Thursday, 28 February 2013

World Champs

This world champs has been so far (with one race remaining) a success for the British team.  We maybe haven't had the individual success as we have had at previous championships or big competitions. But as a team we have improved and put our own individual stamp on the Championships. I have skied fairly well, but i'd like to talk/write about the team as a whole and why we are doing well. 
Firstly these championships are there first ones we have a had a serious number of support staff and they all play an important rule. In total at our teams biggest point, in terms of size, we had 8 support staff and 7 athletes. More than 1 to 1, although one of the support staff has become ill and unable to do anything. So lets say 1 to 1. 
I no particular order we have: 

Bengt Hjort - He is our Swedish waxer. He has worked with the team at important races and major championships (including the olympics) since November 2009. He has previously worked with the Swedish team in the early 2000's and loves ski waxing. He fits in well with the team and understands our objectives as an up and coming ski nation. 

Thomas Ramstedt - Our Finish waxer (that speaks Swedish). Having previously competed at Finnish B team level, and only stopped competing in 2010, he carries a lot of experience to the team. He is not only a waxer as he provides much more to the team from his knowledge of the sport. He is also a masseuse… good skis and good legs. 

Roy Young - He is the national team head coach. Here his job consists mainly of logistics. Making sure the team have the best possible environment in which they can perform. He is also the top of the line. At the end of the day he is in charge and if an important decision has to be made, wether it be waxing, travel or anything else his say goes.

Kåre Tønner - Kåre is the head coach for Team Veidekke, the private norwegian team that muzzy skis for. Through a bizarre turn of events Kåre ended up here, having been in Davos with us the week before world champs. Kåre generally hangs around and adds to all areas of support.  He is as wizard with the timing splits and has been to enough ski races to help out the waxers, help test skis and give feedback on technique. He is also good at fine tuning anything, whether it be moving the binding on your skis forward or back 0.5cm or how many drinks to have in a 30k.

Ben Musgrave - Andrew's older brother Ben has helped out with coaching at camps when we were younger and quite a few ski races throughout the years. Here his jobs mainly consisted of wax testing, split giving and drinks stations as well as a bit of driving. 

Kevin - Kevin works for sport scotland and has been a coach in other elite sports. Here is job is mainly to drive the minibus as the organisers have given us a minibus for the week instead of running a shuttle bus from the hotel to the stadium. His other duties including shopping and drink stations in the longer races. It sounds silly but something as small as a  30min shopping trip takes a lot of stress off a tight schedule for athletes and coaches. As Kevin has worked with other sports at an elite level he is also good at observing, and providing feedback in areas we may otherwise have missed.

Ewan - pronounced Eyvan by our scandinavian team members. Ewan is here to film.  Sounds silly, but his job is to stand out in the snow and film the races. From the this we get technical feedback from the the coaches, and it will be part of a longer term project that will carry on over the summer. If we find out our technical problems now when we are racing, we can address them over the end of the season and into next season, so we are improving.
And George unfortunately became ill and was stuck in bed! 

And we are a small team.  The Russians reportedly have 38 waxers, the Norwegians will be somewhere in the teens when it comes to waxers alone, this isn't counting physios, doctors and coaches. I can honestly say that we needed this many people, and without Kåre's last minute decision to join us we would have been under staffed.  All of our support staff are working flat out on race days, and regularly go to bed before the athletes because they are so tired. They take care of everything, from getting us an early lunch to having our skis waiting for us at the start area.  This means that us as athletes have one job and one job only - ski fast. 
As a team we have out performed all expectations. Nearly everybody in every race (so far, touch wood)  has skied above or at the position they were ranked. 

The next, and final race for us is the Mens 50k classic mass start. None of the team are starting the Women's 30k. Only myself and Andrew are going to start on Sunday, and for me it will be my first 50k. But for now we have a few days to relax, recover and reflect on the previous races as well as looking forward and preparing for the final race. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

U23 World Champs

So After the Tour De Ski i had a few weeks at home training.  It was a good few weeks although the temperature was cold and made training a bit of a pain. It was too cold to train down in Lillehammer so i had to travel up to sjusjøen quite often.
I also got my Russian Visa sorted for coming to Sochi for the world cup on next years Olympic trails.
After training and preparing for the U23 world champs i flew to the Czech Republic two days before my first competition there. This year was my first year in the U23 category, so i was a bit unsure what to expect. At this level there are a lot of top world cup skiers that can turn up, such as Belov and Ustigov from Russia, both of whom have top 10's from world cup level racing.
The first race, a classic sprint, went well.  I qualified in 29th, although originally 30th i was promoted as a russian was disqualified for skating. A fine line everybody pushes in classic sprinting.  To quote a Norwegian Sprinter "classic sprinting is skating as much as possible, without getting caught".  The course in Liberec was however a "kicking" course. Meaning we had to go with kick wax. We couldnt just use skate skis and double pole, as is so often the case now with classic sprints.
My quarter final was the quickest quarter final. I didnt start well but the long course brought be back into contention on the final climb.  I got blocked and ended up settling for 5th and 25th overall.
The day after was a day off from racing as the juniors raced.  I had a short ski and tested skate skis for the following days 15k skate time trial.  In the evening we played laser tag with some American and Swiss skiers.  The swiss guy that one later admitted he took off his vest, hid it behind a wall and the shot people.  I came almost last!!
Fortunately i'm a little better at skiing than i am at laser tag.  The next day i posted another solid race to finish 26th in the 15k time trial.
Another day off, with another short ski session and ski testing followed.  The final day of the competition was quite hectic. With four guys racing for GBR in the 30k skiathlon it required lots of ski testing and preparing for our small service team. The service team then had to double as coaches on the course giving out drinks.
The pack skied to together the first 10k or so, and i stuck well in the middle of the pack.  This was good and bad. Good that i was well placed and relaxed, bad because we came through the drinks stations so fast that our team couldn't see us hidden by other skiers.  I missed a couple of early on drinks, and then i got a frozen drink like slush puppy.
Just after 10k the Russians attacked and field split apart.  I was left in a small chase group coming into the ski exchange.  I switched over to skate skis and suddenly i was on my own. I skied on my own hunting down a small group in front of me for the next 10k.  But in the last 5k of the race i was tired and a group behind me caught and passed me.  I ended up 23rd, another solid result.
That evening we flew to Zurich to get the flight to sochi the next day. We got to sochi late after a long and tedious travel.  I lost my bag and so couldnt ski the first day, then i got ill the  second day.  I was getting better and got well enough to ski for an hour yesterday, so at least i have tried the olympic trails! But today i was worse again so there is no chance of me racing here in sochi this weekend.  It's a shame but it happens.
My next race should be the Swiss national champs next weekend, assuming we get our stuff back off the flight and assuming im healthy again.
After the Swiss champs i should compete at the Davos world cup right before the world champs in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Hopefully everything will go to plan.