Devon Kershaw: Tour de Ski 2010, Day Two – 15km Classic

FasterSkierJanuary 2, 2010

Devon Kershaw is submitting daily reports from the 2010 Tour de Ski.  He is currently in 10th place overall after a strong race today.

Tour de Ski 2010, Day Two – 15km Classic in the true “pursuit” style

The Tour continues to click along, Northug continues to win and Oberhof remains engulfed in fog. Most of those statements are true – although in a strange twist of fate – Oberhof did “almost” clear off for a few minutes late this afternoon before it realized that blue skies over-head was a bad idea.

Sadly, the course didn’t hold up, snow-wise. The tracks quickly began falling in on themselves because of the soft, sugary snow. It was literally as if the German army was conscripted with a “C and H” sponsorship and spread the sweet white stuff about 3 inches deep around the entire 3km course.

After yesterday’s disappointment, I regrouped well, refocused and was excited to get the next race underway – which is a favorite format of mine – a short, “en-masse” classic race. These races (short mass starts – I know it’s not a “true” mass start – but when there is that many men in such short order, it quickly becomes a mass start) have a habit of being dicey, oddly paced, tough endeavors. Today was no different, and ended up being a lot of people all over the place vying for position in the pack, right from the get-go and the choppy 5 lap course made for tough classic skiing.

The racing began with the women’s 10km pursuit. Renner had an improved performance over yesterday. A lover of classical technique, she took advantage and moved up some places in the overall. Although she started a little slower than she would have liked, but like yesterday she moved really well over the last kilometers, leaving struggling/dead girls in her wake as she skied up to a solid 21st.

On the men’s side, we had an excited and loud Alex Harvey revved up to go, while Babs, George and I were a little more subdued ahead of today’s start, but no less interested to see how it would end up.

The men’s race played out exactly how I’d imagined it would. Messy. Congested. And the pace was changing faster and more often than a tween girl plowing through outfits at the mall during Boxing Day madness. At times it’s all I could do to stay on the skis ahead of me, as I’d attempt to convince myself in my severe oxygen deprived state, “there is no way this is sustainable.” Luckily, most of the time that crazy pace isn’t a sustainable practice and the paces slows, at times slowing by a lot. It’s so strange, sometimes you are sprinting and sometimes you are cruising around in Zone 2 feeling comfortable, and in control – but that’s the deal with this type of racing.

On my end, it was a much-improved performance. It feels good to be back in amongst the top – and I skied in control, managing my energy and pace well throughout most of the race. I say most of the race because I usually have a good sprint in me at the end of races, but today it was as likely to happen as the sun poking out of the East German clouds. I was ahead of Northug with 700m to go, and he beat me by 10 full seconds…

Still, my health continues to feel better, the body is responding better and today was a true bonus for me. Like I stated yesterday – The plan was to hope for some solid results later in the Tour, so to get a decent race in early is great news.

Babs (Ivan) was solid, moving up from 50th to 23rd and Alex was skiing well, but got into some trouble with regards to congestion on the last lap and ended up 27th. He was upset telling George and Ivan about half a dozen times in the span of 10 minutes (during their cool down) how he was skied all over, pushed physically and put out of a advantageous position. His shape is moving in leaps and bounds though, so he’ll only get stronger. For George, it was a frustrating day, and he is still searching for a way to get his body to be responsive in Mass Start classic races. Still, a great skier on all fronts coupled with his great shape he showed yesterday means that he’ll continue to be force in any international competition he enters as we cruise into the Olympic-madness.

We are all feeling good as a team, and looking forward (cautiously though I might add) to the two sprint competitions upon us, which begin tomorrow. I’m not expecting much in tomorrow’s classic sprint (it’s going to be a long course, and Nordic Combined is racing before we qualify (meaning they will groom 15 minutes before the 1st women qualifies) so the conditions will be horrendously soft/bad) but I look forward to Prague – where the city-sprint skating format seems to suit me quite well.

That’s the news from the Tour. Looking forward to dinner, and a chill evening. May even play some guitar to pass the time…


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