In ski racing we want hard, icy, fast snow. So, when it started snowing the day before our first training run here in Cortina, we became a little concerned. Just last weekend we were in Altenmark, Austria and had the most ideal downhill conditions. The sun was out, the track was smooth and the snow was hard, aggressive and fast. Unfortunately, I don't think the same can be said for the coming races this weekend.
However, that's not a problem.
But before I get to this week, let's get back to last week in Austria. It was the first speed race since before Christmas, with events being cancelled due to snow. And to be quite honest, it felt odd to be getting ready for a training run - it felt as though it was the first race of the season all over again. We raced a downhill-super combined and a downhill race.
The track, as I said, was in great shape. The start is a really steep pitch that shoots you out onto a flatter section and brings you up to speeds of 115 km/h in the first five seconds. Most cars can't do that.
Once the turns start the course takes you into the first jump, "Hot Air," and then out across the middle flats and onto the "Jagersprung," which is a jump that carries about 30 metres. The next section is into the forest. This whole last part of the course is completely shaded and dark and the contrast can be pretty intense when you come in from the bright sunshine on the top of the course. The forest section swoops down the run, swinging from right to left through a narrow cut of trees. It spits you out into the last pitch where the speeds pick up dramatically to send you off the last jump and down into the finish. It's truly an exciting and action-packed course.
The week started off well for the team. Kelly Vanderbeek won the first training run and we were right behind her. In the second training run I had some difficulties but that's what training runs are for - time to figure out the line and the terrain in order to get it right for race day. In the super combined on Saturday I started the downhill portion to get an extra run down the track, but skipped the slalom. We were able to do this because we have four spots in the super combined.
The talk of this day, however, was Larisa Yurkiw. She came in wearing Bib 48 and claimed the fastest spot in the downhill portion of the combined. She was flying, and she absolutely raced the whole course, top to bottom. Having won the downhill run she started the slalom portion in 30th - after Anja Paerson, Lindsey Vonn, and Maria Riesch; quite the crew to follow. She was definitely nervous. She missed a gate and had to hike but finished, and her name is now very well known in Austria. If you want to have your breakthrough race, Austria is the place to do it!
They also thought she was part Inuit! Silly Europeans - don't they know we don't all live in igloos?
The following day in the downhill Larisa was looking to have another great race but unfortunately didn't finish. She rode the fence in one of the forest corners "Bode Miller" style and awed the crowd, and again will be remembered for her performance on the track in Altenmark.
So, we are now in Cortina and this weekend will be racing two downhills, one giant slalom and a super G race. The second downhill replaces a race that was cancelled in Lake Louise back in December.
We have already had the program re-scheduled this week because of all the snow that is falling and hope to be having our first training run on Thursday. Until then I am happily finding time to use my powder skis!