Only a small contingent of Americans participated in the recent
World Masters Championships (as they now seem to be called) in
Seefeld Austria. Reasons for this seemed to be the earlier than usual
dates and the decision by many to wait until next year's show in
Lillehammer. Not only were we a small group, but not even
representative, as most of our better skiers opted out.
In a way, our poor showing was unfortunate because I felt that the
event was one of the better run in the past few years and it was held
in a beautiful Alpine setting. Seefeld is the site of 2 Olympic
Winter games and one World Nordic Championship, and they have a trail
system that is very well suited to our championships. Well; there
were a few interesting aspects to the course, but more on that later.
The event was organized by a German club, which chose to hold the
races in Seefeld because of the reliable snow and excellent
infrastructure there, but even so, it was close. Winter didn't start
in that area until very shortly before we arrived, and we were
greeted by a modest cover of new snow over a very firm, effectively
icy base. However, it started snowing as the races began and really
didn't stop until the final long races. The new snow, not far below
0Â°C made kick waxing a bit tricky, but it sure beat ice.
Courses for the Masters are supposed to be half as difficult as FIS
maximums but those at Seefeld were toward the top end of what I've
seen at past World Masters. Most of the trails were flat to rolling,
but the 15km courses, especially the more difficult A course had a
challenging km or so of climb, followed by a downhill with some
corners that saw a good number of crashes, especially early in the
game when the icy base got scraped clean. It appears that the
organizers had second thoughts and removed this section for the older
folks during the final long races.
Another, less than optimal part of the course was at the start. At
the end of the stadium the course tuned hard left and narrowed
suddenly. Then it dropped down a steep downhill with a bump and turn
at the base. Skied solo, it was no problem, but with the mass starts
one could predict trouble, and there certainly was some. Maybe the
multi-skier crashes on the hill were for spectator enjoyment! Still;
the grooming was quite good and the races were fun for all but the
faintest of heart.
Without our stars, especially among the male contingent, the
Americans didn't do very well. Moreover, because the event was in
central Europe, the competition was quite a bit more fierce than it
was in Quebec last year. The Norwegians and Russians had large teams
as did the central Europeans. Our women were our only medallists,
with Ginnie Price grabbing two 2nds and a 3rd, Maggie Fillmore with a
3rd, a 5th, and a 6th, and Sue Wemyss with two 3rds.
I was the closest of the men to medalling with a 5th in the 15k
classic, but it was an interesting race. Fearing the congestion at
the start I double poled full tilt, and found myself first down the
hill. Because I'd never been in such a position in a World masters'
race I tucked in behind the new leader and stayed in the lead pack of
3 or so for 7 km and felt quite comfortable. It was a fantastic
feeling, but not to last. Even though I was saving for the hill, and
really do well on them, I immediately realized that I had totally
blown my kick wax (too thin) and had to double pole and herringbone
the entire way up. About 2 k from the finish I caught up with number
3, but with 3 more steep hills before the finish I had the same lack
of kick and lost 22 seconds. It was a moral victory and a very good
lesson about knowing one's skis.
Now all we can do is wait for next year and Lillehammer. We expect
it to be a fantastic event, and having been there several times, I
agree. The races will be held on the plateau above the stadium rather
than on some of the nastier Olympic courses. Everyone should be able
to handle these, but rest assured that the competition will be at
least as tough as this year, with many locals coming out of the
The fact that few of us have a chance to do really well there
shouldn't be a reason to miss next year's races because the
atmosphere should be fantastic-professional, friendly, and scenic. I
can't wait to finish in the Olympic stadium on the same approach used
in the Winter Games. I've done it in several Birkebeiners and it's
always a great feeling.