Just back from an action-packed
weekend in Austria. Drove out there as I had an opportunity to sell
my Austrian-registered car; raced in the Austrian national champs
at Obertauern; competed in the first ever 'Langlauf-cross' event;
went kayaking at Lofer, before flying home.
I started next year's training
last week with a heavy gymn session, so that by the time I got to
Austria I could hardly unfold myself from the car, and my muscles
were quivering so that I could barely stand, never mind balance.
But once the race started, I forgot that temporarily.
The races were at Obertauern,
not normally a normal biathlon centre, and quite high up. After
the stories of the previous weekend's Austrian cross-country champs
in a sunny 20°C I had not brought any cold-weather gear; in
fact it was decidedly wintery on Saturday, with a piercing wind.
Despite that and the old-fashioned targets I managed to clear my
prone shoot - for only the second time this season, an astonishingly
poor record. Skiing was OK, if painful, and I finished 10th, 3'
down on the winners. OK, given my poor state.
One of the Austrians told
me about the afternoon's race: some kind of mass-start sprint
with jumps... I drove up there in time to enter, but too late to
get a practice run on the steepest XC course imaginable. The start
was a 2' drop onto a steep slope, with a sharp bend and jump at
the bottom, a series of steep, banked bends and another jump before
a steep climb up above the start; then down again and a jump into
the finish. This was the first ever 'Langlauf-Cross', or
modelled on the boarder-cross races and sponsored, of course, by
Fortunately the qualifying
round was with individual starts. I fell slightly on the first jump,
and did not qualify - but was in good company: Perner and Mesotitsch,
Olympic medallist and world cup race winner respectively from the
current season, both fell on the same jump. There was a good selection
of top XC sprinters there (Svartedal, Schlickenrieder), and apparently
some Nordic Combination racers taking advantage of their confidence
in the air.
to see the differences in how people took the jumps. Botvinov, a
top skier, looked as tentative as I felt; whereas the Austrians
were absolutely confident, with no qualms or flailing arms. The
reason was evident down at the biathlon course: a couple of 8-year
old boys had built themselves a little jump and were skiing up the
hill, down and over the jump, again and again...
We were treated to a dinner
by Red Bull that evening: a good bash. I sat on the same table as
Ludwig Gredler; I commented on how fast he had overtaken me (twice,
as I had passed him back as he was in the penalty loop), and he
volunteered that my technique looked very good: 'echt super Körperstellung'
- really super body position. That is the second unsolicited compliment
I have had from a world-class racer this year, and is nice to hear.
Not that it helps much: while it says that my ideas on ski technique
seem to be right, it suggests that the performance improvements
I need will have to come from elsewhere.
Then the Pursuit on
Sunday. I started with empty space ahead of me, and a couple of
thrusting youngsters just behind. They were with me by the time
of the first shoot, but I left them there and did not see them again.
In fact the whole race was a little lonely... I didn't even come
near to being overtaken.
It was a beautiful, warm,
sunny day, with perfect Spring skiing conditions, so after the race
I took a long ski and explored everywhere (in Spring conditions,
the surface forms a crust, so that you can skate everywhere, not
just on the track). Fantastic.