How cool is Duluth? This is a question I have often asked myself over the past 2 days. On Monday we made the trip down to the beautiful Minnesotan city of Duluth situated in the far western corner of Lake Superior to pursue glory at the US Supertour. Soon after the Meat Wagon pulled in to town I began to realize that this is a pretty cool town. Giant hills with awesome vistas, a refreshingly modern downtown core, a pretty dope High School (where the sprint races would take place) and just lots of other random tidbits I had never been exposed to, this being my first time to the “southern” states (I’ve been to Alaska).
The cold weather is still very much making its presence felt in this neck of the woods. On our training days the temperatures have been hovering around -20C, the cut off for racing. At our internet sesh the other day (Jitters coffee shop) I got a glimpse at a grim forecast that would bring up the question of cancelling the big sprint. Haha, that internet sesh was a good time! We set up shop for about 2 hrs and jammed for all we were worth. Poor Sully (Scott Sullivan) who doesn’t have a laptop! But yeah, the mission of this journey into cyberspace was to watch Canmore World Cup coverage. Who knew that in the States you can’t watch live streamed coverage on the CBCsports website? Who knew? Right messed. We pulled out all the stops at all the other possible ski sites: Eurosport, etv.ee, langrenn.no, nrk.no, yle.fi, etc… Nothing. Just learned from Timo that Scott Jerome, the coach from Fairbanks who’s here watched the sprints today on NRK! Grrrr…. Interesting point on this too, Phil looked up the results and then he asked me who I thought won. I totally picked Boerre Naess! My man… And apparently the Norwegians were double poling the entire course in Canmore, an impressive feat considering the decent pitches. Those dudes have immense strength and they are shaping the way sprints are raced.
But anyways, yesterday was the Duluth Night Sprint (skating). I stomped my qualifier, and qualified 7th. Somppi had his best qualifier ever and was 5th, so way to go! For the rounds, only 8 moved on, so I barely squeaked in.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, I started my warm-up for the heats. As the lights came on and the music was cranked, I started to get super pumped. This was going to be a good time! Supreme sprinting in a bompin’ atmosphere.
In my semi I had worst lane choice, so I jockeyed off the start to sit pretty in 3rd. It was a good position to ski from, cause probably half of the course was downhill, giving me a good draft for this time. I was patient the rest of the course and I predicted well as to what would happen (I’ll talk more about this and more in my next blog update that will be posted shortly). I bided my time and pulled off a bit of a Petter Northug move in the finishing stretch, which is basically unheard of for me. I quickly accelerated and edged Kevin Hochtl at the line by a boot length. Wow, I was so pumped! Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. This meant I was in the final of 4 guys and had a shot at the win! Soon after a bit of celebration, I went over to put on my warm clothes (they were running the heats in like -25 C). The TD for the event then came over and said I was disqualified because I did my lunge in between lanes. This got me pretty riled up. This sort of thing happens all the time at high level competition. When somebody you’re following in the finishing whiskers starts to slow down and you have nowhere to go at the line, you lunge slightly to the side. There was absolutely no interference at the line, and yet this man was very persistent to get me DSQed. He maintained that this was an “FIS event” and that that was against the rules. I suppose it is of questionable legality, but having watched virtually every World Cup race over the past 2 years, it is rare that a World Cup sprint is pulled off without at least one instance of this occurring and the officials never take action since nearly always it is without interference of other skiers. I even remember in Drammen last year there was a particularly bad instance of lunging in between lanes. Hjelmeset who was clearly skiing in between 2 lanes, pushed against Oeystein Pettersen to get to the line quicker. It got his buddy Oeystein a little bit pissed off, but there was no disqualification.
Regardless of me and Timo’s arguments, I was relegated to the B-final. This was a huge blow to me after skiing one of the best heats of my life. I think this had an affect on my headspace for the next heat. I didn’t ski the B-final very smart. I didn’t want to be in it. I wanted to be in the A-final. I wasn’t aggressive and I didn’t have the fighting mindset after having all my hard efforts of the Semi-final dashed by an ignorant Technical Delegate. I skied from the back the entire time and I wasn’t very good at realizing opportunities to make moves, etc… So I finished 8th.
I suppose in skiing, like everything in life, you win some and you lose some. Yesterday I did two things very well, as good if not better than I’ve done all year. I had a flying, technically perfect qualifier, and I made my presence felt in my semi against some very distinguished American racers. On the day though, my efforts were not reflected in my result as my position was at least 4 off of what it rightfully should have been. It was also pretty tough to accept that this meant instead of winning close to $500, I would walk away with a meager $75.
But again, it is important to learn to deal with situations like these as best as possible. I did in fact identify this opportunity soon after being shunted from the A-final, but I don’t think I had the mental skills to overcome such a problem since this is the first time it has happened to me. As we turned the lights off last night, Phil was telling me about how this is an important skill to gain in the coming years. Sometimes bad things happen and you have to deal with them as best you can. There is a big difference between 8th and 5th.
Yours truly, big T