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Andrew Mock - Updated Jan 31!

Australian Team Reports 2004/2005
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November/December Updates

January 6 - News From Around The World
January 7 - Sickness Rocks Australian Team
January 10 - Tarvisio COC + Extras
January 16 - University Games + Czech World Cup
January 23 - Mid-Season Slump Saved By Bens
January 25 - Ben Sim Under 60 FIS Points
January 26 - Bottomley World Class!
January 27 - Supertour Report
January 30 - Swiss Cup Victory!
February 7 - Missed Opportunities
February 13 - World Cup Points!
World Championships Special
February 16 - Another Night Sprint
March 3 - Brumley 4th At Swiss Championships
March 6 - Lahti World Cups
March 9 - Jammen in Drammen
March 13 - Brumley Steps It Up!
March 16 - 100m World Record Broken
World Junior Championship Special



Australian Team Reports 2004/2005

That's it for the 2004/2005 Australian Team Reports. Though there were ups and downs, all in all it was a very successful season with many milestones reached. Look soon for the DVD of the season coming to a video store near you. OK maybe it wont make it to the stores, but possibly it will be available for exclusive viewing around the country. Stay tuned! For latest news now look to the Autumn News 2005 section.

March 16 - 100m World Record Broken

Today Paul Murray h ad his worst World Cup race of the season, finishing in 61st place out of 65 starters in the freestyle sprint in Goteborg. After the stomach bug before Drammen and an average result there, Paul felt that he he was back on track for another good race. Unfortunately something was not quite right this evening. Skiers from his Swedish club Falun-Borlange who he has been ahead of all season finished with World Cup points and in the low 30's; but on this fast course Paul was over 10 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Hattestad of Norway when he was aiming to be within 3 or 4. To rub salt in the wound, his unofficial 100m World Record was broken soon after in a staged record attempt by the organisers of the World Cup.

Fully enclosed in a football stadium, this event had the potential to be the most specatular of the season. Swedish weather had other plans - constant rain throughout the day saw the 40,000 capacity stadium semi-filled with only about 12,000 people. It was still a good event, but with most of the spectators packed into the undercover section at the top of stadium the atmosphere of having the crowd packed around the fences was lost. Places 17-20 from the qualifying round were given the opportunity to have a crack at the 100m world record, the 4 athletes starting side by side with a starter's pistol down the finish straight - also with a bonus of 1000 Euro for the winner if they broke the record. Paul's record of 12.48 was smashed by Christoph Eigenmann of Switzerland, who recorded 12.04 in the fast wet conditions., just ahead of Martin Koukal of the Czech Republic - who incidently has been staying in Paul's flat in Borlange of the last week or so. The women's record was also broken, with Sarah Renner of Canada dropping the mark to 13.45(~?) seconds.

The season however is not quite over for Paul. In a couple of weeks there is the final of the Swedish Sprint Cup, in which he is currently in 2nd place overall. Hopefully he finds some form again to retain or better his ranking; then it is time to take a short break and review the season in preparation for the next one.

Coming soon - the 2005 World Junior Championships in Rovaniemi in Finland. Previews of the tracks and the event schedule are available on the official site.

March 13 - Brumley Steps It Up!

Clare-Louise Brumley has scored the best international result of her career, finishing 2nd in the Alpen Trophy 5km Classic in Formazza in Italy. Clare-Louise was 14.5 seconds behind the winner Stephanie Santer of Italy and ahead of Italian World Cup skier Magda Genuin. The result of 83.95 FIS points is a personal best and fully qualifies her to compete in all World Cup races next year. The Alpen Trophy is a new 3-race series added on to the end of the normal OPA(middle European) Continental Cup. Special thanks to US Ski Team coach Pete Vordenberg, who assisted Clare-Louise with waxing in the absence of Australian support (national team coach Finn Marsland is in Scandinavia with Paul Murray folowing the Sprint World Cup). The Alpen Trophy series continues next weekend with competitions in Pontresina in Switzerland.

Clare-Louise Brumley in Oberstdorf last month.

Engadin Ski Marathon
KT Calder finished 13th today in the Engadin Ski Marathon 42km freestyle in Switzerland. A pretty good result considering she is now in training mode for next year and has only done distance training for the past 3 weeks. The first woman across the line was Natascha Leonardi-Cortesi of Switzerland; the first man was fellow Swiss Gion-Andrea Bundi, in a close sprint with Pietro Piller-Cottrer from Italy and Markus Hasler from Liechtenstein.

March 9 - Jammen in Drammen

Preparations for the Drammen World Cup started off on the wrong foot for the Australian team when the only athlete Paul Murray caught a stomach bug on the way there. A night of diarrhoea and vomiting was followed by a day of mostly sleeping and then today he was ready to give it his best shot. There was much speculation before the start about which skiers would try to double-pole this classic sprint - Mikael Ostberg from Sweden did it last year with much success in the qualifying round and most skiers at least considered it. Last week Paul had been keen to double pole but after his Monday night experience decided that he needed to be able to use his legs as well. He tested both classic skis and skating skis 1hr before the start and opted for the classic. The end result - 50th place out of 64 starters, 15.48 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Roenning of Norway. Not the result Paul had been aiming for 3 days ago but not bad considering yesterday we weren't sure if he would start. About half the field and 10 of the top 16 finalists went without wax. All the women went with wax. In the finals two skiers (Mika Ostberg and a national group Norwegian) were disqualified for skating, some of the others were pushing the limits of classic technique. The men's A-final was full of Norwegians, the first three only double-poled and the 4th Iversen went with wax. Hetland won in a photo-finish over Roenning. It was quite an interesting event seeing the to and fro between the double-polers and the diagonal skiers, however perhaps in general not a good event for the future of classic sprinting.

A small aside, a couple of journalists who interviewed Paul after the race informed him that he was a bit of a celebrity here in Drammen. At last year's event they did a small documentary on him for a children's TV program. They wanted to know if he was a celebrity back in Australia... Not quite answered Paul.

So now, one more sprint World Cup remaining, a freestyle sprint in Sweden in Goteborg's Ullevi stadium next Wednesday. One last crack at World Cup points. Once you get a taste you just want more.

Paul Murray out of the start
Drammen World Cup, Norway, March 2005

March 6 - Lahti World Cups

Ben Sim skied a very good race today in the 15km freestyle World Cup in Lahti, finishing in 80th place out of 91 starters. Simbo was a little down in early splits, but he came home strong to knock off a handful of skiers with much better FIS points including 2 Canadians, a Swede and a Russian. At the end he was 3:49 behind the winner Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic, just over 10% off the pace. With the World Junior Championships coming up in 2 weeks Simbo is hitting form at the right time. There were only three other juniors in this World Cup field - two from Kazakstan were well behind and the other from Finland (50th place) finished 8th in the WJC last year.

In the classic sprint World Cup yesterday Paul Murray and Ben Sim finished 51st and 56th out of the 64 skier field. The sprint was a long one, 1.4km long and took the fastest qualifier Borre Naess of Norway just under 3 minutes to complete. Paul was 12.2 seconds back and Simbo 15.7; not a bad result for Simbo but a bit short of what Paul was aiming for after scoring World Cup points in the last classic sprint World Cup in Reit im Winkl. Apparently Paul didn't have quite enough grip, but now he is even more psyched up to have a good race in the next classic sprint World Cup in Drammen next Wednesday. Paul flies today back to Sweden then on to Norway tomorrow; Simbo heads to Vanta near Helsinki for an exhibition sprint tomorrow.

March 3 - Brumley 4th At Swiss Championships

Clare-Louise Brumley took 4th place today in the Swiss Championships 10km Freestyle event at Les Diablerets in Switzerland. Clare-Louise was back in 6th place after the first 5km lap but finished strongly to be just 10.7 seconds off the podium. FIS points for the race were however destroyed by the winner Natascha Leonardi-Cortesi walloping the field, winning by 2:26 ahead of second placed Ursina Badilatti. Without Leonardi-Cortesi in the race C-L would have got FIS points of about 80-85; instead her points will be about 135. The Swiss Championships continue tomorrow with a classic sprint event, then there is a pursuit on Sunday. C-L is thinking about competing in the pursuit, but with the reduced chance of good FIS points due to higher calculation factors she may opt to return to Pontresina to train in preparation for other individual start events coming up in the next 2 weeks. Sometimes this hunt for FIS points can seem a bit crazy and frantic - in this case C-L needs to go under 120 points again to re-qualify for World Cup for next season. She is skiing fast enough, but just needs the points to fall the right way.

Now there are only three other athletes from the Australian team left in Europe. KT Calder is training in Switzerland, having decided not to do any more races this season after being sick on and off for 6 weeks, apart from the Engadin Ski Marathon which will be more for the cultural experience of skiing with another 15,000 people. Paul Murray and Ben Sim are now in Finland with Nick Almoukov, getting ready for the World Cup races there this weekend. Paul will follow the sprint World Cup circuit on to Norway and Sweden, while Ben will stay in Finland for the World Junior Championships in Rovaniemi starting on March 19. Junior team member Sally Cunningham is currently in the USA about to compete in their junior championships, and will join the team in Finland in another couple of weeks.

February 16 - Another Night Sprint

Esther Bottomley has taken another podium place in Europe, this time finishing 3rd in the Fischen International Night Sprint last night. Fischen is 10 minutes down the road from Oberstdorf where the World Championships are taking place. Only a few skiers taking part in the championships took part, however the field still included 3 World Cup podium sprinters from Norway (Nasse, Roenning, Kjolstad), the top sprinters from the USA and top male sprinter from Canada, and some pretty handy Germans.

Esther qualified in 4th place behind Kikkan Randall of the USA and a couple of German sprint team members. In her semi-final Randall fell only 30m into the race, leaving Esther to lead the pack in semi-cruise mode for the entire first lap. However she got a rude shock when Zeller from Germany and Randall both overtook her at the end of the finish straight starting the second lap. Fired up into action Esther sprinted past both of the them rounding into the final straight and won her way into the A-final. In the A-final Esther took the lead without Randall falling and again lead for the first lap but with a bit more effort this time. Randall overtook again just a the start of the last lap, this time Esther rounded into the finish straight a couple of meters back with Klaus from Germany on her heels. They gave it their all and Esther and Klaus lunged for second place in one of the more spectacular finishes seen in a women's sprint for a while. When the smoke cleared Esther had third place and a big smile from a very entertaining evening. Big crowd, great atmosphere!

Paul Murray qualified in 16th place but was knocked out in his 1/4 final by the fastest qualifier (some German guy) and former World Junior Champion Bredl from Germany who went on to win the A-final. Koos from the USA was also knocked out in this heat. Andrew Mock was 19th in qualifying and didn't make the finals.

Esther Botomley leads Randall and Klaus in A-Final
Fischen Night Sprints, Germany, February 2005

Esther Bottomley (R) and Kikkan Randall from the USA
Fischen Night Sprints, Germany, February 2005

February 13 - World Cup Points!

Today Paul Murray scored Australia's first ever World Cup points for cross country skiing. Paul finished in 29th place in the 1.2km sprint classic World Cup in Reit im Winkl in Germany, 11.26 seconds behind the fastest qualifier and eventual race winner Eldar Roenning of Norway, and 2.86 seconds outside qualifying for the top 16. Achieving World Cup points is a milestone that Australian cross country skiing has been targeting for some time, and the result was also acknowledged by many other teams on the circuit. Paul is now more fired up than ever for the classic sprint at the 2005 World Championships coming up in just over a week.

Andrew Mock made his World Cup debut in the same event, finishing in 63rd place out of the 71 starters. Mocky was further behind than he would have liked (30 seconds from Roenning), however on this course all times were spread out and only the top 36 skiers made it under 100 FIS points. Waxing conditions were a little tricky, with dumping rain on Saturday turning to light snow overnight, then the morning grooming bringing up the wet snow underneath, followed by heavy snow just as skiers were starting to test wax, then finally the skies cleared up and it stopped snowing abruptly just 15 minute before the start.

Yesterday February 12 Ben Derrick was the only Australian competitor in the 15km freestyle World Cup. He skied a solid race to finish in 89th place out of 92 starters, just over 5 minutes behind the surprise winner Martin Bajcicak from Slovakia. While the place and the % behind the winner were nothing special, BD was satisfied with his first non-marathon event of the season and reckons he can go faster again in the same event coming up at the World Championships this Thursday February 17. The

The three Australian women racing in Europe were originally entered for this Reit im Winkl World Cup, however none made it to the start line. Clare-Louise Brumley withdrew first, due to asthma difficulties following her race last weekend, then KT Calder was out next still trying to get healthy before the World Championships, and finally Esther Bottomley when it was discovered the classic sprint was 1.2km with a couple of big hills that couldn't be double poled.

So now: The 2005 World Championships starts in Oberstdorf this coming week. Look soon for the World Championship special coming on this website.

A mildly happy Paul Murray running out from the finish area after the last skier had finished
Reit im Winkl World Cup, Germany, February 2005

February 7 - Missed Opportunities

On Saturday February 5th Ben Derrick put in a gutsy performance in the Konig Ludwig Lauf 55km freestyle only to miss out on the podium by about a meter. Ben fought back incredibly after falling and breaking a pole in the mass start and effectively starting the race way back in the pack. He quickly received a replacement pole from team manager Brian Keeble, but by the time he caught back up to the main pack the first two skiers Christian Seeger and Johann Muhlegg of Germany had gone off the front. Ben took up the chase with little support from the rest of his pack, which whittled down slowly from 10 to 6 skiers. Seeger went solo from about 30km to win comfortably,but Ben dragged the pack up to within a minute of Muhlegg before losing the sprint for third place with German Falk Goepfort. BD was happy with his form to be able to ski up to the where he did, but quite unhappy with the lack of work from the rest of the pack and he let them know it.

In the 23km freestyleAndrew Mock had difficulty before the start when the officials wouldn't let him into the seeded starting paddock. Finally with only minutes to go he was let into the back of the front group, but in the confusion hadn't been able to warm-up properly. He didn't get away to a good start (though it still took until 10km for BD to catch him after his fall), and slowly worked his way up through the field to take 13th place in a sprint. Later that evening Mocky's sprinting form continued when he progressed to the semi-finals of the Konig-Ludwig invitational sprints. In the semi-final he was narrowly knocked out by Silvio Fauner of Italy and Harvard Skorstad of Norway. Unfortunately for BD's sprinting pride he was knocked out without too much difficulty in the first round.

Gibswil Swiss Cup
Some ups and some downs at the Swiss Cup in Gibswil on Feburary 5-6. On the down side this was the last chance for national team members Nick Grimmer, Andrew Wynd (freshly arriven in Europe from the NORAM SuperTour) and Chris Darlington to qualify for the World Championships, and they fell a little short. Also KT Calder had a relapse into illness and was way off her early season form. On the up side Esther Bottomley gambled her way into another top sprint result, and Clare-Louise Brumley opened her season account with a good solid performance in the 10km freestyle. In the middle ground Ben Sim experienced both ups and downs.

The classic sprint first on Saturday. Slightly tricky waxing with an afternoon start and the snow warming up in the sun. The women's track had only one significant hill in it and Esther was contemplating double-poling on skating skis. With 3 minutes to go before the start she started to chicken out and had one foot out of the skating boot while the classic skis were frantically being waxed. Then she bit the bullet and went for it, much to the amusement/bewilderment of Swiss girls standing in the starting line. Not as much laughing going on after Esther posted the second fastest qualifying time, only 0.6 of a second behind Sereina Mischol, and then double-poled her way through the 1/4 and semi-final into the A-final. No other skiers took the double-pole option, though one guy was disqualified for skating. Unfortunately in the final Esther took a spectacular crash on a downhill only 150m into the race, and so she was unable to contest for a podium spot. General consensus though was that it was a damn fine effort to make the final just double poling.

For KT a repeat of her 3rd place in this event last year took a dive when she took a dive only 50m into the qualifying time trial. Despite still qualifying for the finals in 13th place, slightly underwaxed skis against the 3rd and 6th ranked skiers and a discovery of a body that wouldn't quite respond saw her knocked out in the 1/4 final. Ben Sim skied a pretty good race in the men's classic sprint, qualifying in 11th place with sprint FIS points probably under 100. In the 1/4 final he came up against tough opposition but wasn't outclassed, hanging in right to the end to miss out on the semi-final by only a couple of meters. Nick Grimmer didn't ski too bad but wasn't quite in the hunt and missed out on the 1/4 finals about 10 seconds behind Simbo. The other guys and Clare-Louise skipped the sprint and focussed on the distance races the next day.

Sunday's distance fields were boosted by the arrival of the Canadian team. Clare-Louise started quite well in the 10km freestyle and was only 21 seconds down on Beckie Scott from Canada after 2km, with KT Calder a few seconds further back. As the race progressed Scott blew the field apart, and ended up 50 seconds ahead of second place Natascha Leonardi-Cortesi of Switzerland. Leonardi in turn was another 45 seconds ahead of team-mate Laurence Rochat. Clare-Louise finished strongly to move up to 6th place, 1:17 behind Rochat (2:52 behind Scott) with FIS points of about 122. A promising result for her first race of the season in her non-preferred technique. For KT however the race went pair-shaped as she lost nearly 2 minutes in the last 3km to be 4:11 behind Scott, with points about 160. With hindsight maybe she shouldn't have raced. The challenge now is to get healthy and regain some of late December's form before the World Championships beginning within 2 weeks.

Ben Sim started incredibly well in the first 2km in the 15km freestyle to be in 8th place only 5 seconds from the leader. By the 7km mark he was still only 1:08 off the pace, but on the last lap he was unable to stay with skiers he had caught and dropped back to 24th place, 3 minutes behind the winner Toni Livers of Switzerland. After the race Ben said that he just wasn't recovering enough on the hills. Chris Darlington and Andrew Wynd had similar experiences, starting not too bad but losing significant time in the second half of the race. They ended up in 43rd and 47th place respectively, 6-7 minutes off the pace with FIS points well outside the World Championship qualifying standard of 120 points. NSW coach Nick Almoukov also raced despite recent back problems, and finished in 56th place over 4 minutes behind the other Australians. NSW junior Jake Roarty finished 25th in the U18 class, around 15% behind the winner.

Most of the team for the World Championships will compete next weekend in the World Cup in Reit-im-Winkl in Germany. The full team for the World Championship will be posted on this site before the event begins.

Hudiksvall Sweden Cup
A short report from Sweden. Paul Murray returned to his earlier season sprint form qualifying in 5th place in the Sweden Cup classic sprint in Hudiksvall. Paul was 5.3 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Fredrik Ostberg but within 2 seconds of the World Cup Champion Tobias Fredriksson and ahead of several skiers with realistic chances of making the Swedish team for the sprint at Oberstdorf. Unfortunately the finals didn't go quite to plan and he bowed out (along with Ostberg) in the 1/4 finals. Even with this 10th place overall, Paul is still sitting in 2nd place in overall Sweden Sprint Cup with only 1 race to go in the series. Not bad, not bad. In the 15km freestyle the next day things weren't quite as rosy with Paul finishing in the latter half of the field 3:39 behind the winner Jurgen Brink. However Falun-Borlange team-mate Leon Spiller skied one of his better races to be 5:07 behind Brink. Paul will fly down to Germany later this week to join the team for Reit-im-Winkl.

A Correction - Upgrade to Silver

Apparently there was a mistake with the initial results for the Austrian Cup race in Gostling last weekend. Ben Sim actually finished in 2nd place only 1 second from the victory!

January 30 - Swiss Cup Victory!

Following on from her breakthrough performance on Wednesday night Esther Bottomley has won her first FIS race in Europe! Esther cleaned up in the Swiss Cup sprint freestyle race in Feutersoey on January 29, posting the fastest qualifying time by half a second and then out-sprinting Swiss B-team member Ursina Badilatti in the A-final. The only other Australian to have won a Swiss Cup race was Paul Gray in Maloja back in 1992 (or was is 1991?). Esther cruised through her semi-final after a fall from the 2 skiers behind her, then in the final lead out of the start and all the way to the top of the course before Badilatti moved up to second place past Buschor the 3rd fastest qualifier. As they hit the final straight Badilatti drew up onto Esther's shoulder but was unable to match her finish speed over the last 100m. The FIS points were only average due to the absence of the Swiss World Cup skiers, but it was very promising for Esther to ski so well in the finals instead of spending all her bickies in the qualifying round.

The other team member in Feutersoey Nick Grimmer qualified 13th in the time trial, 13 seconds off the fastest qualifier, making a FIS sprint final for the first time outside of Australia. In the 1/4 final Nick flew out of the start and lead to the top of the course 2/3 of the way into the race, much to the surprise of the two Swiss team members who qualified 4th and 5th. However that was effectively Nick's race run and he was knocked out of the finals in 4th place. It was good to see that Nick was able to turn on the raw pace when pushed head to head - unfortunately his fitness is not quite there at the moment to ski fast enough for an entire race.

Austrian Cup
Ben Sim also made the podium this weekend, finishing 3rd in the Austrian Cup 10km freestyle race in Gostling today January 30. Ben was 25 seconds behind the winner Hansi Achorner and only 1 second out of second place. Ben also won the junior class comfortably. Chris Darlington was 7th in the senior men, 2:45 off the pace. Nick Almoukov and Jake Roarty were further back, apologies no more detailed results at this stage. Darlo had driven across from Switzerland to join the rest of the NSW team for this race, unfortunately his 6-hour drive was rewarded with a stomach bug that saw him with diarrhoea and vomiting for a day and half. The bug swiftly passed and he was able to race, but his performance was undoubtedly affected.

Surselva Marathon
Meanwhile back in Switzerland the rest of the Pontresina crew (minus Katie Calder who is only just coming off the illness-list) went across to Sedrun for the Surselva Marathon (actually 25km) and associated night-sprint. "Team Feutersoey" tried to make a quick transit on Saturday afternoon but arrived too late for the night sprint in the main street. The qualifying time trial was incredibly short, about 300m, with the finals one-on-one knockout sprints over about 600m. Andrew Mock, Tim Retchford and Ben Derrick qualified in 8th, 12th and 14th places respectively, making the round of 16, but Tim and BD's finals time was cut short soon after. Mocky made it through to the 1/4 finals (and into the money!), but came up against the fastest qualifier Peter von Allmen and that was the end of the road. Von Allmen went on to win in the final, 2000CHF for first place and 100CHF for Mocky in 8th. There was also $1500 up for grabs in the women's sprint, please don't talk about it to Esther. Otherwise a really fun event but cold for spectators.

The next day and 25km freestyle for everyone, two laps on a course that maybe hit -5 degrees in the sun and close to -20 in the valley by the river. Ben Derrick got away to a good start, up into 3rd place, but didn't quite have the engine running fully and was unable to respond when the first break went. He ended up in 7th place overall in a sprint for 6th place, unfortunately the money only went down to 6th place. Andrew Mock skied a good solid race to be 13th, with Tim Retchford fighting back after a bad start to make 21st place. Nick Grimmer skied okay on the first lap,but struggled on the second lap, finishing in 41st place. Esther Bottomley skied her first distance race of the season and skied remarkably well, 4th place amongst the women in the 25km (money down to 3rd). There weren't so many elite women entered but Esther looked good and wasn't so far behind 3rd place, Swiss B-Team member Sereina Boner. The first man was Toni Livers in a sprint with Patrick Maechler and Thomas Frei, the first women was Natasha Leonardi-Cortesi well ahead of second place.

Swedish Championships
Just a brief report, Paul Murray didn't have a good 30km race in the Swedish Championships during the week, pulling out after 20km. The 15km freestyle on Saturday was better, he finished just over 5 minutes behind Anders Sodergren with FIS points of about 127 - okay some way off Paul's form back in December but not a bad result. Leon Spiller also skied a pretty good race in the 15km, 1:30 behind Paul with FIS points of about 161. In the 3 by 10km relay the next day (hold on, that's today) Paul put in a solid anchor leg for Falun-Borlange 2, pulling them up from 12th to 10th place.

January 27 - Supertour Report

Andrew Wynd reports from the NORAM SuperTour events in Mt.Itasca last weekend January 22/23:

Conditions were considerably better than last year with temps of -12 C and a soft track of fresh, light ppowder, that quickly turned to deep powder. The 10km skate I felt good from the start and skied strongly in the first lap to be in 29th place and feeling good. Faded a little on the 2nd lap but came in 34th overall and happy with how I skied. However Babikov from Russia smoked everyone and Lars Flora was 30 secs back on him and 1 min up on 3rd place US Ski Team member Leif Zimmerman. So I skiied pretty close to 3rd and down but got smashed by Babikov. That guy is skiing so fast this year, he should definitely be on World Cup. Anyway, no points up yet, but I was 4:18 off the pace, and way too far back to be any good. Still I beat people who thrashed me at US nationals.

Onto the 10km classic. Well where do I start here. I started hard and made time on the 2 skiers ahead of me and was feeling good. Good grip and reasonable glide. Then disaster struck on a fast downhill. Instead of turning 90 degrees left, somehow I managed to go straight and shot off the edge of a 10ft drop, narrowly missing 2 big trees and fell into deep powder, then tumbled onto an access track below me. Yep, had to take off both skis and poles, had people running everywhere thinking I was dead, snow in my erace suit and jocks. Anyway, they helped me back up onto the course after passing skis and poles up to them one at a time. Then put my skis back on and kept going, needless to say I lost about 4 minutes at a conservative estimation, maybe more. Got plenty of cheers from the crowd in doing so.

Anyway, I skied hard and was all over the place and my skis stopped working as I thrashed about. Ended up settling down and finished the race and came 87th from 131 starters and 6:33 off the pace. Had I not stacked I am pretty sure that would have been my best classical race ever. Damn! Can't seem to take a break here!

Well the sprint race today[Jan 26] (I'm so tired right now) and then another classic 10km on Saturday, then 15km mass start freestyle on Sunday. Going for one last go at it and see what happens.

January 26 - Bottomley World Class!

Esther Bottomley has come out cranking in the Pontresina International Night Sprint, qualifying 3rd amongst a world class field with what will undoubtedly be Australia's best ever FIS points for cross country skiing. On a fast 800m loop Esther was just 0.6 of a second behind the fastest qualifer Beckie Scott of Canada, with Claudia Kuenzel of Germany 2nd and the top 5 rounded out by Manuela Henkel of Germany and Sara Renner of Canada. Others further back include Switzerland's #1 sprinter Sereina Mischol and Germans Evi Sachenbacher, Viola Bauer, and Stephanie Boehler. With the top German and Canadian sprinters in the top 5 this give Esther FIS points of 27; the previous best Australian points were 32 from Anthony Evans in World Cup in 1998.

In the 1/4 final Esther won the start and retained the lead at the bottom of the course after the big corner. Viola Bauer overtook on the way up the finish straight but Esther comfortably held off Laurence Rochat of Switzerland for second spot and a place in the semi-finals. In the semi Esther and Bauer were joined by Kuenzel and Mischol, and unfortunately this time Esther didn't get away to a good start and was 4th into the first corner. She stayed in contact the entire way but was unable to move up and was relegated to the B-Final. In the B-Final Esther got away in second behind Renner, but the tank was about empty and she ended up 4th and hence 8th overall. The final was won by Scott ahead of Kuenzel.

Nick Grimmer and Andrew Mock were the best of the Australian guys, in 24th and 25th place around 7.5 seconds behind Andrew Newell of the USA. The men's field was also stacked, with the World Cup Champion Tobias Fredriksson of Sweden and skiers such as Zorzi and Pasini of Italy and Angerer of Germany. Tim Retchford, Ben Derrick and Chris Darlington were about another 4-5 seconds behind Mocky. Nick and Mocky would have ended up with their best sprint FIS points of the season, somewhere around 142-145 points. The final was won by Fredriksson ahead of Zorzi, with Newell tripping himself up in the last 30m to end up 4th.

Esther Bottomley Leads Viola Bauer of Germany
Pontresina Night Sprints, Switzerland January 2005

January 25 - Ben Sim Under 60 FIS Points

All details now confirmed, Ben Sim scored 57.10 FIS points in the 30km freestyle mass start event in Schilpario in Italy last Sunday January 23. Ben hung onto the lead pack right the way to the end, and finished 7th only 18 seconds behind the winner Ivan Margaroli of Italy. This is Australia's best distance FIS points since Anthony Evans and Paul Gray in the 1997/98 World Cup season, and qualifies Ben for all World Cup events; before this result only one of Ben Sim, Ben Derrick or Paul Murray could start in interval start or mass start events. Now Simbo and one other can start in these events plus he can also start in pursuit events. Over the three days of competition at the Italian Police Championships Simbo also finished 11th in the 10km classic and 14th in the 1km sprint freestyle. This lift in form is a good sign in preparation for the World Championships coming up in just over 3 weeks time. Congratulations Ben! Coach Nick Almoukov and NSW junior Jake Roarty also competed, with Jake scoring a pretty good 265 FIS points (for a 17 year old) in the 10km classic.

January 23 - Mid-Season Slump Saved By Bens

The racing in Europe at the end of this week was kicked off on Friday by Andrew Mock and Andrew Circosta in the 30km at the World University Winter Games in Seefeld in Austria. Neither finished. At the OPA COC competitions in Oberstdorf on the weekend three skiers didn't start due to illness (or suspicion of the onset of illness). In the COC classic sprint, Nick Grimmer fell, Mark Raymond just about had to run down the hills, and though Esther Bottomley made the U23 finals she was well down on her recent performances in freestyle sprints. Finally, Ben Derrick and Ben Sim came to the rescue to ressurect team morale. BD finished 10th in the 60km Dolomitenlauf, Austria's Worldloppet race, and Simbo (with many details to be confirmed) finished 7th in the Italian Police Championships with possibly his best ever FIS points. Read on...

University Games
It was difficult waxing for the WUWG 30km classic, rain turning to snow prior to the start however this wasn't the reason for the DNFs. Andrew Mock had a resurgence of his earlier lung infection and pulled out after 5km. Andrew Circosta made a great start working his way up through the pack on the first lap, but then struggled with a groin injury that had been just kept at bay and was forced to retire after 10km. Not the best end to the University Games, however the results from the earlier races made it a pretty succesful event overall for the cross country team. No reports here on other happenings during the week - what happens at uni games stays at uni games.

The Oberstdorf Continental Cup in Germany also included the OPA U23 Championships. Chris Darlington was the sole Australian starter in the U23 pursuit on Friday, which was postponed 3 hours because of stormy weather conditions. Darlo put in a reasonable performance, racing on "hairies" for the classic leg, but overall the FIS points were average (pursuits are generally almost as bad as mass start events for FIS points). Saturday saw classic sprints on the same courses as the World Championships coming up in Febuary. The field was pretty stacked as Norway and some other nations were using the race to select their World Championship team. Waxing was tricky, with various combinations of hairies and wet stick waxes mostly used. Some other skiers also had success with crowns. Darlo was the fastest of the Australian guys but still a fair way off the leaders. As mentioned earlier Nick Grimmer dashed his chances with a tumble on a downhill, though still managed to finish ahead of Mark Raymond whose skis balled up in a major way and decided not to glide anymore. Esther Bottomley was 21 seconds off the pace in the U23 sprint, underlining the difference in her abillity to ski fast in classic compared to skate. In the 1/4 final she was in contact after the first 400m mostly double-pole section, but then lost time rapidly on the climb. Basically at the moment Esther's fitness and diagonal stride technique just isn't quite there for a tough classic sprint.

Actually the COC wasn't a complete disaster, as Darlo's form picked up as the races went on and he put in a good performance in the 15km mass start today. He ended up 4:50 behind the winner Franz Goering of Germany, around 13% in the end after sitting around 10% for the first 2/3 of the race. The field was the strongest Darlo was been up against this season, including the 50km World Champion Martin Koukal from the Czech Republic who finished 3rd. It was a promising turn for Darlo's form, and now he is hungry for an individual start race to get some better FIS points. Mark Raymond was up with Darlo early on, but blew up after 5km and lost time rapidly. Something is obviously not quite right with Raymesy at the moment, in training it seemed he was over the illness from a week ago but today wasn't good. Raymesy leaves the cross country team now for the British biathlon championships in Ruhpolding - hopefully he can soon put this question mark over his health behind him. No other starters today - most of the team headed off early to Pontresina in Switzerland which will be be the base for the next few weeks.

Ben Derrick's season is now back on track with an impressive 10th place today in the 2005 Dolomitenlauf in Lienz in Austria. BD was in contact with the leading pack until 5km to go, and finished 1:08 behind the winner Christian Hoffman of Austria. He didn't feel that he is really in top form yet but was very satisfied with the result, another Worldloppet top 10 with just one race and a week of illness under his belt from the last three weeks in Europe. However his form in the Dolomiten Sprints on Friday was not quite up to par as he fell and was knocked out in the quarter finals. Next race - probably the Surselva Marathon in Switzerland next weekend. Full results available on the Dolomitenlauf Website

Italian Police Championships
Just a text message so far from Nick Almoukov and Ben Sim from the races in Schilpario in Italy. Ben finished 7th in one of the races there, and if all the calculations are correct then he scored FIS points of 57 - a personal best and would make him the first Australian to be under 60 FIS points in a distance event since 1998. This would fully qualify him for all World Cup events. No other details at all the moment - we don't even know if the result was in the 10km classic, the sprint classic, or the 15km freestyle. Also we are not sure if Simbo is joining the Italian police force.

January 16 - University Games + Czech World Cup

University Games
The World University Winter Games are on at the moment in Seefeld in Austria. Australia has a team of 12 athletes, including cross country skiers Andrew Mock, Andrew Circosta, Nick Grimmer, KT Calder, and Esther Bottomley.There have been two days of cross country skiing competition so far, the sprint events on January 14 and the individual 5/10km freestyle events today. In the women's sprint Esther Bottomley achieved one of Australia's best ever results at a winter universiade, finishing 17th out of a field of 76 starters and just 2 hundreths of a second from making the finals. KT Calder also had a good result, 5 seconds further back in 36th place. Andrew Mock was the fastest of the guys in the men's sprint, shaking off his lung infection to finish in 74th place out of 95 starters. Nick Grimmer was 82nd 4 seconds behind Mocky, while Andrew Circosta finished 87th another 8 seconds back struggling to hold his technique together on the fast course. The finals were won by Fabjan of Slovenia (women) and Koschevoy of Kazakstan (men).

KT Calder posted another sub 100 FIS points performance today, finishing 28th out of 83 in the 5km freestyle only 1:01 behind the winner Malahova of Kazakstan. Esther Bottomley didn't start the 5km because she was in Czech, see below. Andrew Mock opened his distance account with an impressive 57th place out of 102 in the men's 10km, 2:24 behind the winner Leybyuk of Ukraine and scoring 108 FIS points - just about equal to his best ever FIS points scored at the 2003 World Champs in Val di Fiemme. Maybe everyone should get a lung infection prior to their first race. Or maybe not. Anyway a good result for Mocky which also qualifies him to start in one event at the 2005 World Championships coming up in February. Andrew Circosta also put in a creditable performance finishing 83rd with FIS points of 149, about 1:11 behind Mocky. Nick Grimmer had a sporadic race, starting and finishing fast with a bit of a slump in the middle. He finished 91st, 4:50 behind the winner.

Mocky and Circa will stay on to compete in the 30km this coming Friday January 21, while the rest of team heads to Oberstdorf to prepare for the Continental Cup there on the weekend. [ Full results can be seen on the Universiade website ]

Andrew Mock powers out of the start,
World University Games, Seefeld, Austria, January 2005

Nove Mesto World Cup
Three Australian skiers competed in Nove Mesto this weekend, flocking in from all over Europe. Coach Nick Almoukov and Ben Sim came across from Slovakia, Paul Murray flew down from Sweden, and Esther Bottomley hitched a ride up from Austria after the sprint in Seefeld (for mum and dad Bottomley - with Feichtner from the Austrian team and Flury from the Swiss team, not literally hitching on the side of the road). Ben Sim was the only to race on Saturday, in the men's 15km freestyle. He finished in 81st place out of 83 starters, just under 6 minutes behind the winner Vincent Vittoz of France. Surely not one of Ben's better races, but as they say there are no bunnies in World Cup. No news yet from the Ben about how he felt in the race.

In the sprint races today Paul Murray and Ben Sim finished 60th and 65th our of 73 starters and Esther was 52nd out of 60 starters. Good solid results from Ben and Esther, with FIS points of 92 and 98 respectively. Paul's points were not bad either, 78 points, but considering his form of recent weeks he was disappointed not to be further up the field. Again, no other news yet from the racers themselves - team, if you are reading this send us a report. And a pic?

Pustertaler Marathon
Amazingly all four guys from the sick house in Toblach skied in the 43km Pustertaler Marathon today, though perhaps Mark Raymond might have been wiser to skip it as it was his only ski for the week after being sick. The rest of the teams' health seems to have picked up and they all skied reasonably well. According to Ben Derrick the field in the Pustertaler was very impressive, with most of Europe's marathon chasers on site. BD went with the lead group until about 30km, then was spat on the hills. But he was satisfied with his first race of the season (and after being sick for most of his 2 weeks in Europe). The race was won by Pozzi of Italy (who BD outsprinted in the Dolomitenlauf last year).Tim Retchford got a good start and was up with the first pack long enough to realise that he wasn't going to be able to hold that pace for the duration. He dropped back to the second pack with Chris Darlington, who was doing most of the chasing work at the front of it. When a move went later on Tim was one of the few to go with it, and he finished quite strong. Darlo maybe paid the price for doing too much work and finished about a minute after Tim. Raymesy didn't feel so good right from the start and was further back but finished the race. Places? Not quite sure, who thinks about these things as you are packing all the gear into the car for another road trip - this time to Oberstdorf in Germany. [Note - results can be found on the Pustertaler website - BD finished 25th, Tim 40th, Darlo 44th (30s behind Tim), Australian biathlete Lindsay Bridgford was 75th, and Raymsey was 84th.]

January 10 - Tarvisio COC + Extras

Tarvisio COC
Thanks to illness Mark Raymond was the only starter in the OPA Continental Cup pursuit events on January 8. Unfortunately it became apparent that whatever bug was flying around just hadn't reared its head fully in Raymsey yet. Right from the start he had no strength, and dropped quickly off the back of the pack. Raymesy hung in until the change-over and the first skating lap in the hope that a new technique might bring a change in feeling, but to no avail, and he pulled out after 10km of the 15km race. The coughing and headache kicked in that night. Another one bites the dust.

The next day KT Calder and Chris Darlington took the field for the 10km and 15km mass start events. With everything considered their performances were a bit of a relief. KT finished 23rd, about 1:45 behind the winner Ariana Follis of Italy. Though she was a fair way off Swiss girls she had beaten or had been just behind 2 weeks ago, the good news was that the body was responding well but the skis weren't doing their job on the downhills. Darlo finished 82nd in the men's 15km, just over 5 minutes or about 15% behind the winner Thomas Morrigl of Italy. Similar to Darlo's results in OPA Cup earlier this season, and again the better news was that the illness seemed to have been put behind.

Mark Raymond, Tarvisio COC Pursuit
Italy, January 2005

Road Trip Fun
The trip to Tarvisio from Livigno ended up being considerably longer that anticipated, partly thanks to the Italian customs police. Having received a warning from the Swiss customs that our ski load on the roof looked more than an apparent 50km limit (we probably actually had about 100kg), the Italian police wanted to have a look through our gear. Asking first about recreation drugs, upon discovering we were a ski team the questioning turned to sports enhancing material. So the entire car was emptied and all bags searched in the customs office. Another hiccup was that Raymesy hadn't declared his biathlon rifle (which was partly because he didn't have clearance for it for Switzerland), though in the whole scheme of things this didn't make things much worse. They were more interested in Tim's perscription drugs for asthma, and though he had all the documentation and letters from doctors the Italians debated their presence for some time until calling a local hospital for confirmation that the drugs were for what they were supposed to be for. An hour and half later we continued our journey.

Because KT had left a bag behind with the rest of the team in Livigno, containing her perscription drugs but minus the doctor's letters, a message was sent behind for the second car to avoid crossing the swiss border 2 days later. Unfortunately the alternative route involved a highly entertaining windy Italian mountain pass or two, and after 6.5 hours a normally 3.5 hour trip was completed. Cheers all round for Italian border police (but you know, at least they are helping to look for drug cheats) and Italian roads.

So now Raymesy, Darlo, Ben Derrick, and Tim Retcford are holed up in Toblach in Italy with the Pustertaler marathon coming up next weekend, while KT, Esther, Andrew Mock and coach Finn Marsland have joined Nick Grimmer and Andrew Circosta at the World University Games in Seefeld in Austria. KT and Esther were supposed to be now in Czech along with Paul Murray and Ben Sim for the Prague World Cup, however this event was cancelled due to lack of snow and a new sprint event put on in Nove Mesto on January 16.

Asarna Sweden Cup
Is there no end to news of Paul Murray racing sprints in Sweden? On January 8 Paul had his best chance to make the final of a Sweden Cup Sprint, with the top guys absent for the World Cup in Estonia (which incidently was cancelled). All was on track in the time trial, as Paul qualified 2nd behind Jerry Ahrlin. Then the wheels fell off as Paul's back gave out, and struggling with this injury he was knocked out in the quarter-final. Apparently he has damaged a disc, but the good news is that it seems to be turning around pretty quickly and there is still a chance to compete in the new sprint race in Nove Mesto. Another hurdle is that he couldn't change the dates on his ticket to Prague and had to cancel it. A new ticket will be expensive, but if the back comes good Paul wont pass up on the opportunity to ski Nove Mesto as 30 skiers are being taken to the finals. When in good form - race!

US Championships Continued

Now words from the Wynd's mouth from the US Championships in Soldier Hollow:

Well I am shagged after all this racing at altitude and no rest days thus far. Today was the classic sprint and my first of this type of event, so not expecting too much. Felt shattered in the warmup after dropping off the Circostas at SLC airport and driving back to the race in blizzard conditions. It was 0 degrees and snowing heavily, type of wet balls of snow (not fire) and the tracks soon filled up. Felt strong double poling but struggled to stay upright and therefore couldn't put the power down. Not sure of placing but was about 30 seconds back, but cannot understand how this happened as I caught the skier off 15 secs in front about 1/2 way round the course? Oh well.

The 10km was better for me, felt adjusted to the altitude and could go somewhere closer to my normal speed. Bad news was breaking a pole at the 1km mark, getting a replacement straight away from Lars Flora of Subaru factory team, but it was a Toko pole and had no Toko grip/gloves on! So that got me to 3.5kms where I managed to grab a Swix pole from another coach of the Far West team, but it was on an uphill, so basically stopped to put the grip on! Anyway, lost about 20-30 secs from that but still way further back from where I feel I can be!

Talk more soon. Wyndy

A Warped Perspective
For those who have been waiting 2 tears for another bout of delicate international commentary from Andrew Mock, wait no more...

January 7 - Sickness Rocks Australian Team

After a very successful basically illness free December, some sort (or maybe even a couple) of lurgey has ripped through the team based in Livigno in Italy. Coach Finn Marsland was the first to go, followed soon after by Ben Derrick who had only just arrived 2 1/2 days before from Australia. Symptoms headaches and fever for a couple of days, body aching, then coughing and finally (hopefully) chocked sinuses. Andrew Mock and Chris Darlington went down with slightly milder versions minus the headaches and fever. KT Calder and Mark Raymond were on the edge but seemed to have beaten it, and amazingly Esther Bottomley (reknowned for catching any cold going round) also made it through. Tim Retchford (aka man of steel) didn't even bat an eyelid and kept training 3 hours a day.

Now a few days later KT, Raymesy, Darlo (making a quick recovery) and Tim (just coming for the ride) have travelled to Tarvisio in Italy near the Slovenian border for a Continental Cup competition on Januaru 8-9. More reports on races and health updates possibly on Sunday night.

January 6 - News From Around The World

Paul Murray's scintillating form has continued with a semi-final performance in the Swedish Sprint Championship on January 3. Paul qualified 6th in the classic time trial, ahead of the reigning World Champion Tobias Fredriksson and World Cup winner Mikael Ostberg. Cruising through the quarter-final, in the semi-final Paul got a taste of what its like to rub shoulders with Fredriksson and came off second best. He ended up third, satisfied to be in the hunt against some of the best sprinters in the world but now hungry to make an A-final. In the B-Final Paul lead along with club team-mate Ostberg for most of the race until the final corner then was boxed in and finished 4th to be 8th overall. Next races, Sweden Cup sprint and 15km classic in Asarna on January 8-9.

Tough fields, tracks, and weather for the Australian skiers at the USA Championships in Soldier Hollow. Andrew Circosta and Andrew Wynd finished 45th and 79th respectively in the 30km freestyle on January 3, 13.20 and 19.30 behind the winner Ivan Babikov of Russia. Second placed Andrew Johnson of the USA was over 1.00 behind Babikov's time of 1:17.32. In the middle of the race there was a heavy snow fall that lasted about 20min. More details from Wyndy:

The 30km was tough. After being here about 6 days, I felt OK, but not really fit and fast and not exactly comfortable on my skis. The course was brutual, the toughest 30km I have ever raced with mostly uphills and ripping downs. No flats, which is where I seem to be skiing my fastest at the moment. I seem to have a problem with my climbing, I was getting dropped left right and centre but making time back up elsewhere. Will have to get you to have a look at what I'm doing. Anyway, finished 79th from 109 finishers or so, but many pulled out as they were having a bad day. I decided to finish and hope it will pay off sooner or later. My skis were very fast on the first lap, but slowed dramatically as it started snowing.

I am feeling tired, so not sure how tomorrow is going to go, but hey, you got to be in it to win it and surely it will pay off later in the trip.

On the 5th the boys at Soldier Hollow followed up with the 10km Classic. With a boost from large university teams there were over 200 starters. Andrew Circosta was the fastest Australian in 82nd place, 4.37 behind Babikov (again the winner), with Wyndy in 129th and Paul Circosta in 185th. Then there was the 10km Freestyle on January 6, again over 200 starters, with Andrew Circosta scoring his best percentage in 74th place, this time 3:37 behind the winner James Southam (Babikov second). Paul Circosta 94th and Wyndy 97th, 4.19 and 4.26 behind. No direct reports yet from the guys, Circa brothers are in transit to Europe and Wyndy is getting ready for the next race.

Australia's number one junior skier Ben Sim is currently based in Slovakia with his coach Nick Almoukov and the NSW junior ski team. Here is the latest news from the guys in Slovakia:

On December 27 Ben Sim and Nick Almoukov competed in a 10km classic Slovakian Cup race around a 2km track with only up hills and no downs. The weather couldn't have been much worse with the temperature sitting on 0 degerees and heavily wet snowing making the tracks like glue. Luckily the boys both had fast skis (or as fast as they could be) and ended up in 8th and 19th place. The winner was Martin Bajcicek in 30:45, 2nd Ivan Batory 37 seconds behind and 3rd was Michael Malak witha good race another 4 seconds behind Batory. Ben easliy won the Junior divison beating 2nd place by more than 2 minutes.

Next race is on the 2nd with Slovakian sprint champs.

No news yet from the Slovakian sprint champs.

Reports from November/December 2004