Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 Ski Mountaineering World Championships

The 2017 Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Alpago and Piancavallo in Italy were my 3rd trip to Worlds, having gone in 2013 and 2015. 2013 was very enjoyable for me as I found myself in good form while bumming around in Canmore for the winter, while having lots of fun "training". 2015 was more frustrating as I found myself unable to return to that same form while working a full time job in Edmonton. I decided to give worlds another go for 2017, having finally figured it out in the 2016 season. The deep fields at worlds provide an excellent measuring stick: would I be able to return to the same form as 2013 where I finished the individual race in the low 40's?

It wasn't shaping up to be a very good snow year in the southern Dolomites. Webcams were looking brown instead of white. A dump of snow a couple of weeks before the race allowed for some racing on a similar course the week before. But more melting during the week led to organizers moving the start of the Individual and Teams, conveniently accessed via a 40min hike, right from our hotel!

Agriturismo Malga Cate. Our hotel and conveniently located at the trailhead for the hike up to the Individual and Teams race courses. Excellent food and atmosphere!

Individual Race:

It was pouring rain at the start line before we raced along a short snow covered road that funneled us into a steep, single skintrack climb. While the flat road into the singletrack seemed short, it was sufficient enough to string out the field by the singletrack. Up we raced into a thick fog that made it impossible to see even the next switchback above!

Descending was tricky with poor visibility due to the fog and water droplets all over my goggles, complicated by trying to avoid rocks in a thin snowpack. The course was marked very well so I could just ski from flag to flag. I got rocked by the downhill bootpack, but skied strongly on the 2nd half of the race to gain back some spots.

relieved to be almost at the finish of the individual!

Teams Race:

Eager to get a bit of redemption after the individual race, I teamed up with Travis on a beautiful, clear day. The snow had all frozen from the rain, making for slick skintracks and firm descents. It was difficult staying upright on the first two climbs. I skied well in the ice mogul conditions, but disaster struck on the ridgeline bootpack, where my crampons would not stay on my boots! After stopping countless times to put them back on, we were finally off the ridge and back racing. Travis and I struggled together, but we also fought hard in the second half of the race after our mishaps.

At the aid station, ready to put all of our difficulties behind us.

The individual and the teams race really made me respect the composure and the technical mastery of the top guys. They seemed unfazed by the tough conditions. Skills that can only come with spending lots of time practicing with their gear.

Sprint Race:

The sprint race for most of us is typically a "one and done" as only the top 30 skiers qualify. In the end, I was 7 spots, but just 10 seconds away from qualifying. I paced well, holding back at the beginning, and had clean transitions. But I regret not focussing more on transitions and gear (backpack!) while doing hundreds of transitions at Edmonton ski club, or a more thorough inspection of the course beforehand to nail down my pacing strategy.

sprint qualifying. The "diamonds" were steep. I held back here so I could focus on not slipping, and then hammered the bootpack later on.

Vertical Race:

The vertical race was a highlight for me. I've done well in Vertical races and on the first climbs of Individual race this season. I didn't get a chance to preview the course, but I was feeling awesome and felt like the shorter, non-technical course that kept changing rhythm suited me. Finished 38th.
Suffering hard in the vertical, just ahead of Nick. Note the skier from an 'alpine' nation on the back of the train getting dusted by the full time engineer!


The relays are always a fun way to wind down the week. I also feel they give a second chance to redeem oneself after a sprint with a botched transition or pacing issues (I had a good sprint race anyways). I took the lead leg, but got completely dusted off of the start, but managed to tag off on the tail end of a chase group. Pacing is important in the relays as the race has 2 sprint courses back to back.

2nd climb in the relay lap on the tail end of a chase group

With Brenda, the superfan!

The team, minus Rob Krar

Another fun world championships trip. Always humbling, but I believe I am the fastest I've ever been. I've got a list of things to work on ready to unleash on the Canadian circuit. My girlfriend was there to cheer me on, welcome when I was suffering!

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