OPA Cup Finals Recap

Wow-wow-wow, and just like that my first international trip has come to an end! 12 days packed with new experiences, good times, and Spring racing! Coming into this trip there was really only one main objective; gain experience/ “collect data” about international travel, international racing, and how the two affect each other. After the RMISA races, I was stoked for this last 3 week block of racing because I felt that I had taken a step forward during my training block and just needed to sharpen up a little to be at my best. Then I got hit with a stomach bug shortly after the RMISA races, which, while it was short and violent, undoubtedly took a lot out of me. All that to say, of course I wanted to race at my best, but there were so many variables at play, that despite being in nearly peak form a couple weeks ago, I had no idea how things would pan out in Europe. Here’s the outline of my trip. I landed on a Wednesday morning in Munich, Germany. We then drove 4 hrs to Toblach, Italy, where we stayed for 2 nights before making a 2hr trip to Falcade, Italy on Friday morning. The next day we raced a 10km cl individual, and a 15km skate pursuit on Sunday. Following the race, we headed back to Toblach where we stayed for the remainder of our trip. Our third and final hotel, in Toblach, was great because it was only a short walk to the race stadium/venue. The OPA cup finals started with a skate sprint on Friday, 10km skate individual start on Saturday and a 15km classic pursuit on Sunday. Then again, we packed up straight after the race on Sunday, drove to Munich where we spent the night before flying back to the states on Monday morning. The first two races were really just to help everybody shake out some cobwebs after international travel, while the main event was the OPA Cup Finals the following weekend. OPA Cup is essentially a B level World Cup, so arguably the second highest level race circuit in the world. Many of the top guys here have been in the top 15 in the World Cup this season. With that said, here’s how the races went…


10k classic ind-Falcade, FIS Italian Cup Race

Talk about some crazy conditions. This venue had some of the only snow left in the valley and it was melted all the way down to the dirty icy base. A total 180 degree contrast from the conditions I last skied in AK. The tracks were straight ice, and the conditions were really fast. The winner’s time was 19:33 which is absurd for 10km. My time was 21:21 which is the fastest 10k I’ve ever done. It was a 3 lap course, and a good course with solid climbs, some interesting corners, and ripping descents. I felt good on the first lap, took it out super controlled, and a couple km’s in thought, “Man this is going to be the easiest race of my life because the speed is so high you just fly around the course.” Then on lap 2 I felt the exact opposite. I was going absolutely full gas, yet going nowhere. It was like having a bad dream and you just can’t run any faster, but don’t know why. So that’s how it ended. 1 lap feeling like a hero, 2 laps feeling like garbage. Although I couldn’t go full gas the entire race it was good to see my body’s response after being sick meaning I could go full gas, just not for three laps.


15km skate pursuit-Falcade, FIS Italian Cup Race

Well, I thought that after yesterday, I’d gotten the tough day out of my system. Oh how I was wrong. Long story short, I ended up calling it quits about half way through the race. My legs were shot & absolutely empty, and no matter how much I willed them on there was simply no power in them. So I just asked myself, if I continue, am I doing more harm than good? The answer was yes. Rather than pushing on, too prideful to call it and put myself in a hole, I pulled out. I hate doing that, but it was the wisest thing to do, and I don’t regret it.


Skate sprint- Toblach, OPA Finals

After having the worst race of the season, and being the top contender for the worst race of my life, I took it very easy and ate a lot! To add to the ongoing list of unknown variables, I had no idea how things would go this weekend. Racing here in Toblach at a World Cup venue was super cool. In the end it was a short day for me, as I didn’t qualify for heats. The course was ripping fast, took about 2.5 minutes to complete, and only had 1 major climb. A pure sprinter’s delight. I was happy with how I skied the course, and that the body responded so much better. I lacked a bit of high-octane-umph that was needed for this race and these conditions, but was happy with the improvement from last Sunday’s challenge.


10km skate ind-Toblach, OPA Finals

After the short, but promising day yesterday, I was excited for a proper go today. The start list was based on how we did in the sprint, so I started over 20 minutes after the first starter. The firm & fast conditions started off similar to yesterday morning. However, with temps eventually climbing to 60(!!) degrees later in the afternoon, they were bound to deteriorate. Luckily for me I started right behind a fellow American, which gave me a good carrot to chase. After the RMISA 10k skate race, when I went out guns blazing (and faded), being sick, being at 4,000 feet, and last weekend’s results, I took things out super relaxed and controlled. By the second lap, conditions had gotten noticeably slower. By 7km on I could feel the effort in my stomach and was glad that there weren’t any major climbs left on course. I still felt like I was missing an upper end gear, but was pleasantly surprised with my result and how my body performed, given how poorly I felt the weekend prior.


15km classic pursuit-Toblach, OPA Finals

With the seemingly positive trend, I was hoping to keep things rolling and have an even better day today. It was a 3 lap course, and once again the conditions were quite variable. Having spent most of my life in CO and now AK, these types of ultra spring racing conditions are not something I am used to, so it was great to work on this throughout this week. On the first lap, I had decent kick wax, but not enough to stay with the small group over the main climb, so it took me another 3k to close the gap. Unfortunately on lap 2 up the main climb, I lost contact again. For the remainder of lap 2 I skied with 2 guys that had much better kick than I did. I decided to tuck in behind them to conserve my energy, so I didn’t hit the main climb already in the red zone on the third lap. This worked, I was able to stay in touch, and then it was a small bunch gallop to the finish line. Again, consistent with the theme of the races this weekend, I was happy with my efforts considering the past few weeks, but knew that I was a bit off my best.

Overall, I learned a ton. I gained valuable experience with long overseas travels, what it’s like staying in another country, skiing in conditions I’m not used to, and got to see, first hand, the level of skiing over in Europe. Now I’m in Craftsbury Vermont for the Spring Series/ Distance Nationals/ Super Tour Finals where I will race my last race of this season, a 40km classic mass start which will take place on 3/26. You can find results for that race here: ,Supertour Finals | Bullitt Timing

Until next time, Ciao!

Garrett Butts