Relax, this isn’t a post about the geopolitical situation in pre-WWI Europe, but is actually a race report. A group of six Australians and one Brit travelled to Lackenhof, a small town in Lower Austria, which means it’s only 100km from Vienna, as the crow flies, and basically at the eastern tail end of the Alps. We were there for the Austrian Championships, where the races were a 10km individual classic race, followed by a 10km skate pursuit the next day, where the fastest person from the previous day starts first, and everyone else starts the same time behind as the gap on the previous day. It’s a little confusing, but basically it means that the person who crosses the line on the second day wins overall.
We arrived at the race course the day before the race to bright sunshine and beautiful, fast snow on a racecourse which was basically a gently sloping field, in which they’d groomed a course that loops back and forth on itself. The main thing I noticed about this course was that there weren’t many steep hills, and after trying a lap of the course only using double pole technique, I decided I would double pole the next day, which means my legs don’t do much but my upper body hurts a lot. I also managed to convince Jackson of this, and we thought it would be a good risk to take, and could potentially pay off with a really good result. We went to bed somewhat nervous but still hoping we’d made the right decision.
Unfortunately the next day was not cold and sunny but warm and rainy, and a strong warm wind had blown all night which had made the snow quite a bit slower. We decided to stick to our guns, waxing up skate skis, which are faster, and using skate boots, which are more stable. Our apprehension was increased by the fact that we noticed all the top guys were wearing classic ski equipment, thus we were in the minority. The risk with double poling is that if your arms and core give out during the race, it’s possible to lose a lot of time, the hope is that the extra speed on the downhills and easier cornering makes up for it.
Did our gamble pay off? Well, probably not, my result was slightly better than the previous week but nothing to crow about. I was about half way through the overall field, and in 25th place out of the FIS licensed racers. The positive was that while I did slow down during the race, my last lap wasn’t my slowest and I didn’t die completely, and at least I can say I’ve submitted myself to the cruel and unusual punishment of 10.3km of skiing using only my arms.
Skate 10km Pursuit
After an afternoon of soaking in the pool to try and ease the pain in my arms and core, we woke up on Sunday to a blanket of fresh snow, making everything look very pretty. My pursuit went fairly well, as I caught up with two other guys, skiing with them for a bit then realising that I was quicker up the hills, which allowed me to put at least 10 seconds on them. Unfortunately my skis weren’t as quick on the downhills and they probably attacked the corners more, and as I faded in the last lap (of four) I was overtaken by both of them. I was pretty disappointed in this race even though I was only 10% slower than the fastest skier on the day, as I felt I lacked balance and good technique, so the whole thing was a painful scramble. I still haven’t qualified for World Championships, but I have a couple more races in which to do so (more on that later)
Explanation for the title
We arrived in Lackenhof the day before the race, and the first thing I noticed about the signs in the hotel was that German was not the first language given. I then went inside, and went to reception, where there was a guy playing video games, who almost completely ignored me. I then asked another girl in there (in German) if we could move into our room, but she asked me if I could speak English because she couldn’t understand German. It turns out the hotel was run by Hungarians for Hungarian guests, and that most of the town was similar. It’s a little frustrating when you learn a language that the country you’re visiting speaks, only to find that the locals haven’t bothered to do as much. Examining the map, I found this:
It’s only 4 hours to Budapest, and 2.5 hours to the Hungarian border, and Lackenhof is basically the closest ski resort. It was an interesting surprise, but then I guess the two countries were joined 100 years ago, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so it’s sort of natural that Hungarians go on holiday. My risk wasn’t assassinating an Archduke and seeing what would happen, but double poling in the race wasn’t the safest option.
We headed back from the race and had a picnic in a lovely national park, then made it home to Ramsau, my base for these two weeks. The skiing in Ramsau has been lovely and it’s been nice staying others from the team, including three that have just arrived from the USA (Mark, Jess and Kat). We then were joined on Skype by Ash Spittle and (s)Ellie Phillips from Australia and Casey Wright from Idaho, which almost recreated the team I’ve been travelling with for the past two years.
Jackson and I have also taken on the responsibility of doing the food shopping for the whole group, including this mammoth effort of 159 Euros, which didn’t fit into a single trolley. Thank God for Aldi, we would have been set back about $500 at Woolworths in Australia!
Lastly, we went to watch the qualifying round of the boardercross in Kreischberg, Austria, for the World Freestyle Championships. Bad luck to my housemate Martin Noerl, who just missed out on qualification, and congratulations to many of the Aussies who’ve won medals, including Laura Peel and Scott James (both gold) and Britt Cox (bronze). Jackson and I also did this gigantic slingshot ride, which shot us up at 150km/h at 6G. The photo will go some way to explaining.