by Adam (second in a series…)
Friday: Skate 5k – mass start
This race was absolute chaos. Due to large crashes in the men’s U20 race, the race officials decided to put in a “pace car” and said that nobody could pass until halfway up the first hill. Unfortunately, everyone on the inside edge had to go less distance so even the slowest of the inside edge skiers got ahead of the fastest of the outside edge skiers, including me. The course was so tight that it was impossible to pass or even skate. I had to double pole the uphill. Luckily I started in the front row and managed to avoid a major crash behind me. After skiing the downhill after the first uphill, I tried to get to a better position by trying to pass on the outside edge.
On the corner where the sprint course turns right up the hill and the five km race course turns down to the left, a skier collapsed and landed on his back. His ski hit Russell in the face (luckily Russell didn’t crash and the resulting pile up sent several skiers down directly ahead of me. I had no time to avoid the crash and ended up upside down in the snow on the side of the trail with half a pole.
I struggled to get up, sliding backward on my fast skis with only one pole to try to push back onto the trail. A New England coach sprinted over and handed me a pole, which unfortunately had a left handed grip (I had broken my right pole). The entire group had already skied past so I started chasing down the rest of the skiers in front of me. I twisted the grip and put two fingers through the thumb hole to hold the pole with the wrong hand (not that comfy but it worked ok).
Everyone in the back of the race seemed to have much slower skis than me. It was super narrow with a lot of skiers so passing was basically a slalom on the downhill. I glided from skier to skier, drafting off each person then gliding up to the next and brought myself towards the front of the last group of skiers. With everyone skating on the uphill, it was impossible to skate and pass at the same time, so I sprint double poled past people, then put on a burst of sprint V2 to catch up with the back of the next pack. I continued to pass people on the downhill thanks to my tuck skating and really fast skis (thanks wax techs). At the 3.5 km mark, the last huge compound uphill started. I double poled to the front of the pack I was in and sprinted V1 out the front. I was unable to get through the back of the second group (one after the lead pack) on the inside edge so I skied out, then passed several skiers double polling. I was feeling completely exhausted and sore, but the people around me seemed to be slower skiers and I was determined not to let me beat them. I pushed into the final uphill to the finish and kept trying to pass every skier I could. Anders Hanson, the next New England skier, was in sight by the finish line. I had no energy left, having sprinted and double poled the last 4km of the course trying to catch up. If there had been another km, I think I could have made top 20. I ended up finishing 26th, after my comeback from 60th at 1km in a time of exactly 14 minutes flat. The time was only 5 seconds slower than my individual start win at the UVM carnival/eastern cup, but having the time be so close even with the crash was more likely the different conditions and wax not a spectacular improvement in my skiing skills.
Despite a disappointing result in what I thought had a chance of being my best event, I think that I skied a really good comeback and was happy that I didn’t give up and still gave the course everything. Thankfully I only broke one pole under warranty, not a bone, ski, or nearby spectator.
Thanks for the Support and Cheering!