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Australian Team Reports 2005/2006
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October / November / December Updates

January 3 - From Nove Mesto to Innsbruck
January 8 - Preparing for Val di Fiemme
January 14 - One Up, Two Down
January 21 - Last Chance Gone in Oberstdorf
February 2 - Late Report on Surselva
World Junior / U23 Championships Special
February 4 - Not Quite There Yet
February 5 - Day Two
Torino Winter Olympic Special
March 9 - Early World Cup Ending




Australian Team Reports 2005/2006

March 9 - Early World Cup Ending

The World Cup goes on but with no more Australian competitors. Esther Bottomley and Clare-Louise Brumley went straight back to Australia after the Winter Olympics. Paul Murray and Ben Derrick were supposed to have raced this week in the Sprint in Borlange and the 50km in Holmenkollen (no prizes for guessing who in which race) but things haven't gone to plan. Paul hasn't trained for two weeks after getting sick at the end of the Olympics and has decided to pack up his appartment in Borlange and go home. BD did some soul-searching after the Skate-Vasa last week (in which he was 17th) and found that there was no desire left for Holmenkoll, so he is slowly on his way home as well. The World Cup goes to China and Japan next week but the finances weren't there to go to those events anyway. So that's it for World Cup 05/06. There were highs (people qualifying for Torino) and lows (people not qualifying for Torino), generally we can say there are lots of Australian athletes hungry to do better. Next year is going to be a funny year with World Cup - after the normal November/early December races traditional World Cup will take a pause until after the new Tour-de-Ski World Cups at the start of January. It is unsure yet if any Australians will take part in this new tour, as it will be a very expensive and demanding 10 days. And then the World Championships are in Japan in February, followed by World Cups back in Scandinavia in March, so it could be very difficult (or some might say interesting) to pick out a good affordable competition schedule. We will see after the FIS calendar is finalised in June.

A quick summary of other Australian Team athletes over recent weeks. Chris Darlington raced the Vasaloppet in Sweden along with Borlange house-mate Leon Spiller. After a bad start (his estimate was that he was back around 1000) Darlo was about 500th at the first drink station and moved up steadily from there to be 253rd at the 90km finish. Spiller on the other hand went the other way, around 300 at the first drink station down to about 500th at the finish. Down in Switzerland James Rickard was supposed to have raced the Swiss Championships in the Goms last week, but he picked up a cold and pulled the pin a la Paul Murray. Still racing we have Andrew Wynd currently at the Canadian Championships in Thunder Bay - to check his progress go to www.zone4.ca. And KT Calder may or may not be in Switzerland somewhere getting ready for the Engadin Ski Marathon, she is not answering her sms messages.

February 5 - Day Two

Davos World Cup (Day Two)
A tough day at the office for Paul Murray in his first distance World Cup. He ended up 81st out of 83 starters in the Davos 15km Classic, just under 7 minutes (~18%) behind the winner Jens Svartedal of Norway. Paul's first 5km lap was not too bad, but then he really started to work hard on the hills for the next two laps. A small positive was being able to hang onto Mathias Fredriksson from Sweden (who finished 5th) for about 500m on his (Paul's) last lap. But in general it is lucky that Paul isn't racing this event at the Olympics. Another good day for the Canadian women with Sara Renner and Beckie Scott finishing 2nd and 4th.

Konig Ludwig Lauf (Day Two)
KT Calder had another good race today with 2nd place in the Konig Ludwig Lauf 23km Classic. First place went to an as yet unknown girl who sat behind KT for most of the race then sprinted not quite past and tripped KT up with about 400m to go. Thanks unknown girl. Ben Derrick paid good on a 5 year old threat to double pole the 23km Classic (in which Paul Murray was 5th in 2001). His advice to anyone who thinks it might be a good idea: don't do it. He finished 6th, losing time on the hills at the start and never really catching up. But anyway not too bad after the 55km freestyle the day before.

On the Saturday night BD contested the Konig Ludwig Laug night sprints, finishing 4th out of 6 in his heat and missing out on the semis. BD says: "A massive crowd for this event, pity that I'm not really a sprinter. Who won, maybe a Swede or an Italian, I don't know it was dark and I was wearing sunglasses"

So now it is on to Torino, with the first event the Pursuit starting on February 12. We will try to get a Olympic Special page up with various links, but we don't know yet if we be able to get any reports from the team during the games.

February 4 - Not Quite There Yet

Davos World Cup
In this last World Cup hit out before the Olympics we were hoping for a step towards making the Sprint finals. Esther Bottomley finished 47th in the women's sprint, with FIS points of 82; Paul Murray was 58th in the men's sprint with FIS points of 77. Both were about 3.5 seconds outside the top 30, which is not bad, but just a little short of where we wanted to be. The course was hard and fast, and actually one of the better designed sprint courses that we have seen this season. Nice and wide, a good long start straight, a couple of short hills, and a good fair finish. Norwegian skiers won the qualifying, but Swedish skiers (Bjorn Lind and Anna Dahlberg) won the finals. The breakthrough performance came from Chandra Crawford of Canada, who made her first A-Final and took the bronze medal.

The Olympic Sprint fields will be slightly easier, as the top nations like Norway and Sweden will only have 4 skiers each; however our athletes will still need to find those extra seconds over the next couple of weeks (the Sprint is on February 22nd) if they are to have a chance of making the finals.

Tomorrow Paul Murray will make his distance World Cup debut in the 15km Classic event. His distance FIS points are the second worst in the field, but hopefully he can knock off a couple of athletes and also get another good quality session in before we head to Torino.

Konig Ludwig Lauf, Oberammergau, Germany
In the German Worldloppet event in Oberammergau KT Calder finished 2nd in the 23km freestyle and Ben Derrick was 7th in the 55km freestyle. A pretty good result for KT, but BD had been aiming a little higher - the last two years he has been 2nd and 4th in this event. His description of the race: "I got spanked at the start, then skied really hard to get 7th in a sprint for 5th place (note this was a 6-way sprint). My body felt good but skis maybe had a bit too much structure." The winner of the 55km was Tom Reichholt (yep the winner of the Surselva last weekend). KT's second place was behind Germany's Kathrin Zeller.

Tomorrow BD and KT compete again, in the 23km classic event - the FIS Marathon Cup distance is 55km.

U23 Championships
Ben Sim was 38th today in the U23 World Championship Pursuit in Kranj in Slovenia. Sorry about delay on the Kranj special, here it is now.

February 2 - Late Report on Surselva

Last weekend the Surselva Marathon and the Energi/Alpina Sprints took place in Sedrun in the Surselva valley in Switzerland. In the evening on January 28 Esther Bottomley, KT Calder and Paul Murray contested the sprints under lights in dowtown Sedrun. Esther and KT qualified 4th and 5th behind the top two Swiss skiers Sereiner Mishol and Laurence Rochat, with Norwegian sprinter Sigrid Aas in third place. Paul qualified 10th behind mostly Swiss skiers and a couple of Germans.The finals were held in two person knockout format on an up and back 500m loop. Paul made it through from the round of 16 to the 1/4 finals with a great lunge, the only athlete to make it through after being behind in the last U-turn corner. However he was knocked out in the 1/4 final by Von Allmen from Switzerland, who went on to be runner-up in the A-final. Esther and KT met in the 1/4 final, with Esther going through to the semi-final to meet Mischol. Esther won the start against Mischol and lead around the U-turn at the top of the course, but was unable to hold off the Swiss skier down the straight and was relegated to the B-final against Aas who lost a very similar race against Rochat. in the B-final Esther had a close race with Aas but couldn't come from behind after the final U-turn and ended up 4th. Mischol won the women's final, Waldmeier from Switzerland won the men's final.

In the 25km Surselva Marathon the next day KT skied a very good tactical race to take 3rd place behind Swiss skierts Leonardi-Cortesi and Rochat. The first two skiers broke away early on, and rather than trying to minimise the time difference KT decided to focus on taking the last podium spot. After spending a lot of the race in a pack with the other girls she skied away to 3rd place ahead of Aas who took 4th. In the men's race BD skied a pretty solid race to take 8th place. Tom Reicholt from Germany won, with Carl Swenson from the USA taking 4th. Paul Murray made a bad selection of skis (he took his cold pair and the snow warmed up a lot during the race) and fought a tough race making time on uphills and losing it on the downs, not quite sure what his final place was. BD and KT won a stack of cheese amongst other prizes.

Next weekend Paul and Esther race the Sprint World Cup in Davos, while BD and KT will be racing in the Konig Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau in Germany.

World U23 / Junior Championships
The World U23 / Junior Championships in Kranj in Slovenia kicked off on January 31 and finishes on Feburary 5 - a report will be coming soon!

January 21 - Last Chance Gone in Oberstdorf

Today in the World Cup Pursuit in Oberstdorf was the last chance for Ben Sim and Ben Derrick to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics, however they were just not fast enough on the day. With the 30km race held on a 2.5km loop it was always going to be a challenge for the guys to finish without being overlapped by the leaders, and both skiers were forced (as per the FIS rules) to pull out of the race before this happened. They weren't the first to pull out, but they were never up in the top 80% of the field (the Olympic C criteria) so the qualification has never really under threat. Ben Sim put everything into staying with the pack as long as possible, but unfortunately his form was not good enough after only a week of good training after his illness at the start of January. Already on the second lap he blew up, lost contact with the pack and dropped back behind Ben Derrick who had lost contact earlier. BD fought on as long as he could, but it soon became apparent that both skiers were not going to hold off the leaders. Of the 55 skier field 12 athletes withdrew, with US skiers Kris Freeman and Carl Swenson (who both made the top 15 in the Pursuit at the 2003 World Championships) only just making the last freestyle loop before the leaders came into the finish straight.

In the women's 15km Pursuit Clare-Louise Brumley finished 36th out of a very small field of 38 skiers. She was up in 35th place after the changeover from the classic leg, and skied most of the skating leg with Sereiner Boner from Switzerland. Unfortunately her skating skis were not so quick, and after fighting for 5km together with Boner to almost catch another 3 skiers she lost contact and dropped back to 36th. Not a great result, but not that bad either and the physical shape from last weekend is still there.

Now all the Olympic shadow team still in Europe (Andrew Mock already back in Australia) head to Switzerland - Paul Murray flies down from Sweden on Monday to join Esther Bottomley, Ben Derrick, Ben Sim, and KT Calder in Davos, while Clare-Louise Brumley will return to her normal European training base in Pontresina. The Australian Winter Olympic Team, which will include Paul, Esther and Clare-Louise as the cross country team, will be announced officially next week. Simbo will focus his attention now on the World Under 23 Championships, which start in Slovenia on January 31; Esther will race the sprint there as well, then return to Davos to join Paul for the sprint World Cup there on February 4. BD is training up for the Konig Ludwig Lauf 50km skate Worldloppet race also on February 4, in which he has finished three times in the top four, and KT Calder will race the shorter 23km skate race there as well - in which she finished 3rd in 2004.

Fischen Night Sprint
Almost forgot about this. Esther Bottomley raced the Fischen Night Sprint just down the road from Oberstdorf on Wednesday January 18. Last year Esther made the podium in this event, but this year the field was a little tougher - the top three in the A-final were Henkel from Germany, Tchepalova and Rotcheva from Russia. Esther won the start of her semi-final and held off Henkel for 1 lap, but then faded at the end of the 2nd lap and was outlunged for the 2nd A-final spot. In the B-final she won the start again, fought hard to retain the lead going into the last lap, but was beaten in the finish straight again to end up 6th. Esther was disappointed not to make the A-final, but all up it was a good fun evening. The men's final was won by Andy Newell from the USA, who had time to pop a heli over the finish line. His team-mate Torin Koos won the B-final, after qualifying fastest and breaking his pole in the semi-final.

January 14 -One Up, Two Down

The World Cup competitions in Val di Fiemme today were the only chance for Australian cross country skiers to qualify for the Torino mass start freestyle events. Clare-Louise Brumley stuck her hand up to be counted for the women's event, finishing 40th out of 61 in the 15km. Unfortunately Ben Derrick and Katherine Calder missed out; BD finished 70th out of 74 in a very tough men's 30km freestyle, and KT a non-finisher in the 15km.

Clare Louise was in last place after the first 500m in the 15km, however as per usual picked up the pace as the race progressed. After the first 3.75km lap she was in 50th; after 7.5km 42nd; then she had to fight hard over the second half of the race to pick up the next two spots. The end result of 40th is possibly the best ever distance World Cup result for an Australian female cross country skier, and bodes well for form coming into the Olympics next month. Clare-Louise is now qualified (under the "C Criteria") for both the Pursuit and 30km Freestule events for Torino.

After the start list came out a good result in the men's 30km was always going to be a big ask for BD. No weaker nations/athletes contended this 30km world cup, and all the other competitors including the national group skiers had average FIS points under 75. With the race of his life BD might have been able to stay in one of the larger groups - however this was not to be the day, and after 7.5km the race became a solo one. While BD's chances in the Pursuit are generally less than in the 30km Freestyle event, he will race the World Cup next weekend in Oberstdorf just in case he pulls some incredible classic form out of nowhere. BD will be joined for the men's Pursuit in Oberstdorf by Ben Sim, who is also racing tomorrow in Slovakia after being sick for the first week of January.

For KT this season has just been a nightmare. Sick again at the end of December after some signs of form on Swiss Cup, a good result on this weekend was a lottery. After losing contact with the back of the pack after the first lap, KT withdrew from today's race, and probably from all contention for this year's olympic selection. On last season's form she would have been a definite contender; however this season she just hasn't been close, due most likely to her major shoulder injury in July. At this stage it is unlikely that KT will start in Oberstdorf next weekend.

Next races/reports? Maybe after the Fischen night sprint mid-week? Unless the Aussie guys racing in Sweden write something worth publishing after their marathon tomorrow.

January 8 - Preparing for Val di Fiemme

St Ulrich Continental Cup, Austria, January 7-8
Ben Derrick had two good hard races this weekend on Continental Cup in Austria, topping off his final preparation for the World Cup in Italy next weekend. BD finished 38th and 37th respectively in the 10km Classic and 15km Freestyle events, with FIS points of around 102 and 98. The places were nothing so special to write home about - however BD's performances were solid and show he is close to his best middle-distance (read 10-15km) skiing form in Europe for a couple of years. He was hoping for a better result in the mass start freestyle event, however got caught up in a bottle-neck in the start and had only just worked his way up to the back of the lead pack when it started to break up. He picked up more places as the race went on, however bridging the gaps to the next groups proved to be too much work. A good start will be one of the key factors for a good result in Val di Fiemme - with his high FIS points BD will be starting at the back of the field again next weekend

Esther Bottomley raced her first FIS distance race in Europe for several years, and doesn't plan to do another one again soon. Esther finished 29th out of 34 starters in the 10km Freestyle mass start, skiing most of the race solo after losing contact with the pack in the first 2-3km.

Asarna Sweden Cup, January 6-7
Paul Murray posted some consistent results on Friday-Saturday in the Swedish Cup competitions in Asarna. Paul was 38th in the 15km Classic on January 6, just over 4 minutes (or 10%) behind the winner Johan Olsson - who was 58 seconds ahead of second place! The other Australians in the event - NSWIS/Continental Cup Team member Chris Darlington, and Wangaratta Ski Club's Leon Spiller - found it tough in their first race in Europe this season, 7:00 and 9:30 back from the winner respectively. In the Sprint the next day Paul qualified 13th then had a good 1/4 final to make to the semis. Then was knocked out and ended up ranked 8th as there was no B-Final. Darlo and Leon were well off the pace again, in 47th and 50th place.

Next weekend the focus will all be on the World Cup 30km/15km events in Val di Fiemme, the only qualifying events this season for the Olympic 50km/30km mass start freestyle events. BD will be the only Australian in the 30km event, as our other male distance World Cup skier Ben Sim is training through to the Oberstdorf World Cup the following weekend. Clare-Louise Brumley and KT Calder will compete in the 15km event. KT Calder is re-joining the World Cup Team after six weeks of training and racing in Switzerland. Though KT's training was interrupted a couple of times in this period by illness, in a Swiss Cup in Campra two weeks ago she showed some signs of a return to last season's form. For Clare-Louise it will be her first race since her Olympic qualifying performance in Canada four weeks ago.

January 3 - From Nove Mesto to Innsbruck

Nove Mesto World Cup, Czech Republic, December 31
Ben Derrick skied a solid race in the 15km Freestyle World Cup in Nove Mesto, but will still need to find something extra for his next World Cup in Val di Fiemme on January 14. BD finished in 64th place out of 71 starters, with FIS points of 98 (for the old-timers this corresponds to just over 12% behind the winner). It is a tough 5km track in Nove Mesto, as Ben Sim can attest to from previous years. BD felt he started a little hard and paid for it on the second lap, but then came home stronger in the last 5km. The race was won by Vicent Vittoz from France.

The men's distance events are the hardest of the cross country World Cups in which to acheive a good result - there is just so much depth in the field. However, while BD was hoping for a little better in Nove Mesto, he is at least in reasonable form and not too far from where he needs to be in Val di Fiemme. The 30km Freestyle there is more his distance, and the mass start format will also help. In the mean-time there is the Continental Cup races in St Ulrich in Austria next weekend. BD will race both the 10km Classic and 15km Freestyle events, and Esther Bottomley will also race her first FIS distance race in Europe for two years.

December 31st was a crazy day. After the race was over the team showered and lunched and then spent 7.5 hours in the car to arrive in Innsbruck at 10:30pm. At "Castle Brennan" there was just enough time to meet about 15 people and forget their names before heading to down-town Innsbruck for some fairly spectacular fireworks. Followed by extensive dancing in the streets. For future reference, if you want to be able to sleep in the next 24 hour period do not drink more than one can of "Kamikaze" guarana drink.

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