Saturday, February 28, 2015

World Champs Womens 30 km

 Today was the womens 30 km classic in Falun. We hiked up and out to a place where we coul;d see them twice on a big uphill during each 10 km lap. The bonus was that we could also see a screen which gave us viewing for the pretty much the whole race. Above, you can see the crowd where we were..up in the woods at the 3 and 8 km mark of each 10 km. This picture was taken about 1 hour before the race and the crowd was already lined up pretty deep.
 Here is a picture looking down from our spot onto the top of the sprint course and then down into the stadium. The people camped out around the Swedish flag were nowhere near the course, but they were soaking up the atmosphere.
 The 10 km loop was actually two 5 km loops and each lapped through the stadium and up the hill by us.
 Above, Rosie (in the green headband) and Sadie hover around 12th-13th at 8 kms....
 ..with Liz close behind.
 Many mass start races turn into cat and mouse tactical games. Not this one, Therese took off at 7 km and never looked back, extending her lead to 1 minute by 15 km. Above, the "chase" pack at 13 km...2 Finns, 2 Swedes, 2 Norwegians....
 ..and Liz leading the second chase group (but slipping in this picture)....
 ..now with Rosie and Sadie close behind.
 Here is Sadie at 23 km, holding tough in the top 20.
 By the final lap, Marit pulled away into second and then Charlotte Kalla pulled into a lone 3rd, but the action was packed behind them. Liz skied a really gutsy race finishing in 11th. Rosie and Sadie ended 16th and 20th. This was really good. Norway is clearly the top country (they went 1,2 and had 4 in the top 10). Sweden was host country and the second best for women during the week. Finalnd is especially strong in classic and was 3rd best for women. Then...we were probably the best of the rest with some strong and consistent results.
Our girls are close enough to take advantage of a good situation (great wax, better race conditions) and kick butt. We are certainly progressing well, but we still have a ways to go. Everyone should be proud of the gains that we have made over the past 6-8 years. I think it is a combination of strong leadership from the USST coaches, strong clubs and stronger doping control.
Back to the crowd....here some of them are heading home after a fun day.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mens Relay and Faces In The Crowd

 The races at World Champs do not start until the afternoon so it leaves the morning for skiing and/or sightseeing. This morning we drove down to a neat little town with an old church.
 Chapel ceiling :).
 Today was the mens relay. We did not arrive until 1 hour before the race and the stadium was stuffed to the gills. We managed to find a spot where we could see the stadium and the a jumbo tron so we saw all of the action, but we were not right on the trail.
 The mens start. It was a great race with many lead changes and close finishes. By the time the last lap started, it was down to France, sweden and Norway fighting for the medals, with Russia 35 seconds back in 4th. The French had a young skiers racing anchor, while the Swedes and Norway had their studs. It was really fun watching the Swedes and Norway play cat and mouse while the French skier just went hard, hoping to stay ahead of Russia and secure a medal. Nortug (Norway) never leads until the final 200 meters. This makes everyone else mad, but the tactic works and he wins most of the races. At one point (on the 3rd of 4 laps) the Swede slowed to a crawl in order to get Nortug to lead, but he refused to do it and the French skier skied to an 8 second lead. We were wondering who would be the first to blink. Nortug blinked, but barely, he put on a 1 minute pick up and caught right back up, then dropped to third again. But..in his usual fashion, he had enough to hammer at the end for the win with Sweden close behind and France holding on for third.
The US men all skied well. At this point we are just not as good as the top teams. However, our team skied well and finished 11th, not far from 6th place. Above, Simi and Lenny duke it out on the anchor leg.
 Since we were not right by the tracks, I didn't get many ski pictures. Instead I took some pics of the faces in the crowd...enjoy :).

 Thomas Wassberg gets interviewed on the "tron". thomas is a friend who brought over a group of Swedes to visit us and race at JN's several years ago. He is also a skiing legend.



 Therese fan club. It seems as if hald of Norway is here!



 They train them young :).

 Not too hard to guess who these guys are cheering for.

Dario fan club, up from Switzerland.

If you have been following the blog, you know how big the crowds are. 35-55,000 people per day. The whole course is lined 2-5 people deep and the stands are full. If you want to be "on the fence" next to the tracks, you need to arrive 3-4 hours before the race. They start the pre race entertainment on the jumbo trons about 3 hours before the race to keep the spectators happy.

Just before the start of each race, they play a pump up song (Life is life) and everyone sings along. My gosh, even I would ski fast under those circumstance!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

WC's Womens relay

 More great racing in Falun today with the womens relay. As the crowd gathered 2-3 hours before the race, the jumbo trons entertained everyone and showed the USST video :).
 Above, Caitlin Gregg and her husband Brian zip over the hill in the stadium during warm up.
 Most wax techs and athletes tested their skis coming down into the stadium.
 Therese tested her kick right next to us. She didn't come over for advice, but she could have :).
 Liz and Matt during warm up.
 Jessie and Jason.
 The skiers parade to the start...
 ...and away they go.
 Each skier did two 2.5 km laps and the whole race was on the jumbo trons so it was great spectating. Above, Finland leads Norway into the first exchange.
 Sadie had an awesome first lap, then crashed and hammered to catch up. She couldn't quite catch up to the leaders, but she still came in strong in 7th place.
 Rosie skied a gutsy race and moved the team up to 6th. It is really cool to see someone coming off of our US race series and do so well.
 Liz put her sprint on and flew around the course, moving the team to 5th.
 Jessie, Poland and Germany fighting for 4,5,6 as they lap. Jessie caught Poland and held both teams off during the second lap to bring the team home in 4th. This was a great result for us. The top three teams were quite a bit in front and it was great to beat the best of the rest. All four of our girls skied great!
Norway pulled away from Sweden and Finland during the third leg and the 4th leg was a game of cat and mouse. Stina N (Sweden) had placed 2nd in the skate sprint so she was happy to sit on Krista L (Finland) until she got to us on the final lap. This is where she hammered by and she held on for the silver medal.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Holy Silver, Bronze!

 The US had an amazing day at the World Championships today with Jessie D and Caitlin G placing 2nd, 3rd with Liz S 10th and Kikkan 15th!
A second World Championships medal for Jessie puts her right up there and makes us Stratton skiers as proud and happy as one can be :)
Above, Kikkan starts out with her picture on the big "tron" above.
 Above, Caitlin comes through the stadium at 5 km.
 Sweden meets Norway.
 Liz charges through at 5 km.
 Jessie hits the last hill.
 About this time, we figured it was going to be a really good day. The race had started with wet corn conditions and a little spitting snow, but it started snowing in earnest about 1/2 way through. The conditions were getting slower and the US girls were flying; beating everyone in front of them and around them.
 Charlotte Kalla would have won today no matter where she started..she was flying. Liz had an outstanding race to finish in the top 10 with bib 53 (here she is nearing the finish).
 ...but the day belonged to Jessie and Caitlin. They were given an opportunity and they grabbed it. They whipped up on everyone around them and held on for medals. Really cool to see two US flags being raised at the nordic World Championships!
Pure joy for these three!