Telemark, FIS Points and the Holy Grail: The Road to the 2007 World Championships!
By: Andrew Wynd (2007/02/14)
My cross country skiing dream has always been to represent Australia at the Olympic Games. After many years in this brutal sport I decided that perhaps the World Championships would also be a rewarding goal and somewhat more achievable. With this goal in mind I traveled to the US to race the Mid West NorAm Super Tour events over the past few weeks.
My mission: <140 FIS points!
This would give me a start in one event at the Nordic World Championships in Sapporo, Japan.
I briefly mentioned the races at Mt.Itasca, MN in a previous report and subtleties that go into a FIS penalty. For those of you who are not familiar with this system, it basically revolves around the top 5 finishers and how far you finish behind them in terms of percentages.
Mt.Itasca racing proved useful for boosting my confidence and giving me some good, solid hitouts, but now it was on to Telemark and nailing that qualification criteria.
I arrived in Telemark on the Monday and felt incredibly tired until the Wednesday. Lucky, as Wednesday was a freestyle sprint and I managed to come second last! Thank goodness a middle aged racer from nearby Hayward decided to test himself against some of the faster sprinters on the Super Tour! Despite coming second last, I “only” lost 19 seconds to Lars Flora over the 1.4km. By my calculations, that was what I needed to do for the entire 10km skate race to make the cutoff. Things were looking up...
10km Freestyle: Saturday 27th Jan.
The race organizers made the questionable decisions to really “challenge” the racers by sending us out onto the World Cup course, despite there being only 4 cms of snow, tree roots, rocks and other debris poking through everywhere.
Most racers used rock skis, but I knew Lars Flora would not be compromising, so I had to prepare my best cold snow skis. I tested my skis against two other pairs that morning and felt I had good boards. I was ready to go.
The race went smoothly on the first lap and I was skiing fast. The second five km loop proved more difficult, with barely any snow remaining on the steep uphills, causing me to almost trip on multiple occasions. I knew I had lost time on that lap, but wasn’t sure how much. I crossed the line exhausted, knowing I could not have gone any harder on that given day. Again, all could ask for. I nervously awaited the results...
Lars Flora had skied 21:34, I had skied 23:50. With fast times like that, I knew I had to be a little closer. After some quick calculations, I realized I had missed out on the points by 27 seconds. I could have made that up surely? If only someone had told me out on the course I surely could have gone faster? We often say this to ourselves after the initial pain and discomfort on the finish line fade into a distant memory. Who knows?
Working hard in the skate race.
15km Classic: Sunday 28th Jan.
It was now or never. 6 x 2.5kms. Lots of double poling, good grip on the two steep climbs. Three other Australians in the official cheer squad. Time to go hard.
The race plan was simple, go hard from the start, minimize the loss in the early laps and hope like hell I could hang on for the later laps.
I started hard….really hard. Out of the gate, up the first hill, double poling like crazy and already at anaerobic threshold just minutes into the 15km. I caught the person in front of me, then another, but they dropped me again on the first long downhill. I then realized I had slightly slower skis than average, but this was due to over-waxing with one wax too warm. Most other skiers were putting on Swix VR30, covered with VR40 for a little extra kick. I Had Vauhti Teho Green as a base and since my coldest wax with me was Vauhti Carrot, I used my other coldest wax, which was VR45. I knew this would be too grippy, but when you are traveling alone and without waxing support, you do what you can. I covered all of this with two layers of Vauhti Fluoro Green, which speed it up slightly.
Anyway, back to the race, and by now we were at the first major climb up the downhill run and I used my extra kick to catch back up to the two skiers in front. I felt fantastic striding up that steep hill, in the tracks the entire way.
Onto some more double poling and that was lap 1 done. Lap two I passed the other two skiers ahead of me, and worked on dropping them. By lap 3 they had caught up again with their faster skis and so I sat behind them on the double pole section, taking the opportunity to recover slightly. Lap 4 I dropped them again and put everything I had into it, but only succeeded in towing the other skiers around with me. Lap 5 is difficult to remember and lap 6 hurt... a lot! The final double pole section was horrible, I was barely able to get up and over my poles and I chose the nearest lane in the finish chute, despite it being the slowest one of all. I had eyes only for the line and was going to take the shortest route to it.
After finishing and wiping off the frozen drool from my chin, I looked for the nearest calculator. Ben Tuddenham of CPT Global (my major sponsor) had been timing the event and giving me splits on each lap. I knew I was in the ball park. We worked out quickly I was under 10%, in fact it turned out to be 8.5%. This was going to be close. A few quick entries into the FIS Calculating spreadsheet, courtesy of accounting girlfriend Vic, and we had it. 136.65 FIS Points! I could barely contain my excitement as we checked, double checked and triple checked everyone’s FIS points. I was going to Japan!
After 8 years of hard training, a narrow miss in qualifying for 2005 World Championships, I was finally going to Japan.
IN what turned out to be quite a twist to the story was the FIS penalty for the day. Marius Korthauer of the Alaska Nanooks team had just snuck into 5th place. I knew Marius from skiing with him the previous week and we had discussed the fact that we were lunging with our preferred front foot, that being our right. We had just realized a few days prior, that the timing chip was in fact on our left ankle and hence we were actually slowing ourselves down by lunging with our right foot first. We had both agreed we should start lunging with our left to make up a precious second or two. I had watched Marius finish the race before my start and had observed him lunging with his left foot.
As it turned out, Marius was 5th by one tenth of a second over 6th place, Eric Strabel, who had considerably lower FIS points and would have changed the race penalty significantly.
FIS points, what a frustrating system! After skiing as fast as you can, it comes down to another skier lunging with the correct foot!
I look forward to bringing you more reports from the 2007 World Championshipsin Sapporo, Japan and don’t forget to finish with your best foot forwards (or the one with the timing chip on it!)
Andrew looking good technically.
Andrew looking strong double poling.
Finnish of a successful classic race.
"That wasn't easy..."
...but it was good!
Andrew, glad the race is over! Now how close wer those points?
More photos from Andrew's SuperTour..