This last week in Lillehammer was just as up and down as the hilly Birkebeiner race course. I wrapped up the weekend with some good steps in the competition and a personal best World Cup finish of 35th on Sunday.
We arrived to Lillehammer Monday night, with a few days to relax, train and get ready for the weekend. We had two jump sessions on the hill during the week, which is as much as you can ever hope for between competitions. Honestly, I only had a few jumps that were up to the level that I was shooting for, so I had some work to do going into the competition.
Lillehammer only has a few inches of natural snow on the ground, so rather than skiing loops around the race course, we drove up to ski at Sjusjøen, a nearby nordic center, on Tuesday. Less than 20km of driving and suddenly we where in a winter wonderland. I roller skied at Sjusjøen 5 years ago when I first went to Lillehammer, but it is really spectacular in the winter. You could ski in the trees and fog for hours and hours if you wanted... or were lost. We stuck to a safe out-and-back to avoid spending the entire afternoon skiing.
We stayed at a massive Radisson with a large contingence of the cross-country teams. This is was last weekend that we'll be with XC until Falun, and I think I'll miss being in the same place as them. Leaving Norway, I'm also going to miss brown cheese sandwiches and having salmon at least everyday. They definitely took care of us well at that hotel. I'm sure it helped that the Norwegian cross-country team was staying there.
Friday was the usual official training and provisional/qualification, but not the usual schedule. Instead, we started the day with XC training in the morning, right before the women's and men's skate sprint races. It got pretty hectic testing on the one hill out of the stadium. I tried to capture it in the picture below, although the crowd had died down considerably before I snapped this picture. With speakers blasting music and a couple hundred skiers and techs around me, it was a pretty fun atmosphere - at least as much fun as I've ever had testing skis.
We had our official training jumps right after XC training. I put down a pretty good second jump, and was pumped going into the provisional round. But first we had some waiting to do: our provisional wasn't until that night, after the women's jumping. Unfortunately, I didn't quite have it in provisional, and along with Taylor and Brett, was out of the top-50, and out for Saturday's race. Taylor was agonizingly close in 54th and just a few points away from 50th.
On Saturday we cheered for Bryan, and our Swiss "teammate" Tim, who finished in 14th, one of his best results. Bryan jumped just two meters short of K-point, but was in 45th after the jumping - too far back to get into the race. He skied a strong race to finish in 34th.
Saturday race photos:
I spent most of Saturday focusing on clearing my head and preparing for Sunday's comp. Letting the past go isn't my forte, but it's an important skill to learn as an athlete. After watching the race, I went back up to Sjusjøen to ski pre-race intervals, and enjoy some bomber skiing. It was a clear afternoon, and the sun was setting below the plateau for almost the entirety of the ski.
On Sunday I had a pretty good provisional and qualified in 44th. Finally! I was in! Of course, in the following competition jump, I was hoping to put myself in a position to fight for points. I ended up jumping to 46th and just a little too far back time-wise.
In the race I worked with the young Frenchman Hugo Buffard. I skied with Hugo in Ruka; he's always a great skier to be with. We picked off all the guys we could, and I beat him to the line to finish in 35th. With the 11th fastest time, I had another PR cross-country race.
While I was fighting through the back, Bryan made his way up from 36th to a position to fight for the podium on the last lap. He ended up 8th, a great result with signs of more to come this season. He had a super fast race - 2nd fastest on the day. Our wax techs are doing an amazing job, and Bryan and I are psyched with how well our Madshus skis are running!
Here's one more sunset picture before I go (from a different day). Norway never fails to impress me.
I'm in the Oslo airport now, about to board a flight to Germany. From there, I'll drive to Planica, Slovenia. I'll spend the next week training there before going to compete in Ramsau. Hopefully the weather cooperates and I'll get to jump - if not, I'll still be in the gym and on my skinny skis.
As always, thanks for reading.
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