Saturday, January 19, 2008

some queyras photos

...can be found here.

european world cup wrap-up

You know what has been the best part of my day over the past week? The three seconds after I cross the finish line and before I see my time. Things are just not feeling right for me in the technical events, slalom and GS. We raced two of each here in Queyras, France, and tomorrow we drive back to Munich, then fly home to the States on Monday. I finished both giant slaloms, but I never felt like I was skiing cleanly except on the flattest parts of the course, and I finished each run over five seconds behind the leader. I thought the slaloms would go better, but instead they went worse: each day, I finished the first run outside the top 15, then resolved to get more aggressive for the second run but skied out and failed to finish.

Today has been a good off day. We hung out at the L'Eldorado Restaurant adjoining our hotel and watched Lindsey Vonn (nee Kildow) win the classic women's downhill at Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy. That was just a warm-up for the even more classic men's downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, the Hahnenkamm, which Bode almost managed to win — he tied for second behind Switzerland's Dider Cuche — despite making the majority of one turn with both skis off the ground, running along a safety fence, a good meter above the snow! We watched in horror as the second racer on course, our countryman (and for some of us, good friend) Scott Macartney, crashed badly off the final jump of the notorious Streif course. Scotty Mac, who was celebrating his 30th birthday today, landed so hard on his head that he broke his helmet in half and then slid, unconscious, across the finish line. Ironically, he still managed to finish in 33rd place — just 0.16 seconds away from scoring World Cup points. The mood in the finish area looked somber on TV as medics airlifted the still-unconscious Macartney to a hospital in Innsbruck. We all hope he suffered no more than a concussion and that he gets back on his feet again soon.

When I get back to the States, M. and I will spend two nights at my place in Winter Park before heading to the X Games in Aspen to begin training for the Mono Skier X competition.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

day off in Queyras

Today most of the Americans and Canadians are sitting around the hotel restaurant here in Molines en Queyras, France, drinking coffee and eating croissants, enjoying the free wi-fi and watching lots of live skiing on TV. (Today is the 78th annual running of the famed Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen, Switzerland — the longest, oldest and quirkiest downhill on the World Cup circuit.) In other words, it's the perfect day off after a solid week on snow and a 12-hour drive yesterday from Abtenau.

We were originally scheduled to race downhill and super G here, but the organizers announced last week that they were scrapping the speed events and scheduling some slaloms and GS's instead. It's a real bummer for me, and for most of the U.S. team, since speed events are a strength for us. It seems as though every disabled World Cup downhill they schedule always ends up getting canceled for some reason or another. In this case, the excuse is not enough snow, but you wouldn't know it now; there's about two feet of fresh new powder on the ground, all fallen since the decision was made to cancel the races. To be fair, it would've taken a tremendous amount of manpower — which the organizers probably don't have — to pull off the races after so much new snow fell on what had been essentially a bare slope. Still, it's a disappointment.

Friday, January 11, 2008

abtenau, days 2-5

The less said about Tuesday's GS race, the better. All of our team finished the race, and yet not one American ended up on the podium. I had a really mediocre run, followed by a run that was going better until I hip checked on the flats, dumping all my speed. I popped right back up and kept going to the finish, but I was way off the mark, finishing 12th. As usual, Martin Braxenthaler of Germany was the winner in my class.

The last three days have been a different story — well, not for Martin, who's continued to win every day, but for us Americans. We had three super-combineds, the newest event on the disabled World Cup circuit. Each race consists of one run of super G and one run of slalom in a single day; the winner is the one with the fastest combined time. It's a fun race because it allows the speed specialists to compete against the more technical skiers in a sort of jack-of-all-trades battle. For more about combined races, see this Wikipedia article (which I wrote a lot of).

ANYway, my teammate CDY did extremely well, winning the super G portion of all three races — which were also scored independently as super G's, so he's now won three World Cups this season. Slalom is not his specialty, but he managed to do well enough in the slalom legs to take 2nd, 5th, and 3rd in the super combis. As for me, I am struggling with super G right now. I feel great during my runs, but when I look at my time I always seem to be blindsided by how slow I am. Slalom is a little better...

I was 5th, 13th, and 10th in the super Gs. I didn't finish the slalom portion the first day, but ended up 9th overall in yesterday's race and 8th in today's. Complete results can be found here, and you can read some U.S. Ski Team press releases here.

Tomorrow, we're off to Queyras, France — a 10-hour drive — for more World Cup action.

Monday, January 07, 2008

tough day of slalom

Today was the first World Cup race of the season, a slalom in Abtenau, Austria. I was the only sitting male finisher from the U.S. today, in 8th place in race won by Austria's Harry Eder. The race was held in weather that ranged from mist to pouring rain... it was pretty lame. The organizers put chemicals in the snow to keep it firm and try to create a consistent surface, but large holes developed in two places on the first run, taking out a large percentage of the male sitting skiers, who run last in slalom. I made it through with a solid but unambitious run. On the second run I charged a bit more, but when I reached the final pitch, where big ruts had again developed, I went for quite a rodeo ride. I hung on though, and by finishing cleanly I moved up a few positions, from 11th to 8th. Not the best slalom finish I could have hoped for — but not the worst, either. Only one other American guy, Brad, finished both runs (he was 9th in the standing class). In the women's race, Jonezy took a respectable third place among the standing skiers, and Laurie turned it up, winning the sitskier category the way we used to expect from her every day, regardless of the discipline.

Complete results can be viewed here, on the IPC website.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

park city wrap-up from munich airport

I'm writing this from the Munich airport, where there's no wi-fi at the moment, but hopefully I'll be able to post this in the not-too-distant future. We just arrived here for the opening World Cup races in Abtenau, Austria, which begin in a couple days.

We raced Nor-Ams on Tuesday and Wednesday i Park City, Utah, and I had mixed results. I felt awful on my GS skis, and I made a lot of big mistakes on the first run of the GS before crashing and failing to finish the second. But the next day in slalom, I put together two really solid runs and finished second, about one second behind.

Just getting from my house in Winter Park to Park City on Dec. 31 was a real challenge. I was scheduled to fly from Denver to Salt Lake at 6:10 in the morning, so my girlfriend M. and I set out for Denver around 6 p.m. the night before. The plan was to drop her off at the airport that night for her to catch her flight and then spend the night at Brad's parents' house in Highlands Ranch. But unbeknownst to me, a winter storm had been brewing, and by the time M. and had all our stuff packed into my van, Berthoud Pass was closed. Berthoud is on US 40, the main route in and out of Winter Park, and it's a twisty, tortuous drive that only takes 25 minutes in good weather, but it's possible to be stuck up there for hours during a blizzard. Thankfully, that didn't happen to us, since they had already closed the pass. I would almost certainly me missing my 6:10 a.m. flight out of Denver, so at that point, there was nothing to be done but go to the store for some veggies, tofu and wine, go home and make a stir-fry, and play some Guitar Hero on Wii. (I kick ass at "Anarchy in the UK," but I'm still struggling with the solo on Tenacious D's "The Metal.")

The next morning, New Year's Eve Day, periodic checks of the CDOT website revealed that the pass was still closed — and that key portions of Interstate 70 were shut down as well, meaning that the alternate route out of Winter Park — west through Kremmling, south to Silverthorne, and then east to Denver via I-70 — was also a no-go. M. suggested an alternate alternate route, heading south from Silverthorne down to Fairplay (of South Park fame) and then back northeast to Denver:

View Larger Map
Google Maps pegged the route at around five hours under normal conditions; with the roads in such a condition, it was sure to take even longer, but it seemed like our only hope of getting to Denver before the dawn of 2008. So M. packed up some snacks, and around noon we set out on the road. By now it was mostly sunny, but fierce winds still kicked up snow and blew it across the road, making it difficult to see very far during the stronger gusts and requiring a driver to use a firm grip just to keep the car going in a straight line.

We made it to Silverthorne with no trouble, but it seemed like all of Colorado was stuck in that strip-mall, outlet-store town and trying to get out. There was quite a queue of cars waiting for I-70 to reopen, and another heading south out of town on Highway 9, our route. We inched our way through Breckenridge and then up over Hoosier Pass, which somehow remained open. By the time we reached Fairplay, it was nearing five p.m. — two hours before the day's last flight to Salt Lake on Delta, the airline the team had booked me on. M. and I frantically started calling other airlines and found a flight on United leaving at 8:48 p.m., which seemed within reach. I sped toward DIA as fast as I thought I could get away with, and M. and I talked through the logistics of how we were going to get me onto my flight with my five checked bags, her onto her flight home to Boise at 9:40, and my van into some sort of parking area. We pulled up to the curb at about 8:00 — three minutes before the check-in deadline — and I went straight to the United desk and said, "One one-way ticket to Salt Lake, please." (I have always secretly wanted to buy a last-minute plane ticket that way, although I never knew they charge you an extra $20 for the privilege.) I made my plane, wasn't charged for my excess bags, and even got upgraded to first class, while M. made her flight home as well.

I later found out that Berthoud Pass reopened mid-afternoon, which means we could've taken a much more direct route to the airport and arrived there earlier, in time for the last Delta flight — but also found out that I would have almost certainly have been charged at least $225 in excess baggage charges, which United waived. Missing my flight and buying a last-minute ticket for $150 ended up saving me $75... how about that.