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World Champs.
Thursday, February 24, 2011

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – was the site of the 2011 Alpine World Championships. Being competitor at World Champs was definitely a milestone. There was tons of media, more coverage, random celebrities, tons of entertainingly drunk fans, lots of representation of small nations, smaller teams (only 4 athletes per event per nation), racing side by side with the ladies (really cool), more families around, and at the end of nearly each day a World Champion was crowned. Being in Garmisch for five days was entertaining.

My race was pretty painful. I started 31 and was fired up on race day. My equipment felt really good in warm up so I was ready to get after it. In World Champs only the top 15 get world cup points so having a mediocre day is pointless. There was a lot of fog in the morning so they decided to move the start down about 15 seconds, which made it quite a bit easier and more of a sprint.

About 10 minutes before I started, Bode radioed up and gave an exceptionally thorough course report. He explained how you could cut the line off right out of the gate and then focused on how important it was to set up an under gate coming onto the flats. There were four big turns on the flats before a chicane turn and then a long under gate across the pitch with painfully bumpy snow. The course had not been groomed in two weeks since long before the super g and downhill over a week before the GS. I was psyched with his report. It didn’t change my plan much it just reiterated a few things.

I leaped out of the gate and immediately went straight. At third gate, I did a little slide at the top of the turn, which made me pretty upset. I didn’t want to slow down. I wanted to go as fast as I could and crush the course. I came over the first roll with some heat and didn’t give myself quite enough room, which forced me to hit the breaks on the back side of the roll. I lost a little time there, but I was able to come onto the flat with some good speed. This was the section where Bode said there was a lot of swing so I set up the under gate, but I wasn’t patient enough on the next gate. I came in a bit early and didn’t come out of the first of four big turns with enough direction. Four gate later – just before we dropped onto the waterfall pitch in the chicane turn – I was so late I had to point up the hill to get around a gate. Damn it. Watching video it doesn’t look that bad, but it certainly felt like crap. I was so angry; but immediately thought, I could crush the pitch and make up time because I didn’t have much speed going onto it.

I made my way through the next under gate or long turn onto the pitch and there was one big bump/jump. I decided to pop it a little bit so I could skip some of the small bumps to land and snap off a nasty turn. Unfortunately, I got more air than I anticipated (see pic below) and didn’t do that at all. Damn it again. I came off the pitch and made some good turns at the bottom, but didn’t make the flip so I was starting around 40th second run. Which means I started my second run after the flower ceremony in the finish during an 11minute hold. The race was going to be more than over before I pushed out of the gate.

Right after first run, I gave an interview to Universal Sports explaining that Ted was going to destroy second run and win the race so I decided to wait up top and watch second run on TV. Ted came down with an inspiring second run and won the race!! I was so pumped, but it was a bit painful to be at the top of the mountain waiting to go. The men’s team had low spirits at Worlds when we arrived since no one on the men’s side had put together an inspiring performance. Bode, Ted, and Nyman all had some great sections in the speed races, but that’s all. Tommy Ford in the Super G definitely had the best performance so far when he finished 13th, but other than that the ski team was pretty flat so the win was a great way to keep everyone’s head high.

Second run, I had a solid run, but had some trouble on the bottom pitch to finish 35th 4.2 seconds off Ted (I was 2.7 out first run). That night was really fun. There were two victory party in Ted’s honor in town after the awards and one of them Huey and I walked into the party with Ted on our shoulders. It was hilarious and hard work because Huey is so much talker than me. I felt like I was holding him up over my head. There were cameras flashing everywhere and TV cameras streaming live to ORF, the Austria channel. It was pretty hectic. After dinner – around 9:30 – I drove Bode to the airport in Munich and was back at midnight to catch up with my family in town who had been drinking since the race. I ordered 10 Jager shots, took four of them, and before I knew it I was eating a big mac sitting in McDonald’s at 5 AM wondering why I was still awake. I blame jager and redbull/vodka. Totally worth it.

Dropping Bode off means that I am currently rolling around Europe in his Audi RS6 for 10 days. His car is completely out of control. I’ll have to pick him up at some point, but it’s so nice to be ripping around Europe with a rig (and one way above my pay grade and lifestyle haha). The rest of the ski team guys are off to Bansko, Bulgaria for a Super Combined and a slalom this weekend, while I’m chilling out and powder skiing in Kaprun, Austria.

Thanks to Mom, Guy, Jill, and RB Klinkenberg for coming over the pond to experience Garmisch. Without you guys it wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining. Thanks.

Cheers to all. w

posted by Warner at 2/24/2011 04:29:00 AM (permanent link to this post) 1 comments

Damn bolts.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sunday was a crazy, hectic day.

The Dodge guys came over for the Hinterstoder World Cup as it was the same week as ISPO, an international trade show in Munich. They came over with a set of new cuffs that I used for the free ski day and was pretty happy with the way they felt. I decided to use them for the race because I had a nice feeling with the newer, crisper cuff that was a bit more reinforced. I took a few runs before the race and when I got to the start one of the bolts fell out. One of the Head boot start technicians, Bartala, noticed it and we immediately went into full panic mode at the start.

I’ve had this problem one other time without the bushing on the side of the boot and when this happens you might as well quit while you’re ahead and not even push out of the gate. That bushing is one of two main contact points that transfers the pressure from your ankle into your skis. Without it you have no canting, no power, and no chance. The first thing that came to my mind was, “Awesome. This is a perfect time to be totally screwed.” This race only decides who gets to race World Champs next week. I immediately redlined and was so angry knowing it was my fault; I don’t like to put lock-tight onto the bolts because I often change them and hate drilling them out when they’re locked in.

We had 10 minutes to find a solution. I fought off the anger and disappointment and tried to make good decisions in full panic mode. The Bartala was running around looking for a bolt that would fit. Since he’s a Head technician and I’m on Dodge boots he didn’t have anything that fit. I was running around doing the same asking Rossi techs and pretty much anyone close to me. We couldn’t find anything. Bartala had a couple really long binding screws he was trying to stuff in there haha. We started taking bolts off of the buckles – they didn’t fit that well – but at this point it was clear perfection wasn’t an option. He put the buckle bolt into place and it looked like I had a chance. He packed up his tools and said, “Good luck!” I did a couple little runs and was fired up. We had 4 minutes until my start. I look down and it didn’t work at all. Now the bushing was gone. Our level of sucking was outrageously high. I yelled over to the Bartala. A few of us, ran around and found the missing bushing in the snow. I think it was Robi Horvat, the USST tech for Tommy and Jitloff, that found it in the snow.

We were 3 minutes from the start when I asked him to take the bolt off the back of the cuff, which I knew would work. There are two bolts that hold the back of the cuff in place, but to have it on the bushing was way more important. He pulled it off. Heuy, the US Team start guy that is a professional yeller, looked at me and said, “You have to start worrying about what you need to do on the course and let them work.” Then he goes back and starts yelling for Bode as he leaps out of the gate. Bode starts 31 and I started 33 so there was exactly one minute 20 seconds before we were going to sink or swim. Bartala finished screwing my bushing in at about one minute out. I ask him to tighten up the rest if they’re loose and I’m in the gate. It’s go time!!!

I took a couple deep breaths, knew I had a chance, and spring out of the gate. The top section of the course is steep and rugged. Ted gave us a grest course report that we could arc the entire pitch so that’s what I was trying to do. I immediately was late running the latest line on the hill. I kept it going by mostly pressuring in the fall line, but damn it felt bad. Somehow I was 11th on that top split. I came onto the flat with a lot of speed off the pitch so that was good. On the flats, I skied pretty well and lost some speed right in front of Mike Day on a long right-footed under gate. I kept fighting and was exhausted at the bottom, but I knew I needed to snap off a few good turns into the finish. Hinterstoder is a painfully long course so you’re legs are completely immersed with lactic acid at the bottom. I crossed the line ready to see myself 4 or 5 seconds off the pace after the cluster at the start and the painful skiing on the pitch. Miraculously, I was in 21st, a little over 2 seconds off the pace. My immediate response was that couldn’t be right as my anger started subdued. I watched a few more guys come down and realized there was a very good chance I was going to have a second run (only the top 30 move onto second run). In the finish, I watched Tim Jitloff, bib 48, blow out four gates before the finish a good bottom split away from qualifying. That was a bummer for Jit. Then Tommy and I gave a course report to Biesemeyer and Nolan Kasper, but they both had some trouble. Ted, Bode, Tommy Ford, and I qualified for second run.

In between runs, the Dodge guy took the boots and put them back together, while I put some Podium additive onto my skis. There isn’t much time in between runs when you qualify so before I knew it I was back at the start to see Bartala and give him a big hug. He totally saved my day.

Second run, was much tighter with more swing. I pushed out of the gate and once again was immediately late. I didn’t keep it going quite as well as first run. Coming onto the I was behind the course and tried to lay it over, but it was on the only slick, icy gate on the course. I went onto my hip, but was able to pop back up quickly. Then I did it again on the next gate. With some more anger flowing, I went as straight as possible to the bottom trying to make up some time. I didn’t make up any time and ended up finishing 26th a little less than two and a half seconds off the pace.

Bode had a banner day. He made a big mistake both runs just before the finish, but finished 9th, his best performance of the season in GS. It was good to see him making good GS turns again. Ted finished 13th and Tommy Ford finished 19th. Right after the race, I drove with Jitloff to Innsbruck, which was a pretty silent ride for the first leg. By the end of it, we were both ready to party in Innsbruck and watch the Super Bowl, which we did until 4:30 when the Packers clinched the game.

Yesterday – one day after the race – I got a call from Sasha and the nod to race in the World Champs GS. I’m pretty psyched. This season I didn’t have any goals. None. I really loathe big performance goals. I really wanted to race in the Olympics last year and that didn’t work out so qualifying for World Champs, which is basically the same just the wrong year feels pretty damn good. Life isn’t about going to World Champs or getting married; it’s about the journey and being able to walk around with a smile knowing you’ve done you’re best. I much prefer my new strategy, it keeps me way more satisfied with whatever I’m dealt, and it seems to be working.

I’m off to Mt. Pora tomorrow. Jon is picking me up on his way thru Innsbruck then I’m going to meet up with the ski team to get ready for World Champs.

Keep smiling, I am. W

P.S. Hank McKee has a dark horse prediction article for World Champs that references Zorro when he talks about me. Hahaha. You can check it out here: http://skiracing.com/?q=node%2F9344

posted by Warner at 2/08/2011 01:18:00 PM (permanent link to this post) 3 comments

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Hinterstoder, Austria - We’re here in Hinterstoder the site of the last GS before World Champs in two weeks. The last month of racing Europa Cup and FIS races was mighty painful for this guy. However, after Meribel we had three good days of training in Hinterreit. I found a new focus and went back to my old model GS ski. The last month I got pretty lost. It’s quite easy to do that as a GS skier in January when there aren’t any races that really matter and you’re constantly rotating thru different groups of athletes and coaches. I was convinced a different model of GS skis was better, but I was wrong. At least for me, they were fast, but not very forgiving. Oh well. The last few days, I watched a lot of video mostly of French guys that are killing GS right now and a little of me. They are skiing really open in their stance – especially at and after the gate – and are even skiing with some counter at the top of the turn. So that’s what I’m working on and it feels pretty good so far. It’s really nice to have a new focus and feel like I’m coming out of the woods.

This season my best results have come after bad training and races so I’m not too worried and just fired up to get after it tomorrow.

Tommy Ford had a career day today when he finished 11th in the SG here after starting in the 60s and Bode was on the podium for the second time this season so it was a good day for the Americans tech team. The race hill here is pretty flat with only one relatively steep pitch right out of the gate. It suits me so it should be a fun one.

Hope all is well. Time to make things happen. w

posted by Warner at 2/05/2011 02:50:00 PM (permanent link to this post) 1 comments