Europa Cup #1

After US Nationals in Houghton, I headed back to Alaska for a couple weeks to regroup and get in some training for the biggest trip of my racing season. The skiing in Fairbanks was impeccable, and it was a great place to train.

I also happened to be in town for the Besh Cups, and hosted an open house night at Trax Outdoor Center. We had an awesome turnout, and it was really cool to hang out with so many of the young Alaskan skiers, to share my stories of racing on the World Cup with them and get them stoked on their own skiing.

TRAX Night _ Reese Hanneman _ Besh Cup CCAK

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I got to sign and hand out a lot of my new Allergy, Asthma and Immunology of Alaska posters:

AAICA Reese poster_Final

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My goal of these two weeks in Alaska was to recover from Nationals, and to prep myself for a huge block of travel and racing. The plan was to travel to Vermont for two weeks of a Supertour racing, and then head to Europe to join up with the US Ski Team’s trip on the Europa Cup circuit for five weeks, before stopping in Sun Valley for Supertour Finals and Spring Nationals.

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Craftsbury was an interesting string of races. I went there with the goal of turning my confidence levels around, and to win some races. Racing the World Cup all fall only served to beat me down mentally, and then I didn’t ski well enough at Nationals to reverse that much. I ended up with some decent results, with a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. The skate sprint was the first race of the year where I felt like it was back on my game; I attacked hard and furiously in the A final, but Kris Freeman was somehow able to follow me away from the rest of the pack and nip me at the line. He was skiing incredibly well there and was so strong, which was impressive to see; but it’s hard to know you’re still not quite performing at your best.

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Following Kris Freeman in the 30k classic, on my way to 3rd place behind him and Eric Packer:

John Lazenby photo - Craftsbury 30k Mass Cl

photo – xmatic

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Skate Sprint Qualifier:

Reese Hanneman Craftsbury Sprint 2015 XMATIC

photo – xmatic

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On the podium in 2nd place in the Skate Sprint:

APUNSC Craftsbury 2.6.15 Podium Mens

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From Vermont, I flew to Munich, via an unplanned overnight in London, and picked up the rental van that would be used by the US crew for the next 5 weeks. My APU teammates and I loaded up and drove to Livigno, Italy, a place we picked for our prep week because if it’s relatively low cost and access to skiing.

I had never been to Livigno before, but it turned out to be more than I was expecting. We were primarily there to get in some altitude training and adjust to the Euro time zone before our first races.

Walking from our hostel to the ski trails for training:

RH Insta 1

Instagram: @reesehanneman

 

The skiing in Livigno was amazing, with a good variety of easy touring trails and brutally hard race courses for us to get in lots of kilometers and intervals on. My bud Eric Packer put together this little video with some really sweet high speed shots, that show the area well:

From there, it was a 5hr-turned-8hr drive to Campra, Switzerland when the pass we tried to go through was closed due to avalanches, forcing a long reroute. In a humorous twist, the race venue ended up being just on the other side of the closed portion of the pass. So we drove 150 miles to get three miles further up the road.

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In Campra, I raced a skate sprint and a classic 15k. The field at these EurOPA Cup races is really intense, with many of the top guys being pretty legit World Cup racers. In the sprint I was really happy to qualify in 17th place, only a few seconds behind some guys who have been top 12 on the World Cup this year. I finished 19th and top American after leading my heat for a while and narrowly missing out in the final drag race. The 15k was one of the more bizarre races Ive done in a while; it snowed so much overnight and that morning that there were hardly any tracks, and it was just incredibly soft and every hill was a pile of herring-boned mush. I didn’t have a great race, but I fought through the weirdness and had a decent result.

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Next, it was on to Rogla, Slovenia. The ski venue there is way up on top of this wooded mountain, a few thousand feet above anything around it. This makes for some diverse weather; down in the town of Zrece where we stayed, it was warm and springy, while the ski area was absolutely buried with snow.

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Exploring some ancient castle ruins, high above the towns that have dotted these valleys for thousands and thousands of years… doing my best Usain Bolt pose:

Instagram:   @reesehanneman

Instagram: @reesehanneman

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Lex providing us with some foreboding harmonica music, adding to our imagination of battles waging and injured soldiers:

Engine Room-3933

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And then twenty minutes later, up at the ski trails:

photo (1)

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First race was a skate sprint. I had another pretty good qualifier, in 12th, which was a good sign for my speed. My quarterfinal was the single most physically aggressive heat I have ever been in. I have never been pushed, shoved, and stepped on that much in a race. I had a fast start, getting out and slotting into 2nd place, only to have someone to the side of me who also wanted to be 2nd skate right on top of my skis, causing both of us to get tangled and contort into ridiculous poses in order to save a crash. Now I was last, and hammered the next flat section and gradual uphill, passing half the guys and getting into third, only to have my poles stepped on and be pushed way outside on a hairpin corner, putting me last again. Anyways, this continued on for the whole course. On the final hill, I tried multiple  avenues to make passes through the pack, but got so shut down on every one, coming to a stop on the last one as the Italian an Austrian guys shoved each other into my way. As I finally crested the hill, I open up to max throttle and was able to surge from 6th to almost 2nd, coming within a boot length of advancing.

Coming into the final climb, I was in 6th, looking for somewhere, anywhere, to make a pass:

photo - Sabina Gostinčar

photo – Sabina Gostinčar

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And then stuck in traffic on the final climb, in last:

photo - Erika Flowers

photo – Erika Flowers

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And then turning on the jets to pass most of the guys, and coming within a boot of that German guy:

photo - Erika Flowers

photo – Erika Flowers

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The 30k classic featured some really variable snow conditions and it got quite a bit warmer from the start to the finish, which made for some almost impossible waxing. Our techs did a really good job considering the condtions, but my skis were quite slick and so I ended up double poling a lot of it. I was happy to finish 20th place.

photo - Sabina Gostinčar

photo – Sabina Gostinčar

photo - Caitlin Patterson

photo – Caitlin Patterson

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On Monday, we packed all up again and drove to Austria, and the famed xc ski valley of Ramsau Dachstein. It is just up from Schladming, which is home of the famous Nigh Slalom World Cup, where Austrians by the tens of thousands riot when their countrymen and women don’t win. We have been here training for four days…

While here, I have been given the opportunity to guest host the National Nordic Foundation’s Instagram account, trying to add my own flavor through photos that I post… Heres one of my favs so far… I got this of my team mate Scott Patterson training here in Ramsau:

Instagram:   @gonnf

Instagram: @gonnf

To see more of the pics, check it out HERE. Give em a follow for more!

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One thing that Ive been spending a good deal of time on is the Europa Cup Challenge, an athlete led fundraising effort put together by my APU teammates and I. We qualified 11 APU athletes to be a part of this US Ski Team Europa Cup trip, and so decided to band together with a unified effort to try and offset some of the costs that we each have to pay. This Europa Cup trip is one of the steps on the path to being internationally competitive at the Olympic and World Cup level; as Im sure many of you have seen, it takes quite a bit of racing in Europe before you can make the jump from top US skier to being a contender on the World Cup. That’s the role of this racing circuit.

We want you to know that YOU are an important part of the system. There are coaches who put in incredible long, dedicated hours and are away from their families to guide the athletes. There are the wax techs, who travel all winter and stay up all night and get up at insane hours to prep our skis. There are us athletes, who push our bodies into exhaustion through an endless string of hard workouts every day, all summer and fall and winter… and then THERE’S YOU!!! You, who bring passion and excitement and support to it all; you motivate us to want to do well, and get us to where we need to go.

 

 

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If you enjoy seeing young Alaskans, and Americans, challenge convention and dare to put in the work to be the best they can be… I urge you to consider pitching in and being a part of our team. Weve got some pretty cool stuff going on, as well as more details about the racing and the financial aspect… SEE OUR SITE HERE!!

Thanks so much!!

We have one race in Austria this weekend, and then head to France for the big final three-race weekend of the EurOPA Cup Finals. This is going to be one of the most intense weekends of racing of my whole season, as the field will be stacked with many of the best guys in Europe, plus our strong Team USA contingent.

After that, I will pack everything up and fly not home, but to Sun Valley, Idaho for Spring Nationals and SuperTour Finals. Im probably going to be really enhausted at that point, so I hope I can find some more spark for those final races.

Thanks for reading!!