. Our luck and planning has held once more and we have another great apartment right on the ski trails, only a six-minute ski from the stadium. Adam will leave on Friday to drive to Saalfelden, Austria for a 15km classic race on Sunday, while Dan and I will stay here and race in the World Cup 2-man relay on Sunday. After then we’re off to Milan where we’ll meet up with the real OPA Tour trip, and from then on we’ll hopefully have a lot less to worry about!

So far, so good, and I really hope I don’t have any exciting adventures to report in the next few weeks!

Gordon Jewett
Oberstdorf, Germany

Gordon would like to thank his sponsors:

Thank you also to:
James Coatsworth
Peter Jewett
George Kalmar
Michael and Brenda Jewett
Irving Wartsman
Jeffrey Wartsman
Jim Meekison
Harold Macklin
Albert Latner
Oscar Grubert

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