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Train travel, Ski Cross and Kirchberg
Monday, January 18, 2010

The morning after the Adelboden GS, I woke up at 9:00 AM and started packing up my stuff and talked to Jake Zamansky my roommate. He looks over at me at says, “Is there a reason why you’re up right now? Do I have to drive you somewhere soon cause I’d much rather be sleeping.” Indeed I did need a ride. As long as we left by 10:30 I’d have plenty of time to reach the 12:04 train out of Bern. And after some initial resistance he started packing. Jake was packing for a flight home the next day and I was packing the absolute bear minimum for train travel to the skier cross. Train travel is fantastic. It gives you a chance to chill out, see the scenery, and not worry about anyone’s driving ability. It’s the leisurely way to travel. However, carrying skis, tuning equipment, ski clothes, and whatever else from train to train with only a few minutes from one stop to the next is miserable. I packed three pairs of skis, a medium size tuning box with my edge machine, wax, brushes, files and an iron, then my back pack with boots, ski attire, a book, a few items of clothing (definitely not enough), and a tooth brush. The less you pack the better until you start to smell like a dirty European.

Anyway, after packing my stuff up I left the room and took one of the ski team Audi’s down to our tuning room (2 kilometers away) to start packing up my bench and skis. I packed everything I was not going to need into one of the Audi’s that hopefully Tommy Ford was driving to Paganella on Monday or Tuesday (I didn’t see any I left behind for six days). After some efficient packing, I was ready to go at 10:20. Jake was nowhere to be found his bench and skis were all still lined up. At 10:35, he rolls in swearing about someone’s terrible parking job and how he backed up in them. His bumper had a huge dent. Knowing it was partially my fault since he would still probably be sleeping we spent the next 20 minutes prying metal pipes up thru his bumper until we finally popped out the dent. Jake completely psyched about the idea of not paying the insurance deducible was finally able to settle down and start packing up his stuff. We finally rolled out of Adelbdoden at 11:03. We started the drive quite leisurely and plugged in Bern to his GPS and as we approached we started taking more risk passing cars aggressively until we reached the train station at 11:52 with 12 minutes to spare. Unfortunately for me, it was the wrong train station so we finally found the right one in the GPS, which was 10 minutes away. Jake increased the level of risk driving on a sidewalk, passing more cars, and running a number of red lights. When I looked at him he just laughed like a good friend and said, “Dude, I’m just trying to get you there on time.” We pulled into the station at 12:01 I grabbed my ski bag, tuning box, and backpack and started running. I finally found the ticket counter in a complete sweat, lowered my gear, and talked to the ticket salesman who informed me my train was gone and the next one was leaving in two hours. I asked him when the 12:04 train left and he graciously explained that it left at 12:04, it was now 12:05. Damn it.

I took the later train and was expected into Grenoble, France at 6:30, which would work out relatively well as one of the skier cross vehicles could pick me up, it would only be around an hour out of the way. After a ton of waiting around - I had too much equipment to explore – I was on my second train about half an hour from Grenoble when I heard an uproar on the train. Since the conductor only spoke French, I asked a few people around me what the deal was and they told me the train wasn’t going to make it to it’s final stop. Without worrying, I had only another half an hour on the train and the train was expected to go all the way to Villach. Five minutes later it pulled in to Chembery, France and everyone got off. Damn it. There were no more trains to Grenoble. I called Tyler Shepherd, the skier cross coach, and he called group that was picking me up and told them the good news. It would only mean an extra hour of driving for them. I waited in the packed Chembery train station sitting on my tuning box next to my skis for nearly two hours before I saw my ride. I was so incredibly happy to see Pat Duran, JJ Johnson, and Caitlin Ciconne. And just like that I was part of the skier cross crew. It was so refreshing to see them and become part of their crew.

We continued on with Pat Duran navigating our every move, which was not always the best strategy. After we finally passed Grenoble, Caitlin noticed we blew by a sign for Briancon (the direction we were going). After turning around countless times, we spent a total of 27 minutes – yes, nearly half an hour – trying to get back on the correct road. It should have been a five-minute mistake. Duran, our fearless leader, kept explaining we were “on track.” I finally grabbed the map to take a look; he was navigating us on the European equivalent to a map of the United States. Boston and New York would have only been an inch apart. Damn it. We were finally back on track and arrived at our hotel at 9:30 just in time to get dinner. My short 5 hour trip took 10.5 hours, but we were finally in Alpe D’Heux, France. Not to mention, we drove up the Alpe D’Heux road which is one of the main mountain stages of the Tour de France. It was pretty neat to drive up the ridiculously steep stage road.

The next morning, we went up to the hill to check out the track. I couldn’t believe how flat it was. We inspected the course and checked out what looked like huge kickers. As a ski racer, we ski over a lot of different terrain, but it’s certainly different to see a massive jump with a lip in front of you. There were 8 jumps, 5 whoopty-do sections, and three long turns. It quickly became painfully clear my turning ability was not going to give me much help. I watched St. Johan skier cross on TV a week before and it was fully injected, steep and looked like a hill just for me. After watching that Ted and I really wanted to try a skier cross. During training I took three runs. In first run, I cased (or came up short) on nearly every single jump because I was scared of skying off them. During the second run, I felt pretty natural and my third run I actually had fun. After our training was over, I hung around and watched the rest of the teams train so I could dial in my line and get a better idea of what to do.

Skier cross is all about being tight in the air, pressing every single roll, landing on the back of each landing, generating speed through all the terrain, and having a good start. Speeds are low since wearing pants and a jacket are required. In the finish they check to make sure each item of clothing is legal (baggy), it’s pretty hilarious. Since I was only doing qualifying the next day, I didn’t worry about being on a course with other skiers. In qualifying you’re on the course all alone. Only the top 32 from qualifying end up moving onto the heats. The heats consist of four rounds where four racers go head to head and only two move on. That was something I never had to worry about. Over video that night, I came up with a pretty good plan. The next morning we inspected and had two training runs before qualifying. In the first training run, I was totally on it and skied quite well probably not top 32, but I nailed all the jumps and just wasn’t very tight in the air. In the second run, I launched off one jump and pulled out because I didn’t have enough speed for the next kicker.

During qualifying, I just felt out of rhythm. I’m used to inspecting and then getting fired up and racing it. So what happened was my best run was my first run in the morning. In my qualifying run, I pressed one jump I needed to jump and landed on the uphill portion of the landing and lost all my speed. I had a decent run other than that, but finished miles off the pace to only beat a small handful of skiers.

All and all, it was definitely worth doing. I had a great time, learned a ton, and wouldn’t mind doing another someday. It was a very nice distraction from the cancellation of Adelboden.

I caught a ride back to Italy with the Aussies and now I’m back in Patsch after a Europa Cup GS yesterday in Kirchberg. I skied pretty well in a couple section and finished 14th with a solid field. It was a 1:25 second GS course. They started from the top which made it run quite well, but it painfully long. On the steep pitch, I found myself not arcing very hard, which bummed me out a bit. We have three more GS races near by in the next four days so that should be a nice way to keep things going. The Olympic are out of the question, but now I’m just trying to finish this out. Hopefully I can get a spot to race the two world cups in Kranjska at the end of the month (they are planning on rescheduling Adelboden for Kransjska, but it’s too late to be part of the Olympic qualifications).

Hope all is well, w

posted by Warner at 1/18/2010 12:22:00 PM


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