We’re Not In Kansas Anymore (Welcome to the World Cup)

Once again, the past couple weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of training, travel, and racing. The first part of my Swedish adventure has provided me with only a handful of decent photos unfortunately, but with countless new experiences and lessons. Like this disappointing one- every morning I woke up and went to the kitchen to see this box of oats that clearly said “Marvin Gaye” on it. When I get that feelin’… nope…

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The Uni Games crew met up with the rest of the ausxc contingency in Gronklitt, where we had a 10 day training camp. The skiing was absolutely spectacular- plenty of snow and about 80k of groomed trails to cruise.

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Last Thursday, about half of us headed to compete at the World Cup in Ostersund. On the way we stopped to get the ever famous gigantic chocolate balls; we figured they would keep us fueled throughout the weekend. Best decision I’ve made recently; Finn definitely regretted only getting a mini ball, which sadly only lasted him about ten minutes.

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It was about a five hour drive north, so we were surprised to find far less snow than in Gronklitt. In fact, there really wasn’t much at all. I guess most of what was on the trails was leftover from last year (they store it over the summer months) and almost exclusively man-made. All this wonky weather is certainly keeping wax techs on their toes (let’s count our blessings though, since who knows where our sport will be in twenty years…). If I hadn’t been so overwhelmed by my first world cup experience, perhaps I would have taken a photo of the crazy snow conditions (or lack thereof). Unfortunately I was so busy trying not to plant a pole between my legs in front of the big wigs that it never crossed my mind to do some documenting.

It was Xanthea and I’s World Cup debut, and it would be an underestimation to say we felt a “little” out of our element. We did a reasonable job keeping our cool until race-prep on Friday, which was potentially the most stressful two hours of my life (or at least the trip) so far. That is saying something since ten days prior I had been a part of a near-fatal incident on the escalator in which a woman toppled head-first, backwards, over me and my bags. Anyway, there are a lot of words I could use to describe the sprint course, but let’s just say it was different. So incredibly different than any course I’ve ever skied before, and it was pretty much my worst nightmare in a nutshell: two laps, two herring bone hills, and one sketchy downhill corner. All this through deep, sugary, snow. And the cherry on top- the circus of World Cup skiers previewing it ALL at the same time- since I wasn’t already intimidated enough! I felt like a total spud getting in everybody’s way, and by about the fifth time around the course I actually wanted to start crying. Our wax tech Matthias told me that if I looked anymore confused, someone was going to ask me if I needed help. I took that as my cue to take a few deep breaths, head to the distance course, and stride it out on some normal terrain.

Here is a vid that pretty much sums up the course:

Turns out Xan had a pretty similar experience- falling on the sketchy corner in front of some exceptionally speedy skiers. We got back to the hotel and drowned our sorrows in our chocolate balls. Funny thing is though- later that night we found out that pretty much no one was psyched about the course. It truly was unique- like nothing seen before on the world cup- and we were all on the same boat. A couple of inspirational speeches later from our awesome coaches and we were feeling (almost) okay about the next day.

In the end the classic sprint didn’t turn out to be half as bad as I had expected; I stayed on my feet and off the reverse podium. The best part was that it totally broke the ice for the next day. I was calm, collected, and actually excited to start the 10k skate. I was less intimidated and more focused on racing- doing what I was there to do. I saw my coach, Erik Flora, before the race and he said, “You know Jess, the best part of today is that it’s just another race”. He was totally right, it was just another race- World Cup or not- and all I had to do was go out and ski like I normally did.

After the race on Sunday we headed off to Falun for World Championships! My experiences this past weekend really helped prepare me in terms of what to expect and how things will be run. My first race is on Thurdsay- a classic sprint, and then I have another four races spread throughout the next ten days. Meanwhile stay tuned into Eurosport to watch these two rock our new headbands in the team sprint Sunday:

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Cause we all know the key to success is a great hair day!

-JJ