This years trip was going to involve not one but two circa brothers, destination….the United States of America, in particular California. With details of our accommodation still up in the air we boarded a United Air flight from Sydney and headed to San Fran to a connecting flight to Reno where it was hoped that someone would be there to pick us up……….after about 3 hours of sitting out side the plane terminal we both had come to the conclusion that we were going anywhere fast, a few phone calls later we had some directions to Gimmer house hold up in Soda Springs, just needed a car now. Both of us being under 25 left only a few options for hiring a car and finally finding a company that would gives us a car. We were then left with the option of 2 cars, mini van or convertible, seeing that our large ski bags wouldn't fit in the convertible, mini van it was and off we set, getting lost almost immediately we detoured through Reno till finally finding the interstate 80.
With Nick arriving home from races in West Yellowstone we spent the first we just skiing around and checking out the area, bought ourselves a car and started working as waiters down at the lodge. With arrival of Evan VDP saw the departure of Nick, Paul and I to head for the US super tour leg in Utah. After a long and pretty much uneventful trip across the Nevada desert, a land with no trees or wildlife or anything over a foot tall, we arrived at Soldier Hollow with only a sprint course set and snow makers working 24 / 7, we spent the week preparing for the up coming races with majority of the US national team. Staying in a small town called Heber City there wasn't really much to do but hang out in our hotel room and on the odd occasion walk up and down the main street and watch the tumble weed roll on by (just like in the movies!!).
Super Tour Soldier Hollow races were:
Saturday - classic sprint
Sunday - 15km skate (individual start)
Wednesday - 10km classic (mass start)
Saturday - 10km skate (individual start)
Sunday - 30km pursuit
We all rolled up on Saturday morning ready and raring to go with Nick the first of us off with Paul and I off closer to the end of start list. Not a very good start for me and Paul as we work our way around the track but for Nick slipping into 17th just as one of the later competitors took that last finals spot from him. After watching a few of the finals we retired back to the wax benches to prepare for the 15km skate the next morning. A new day, a new start for my distance racing campaign. Once again Nick was off in the first of racers in the B group followed by the A group of races then a short delay to the C group where Paul and I were starting. (A delay in the C group starts due to amount of people that the 2.5km track could handle) A much improved start for me as took off and tagged onto the back of a few of the A group racers and with Nick already off the course yelling splits from the big score boards I pushed on to finish in 33rd of 67 and points of 141, with Nick and Paul finishing in 55th and 60th.
After good races by all we decided to hit the factory outlets of neighboring Park City.
Originally only planning on staying for the first 2 races we then extended the stay till the Wednesday's classic race, which for some reason was changed to an individual start. The start of the week saw the arrival of Dave and Belinda to the country, who were set to compete in the races at the end of the week. Spent most of the week just skiing around the race track and watching the tumble weed roll past we were set for race, although this was going to be a small field of racers as a few of the teams had headed home. Race results ended with Nick in 35th and 18sec behind I was in 37th with Paul in……. After having a quick shower and a bit to eat we set off on our 9hour drive home to California, leaving Dave and Belinda to race the remaining events, where we had heard that there was a fresh few feet of snow awaiting us.
Auburn Sprints were held on the 21st of December, the first of the local race and only a few day after arriving back from the rod trip to Utah. A sunny day awaited us a we pilled into the car and drove down the street to Auburn ski club where qualifying was shortly under way. Nick was into 6th, I was into 9th, Evan into 15th and Paul into 17th. Top 24 qualified with heats of 6, top 3 advancing. With the first of the heats containing both the circa brothers in which we both had extremely slow starts and taking up the rear of the field for most of the race and finally working back through the field to finish 3rd and 4th in the heat, unfortunately for Paul his day was over. As the other heats went on Nick cruised through to the semis and Evan also finishing in 4th to end his race day. Semi final action was soon under way which saw me finish in 4th after avoiding an unfortunate crash on the down which then put myself into the B final. Nick on the other hand finished 2nd in the second semi to put himself into the A final. The B final was off first and final I found a little speed and spent most of the race in 2nd and final making a move and stumbling on the final rise 50m from the finish to cross the line in 2nd. The A final was off with Nick leading the charge into the first set of corners and downhill section but unfortunately was passed on the long straight back to the stadium finishing on the podium in 2nd.
The next 2 weeks following were the holiday period here which had most week spent working down at Ice lakes Lodge and for the most part of the week we were in a nice big snow storm spending what time we had off to re-dig the steps out to the house or clearing the deck with the only break in the weather happening on the week just as the next race rolled around, the Snowshoe Thompson classic (10km classic) and the first of the Fisher Cup series. All slapping on some nice blue wax due to the cold outside weather, we arrived at Auburn ski club for a dual start race with a strong field as most were home for the holidays. Feeling the effects of quite heavy workweek I finished in 10th a few minute back with Paul in 15th, Nick in 19th and Evan 33rd. The next week was much the same with another snow storm rolling in and many more hours spent digging (cars, stairs and decks) and working at the lodge although getting a few hours off to part take in local new years celebrations………with a few sore heads the boys on the breakfast shift opening the front door new years morning to discover all the cars completely berried and a long, slow walk to the lodge in the storm awaited them. The end of the week was soon upon us and so was the next race and for a few of as the begging of a month of racing with could have potentially seen us racing up to 11 races.
Paco's 10km skate race was again held at Auburn ski club and again dual start but due to the cold weather a race start delay for an hour was into place. Finally the race began and with a few of the local boys off in Maine at nationals and Nick opting to spend a few days down in San Fran, I cleaned up the field by nearly a minute with Paul finishing in 5th and Evan in 21st and finally it stopped snowing! The Wednesday following saw the start of the Tahoe Donner night series, a short 2 lap circuit under lights (for the most part). With a field of just under 50 competitors arriving at the start line for short classic event and for the most part it was a double pole sprint with me finishing first, Paul in 3rd and Evan in 5th. Next on the race calendar was a trip down to Tahoe city for the Alpenglow Freestyle 20km which saw just under 120 people take to the start line with Nick leading the large line of racers off for the first few kilometers until letting me take the lead of what was now a group of about 10, a short acceleration for a few hundred meters shortened the line of skiers down to 6 until the first attack at the beginning of the first major climb which was 2 of break of the front and a 3rd just behind. The long down from the top of the climb saw myself slip way back into 3rd and nearly to 4th by the bottom but as we began to climb again it wasn't long till the there was a small group of 3 again at the front. With a few kilometers to go I took the lead and went on the attack dropping one of the other racers and headed for the finish. The finish was along straight parallel to the finish of about 500m then a hairpin corner and about 30m to the line, the sprint started as soon as we hit the straight and we were neck and neck till the corner where I slipped behind and was unable to take the win, Nick finish not too long after in 6th and Paul in 9th. After using our recently obtained gift vouchers at Alpenglow sports we headed home to prepare for the up coming American university races and for some the next of the night races which Nick cleaned up easily as I opted for a rest night.
The American universities have a 2-race circuit, one on the east and one on the west side of the country and then a final American championships at the end. This year they opened up the first 2 of the race series on the west as FIS races for any one to enter, and races in which Paul, Nick and I planned to compete. The first race although hosted by the University of Nevada-Reno was held Auburn ski club just down the road on the 15th and 16th of January. Races over the 2 days included a 10km individual skate and a 20km classic mass-start for the men. In near perfect weather the university racers rolled into town with small feeling that we may be some where in Europe with a large contingent of Norwegians and Germans about with a few Swiss, Swedes, Czech's, Canadians and others (including us). As non-university competitors the 3 of us were 1, 2 and 3 on the start list with Nick the lucky one off first followed 30sec by Paul then myself. Finishing the racing with myself in 25th and points on 127 (my best), Nick in 33rd and points pf 149 and Paul in 37th and points of 169 (his best). The next day saw Nick turn to wax tech and Paul and I started the long hall of the 20km classic. The race was run over 3 laps, first was a 5km lap then 2x7.5km laps which dropped into the area know as the black hole. With a bit of a slow start and first lap I entered the black hole which if you managed to make it to the bottom in one piece then was an enormous slog out to a short rest before doing the rest of the climbs on the 5km trail. While I made it to the bottom relatively easily many decided to get up close and personal with a few trees resulting in a lot of broken poles and a few bloodied up athletes. While working through the field on my second lap I was feeling the effects of a hard race the day before and racing at an altitude of over 7100ft. With some awesome grip thanks to some good tips from the local farwest team and UNR team I finished in 35th and points of 166 (worse distance points of my trip) and Paul in 40th. Next stop for the race tour was to be back at soldier hollow in Utah but not before most of the competing athletes enjoying the sights of the nightlife of Reno…….bright lights, huge casinos and loud clubs.
Before we departed for another road trip we were all set to compete in the next of the local Fisher Cup series at Tahoe Donner for the Sierra Skogsloppet 15km skate race the next Monday. With about 130 starters going off at the gun again Nick took the early lead with a group of 6, including me, immediately going off the front and for the first few k's just cruised along behind Nick until the first of the 2 climbs on the lap. With Nick giving up the lead just before the climb the first attack of the race came with our group of 6 splitting into groups of 3 with myself in the first group and Nick in the second. For the rest of the race both group staying separate for the rest of the race but not too far apart. As we once again came around to the first climb for the second lap the attacks again started as 2 of us broke away until the second climb where we became 3 again and as we headed for the finish the lead constantly changing with the final result having me in 3rd, Nick in 6th and Evan in 17th, Paul having the day of to rest for the races later on in the week.
Once again on the road driving across the Nevada desert to Soldier Hollow to this time arrive and see the 5km Olympic course set for the up coming races, a 10km classic (individual start) and a 15km skate (mass start). Spending the first day skiing the course and gaining wax tips off the UNR team and adjusting to the very cold conditions and later returning to our house to apply our only cold wax of ch3. Again with pretty much the same starting field as the previous races in Nevada and with the three of us again of at the start although Nick and I had swapped and I was first to leave start gate. With this course containing a lot less double poling than previous races and long climbs with fast downs, it suited me a lot more as I finished in 20th (of 45) +3.34 off the winner who was 46sec clear of second and gaining fis points of 142, Nick finishing in 32nd +5.26 and Paul in 42nd +8.03 (who suffered in the cold). The next morning again we arrived at a cold stadium and all filed into the start pen tacking our positions for the mass start 15km skate, this time we had our own lane to start from and as the gun went both Nick and I managed to take up position in the top 3rd of the pack and also had our poles remain in tacked. For the most of the first of lap (of 3) the field remain pretty close together until the biggest and final climb for the lap where there was a split in the group and I was able to hang onto the back of the front pack. As the race continued the front pack again split into 2 at about the 8km mark and by the end of that lap I had just slipped off the back of the second pack and spent the last lap chasing as all the group strung out, finally finishing in 19th (of 49) 7.5% behind with points of 145, Nick in 33rd +6.21 and Paul in 40th +9.06. The top 10 only containing 2 yanks, with the best in 8th, the rest of the top 10 was made up of Germans and Norwegians and a Czech. Unlike last road trip we didn't pile back into the car and head on our 9hour drive home, instead we went shopping….mainly for clean socks and head for home early the next morning.
Once back at soda springs again the clouds rolled over and it started dumping snow. The next of the Squaw Valley night series was run and won by Nick as I spent the night working. The next of the Fisher Cup series was held at Tahoe City on the 1st of Feb and was a 15km classic mass start. Much like the early race at Tahoe City it was going to be a pretty flat race and for the first time this trip it wasn't going to be sunny as it began to snow……again! With a smaller field of only about 80 today the race started and unlike the rest of the local races there was no real packs formed and the for the most part the were small groups of 2 skiers working together. As we left the start and arrive at the first and pretty much only climb of the race a solo break away racer went off the front and remained there until the finish. While further back the position were constantly changing and with only a few km's to go I made a charge from 4th up to 3rd and came close to catching 2nd but just fell short with a final finish position of 3rd, Nick finishing in 6th and Paul in 8th. As we returned home to join in the Super Bowl celebrations the snow began to fall heaver and continue for the next few days…….more digging.
With Nick packing his bags and heading east for the U23's Paul and I opted for a few days of sight seeing in San Fran before returning to pack our bags for our upcoming fights home. Not before trading our skis, jackets and beanies for sun cream, board shorts and thongs for a week of sun, sand and surf in the Hawaiian Islands. See you all next winter.
Thanks to the following people:
Leanne Grimmer - for putting us up in her house and putting up with us for the last 2 months and giving us work at Ice lakes lodge.
Coaches Tim and Pip.
Bolt - for lending me some rocket fast skis and a bag to carry them in.
Jindabyne Sports - for super fast stone grinds and anything else I needed.
Dave and the Bicycle Warehouse Reno.