Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time for a day off

After 9 days of work tomorrow will be an unofficial rest day. Which will give me the opportunity to pick a prime location to watch Kikkan get back into action in the women's 10km classic. A great chance to put the fall in last Wednesday's sprint behind her. After two days of heavy, heavy fog the clouds lifted today, and this morning we had beautiful sunshine before it clouded in around mid-day.

A solid day for the 4 Aussies in the 30km pursuit competition today. Simbo was the only one to make it all the way to the finish without being pulled by the "lapping" rule. Callum almost made it out for his final lap but with the lead pack just 1:15 min behind him he was stopped from leaving the stadium. From the sounds of things grip was good and the skis were average to fast. So that for us is a good day in the wax cabin. Plus 3 Canadians in the top 15!

Marcus and I got to ski out to the 3km mark on the 5km classic course (raced 3x) to feed the athletes. We skied out with about 15 minutes to start. The course was lined everywhere people could stand. There was so much energy and anticipation, that they could not help but cheer us on as we passed by....and I am not talking hundreds of people but thousands. Incredible! Except that by the time I made it to the 3 km point I almost needed a feed as with all those cheering spectators, you couldn't help by put on your best technique and ski way to fast.

Lot's of photo's to help update the last couple of days.

Friday night team reception with the Australian Association of Norway. At the head office of Wilh Wilhelmsen's, the largest "roll-on-roll" (cars, tractors, trains etc.) shipping company in the World. Their largest boat can carry 8000 cars. D-Train doing his best Vanna White impersonation.
That is Wilh in the back left. He is the 4th generation CEO. His son just took over this year. The company was founded in 1861 in Tronberg, Norway and began business in Australia in the 1880's. Long history with the Aussies. He took us on a tour of the company's maritime shipping history. He is one of Norway's richest men. You could just tell the business man that he is. Very impressive.
One of the company's original boats. When steam began to replace the sail in the late 1800's, Wilh noted that those that embraced the steam engine survived and those that resisted went bankrupt.
A bit of relaxing back at the hotel before an early start the next morning. From left to right Dicko, Darlo, Duane and Marcus.
Two days of fog. Still thousands were on hand to watch in 20m visibility.
Sunrise over the stadium this morning....at least we can see the stadium today!
Sunshine this morning. Out testing grip wax on the 5km course. Stopped to take a pick of the traditional tents that are lining the courses.
The stadium and the surrounding hillside beginning to fill in. Still two hours to the start of the men's 30km pursuit.
The view from our wax cabin.
The race boys doing the final picks on their skis.


Marcus ready to feed infront of many Norwegian and some Swedish fans.
A view down the feed station. If you look really close you can just see a skier leaving the zone. It was a very hectic place when the lead pack came through.

Team photo.
One more photo while we are all still together. Nick leaves tomorrow and Ester the next day.
Kikk dropped by the cabin and a quick pic. Lot's of colour in this shot.

video

Norway's Petter Northug sprinting to victory infront of thousands of boisterous fans. Hope the video's sound does it justice. Quite to roar to hear live.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tough Day

Wow...not the day I hoped for today, but the day the feared. I avoided betting on the women's race podium today in our friendly daily championships bet so to not jinx Kikkan's chances....so much for superstition. She is in as good a spirits as can be expected. We watched the semi-finals and finals together without much discussion. I should note that the three women on the podium were 30 yrs +....yeah for Master Blasters! People have been great with Kikkan. The Norwegians wanted the best skier to win (and they hoped it would be Bjorgen) today, and there was true dismay felt when Kikkan fell. The genuine emotion shown when she went down was very impressive. At dinner tonight our server asked Kikkan if she was the one that fell today, and said "ahh, and you were one of the favourites! I am so sorry for you. I yelled at the TV when you fell." Very cool indeed.

Tonight I had my first go at the public transit here in Oslo. What a treat. I am always anxious about traveling by bus, train, subway in foreign cities. This is for many reasons including the fact that I grew up in the country and have little experience using public transit in North America and two; I don't speak the local language and I am always worried about delaying people as I struggle with directions. However, 99% of the time my Europe travels have been problem free mostly due to the kindness of fellow passengers or drivers. Tonight was no exception. I jumped on the # 20 bus to Mayorstruen where I was to jump off and catch at train to Nydalen right by Kikkan's hotel (we are about 9 km apart). My first bus driver told me he would let me know when to get off, and when it was time he asked where I was going and he let me know I could stay on his bus and not need to take the train. He took me to another stop where I got off at his recommendation and jumped onto the #30 bus to Nydalen just 7 minutes later.

Once on that bus I got a feeling that my bus had turned around and was heading back down the route (first clue was that I was now the only one on the bus). I asked the driver about the Nydalen train station (which lets out across the street from Kikk's hotel), and he stopped in the middle of the road to let me jump off.....and low and behold Kikk's hotel is staring at me from a block away...victory! In total a 30 minute trip through beautiful Oslo. Love this city. On the way back from a pizza dinner with Kikkan and her parents and Aunt Betsy and tried the train options and was back in 20 min just two blocks from my hotel. So simple and so easy.

Just a training day for the team tomorrow with Ester being our lone starter on Saturday in the women's pursuit. We will have 4 men go on Sunday in the pursuit.

The Aussie wax trailer. With the athletes competing today. Take that Norwegian wax truck!

A view back to the stadium at some of the 40,000 or so spectators. The stadium was sold out and the hill top was 30 people deep.
Ester charging back into the stadium...man I miss my old camera.
Kikkan being a good sport and going through all the post race interviews.

End of a long day....



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Picture = 1000 words



Picture post time.

Our official transport 45 km from Drammen to Oslo....it's great to have BMW as a sponsor of the World Cup/Championships.
The Norwegians may have a fancy wax truck.....but we have a van.
"Anything you can do, I can do better....."
Camp Olso in the early stages. You can just see the tee pee in the back ground.
Wally made an appear at the opening ceremonies.

The elementary school kids that we team Australia. If you look closely in many of these pics you will find Wally.
A member of the King's guard carrying the Aussie flag. At first only the wax tech crew showed up on behalf of the team. Callum and Ewan Watson joined us just before we began to march down the street towards an estimated crowd of 40,000 people.
....some of the 40,000.
Wax crew having a bit of fun.
Wally got his moment on the main stage.

video
Rushing the stages with hundreds of screaming school children.

More video to be posted, once the video camera charges. Great footage walking in the opening ceremonies to come.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day one

Day one of the 2011 World Championships begins tomorrow, at least for the Aussie team it does. Tomorrow is the qualification races for those that do not have the points to begin the 10/15 km classic races. In order to be eligible to start the 10/15km classic races later in the Championship competitors tomorrow must finish in the top 10. This is a race for mostly small ski nations, or developing ski nations as some call it. We have four athletes competing tomorrow. So for us the racing begins. However, the official start for most will be Thursday with the men's and women's sprint takes place, when Kikkan will take her shot at becoming World Champion!

Our wax crew is complete now with the arrival of Marcus from Davos, Switzerland and Duane (the Aussie) from Geilo, Norway. That brings our total to 4 techs, a manager and a head coach. Lot's of ski testing for me today as the guys were sorting out what skis to race on tomorrow. Falling snow was in the air for most of the morning which saw the classic tracks change from special violet grip to blue grip wax by mid day, even though the air temp was -11 c when we arrived and it warmed up towards early afternoon to -9c. Tomorrow's forecast is for - 16c overnight and clear skies with snow coming by mid afternoon so nothing tricky for us wax wise. We will be dividing and conquering in the morning with different techs working on glide wax, grip wax, and powders, along with testing with the athletes. It will be a busy day but that makes the time go much faster.

Temporarily the plan for the early early morning, is to take advantage of my prolonged jet lag that has me awake by 6 am each morning and go to a local gym with Duane for a workout....we'll see if that happens! These are the hardest courses I have ever skied. The climbs are steep and long with very few sections of flat trail. They will truly put technique and fitness to the test for all. We pre-skied a 6.3 km loop yesterday and already there were dozens of large tents that look like huge Tee Pees (how do you spell that word?). Many had cook fired sending smoke out the centers. There is a long tradition here at the Holmenkollen race venue of camping out for days before races. The sites are set up much like a local campground with garbage cans (actually split into recycables), port-a-potties, and signs for the different campground names. People have shovel walk ways 2 ft down in the snow from the race trail to the tents, and in more prime locations have cut in "snow" bench seating, that will be covered with moose, elk, or reindeer hides. I won't forget to take my camera with me on an afternoon ski again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Still on a roll..

Another stellar day for Kikkan today and Alex Harvey. Kikkan looked strong all the way through the rounds and when challenged in the final stretch she had more than anyone else....including Marit Bjorgen the World's best female skier. Alex Harvey also out kicked Petter Northug for second place behind Sweden's Emil Joensson. Unfortunately the Aussie's didn't have the same kind of day. Ester had a good effort but missed the qualifying round by 4 seconds.

We drove over to Oslo (about 45 km from Drammen) and dropped off all our gear at the wax cabin. What a venue. I can't wait for the World Championships to start. One to see Kikkan possibly become World Champion, and see this venue and the Norwegian fans in action. This is definitely a ski nation! Back to Oslo tomorrow morning to get the ball rolling.


Sunrise over Drammen from our living room window. Looking down over the city. My camera doesn't do it justice.
A blurry shot of Kikkan heading out in her quarter final heat. She is in second.
The finishing stretch in Kikkan's qtr final heat. Lot's of fans on hand.
Kikkan second from the right in her semi-final.
The view from our wax cabin at the Holmenkollen stadium at sunset.
A somewhat obstructed view of the Holmenkollen ski jump.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Drammen

I am a fan of Norway! I think I could eat their bread and cheese, and waffles for the rest of my life. Although it is a struggle to find internet that doesn't cost $15 per day, and if it's free it's hard to hold a signal. Hopefully since it is 7am here I will get this blog post through this morning.

It is Sunday morning and day two of the Drammen World Cup weekend. Yesterday was the 10/15km classic interval start races. Lot's of excitement as the favourites for the coming World Championships (which start next Thursday) will be hoping to show good form. Kikkan chose to sit out yesterday to prepare for today's sprint race, as it will be the sprint that leads off the Championships just 4 days away. Yesterday drew the largest crowds I have seen so far this year on tour. The stadium area was packed (pictures to follow once I get them from the Aussie head coach), and the entire 5km course lap was lined by spectators.

Skiing around the 5 km loop testing skis between the women's and men's races, the air was a buzz up in the forest as fans had dug in (some camped) to created sitting areas around camp fires where they ate, drank and cheered any who past by. It was a great preparation for the 100, 000 they are expected to line the trails next week in Oslo. Can't wait!....hope I don't fall.

I have been with the Aussie's now for two days. I left Kikkan and the nice race hotel (and three buffet meanls per day = dangerous) on Friday to move up the hillside in Drammen with the Aussie team, where they had scored a house for rent at a price much cheaper than the World Cup rate at the hotel. The three guys raced yesterday. Despite making the switch over to Nordic Combined this year and only classic skiing about 7 times Ben Sim put in a stellar result, almost beating the entire USA men's team (only Freeman was ahead), as well as George Grey of the Canadian team. Callum and Mark both put in efforts they were happy with. All three had great skis, which bodes well for us as the long range forecast isn't too far off what we experience yesterday.

Today the three will be in action again along with Ester in the sprint. It's a quick course for the ladies and a long grind for the men, with long gradual climbs and downhills which will mean there is very little rest. I am sure everyone hopes for a good result but to paraphrase a quote from Norwegian great Petter Northug, "the winner's in Drammen will be forgotten once the winner in Holmenkollen is decided." He lost by 30 seconds yesterday to a Swede and I am sure had faced many questions about this fitness.

Holmenkollen is the site of the World Championships just above the city of Oslo, and most commonly refers to the 50km race that occurs annually at that site. Another quote from him and I love this one...."If you win the sprint at World Championships you are the World Champion, if you win the 50km at Holmenkollen you are a legend!"

Memories of the Tour de Ski: After today's race we will pack up the wax cabin and drive everything to Holmenkollen (Oslo), and then drive back here for the night. Keebs our team manager will then take the team van and drive over 3 hours to Beitostolen to pick up the rest of the team and will head to Olso on Monday morning, the same time when Finn, Cam, Mark and myself will take official transport to Oslo. Simbo, Callum and Ester will join us on Tuesday. Then we will be a complete team of 7 athletes, 1 coach, 1 manager and 3 wax techs (Aussie D-train aka Duane Butcher will join us Monday from Geilo, Norway - our wax team will be almost complete with him, with three of the 4 of us from the Olympic squad present - just missing big Ben Husaby).

Looking forward to getting everything started in Oslo, but before then I will be watching Kikkan today do her thing with 10,000 cheering Norwegian.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game On!

Back in Europe for the second time this winter. Time to get the blog up and running again. Unlike my first trip over, where all of my travel was based in Central Europe, this time will be just in Scandinavia. This is my fourth trip to Scandinavia in the past 6 years and every time I am amazed at how much it looks like cottage country in Ontario. The frozen lakes, exposed rock faces, and farmland all mixed together make me feel like I have simply flown to Bracebridge, Sault St. Marie, Thunder Bay or somewhere in Northern Minnesota.

For the most part the trip over was uneventful. Thankfully it was just three flights this time; Anchorage to Seattle to Newark to Oslo. Aside from my flight to Newark where I unfortunately drew a middle seat and had a crying baby two rows up and - believe it or not - a yappy Jack Russel Terrier in the row right in front things went smoothly.

When I arrived in Oslo the plan was for me to wait at the airport until 4 pm when I would jump on the official World Cup transit to Drammen (about a one ride to the Southwest) with the US Team. The 7 hrs in the airport passed relatively quickly, but when I went to check in for the 4 pm ride I learned that the US team had left 45 minutes earlier and there were no more transports that day. A quick phone call to Kikkan alerted me to the fact that she wasn't actually coming to the airport, and that the few athletes that did had already left. That meant a train trip was in my future, my favourite pastime in Europe! However, this time I came prepared. I left my skis at home, and man I am glad that I did. I took what I would call "a commuter" train to Drammen and it was packed. Standing room only for most of the trip. As it was I had a 50 lb pack on my back, a second smaller back pack, my computer bag and a pole tube, and still had to offer many "excuse me's, sorry about that and thank you's" as I exited the train.

It was a snowy day here today in Drammen, which made for soft conditions at the race site. Beautiful trails though, and a real homey ski chalet. The smell of Norwegian waffles filled the one room structure blanketed in natural wood covering the floor, walls and ceiling. For those that have had the pleasure of racing at Lappe Nordic in Thunder Bay you will be able to relate to the experience.

Right now I am staying with Kikkan at the main race hotel in Drammen. Many of the teams arrived yesterday and today. The Australians are staying off site on their own and I will join up with them tomorrow when they arrive. There will be four athletes racing for them this weekend: Ben Sim, Callum Watson, Mark Van Der Plug, and Ester Bottomley. Finn and I will be heading up the wax testing duties.

This is the final World Cup weekend before the World Championships begin next week, just four days after this Sunday's sprint. I am not sure I completely comprehend the magnitude of what a World Championships in Norway will be like, but I eagerly await the experience. Hundreds of thousands will be on hand to spectate with many camping for days to get prime locations on the trails. Game on!