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!