Autralian National Championships - 15km Freestyle
The last two weekends have seen some close and exciting racing on the Australian XC Race circuit. The previous weekend saw the Australian Sprint Championships on the Saturday, with Sunday being the 15km Championships, both events being held in freestyle technique.
Personally I decided to sit the sprints out and ski the race course for the following day and those of you who have seen me sprint will quite easily understand my reasons for this! The sprints were held in perfect conditions at Perisher Valley ski trails, in the state of New South Wales. This means an eight hour car trip for me living in Melbourne, so it is quite an adventure in itself crossing some of Australia's highest mountains.
The results were as expected with our sprint hero Paul Murray (previous 100m world record holder) comfortably taking out the qualifying and then progressing through to win the A final by over 100m. As a spectator I was able to capture a few pics of the perfect skiing conditions.
The following day was most important for myself, as I had no Australian Team qualifying points under my belt, so needed a strong race. The course was 3 laps of an undulating 5km loop, made harder by the altitude (about 1750m). I started fast, but slowed a little on the second lap, knowing I needed a strong finish and while I spent most of the race in 3rd place, I soon dropped to 6th overall as some of the faster skiers started behind me. Nearing the last climb, our National Team coach Finn Marsland gave me some good news that I was well under the qualifying standard of being less than 10% behind the leading male and with this news, I worked the final downhill to finish in 6th place overall and skied 7.5%. This is one race towards re-qualifying for the Australian Team, so I was relieved more than anything and can now concentrate on the coming races that will determine the final Australian team. (sorry no photos, I was racing!)
Bullfight Charge - Sunday 14th August, Lake Mountain Alpine Resort.
Last Sunday our resort sponsored team, aptly named Team Lake Mountain, travelled to our home resort, just 1.5 hrs northeast of Melbourne. We have had bumper snowfalls here in the last week with snow down to 300m elevation, causing quite a stir among the communities on the outskirts of the city who had either never seen snow or certainly not in the last 50 years!
With this news, the resort was always going to be busy as snow-keen tourists head to the closest snow to make snowmen, ride toboggans and even cross country ski. This day is for the racers however, and the trails become quite a minefield as competitors have to duck and weave their way around other first time skiers and plenty of trees on the 8km race course that is very rolling and has plenty of blind corners. With many of the National team at other events, I was confident of doing well in this race.
From the starter's gun, myself, Tim Retchford and Andrew Mock (other Team Lake Mountain skiers) pulled away from the rest of the field and then settled the pace to enjoy a leisurely cruise around the first 4kms. From there I decided to spice things up a little and made a move to take the lead. It was important to drop my team mates any way I could as they are both strong sprinters, so I put everything into the uphills in an effort to put valuable snow between myself and them. Retchford soon suffered from the increased pace and slowed, leaving Mock and myself to fight it out. As I approached the final corner I made the error of starting wide to take a better line into it and Mock took the lead back again, forcing me wide. Knowing I had faster skis, I worked as hard as possible to gain momentum into the downhill finish and we entered the finish chute side by side. We both lunged at the same time for the line and Mock, with his 10cm taller stature, put his binding in front by about the same amount, just 10cm separating us both!
All in all, a good day of racing and a workout that hopefully gives me some speed going into next weeks' crucial selection races.
More racing action from Australia in the coming weeks with just 2 weeks to go until the Kangaroo Hoppet 42 km marathon, part of the World Loppet series.