Sometimes the best laid plans can go to waste. With the big snowfalls that have hit Australia this season, areas which are often marginal in normal seasons have suddenly become fit to groom. So organisers started to eye off the Prussian Flat area at Perisher Valley to run the Australian Distance Championships around. Normally it has only a light cover but this year it has been thick white blanket all season and it presented beautiful rolling terrain for the men’s 30km and women’s 15km. A quick trip around the course two days before the race had me dreaming of miles and miles of V2 and V2 alternate.
Then a cold change hit the day before. Skiers trying out the course were blasted with 70 mile an hour winds and had to lay down flat on the snow in between the gusts to avoid being blown over. Then the snow started to fall and in bucket loads. It was wet and about 20 inches fell in 24 hours. Even the grooming machine could not go out and groom the course as it became bogged. Organisers at 7am were faced with a tough choice, postpone the race or run a European style stadium like race around a 3km course. And that’s how the Australian Long Distance Championship became Stadium XC- six times around a 3km course, probably the toughest 3km in the whole Perisher Valley network and in heavy new snow.
Ben Derrick went on to claim his first national title of the season by 14 seconds from a gallant Ben Sim. Derrick, Sim and Murray will be at Obertsdorf next year for the World Championship to continue the renewal of Australian cross-country ski racing on the world stage. Many spectators had enjoyed watching the race unfold. Normally they said this championship was a bore as skiers disappeared off into the trees and reappeared an hour and a half later. From what I have read the next Olympic Games in Torino will be similar with less than 10 kilometres of groomed track set aside for the competition.
As for me I got beaten into fourth in my age group (who ever remembers who came fourth?). Third place came up on me quickly in the second last lap and I wasn’t to sure whether I was being lapped by an elite skier again. He passed and I saw that his number was close to mine and that I should start chasing him. Unfortunately while I made up time on the downhills, I wasn’t doing so well on the up and third place beat me by 10 seconds. Eventhough it was a cold, snowy day and only 18km I didn’t drink and I think I ran out of energy the last two laps. As with probably all x-c skiers I am still on that big learning curve.
Full results of this race at www.hoppet.com.au/xc/results/04_res/aus15-30_04.htm