I just came back from an awesome trip to Europe to compete in the Engadin skimarathon. I started the trip in Ramsau, were I spent a few days adjusting to the European time zone with APU’s Pete Kling and SVSEF’s Chelsea Holms. Ramsau is one of my favorite places in the world to ski and train, with a quaint feel and a laid back, relaxed atmosphere. We timed the trip just right – we got some serious sun with daytime highs in the mid 50’s and perfect skiing. There was still plenty of snow when we arrived, but with the rate it was melting I don’t think it would have lasted another week.
After three days in Ramsau, we drove to the Engadin Valley, where we met up with the rest of the US crew, including Holly Brooks, Matt Gelso, Matt Briggs, and waxer Clarke Sullivan. The Engadin Valley is an incredible place, home to some of the most well known alpine and nordic skiing areas in the world. The ski trails wind down through the valley, running through iconic towns such as St. Moritz and Pontresina.
The action started with the St. Moritz night sprints right near downtown St. Moritz. The generous prize money attracted a strong field, and many World Cup sprinters flew down after the Drammen Sprints to compete. The atmosphere was incredible with tons of spectators. There was a DJ blasting music, leading what amounted to a dance party on the sides of the course, beer tents, Swiss cow bells, and the like. It was hands down the coolest sprint race I’ve ever done.
The atmosphere was intoxicating and I felt more excited to race than anytime this year. This was my first time competing head to head with some of these guys, and because I didn’t have any expectations I decided to just go out and hammer. The day started with a 500m qualifier, followed by 1000m heats and a 1700m final. The course was a figure-8 of sorts, and the qualifier ran in the opposite direction of the heats (this is important later).
I had great skis in the qualifier – Clarke did an incredible job waxing and I knew from the moment I started that I had a shot if I could stay on my feet. I tried to stay smooth and relaxed over the chewed up snow and carry my speed efficiently. When I crossed the line they started announcing the heats and I couldn’t believe to hear my name in the mix with names I’ve heard all year on the World Cup – Nikolay Morilov, Anders Gloeersen, Josef Wenzl, Gianluca Cologna, and others. I ended up in 9th, well in the mix!
My heat had Cologna, Gloeersen, and two other Swiss team sprinters, and an Italian. I could barely believe I was lining up next to those guys. Gloeersen was 4th in the Olympic sprint and won a world cup earlier this year. I decided to just go out and hammer and see what would happen.
I had the best start I’ve ever had in a sprint, and got out into the lead off the gun. With the narrow course, position was really important and it was almost impossible to pass. I lead almost the entire heat and was just on autopilot, letting the skiing happen by itself. Unfortunately, right before the finish, my autopilot took me in the direction of the qualifier that I’d skied earlier, and I completely forgot that they had SWITCHED the direction for the heats. I realized my mistake at the very last second, and cut over hard, but in the confusion ended up tangling with Gianluca and subsequently crashing. I finished 5th in the heat, Gianluca was 6th.
It was a huge bummer, since I might have been having my best race ever up to that point. It was still an awesome experience to be in the mix with those guys. Holly Brooks skied well in the heats and ended up in the money!
Two days after the night sprint was marathon day. I’ll let the photos do the talking. Click on the pictures to enlarge!
At the end of the day, it was definitely a bummer to end up so far back, but given everything that happened I was happy with how I skied. The one lesson I learned for next year is to put your EMAIL address on you poles right below the grip. That way, if you break a pole, you can ski right up to a coach with replacements, and make the transaction personal. Point to the email address on your stub and hand that over in exchange for the pole. This way, they at least have some way to get in contact with you to get the pole back. I skied along, yelling for a pole and waiting for one to be offered to me – surprise, it never happened. The key is to make it personal.
Two US skiers had great days – Matt Gelso skied a strong race to finish in 16th, 11 seconds out of the win. Holly Brooks finished in 4th after an impressive showing.
It was an awesome trip. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. I am back in the US, racing the Craftsbury Spring Tour this weekend in Vermont, and then Supertour Finals in Alaska next week. Till next time!