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After a pretty chill morning of cruising the lifts and checking out some of the course for the Teams Race the next day, we arrived at the venue for the Teams Relay around 5:15pm. Relay rando races are one of the more spectator friendly races and this one was no different. Unfortunately the men’s race, which was scheduled to start at 7pm, was delayed due to the Junior and Women’s events running long and didn’t start until after 8. Not a big deal when you’re not racing the next morning, but a real bummer when you have a big race just 12 hours later.
Due to the tardiness of the start and the deteriorating conditions of the downhill section, the men’s race was slightly modified and shortened, opting for a high speed groomer descent, as opposed to the rutted bobsled course that had formed from the previous junior and women’s races. Each racer had to do two consecutive laps of what was now about a 175′ course. I was geared to lead off, which is no easy task since it’s a literal sprint from the start. Sometimes this sport is referred to as ski running and these relay events are a good example of that…for the faster teams of Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain that is.
After a long warm-up I lined up with the other racers at the starting line and I tried to fire myself up by thinking dark, ominous thoughts. When the gun when off…it was out of control as 17 racers ran uphill as fast as they could. I was afraid that one of my poles would get busted, so I held them up off the snow until things spread out a little bit. It wasn’t long before the fast guys were way out front and I was left to race my own race. A short skin lead to a short boot pack, which led to an even shorter skin, before ripping my skins for the straight line descent. For some reason, I rats-nested my skins before tucking them into my race suit…a rookie move I would pay for at the bottom.
I was glad to get this first lap out of the way, but I struggled to get my skins back on my skis and had to resort to using my teeth to straighten out the mess. Having a video camera shoved in my face recording the junk show didn’t help…but hey…I’m not one to shy away from the media. Anyway, my second lap went about the same and honestly, I feel like I felt faster in the warm-up. I skated up to the finish line where I patted Todd Glew on the shoulder who was the second person to ski for Team USA.
I missed most of Todd’s two laps, spending some time hacking and I was amazed at how much my lungs burned from such a short effort. Definitely a sign of a slacking training regime prior to coming overseas. I refocused on the race as Todd came in to hand the race off to Zahan who seemed to have a great turn and a super smooth transition putting his skins on at the bottom. At this point I think we were battling for…ummm…last place, but Brian Wickenhauser (Wick) was our anchor and the strongest on our relay team.
Wick launched off the starting line and it was evident that he was in good form and bounded uphill. Like a pro, he nailed the transition and managed to pass two racers on his second lap…putting us in 15th place at the finish. One thing to note though is that none of our top four seeds on Team USA were racing and I know we would have done better if they were.
In the end, Italy, Switzerland and Spain took the top three podium spots. Click here for the results. After the Relay Race, Team USA sits in 12 place overall…and I’m hoping we can move up a few more spots and match, if not beat our 10th place result in 2006. The SMWC website has some photos and videos if you want to check them out. Click here..and look on the sidebar for some links. A bientot!