Birkie greetings from the land of the Vasaloppet, where it’s a balmy 38 degrees and sunny. The past week in Europe seems to have flown by. Here are some highlights from my adventures in the Czech Republic and Sweden. . .
I arrived in Liberec, Czech Republic at the Hotel Babylon on Wednesday, February 13 after a long day and a half of weather delayed travel. Although I was happy to have finally arrived, the green fields on the drive from Prague and the palm trees growing outside the hotel were not exactly what I was expecting on my first European World Cup experience!
We were lucky enough to be able to ski on the Jizerska Padesatka (Czech Birkie) trails the next day. Here Lief navigates the icy roads, er, trails. . .
I’m not actually giving those trails enough credit. There were a few nice spots and the frosty trees were pretty cool. We even met a Tunisian guy out on the trail.
He wanted to buy the “big Americans” a beer at this bar out on the trail, so we stopped our workout and enjoyed a few Pilsner Urquells and Budwars out on the trail.
After all those beers, we couldn’t really remember how to get back to the trailhead. . .
so we just took off our skis and walked home. (Notice the Km marker on the side of the trail for Km 40 of the Czech Birkie!)
The race organizers weren’t finished with the race course until 4pm on Friday, the night before the race. This is what the stadium looked like from the outside. No snow in sight!
The course was the definition of “rock skiing.” In fact, the snow for the race course was taken from a National Protected Area in the mountains and the race organizers claimed that they had no idea. There were a few protesters that actually wanted us to boycott the race. I never thought conservationists would actually get pissed at Nordic skiers!
The previous shot is a view of the town of Liberec from the race course. You can see in the distance that the only other place with snow in town is the ski jumps. Our World Cup was held in conjunction with a Nordic Combined World Cup in preparation for the World Championships here next year. Of the three Nordic Combined competitions they were supposed to hold here, they were only able to complete one because it was so windy, they couldn’t jump. Hope they get some snow and the wind calms down a little by this time next year!
Here’s a picture of me on race day, thanks to Pete for taking some awesome shots. The spectators lined the entire 2km loop and we ended up having a beautiful day to race. The course was injected with ice the night before the race and it actually held up pretty well throughout the day.
After the weekend, we loaded up our skis in the van and headed up to Sweden.
Actually, we didn’t touch our skis. We left them in the wax cabin after the race and the wax techs, Larry and Peter, cleaned, travel waxed, and packed all of our skis. While we flew to Stockholm without luggage, they drove the van through the night all the way from Czech to Sweden. Talk about service! When we arrived, I found I was missing two pair of my skate skis. . .uh oh. Did they get left behind? No, Larry and Peter dropped off all the skis that had gotten trashed by the rocks in Liberec at a grinder in Sweden who custom ground our skis for the conditions in Falun this weekend. Wow.
Everything in Falun feels much more like you’d expect of a World Cup!
Here’s the stadium, start, and jumps in the background.
I also found myself an old enduro bike here in Falun.
You know you’re in the land of snow and ice when the motorcycles have studs like these!
The races start tomorrow, on Saturday, with a 30km pursuit and a 4 x 10km relay on Sunday. The forecast is for 38° tomorrow and 40° with rain on Sunday. A little warmer than it’s supposed to be in Hayward this weekend. Good luck to everyone racing the Birkie! I’ll sign off with a photo of one of the bus stop benches here in Falun.