Ruka World Cups

Early last week, we made our way south from way, way up north in Muonio, Finland. How far up north? It’s pretty common to see reindeer on the roads, that’s how far:

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On our way, we had to stop again at the airport in Rovienemi to drop off our rental vans and get on the shuttle provided by the World Cup; it helps us save money. I noticed that they claimed to the official airport of Santa, but I think the residents of North Pole, Alaska and the Fairbanks airport might have something to say about that:

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When we did arrive, I was amazed at the bustling little resort clustered at the top of a massive hill. Walking to dinner:

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They use a different kind of ammunition to shoot their signs here:

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I am incredibly lucky, and grateful, to have Bryan Fish over here waxing my skis for me. He actually volunteered a week of his own vacation time to come over the week before the first races while we were in Muonio, to help wax and test my skis. I am always amazed at how much time, and skill, it takes to prepare an athletes skis at the World Cup level. When you’re dealing with this many different types of snow, every range of temperatures, so much travel, constant packing and unpacking, and the sheer number of skis… it would be absolutely impossible without someone who really knows what theyre doing. Also, a big, big thank you to the National Nordic Foundation for helping cover some of Fish’s expenses. The combination of these two awesome things is allowing me to have competitive skis here on the World Cup. Thanks Fish!!

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The waxing at this level always amazes me. The snow is often so weird, and so variable, that the intricacies of the wax application is so far beyond me… especially in kick wax. One tool that our US techs use to try and help them is this sweet, high precision device that measures camber height along the length of the ski under a given load:

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The stadium fanfare starts to take shape against the snowy forest:

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Its dark for a majority of the day here…

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Although when a snowcloud engulfs the resort, the lights from the jumps and the alpine hill keep it bright as day, even late at night:

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Being the opening weekend, the media was going nuts here. I thought this mobile production studio, with this sick pop-out glass area for the talkshow hosts to sit in, was pretty slick:

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And the jumps are a constant presence, looming over it all:

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It is exciting to have four Alaska Pacific University team-mates here at the World Cup. I am honored to join Erik, Sadie, and Kikkan here, and to hopefully learn from their success:

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My first race of the year, and also the first World Cup, was a classic sprint. It was a really hard course, with one pretty solid climb and then one climb that was probably one of the biggest, at least the steepest, I have ever seen in a sprint. I was really excited for it, as it played to my strengths. I did everything as I have in the past, at all my good races. I was feeling ready.

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I had an ok qualifier. I ended up 67th, six seconds from making the top 30 and moving onto the rounds. I skied the course well, but unfortunately I just didn’t quite feel like I was firing on all cylinders. However, there were some Americans doing really well. Ida Sargent had an awesome day, going all the way to the A final and finishing an absolutely incredible 5th!! Simi and Andy both made the heats and skied well in their quarterfinals, but weren’t able to move on.

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Heres Andy following Alex Harvey into the final 100m:

photo - Toko

photo – Toko

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The next day was a 15k classic mass start. The over-riding theme of this race was figuring out the pacing. Each 5k lap incuded three massive climbs, all of them so steep that staying in the tracks was nearly impossible. When you tried to ski up them, you were just holding on for dear life with every kick, trying not to slip and start sliding backwards. Crampons might have been handy…

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In the start pen:

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On live Eurosport television all over Europe:

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This race was again, just kind of barely okay. I skied decently well for the first lap, but just could never really turn it up. I also crashed on the last lap on the exact same spot where Noah Hoffman broke his fibula in a big wreck. I think these two races actually went well for me, considering it was the first time I had worn a bib in a long time, and they were actually on par, if not better than, how I started off last season.

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FIS is going to be making some sweet, behind the scenes videos this season. This is their first one. I am really impressed; I have always thought that the sport of cross country skiing is really poorly portrayed in videos, and that there is so much more potential to show how intense it really is. THIS VIDEO HAS SOME SICK SHOTS, INCLUDING DRONE FOOTAGE!!! This is a strong start. It really gives a good feel for what the World Cup scene in Ruka looks like. I am stoked to be featured in this video, 2:36 into it:

I tried to embed this video, but it wouldnt let me. CLICK HERE to watch it on the FIS YouTube channel.

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Lifting the night after the race. The weight room didn’t have a weight belt, so I had to make one by using a tricep rope attachment and a rubber jumprope:

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Andy Newell has celebrated a lot of birthdays here in Ruka/Kuusamo over the years. This year was no different; we found an awesome little spot for a dinner party:

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From Ruka, I rode on organization transport for a couple hours to the city of Oulu, and then flew from there to Stockholm, and then to Oslo… as we were coming in, we flew through a couple cool, very separate layers of clouds:

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From Oslo I drove a couple hours to Lillehammer. We are looking forward to the three-race mini tour here this weekend!

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As always, thanks for reading!!

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