The Summer Grand Prix Experience
For the first time in a few years, our team dedicated a trip to competing in Summer Grand Prix. The competitions took place in Germany and Austria between two tight weekends. It was just 9 days from the first qualification to the last competition, with 3 venues and 5 events. It's a bit strange to hop into full competition mode in the summer, but I think it was really valuable to get back into that mindset and see the other teams' levels. This way, come November, it won't feel like forever since I've competed against anyone besides my own teammates. Overall, it was a productive trip for the whole team. And as usual, some unexpected challenges arrived.
Before the competitions, we flew into Munich and then drove to Breitenburg, Germany for a few days of training. The flight went smoothly for us, but 3 out of our 4 ski bags didn't make it out of Amsterdam. No worries, we thought, and after taking care of the necessary paperwork, we were assured that they would be put on another flight and then delivered to our hotel within 24 hours.
Long story short, the skis never made it, despite our persistent efforts to communicate with the airlines and the delivery company. After a few days of "they'll be there by 9 tomorrow," they let us know that in fact, the delivery company doesn't deliver beyond 100km. Ok, we said, send them to the airport hotel in Munich, and one of our coaches would be willing to pick them up. Somehow this message couldn't get through to the right person either, and next thing we know, our coach gets a message that our skis are back on a plane - heading back to Salt Lake City.
On any other trip, we would have been completely screwed. But we were actually able to make it work fairly well. Three out of the four of us missing skis had new jump skis waiting for us in Breitenburg, thanks to a new measurement protocol that effectively made everyone a bit shorter. Also, we had ordered a new heel piece system to test out. Some of us had extra bindings; I had heel blocks in my duffel, but my extra toe pieces were in my ski bag. Two out of three binding parts was a good start and I was able to borrow toe pieces: first from the local club in Breitenburg, then from the Chinese women's jumping team for a day, and then from our Czech wax-tech who came over to watch in Oberwiesenthal.
We put together enough poles for everyone to use from a handful of teams that could spare a pair for the Americans. The last thing we all needed was rollerskis. Again, we were lucky, in that a company supplies rollerskis for all the racers in order to keep things fair, and the organizers gave us a few old pairs to use for training and warmup.
For the last week, our rep from One Way sent over a pole tube with our coach DJ. (He had to come over late). We're incredibly lucky to have someone that lives in Park City, and is willing to send out brand new poles for each of us on a moments notice. He even put roller-ski tips on them - can't beat that service!
Now we're slightly in-debt to about 7 different nations who helped us out, but in small communities, that's what people do. If I've learned one thing, it's that there is always a way to make things work out.
Now, with that out of the way, on to the competitions. We had 6 athletes and 4 start rights, so we did some substitutions. Michael and I sat out for the first event, so that the younger two, Ben and Jasper could do the team event. On Day 2, the first individual, we finished with 4 guys in the top-30: Taylor in 12th, Bryan 21st, Michael 29th and me in 28th. The field was pretty close to that of a World Cup, besides missing the Norwegian team, who decided to stay at home and eat Gjetost and lefse instead of joining the fun. At that level, it wasn't a bad start. Michael especially had a right to be happy; he skied the 4th fastest time and is making big strides on the jump hill.
I made a quick video after Oberwiesenthal. Be sure to check it out here if you haven't seen it yet:
The next stop, Tschagguns, Austria, was a new one for all of us. We were in the far western portion of Austria, deep in the Alps, and just a mountain ridge away from Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We stayed at an "Explorer" hotel, that featured long boards, bike lockers, and bike stand complete with tools in the front lobby. None of us would mind going back there.
Michael and I both had our best competition jump of the trip in Tschagguns, but, halfway through the round, a storm rolled in. The conditions turned sour quickly, and they eventually had to cancel the jump competition and use the qualification results from the day before to determine the race. Instead of starting in the middle of the field, we were both at the pack of the pack, and couldn't make up too much time on the exceptionally gradual race course. C'est la vie, a good jump in competition is still worth putting in the bank for future confidence. Here's a video of my jump that DJ posted.
We wrapped up the grand prix tour in Oberstdorf, Germany, with two night races. Racing at 8:30 was pretty bizarre for us, but if tennis players can do it, we can too. Our results were solid but not great here, showing that we're not far off but leaving us with plenty of motivation to work with back home.
After the competitions, Jasper, Michael, Ben and I decided to do something different and stop for a few days on the way home. (OK, we decided on this before we left for the trip). We flew to Barcelona for 3 days of living like tourists. Highlights included street food, ripping around on mopeds, and endless walking through old cobbled streets. Honestly, it felt pretty weird, almost sinful, to take a vacation. But it was a great and new experience, and before we knew it we were in Park City again and back at training. It definitely doesn't hurt to do something different once in a while, and I'm lucky to have the opportunity to do things like this.
There's a few more Barcelona photos on my Facebook page here. That's all for now. Thanks for reading!
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