Friday, January 21, 2011


Arrived back in Anchorage late Wednesday night and then slept for 20 of the next 24 hrs. The blog is going to go into hiatus mode until I head back over to Europe around Feb. 13. Until then. Jeff

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spring Time in Munich

I have made my way uneventfully today to Munich, Germany. I am staying in the Movenpick
airport hotel and will depart tomorrow morning for Alaska. Traveling by train is always a stressful experience when carrying a full ski bag and large roller bag. However, today it couldn't have gone smoother. But it would be dishonest to take any credit for how well the trip went.

The owner of the hotel in Wernberg (more like an Inn - Est. 1854), drove me the 1.5 km to the train station this morning and then discussed with the local station attendant how to get me to Munich without having to change trains too often. I was there in time for the 8:29 train but opted for the 9:29 train which meant I would have to change trains just once, and not have to buy a new ticket halfway through the trip. I would have never figured out the kiosk! As I prepared to board the train the local station attendant brought a piece of paper to me which had my train itinerary on it. Without it I would not have known to change trains in Regensberg.

In Regensberg I got off on platform #1 and had ten minutes to get to platform #9 which required walking up 3 flights of stairs to walk over the railway tracks. Not one of the sexier moments in my life as when I reached the top flight I dropped my bags and was hands on knees trying to catch my breathe for a good 30 seconds. I hate being sick! In total I was on the train for 2hrs 45min.

Once in Munich I walked out of the massive train station and walked right into the Airport bus just minutes before it was scheduled to depart. After about 40 minutes we arrived at the airport. Right at Terminal 2 was an airport hotel and my first though was, "this might be expensive but I just want to stop traveling, eat some food and go to bed". However, just as I got off the bus I saw the Movenpick shuttle (hotel recommended by Kikkan). I took it as a sign and flagged down the driver. We had a great conversation on route to the hotel where we discussed how the winter ends earlier and earlier each year in Munich. Fifteen straight days of rain and above 5c temps has the city looking like it is in full spring mode. The grass is greening up, and people were out running in t-shirts. It's incredible to think that when I flew to Zurich on Dec. 20th it was the only major airport unaffected in Europe by record snowfalls, that crippled Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris. What an absolutely beautiful old city. I can only imagine what it would look like with leaves on the trees.

Getting sick in Europe
Hotel stay in Wernberg = 45 Euro
Train ride to Munich = 21 Euro
Bus ride to airport = 10.50 Euro
One night at airport hotel = 200 Euro
Flight change fee $250.00 USD
Internet to write this piece = 5 Euro
Getting to recover in my own bed = Priceless

And so after staying in 10 different beds in the last 5 weeks, I look forward to my own! Below is a few pics from Liberec....really miss my good camera!

Wally and his girlfriend Lucinda made an appearance at the men's team sprint on Sunday. Unfortunately, their presence didn't prevent Callum from going off course and into the safety netting resulting in the Aussie teams with drawl from the race after just one leg of three.
Pit row during the team sprint. Here each team works on the skis of the athlete who just completed their leg. They have about 3 minutes until the next skier comes through. It gives the teams a chance to touch up grip wax (it was a klister day - with temps above 5 C, indicated by the green grass everywhere), and brush out the glide zones.
Kikkan's post race press conference after her sprint win.
Kikkan and Hanna Falk of Sweden who took second place.
The Grand Hotel where half the teams stayed in downtown Liberec. Fortunately, both the US, Canada and Australia were in the same hotel so Kikk and I got to eat our meals together, and I got to chat with my fellow Canucks.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Heading back to Alaska Wednesday. Got hit with what appears to be a mild case of swine flu (no crazy fever) - it’s the trendy ailment on World Cup this season. Split from the Aussie group this morning and have been laying low in a hotel in Eastern Germany. The head coach got it a couple of days before me, and being his roomie and travelmate I inevitably got it. So I have dropped out of a weekend of racing I had planned with a friend in Austria and bumped my return flight up 5 days. Will update blog with pics and some video from Kikkan's win on Saturday.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Victory, sunshine, crash, autobahn!

Real quick update with more explanation and pictures to follow tomorrow...hopefully. Victory for Kikkan yesterday! She was strong through all the rounds. She has found her 6th gear, and it is deadly on the homestretch. To go along with the great result yesterday we had beautiful sunshine today and 6 C temps.

A bit warm for a ski race....especially since I won't see warm sunshine temps like that again in Alaska until late April. It was a welcome change from the drizzly rain.

Today was the team sprint in Liberec. The Aussies got out to a strong start with Mark Van Der Pluoeg, but unfortunately Callum crashed heavily on the first big downhill corner. He slid right off the course into the safety netting, but aside from a few bruises was okay but lost so much time getting untangled he did not finish.

Right after the race we packed everything up and were on the road by 4:30pm and arrived in Wernburg, Germany in time for dinner. Head coach Finn, is feeling under the weather so it was up to me to drive for the first time on the autobahn! Nothing quite like being able to go as fast as you want. For my Mom's sake I won't say how quickly we traveled....

Off to Lindberg, Germany to ski with and stay with my friend Thomas Friemuth and his family for one week. I have taken off my wax serviceman bib, and will put a race bib back on at the end of the coming week for the Dolomitten Lauf....60km classic here I come!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The new with the old

My final World Cup weekend with the Aussies - during Euro trip #1 - has begun with our arrival in Liberec in the Czech Republic. The last time I was here was for the 2009 World Championships, my first ever job with the Aussies, and the site of Kikkan's big silver medal race. Unfortunately, the weather is much like it was when we left last time. After a December that left much of Europe with more snow than usual, unseasonably warm dreary weather has resulted in localized flooding across central Europe, and the Czech Republic is no exception.

It's been over a week now since I have seen the sun, and the third in a row with "liquid" snow falling from the sky. It's a sprint weekend here in Liberec. A perfect stop on the World Cup as most of the big WC contenders and distance skiers need a break from the recently completed Tour de Ski. Kikkan leaves after tomorrow's sprint to begin the long journey back to Anchorage....which we have discovered is the same amount of time zones as if I were to travel to Australia. I split from the team Monday and will join my friend Thomas Freimuth for a week of ski training (I hope I survive) and then the Dolomitten Lauf 60km classic 8 days from now.

After four days now in the Czech Republic I am still amazed at the transformations at work within the country. One of the growing economies within the European Union and by far one of the stronger of former Soviet nations. However, the darkness, deterioration, and poverty that goes along with the images that "Eastern Block" brings to mind are present here, but at the same time modernity is there if you chose to look for it. We stayed in the small village of Bozi Dar for a couple of days and when the clouds lifted enough to see the top of the mountain, sitting a top it were four wind turbines powering the small population and local ski hills. How many towns do we see do that in North America. Here in Liberec the lights in the hallway of the hotel only come on with motion, as do the elevators in the large mall right next door. Necessities, when not in abundance bring great change and progress!

This trip has been an eye opener in a multitude of ways, not just watching the World's best skiers perform in the Tour, but to take in and experience how some of the oldest and proudest European cultures adapt and move forward in modern times.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


On Sunday Callum successfully completed the 2011 Tour de Ski, in the process he became the first Aussie skier to ever do so. The final day saw the athletes climb up an alpine ski hill for the final 3km of the 10km race. Kikkan made her way up there with a strong pack of skiers and her finish on the day gave her a 21st place overall finish in her first ever tour. I would love to publish pictures from the day but in my haste to jump off the Gondola that I rode to the top of the course I mistakenly left our camera on my seat....never to be seen again.

It was a complicated day as support staff for Callum as the race started 7km up the valley from the base of the ski hill. With just Finn and I to look out for a broken ski pole, or offer a coke feed we did a trial run during the women's race. We watched the start until the time when Callum would have started (I got to see Kikkan start) in the stadium then ran to the car, drove down the road, I jumped out and ran over to the base of the climb to see the woman's race leader start the climb, no problems.

When it came to the men's race I was drop off on a busy highway which I ran across in all my ski gear with spare poles, and a back pack which had Callum's feed drink in it. I got to the ski track about 500m before the climb so Callum could get a dose of sugar before he started the climb. While I was running to my location, Finn drove to the gondola at the base of the climb, parked the car and rode up the mountain and then skied half way back down to cheer, film and assist Callum if needed. Once Callum past me I ran down the race trail (unfortunately we didn't get his skis right and the slow skis had him off the back in last place). I jumped on the gondola, got my camera out in case I could get a picture from the air of the race but realizing the trees would be in the way I apparently set in on the seat and not in my bag. At the top I jumped off the gondola, pushed my way through the cheering fans and ran 300m down from the finish line to encourage Callum to "dig deep" as his 1 min plus advantage over the Andoran racer he had been battling him all Tour was slipping away. In the end Callum was last in the overall just 4 seconds behind Francois the Andoran. It was satisfying to see Callum complete the Tour but disappointing that we didn't get him out there on the final day with fast skis.

It was great to watch Devon and Alex finish in the top 10 overall. Two Canadians in the top 10 and Babikov 21st. Quite the turn around from 10 years ago!

After the racing finished we packed up the wax room for the 4th time in 10 days and I packed my bags to begin traveling again the next morning to Bozi Dar, Czech where we met up with the rest of the Aussie team in Europe. On Sunday night (and on Saturday) I got to catch up with my room mate from UNC - Kestas "The Lithuanian javelin thrower" Celiesius. We have not seen each other for 8.5 years. It was a short visit but great to see him again and his new wife Egle. As well I got to introduce him to Kikkan.
They took a ski vacation in Val di Fiemme from the home in the Lithuanian capitol city of Vilnius. Kestas timed it to overlap with Kikkan and I being there at the same time.

I will stay now in Bozi Dar until Thursday morning, when Callum and I will drive over to Liberec - where Kikkan won her World Championship silver medal two years ago. The rest of the Aussie team leaves tomorrow for Hirschau, Ger to compete at the German championships. Finn and three others will join Callum and I in Liberec on Friday for the World Cup weekend.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ahhh Italy.

Italy, what a place. Beautiful scenery, crazy drivers, great food, and the old and new world all mixed together. Unlike North America where so many of our homes arrived with the invention of cars and paved roads, Italy evolved to fit roads and cars into the tightest of places; winding, crossing and running through hundreds of years of establishment. Internet is more expensive here as well so I will let pictures tell most of the story with this post.

Back on the road again from Toblach-Dobbiaco, Italy on our way to the final venue of the 2011 Tour de Ski - Val di Fiemme, Italy.
The original Morotto Skis factory in the valley just outside of Cortina, Italy where the 36 km point-to-point race started - stage 6.
A rare glimpse of sunshine on a surrounding mountain peak in Val di Fiemme.
Team Canada bus in Val di Fiemme. Not a bad way to travel....especially when you back it up with two guys in the top 7 overall, and 4 podiums for Kershaw already in the first 7 stages.
Team Canada bus beside the Norwegian and Swedish mobile waxing trucks.
View over the home stretch. Above is the town of Tesoro where we are staying just to the left of the tall church steeple. Lighting was bad so I made it black and white.
Our constant cheerleader and wax boss Wally the Wombat with his girlfriend Lucinda.
Working hard or hardly working......Finn checking out Callum's skate fleet for tomorrow's final stage hill climb. Callum and I skied down the course yesterday. It is a full on alpine run. Should be an epic day. Finn and I will be taking the Gondola to the top and walking part way down to cheer. I like this wax tech life!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sprint Day

The final sprint of the 2011 Tour de Ski took place today. Lot's of excitement, good and bad. Devon Kershaw put on a show and won his first ever World Cup, making him the 3rd Canadian male to ever win a World Cup. Ivan Babikov did it a couple of years ago on the final stage of the Tour de Ski, and Pierre Harvey back in the 80's.

Kikkan skied strong all day, and in the end was too strong as she skied into a Swede that wasn't moving fast enough up the big climb and they both went down. She still end up in 5th....not bad for her worst World Cup skate spring result of the year. Callum skied strong in his qualifier, but didn't advance to the rounds.

Tomorrow is the 36 km point to point race for the men from Cortina to Toblach. It should be really exciting leap frogging our way down the road in the same valley as the race course, going from check point to check point. The women will just ski 3 x 5km laps at the Toblach stadium, and then we will pack everything up again and head a couple of hours over to Val Di Fiemme for the final two races.

I might be getting ahead of myself but I think this area in Europe is the most beautiful of all the places I have been. I could live here.....but I would get fat because the food and wine is too good!

Post race interview by Wally the Wombat with Callum.
Callum charging up the first climb, heading back to the glorious sunshine and out of the -11c temps in the shade.
Callum powering around the first corner out of the stadium.
Hot air balloon taking flight about 100m from the race track. The view to the north. The large building to the right just blocks seeing our accommodations.
The ski stadium. The building with the flags arced over the top actually had the race go up and over it. That is the climb where Kikkan went down. Heading south from there you can see the beginning of the narrow river valley that the race will come through for tomorrow's 36km point-to-point.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beautiful Toblach

Wow, is Toblach, Italy ever beautiful! We arrived in darkness last evening, so I can only assume we missed incredible views as we wound (and I mean wound - wholy car sickness curves!) our way through the Dolomites from southern Germany, through Innsbruck, Austria and into Italy.

After three days of battling a cold and then food poisoning I feel much better today. Callum, our lone Aussie athlete has been suffering from the same cold and food poisoning, but understandably so is taking longer to recover. He put in a strong effort yesterday to be able to continue his Tour de Ski Journey. With the 20km pursuit taking place on just a 2.5km loop, and lap times being around the 6 minute mark it was important that he not lose more than 45 seconds per lap over the first 7 laps so ensure that he got onto his 8th and final lap before the lead pack came through. Fortunately he lapped through with 1.5 min to spare and completed the race and ensured that he would race another day!

Today Callum was followed around by NRK TV from Norway. They wanted to profile the "other" end of the World Cup experience. While the Norwegians, and Sweden have their own tracter trailer wax trucks and the Canadians travel on a "rockstar" tour bus, the Aussie budget allows for us to travel in a 4 door small SUV with everything and everyone packed inside.

NRK had heard about our Wally the Wombat videos and the lighthearted atmosphere in our wax room....we gave the camera man a bit of a surprise when he walked into the wax room to find us just in our wax aprons. The footage will be broadcast to approximately 7 million people. Our cheeks will be famous!

We were on the road to Italy yesterday before Kikkan began her race, but in chatting with her after the race she skied a strong classic portion in the pursuit, but struggled with the skating. Still, a bad day is now a top 30 so things are positive.

Below is a collage of pictures from the past week. With sunshine in the forecast for the next few days the best pics are still to come!

Humble accommodations in Oberhof. But I really didn't need more space.
Callum hanging tough in the 15km classic. Great crowds on a monster climb.
Packing it in in Oberhof - bound for Oberstdorf.....I had the back seat. Long 5 hours.
Front of our hotel in Oberhof.
Hotel Kappeler Haus - Our accommodations in Oberstdorf. View of the northern edge of the Dolomites (I think).
If only the sun made it to where I was standing during the men's 20km pursuit. -11 c in the shade.
Success! The 20km pursuit is to Italy!
View from our balcony in Toblach. If you look really close to the top of the middle of the building across the street you can see a row of flags. That is the climb in the stadium. Walking distance to the race course....brilliant!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

On the road again, and again.....

The Tour kicked off 3 days ago and we are already at the 2nd venue, and will be back on the road tomorrow afternoon. Great racing so far. Especially for the Canadians. Two in the top four! The weather has been heavy low cloud for the three days and snowing, both in Oberhof and now in Oberstdorf. We have been promised sunshine for tomorrow's 10km (womens) and 20km (mens) pursuit race.

We have our fingers crossed for Callum (the lone Aussie skier - and the first to ever compete in the Tour), as the race will be held in just a 2.5km course. The men will ski it 8 times, on their way to 20km. If Callum falls more than 6 minutes off the leaders before the 17.5km mark (lap 7) he will be pulled from the race and our Tour is over. It would be a shame as he is putting out a solid performance each day.

I woke up with a sore throat two days ago, which as good timing as Kikkan and I are now in different hotels. We were in the same one in Oberhof, but now in Oberstdorf we only see each other at the race venue. It will give me time to make sure I am healthy. Getting sick is the kiss of death in the Tour and the biggest risk for the athletes contending for the overall. Kikkan is skiing very strong in her first ever Tour. She sits 19th now after 3 events with a strong classic sprint performance. Can't wait for her in the skate sprint in a few days!

I have not been able to hold a steady internet signal so no pictures from the past few days, but I will update with them as soon as I can. Not much sun though so the photo opportunities have been rare.

Germany has been great so far. The people have been very nice and the venues are incredible. Although the race crowds have not been that large. As a nation they are Biathlon crazy, and their Nordic team is not that strong this year. Here in Oberstdorf we are staying in the basement of the Hotel Garni Kammpledorf. It is 30Euro per night instead of the 90 Euro we would be paying for regular World Cup fare. I feel like we are cave people but the rooms down there are perfect for us, and we have the basement to ourselves.

More updates and photo's too come. I hope the grammar wasn't too bad as I wanted to get this sent off before I lose my signal again. Hope everyone had a great New Years! I was in bed by 11:15 pm.