The Europa Cup is the level of competition just under the World Cup. A similar level of competition is the Scandinavian Cup in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Our version is the Super Tour. This is the European version and often has skiers who race world cup sometimes and are just starting their senior years as racers...
We have been sending skiers to the OPA Cup for many year as a major development competition trip. You can see how it fits in to the development pipeline at www.nccsef.org under development pipeline. Remember, NCCSEF provides you the opportunity to support US cross country skiing in a direct way. If you are not involved in any other way, or even if you are, supporting NCCSEF supports youth and development skiing in the USA.
This post comes at you a little random since it is three write ups from three people with a bunch of pictures from various sources... but it gives you a good idea about how the trip is going.
From Sadie Bjornsen:
Different time, different format. That is how I would describe last night’s team sprint. For some reason the French decided it would be interesting to see who could sprint the fastest during the time of day that most athletes would be in bed sleeping. The schedule of events yesterday kicked off with the first quarterfinals being at 7:00 PM and races continuing until men’s finals at 10:15. After all was said and done I watched the Germans cross the line in first at 10:40 PM!
I have been racing the OPA circuit for the past four weeks, so it has been great to meet up with a group of about 15 athletes and four coaches earlier on this week. It makes racing a lot more enjoyable when you have a team around you, especially in a sprint race when the more cheering you get, the faster you seem to go.
Because the senior women’s field only had 9 teams starting, we got to skip over quarterfinals and only had to race finals for the evening. The US started two teams, Caitlin Compton and Nicole Deyong partnered up and Katie Ronsse and I partnered up as well.
At 8:15, the start of our race, it was cold, dark, and windy, but there was no lack of energy. Lots of spectators and lots of athletes made for quite the exciting atmosphere. The race was held right in the heart of the small town of La Feclaz, with the finishing stretch right in the center. Right from the gun, the group took off with a charge, instantly breaking the nine teams apart into smaller groups.
Both US teams took the first lap a little more relaxed, falling back a bit but deciding it was better to ski into the race and attack when the rest were fading and getting tired. The next two legs both teams slowly moved up through the field picking off what we could.
Arriving here a couple of days prior to this race made it a bit more difficult for some of the girls- but they put in a hard fight. Katie and I have been here a while, so we had a bit of an advantage. Needless to say these European skiers are strong girls and you have to really work to ski with them! Katie and I ended up crossed the line in sixth and the other US team shortly behind in 8th.
With such a late start it was a bit of a balancing act trying to decide when to eat dinner, where to warm up, and what to do all day for preparation. With an 8:15 PM start do you do a workout in the morning? Do you eat a spaghetti dinner at 7:00 when it is served, with a possible outcome of having it come back up during your race? Nobody really knew, which made it all the more fun.
The best part of the night’s adventures was warming up for the race. It was dark out, and the only area lit was the sprint course, which you couldn’t ski on. Which left you with the only option of going out on the trails and skiing in the dark. With no headlamps, this turned into quite the adventure. Luckily the past couple of days I have been skiing on these trails so I know the general flow of them- but every once in a while you would unexpectedly come to the end of a trail, or find the track had ended and you had somehow veered quite far off path. The best part is you couldn’t really see people coming until you were right on them. At one point I came within inches of slamming into some person when I was booking it down a hill back towards the stadium. With so many athletes out there I can guarantee there were some unexpected collisions last night. The good news is, it was dark out so you would never know whom you ran into. You might be able to tell which nationality they were, based on which curse word they yelled or how they apologized.
Tomorrow is a 5/10K mass start skate race. Stay tuned!
From Sylvan Elofsson:
After being showered on while relieving myself yesterday, I began to think this trip was going to be more epic than planned. Note to future France travelers: public restrooms are cleaned after a single use. Practical and sanitary for Frenchmen; confusing and wet for me.
The whole crew is together now after coming from Zurich and Geneva via the US. We are staying at a quaint residence in St. Francois de Sales, which is a short drive to the venue we will be racing at in La Feclaz. The food is exceptional with warm hospitality. Simi and I have a view looking at huge cliff face, across the valley that should be lit with the sun from the east if it does decide to peek through in the next couple days.
Half of us strapped on the skate boards while the other half klistered up to ski the many weaving trails in La Feclaz. I would not have believed we were racing at this venue being a 20 minute drive from fields of green in the valley below. The skiing is great though. Marshall and I got lost on all the trails and ended up having to ski some of them backwards to get back. Headed back to our hotel, the motel, the Holiday Inn and had a delicious lunch.
France has such an awesome history. Skiing here feels different than anywhere else. I don’t know why, it just does. This is a good different. Twenty-one coaches and athletes rocking it here in France for the next couple days. Can’t wait to see what is to come.
From Coach Bryan Fish:
Europa Cup Travel Adventures
My flights were seamless. I checked my bags straight through from Minneapolis to Munich, Germany with a layover in Chicago O’Hare. I met up with Amy Caldwell and Matt Whitcomb at O’Hare. I hopped onto the plane, watched a movie and slept the remainder of the way. It was morning in Germany and somewhere around 3:00AM back home.
We drove from Munich through Switzerland via a stint in Lichtenstein and then onto the northern French Alps. The total drive was a touch over 7 hours. The last portion of the drive was eventful only due to the sheer number of villages named St Francois. I counted 4 total. We checked out three until we found our final destination. St Francois must to be pretty popular around here.
On the Wednesday, March 3rd I had an impromptu scenic stroll around Chambery’s city center. I headed down from our lodging near the Col de Plainpalais and into the city to pick up Matt Whitcomb. Matt had returned one of our vans back to Geneva and took a train back to Chambery where someone was to swing by and pick him up. I heard word of the need for Matt’s pick up time with little time to spare, so volunteered and hopped out of my ski clothes and onto the road.
I found my way successfully into the City Center. Chambery’s city center was beautiful, but challenging to navigate. Many roads ended abruptly into old historic sections that had been preserved for tourist walking traffic only. Urban planning and design was a concept developed long after Chambery’s City Center. I opted to park on a nearby road close to the city’s Post Office, Police Department, Bus Station and Train Depot reside. I took note of a full-sized statue for a notable landmark near my parking position, for the street signs were challenging to find even at a walking pace. A simple trip resulted in a memorable experience that includes a story I just can’t make up. I am now offering my expertise for hire as a travel guide of Chambery’s City Center due to my intimate knowledge of the pedestrian sites.
Skiing here at La Feclaz is amazing with abundant mountain snow. The temperatures have been mild near 0 Celsius. The snow is transformed and granular, so klister has been effective. I little new snow fell yesterday and temperatures dropped slightly to dry out the snow. We were able to get hard wax to work, but klister still is the norm now that the new snow is tilled in. We have a team classic sprint this evening under the lights.
I was testing kick yesterday as well as assisting Caitlin Compton with skate ski selection. We dropped off her additional skis and my warm-up jacket and pants along the trail close to our entry/ exit to the parking lot toward the tail end of our training session. Caitlin’s skis remained but my jacket and pants unfortunately did not. I thought early departing athletes from our group snagged them, but unfortunately not. They did say they were there when they left 15 minutes shy of my departure. Well, I hope someone less fortunate than I acquired my warm-ups. They will be happy to find a new Canon G10 camera and mid-temperature hard waxes in the pockets. Bummer, since the USST kick wax box was lost by the airlines and they traded us by providing 7 sweet one-piece carbon hockey sticks. The owner of the sticks is an NHL hockey player that played in the bronze medal game. His name is engraved on them.
Thanks for the update skiers and coaches! Race fast!
...Still planning a write up on the Olympics and the World Cup since. Might have to wait until Holmenkollen is over. To catch up - directly after the games we flew to Scandinavia. Last weekend we raced in Lahti under sunny, cold skies. The results were fairly good with a 24th and 29th. But not as good, I think, as we are capable of. Now we are in Oslo where there has been a ton of work done at Holmenkolen. We race Drammen this Thursday and then Holmenkolen 30 and 50km on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. Stay tuned and sorry for the rushed report.