On Monday, January 21st, Thomsen D’Hont, Phil Wood, Timo Puiras, and I climbed into the “Meat Wagon” for a road trip to the States. Our first stop was Lutsen where we went for an afternoon classic ski. I’ve heard many good things about the unlimited kilometers of cross-country trails around the Lutsen area so my expectations were set very high. Unfortunately none of us took the initiative to research where some of these trails were. So, without knowing exactly where the good cross-country trails were, Timo pulled into the downhill resort in hopes of discovering some tracks. Little did we know, the main cross-country chalet was only a short distance past the downhill site. However, we did spot a classic track and decided we were good to go.
The trail lead us on a gradual climb to the top a few downhill runs where it came to an abrupt end. Now what? Well…what do you think…book it down McFolly’s bush trail on our classic skis of course! We then explored the other side of the mountain by following the “Mysterious” snowshoe trails. Eventually we made it to the top of the mountain where a spectacular view over the Lake Superior shoreline lay before us. After enjoying the sights we carved some pow on our way back down to the meat wagon. Despite lacking the cross-country ski trails, the downhill runs and back-country trails made for a right nice change of pace from the typical training ski. You might say it was a choice sesh. Definitely a clutch decision on Timo’s part. To fill you in, the common phrases/words used on the trip include: clutch, right good, right nice, choice, and purchase.
After the choice ski we completed the drive to Duluth followed by a scenic tour of Duluth (we had limited directions to our rental house…the gas station employees were useless…and yeah…I’m not a World Champion navigator either). Eventually we did find our house; plus, now we knew where to find the grocery store! The house turned out to be very spacious and quaint. When describing it the word “whimsical” comes to mind.
Wednesday evening brought with it the Super Tour Skate Sprints held at Marshall High School. The set up was choice. I was thoroughly impressed. Despite being situated in town, the hilly terrain offers everything a ski course requires in only 2.5km of trails. The sprint course was designed very professionally and uses everything the landscape had to offer. It includes a large stadium, a sharp corner as well as a long gradual corner, a lengthy downhill and a monster climb. Nothing too technical, yet still fun to ski and very spectator oriented. To add to the already pimped out course, huge portable lights were strategically placed around the course to accommodate the late start.
I skied a wicked qualifier under the fading afternoon sunlight to put me 5th place in Open Men and 1st Under 23. It’s a good thing I skied well too because only the top 8 moved onto the heats. Thomsen D’Hont also moved on after qualifying 7th. With the sun set, Thomsen and I headed out into the freezing night air ready to do battle under the spot lights. I skied aggressively in my semi-final, but after getting boxed out numerous times and almost being forced into a gulley I crossed the line last in a tight finish. Thomsen was disqualified from his semi-final heat after finishing 2nd by an official who didn’t quite have a full understanding of FIS rules and regulations. So we ended up in the B-Final together and again my aggressive tactics were denied by defensive skiing on the American’s part. I managed to recover from being boxed out again to finish 2nd in the heat and 6th overall while Thomsen finished 8th overall. The heats were a bit frustrating because my strategy didn’t work well at all, but I had a great time and learned that patience can be a key component to winning a sprint. I also took home some cashola for finishing 6th and being the top U-23 athlete so that capped off the day pretty well.
The following day we had planned to drive to Cable, Wisconsin for more Super Tour races on the weekend. Well, we did end up getting there…at approximately 12:30am. We had a bit of late start due to our not so reliable van. Yes, the meat wagon died once again. After our late start, we skied at Snowflake Ski Club in Duluth and ate supper at the infamous Grandma’s restaurant before hitting the road to Cable. It was an epic day to say the least.
Saturday morning was a 10km Skate Individual Start Super Tour Race held at Telemark Resort (about 20 minutes from Cable). After a few rough nights sleep I didn’t have excessive amounts of energy, but I gave 100% and was able to have a decent race. I finished 11th in Open Men and was the top Junior Man only 4 seconds ahead of Banff Ski Runner’s Graeme Killick. Phil Wood finished 9th grabbing some top 10 cash and missing the U-23 top spot by only one second.
Sunday on the other hand was a rough day for our Canadian group. It was a 15km Classic Mass Start Super Tour Race with a huge field of almost 200 skiers. A combination of a few things led to one of my worst races ever. I tested out a new pair of poles which turned out to be too long, our team didn’t have good grip wax because the snow was different on the course than where we tested, and the bad sleeps over the past few nights caught up with me hard. Phil Wood actually changed his skis halfway through the race in an attempt to get better grip; unfortunately he was later disqualified as an official saw him change skis. By the end of the race I found myself contemplating whether I should give up or push through it. I’m proud to say I chose to push through it, but it sure wasn’t a pretty sight. Thomsen was the only one who managed to make something out of the race and finish well. It’s a tough experience to have, watching skiers you would normally beat by a lot blow by you. It was one of those days you analyze why you performed poorly, learn from it, and move on.
Next on the race schedule is the Eastern Canadian Championships. During the past week after the Super Tour races I did an easy week of training to allow my body to recover and get myself refocused on my goals. Hopefully I will be able to regain my form from the Ontario Cup races in Thunder Bay and pull off some groundbreaking results at Easterns.
Keep it classy,
Check out Thomsen and my B-Final heat from the sprints in Duluth via this link (I'm bib number 5 and Thomsen is 7):