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War of Attrition at Solden
Monday, October 25, 2010

Yesterday, I woke up after a full night of sleep ready for Solden. I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited. We drove up in Adam’s – the physio of the USST – rig and got into a heated confrontation with one of the police officers when we reached the crucial point of

where to park. I think he was disappointed to be merely a parking lot attendant yesterday. The police officer jumped in front of our car, slammed his hands into the hood making sure we stopped as he yelled, all in German, of how we couldn’t possibly continue because we didn’t have the correct parking pass to go to our allocated warm up room. We were in a brand new Audi A4 s-line with ski team logos all over it, but to him that didn’t cut it. After some entertaining yelling we finally preceded on, but the police officer took down Adam’s name and license number because he claimed we hit them. Apparently, jumping out in front of a vehicle at the last second is proper protocol. We stopped before there was much contact. I was pretty fired up that it wasn’t me in the driver’s seat.

During inspection, the hill didn’t look nearly as painfully steep as I remembered it last year. When you don’t have much of a chance to ski on a hill before a race it’s easy to make a pitch look steep and scary, especially this one. It’s steep, but I was psyched to have so much time free skiing on it a week earlier. The course was pretty straight up top, then had a pretty big left footer onto the first pitch, a good consistent rhythm down to the second roll where the real pitch started. That’s where you need to be over your skis or you’re day is a short one. Nine gates later there was a big left footed undergate, which represented the time to start ripping onto the flats to carry speed to the finish. It was half way down the main pitch when I caught Massimiliano Blardone staring at my carbon ski boots for the second time. I couldn’t help myself, I had to say, “Don’t be afraid, come on over, and check em out.” The Italian GS specialist merely mumbled something under his breath and almost cracked a smile when he turned and looked down the course with all the intensity in the world. His ski pants were mostly zipped off and his jacket was completely unzipped from what seemed to be heat radiating from his intense inspection. The course looked very rip able; I was happy with the set.

I took a couple runs in the training course, got a pretty good feeling on my skis, and went down near the finish to watch a few of the first guys before I went up for my run. I watched Jansurd and Janka. They made it abundantly clear that the course was already in terrible shape. It was a war of attrition. The snow wasn’t holding up. It looked like a bit of a rodeo from the start, which was only going to get worse. It’s nice to get focused on a new mental challenge and know what to expect so I was happy I watched.

I caught the next ride up the gondola and hung out at the top. With my new points, I started 34 just after the three, 500 pointers, they are the guys that have a ton of World Cup points from last season that aren’t ranked in the top 30 in the world in GS. Bode was starting 33 so it was really nice to be part of the race. When you start deep in the field it’s easy to feel like you’re racing in a completely different competition. In the start, I was fired up and had a solid plan. Pin the top flat and bring as much intensity as possible all the way down the hill. There is no substitute for intensity down that pitch or in World Cup. Dane Spencer put it best, “The only option is bringing 100 percent intensity or you just go home at… like 11 o’clock.”

I pushed out of the gate, jumped into my bully and started cutting off the line. On the first big left footer I took the turn really far across the hill, dropped my knees in, and snapped off a good turn. Down that pitch I linked it up nicely and got ready for the real pitch. The first right footer going onto it there were huge chunder holes or shelves. The next nine gates were an act of survival and nothing more. I brought a ton of intensity, but came out really late into the delay (long turn) and struggled for the next four to five gates to get back to the front of my boot before rolling onto the flat. At that moment, all I could think was noooooooooo I should be crushing right here, but I’m sucking. Damn it. I came onto the flat without much speed and hammered my edges in a couple time and slowly crept down to the finish line. I ended up finishing a bit under a second off qualifying, which was pretty painful. But looking through the list of racers from yesterday, no one is hurt and there are a bunch of guys that are back from injury from the last three years. The GS racers right now are a very very solid group of skis. I was right around Marcus Sandell, JP Roy, Alberto Schieppati, and Robbie Dixon in 47th place. It a wake up call that reiterates how important it is to take Dane’s advice.

Only Ted and Bode fared well during the race. Ted was in second a hundredth off the lead and Bode was in 23rd almost two seconds off the pace. Will Gregorak had a great first split and put together a solid performance for his World Cup debut. Tommy Ford fell on the first pitch, Jitloff said he just never got into the rhythm of the course, and Nolan Casper was stuck in the fog the whole way down. His facebook status is, “my apologies for the visual diarrhea that was my run.” After first run, we hung around for a couple hours to cheer on our crew, until they pulled the plug due to fog. With the snow that bad it was the right decision to end the race. No one got hurt and everyone will get to fight another day.

The ski team all flew home today. Jon and I are in Innsbruck right now hanging out with Hans Olsson waiting for the snow to subside. It’s been dumping ever since mid afternoon yesterday so training right now is looking like a less and less likely program. Ugh, but Jon and I picked up a couple new pairs of skis – the version that Bode, Aksel, and Truls are using. I really want a couple more days on the pitch at Solden there just isn’t anything around that is that steep.

Hope all is well back home and I wish that I had better news from the slopes. Special thanks to Ben Drummond for being my tech at the start and it was a pleasure to get to see Paul Fremont Smith a few times over the weekend. And here is a picture that Mitchell Gunn/sportsphotographer.eu took of me during the race.

Cheers, w

posted by Warner at 10/25/2010 02:17:00 PM


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