Rovaniemi, Finland- Scandinavian Cup

Lenny ValjasNovember 21, 2010
Phil and I before our pre-race intervals on a chilly -16 morning in Rovaniemi.

This past week the National Team was split into two groups. The distance guys went to Gällivare, Sweden to race in the first World Cups of the year. Since there are no sprint races in Gällivare, our “Sprint specialists” travelled to Rovaniemi, Finland to race a Scandinavian Cup Classic Sprint. This race will prepare us for the Kuusamo World Cup next weekend.
Rovaniemi is the capital city of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland, and is located right on the Arctic Circle (locals say that Santa lives here). As you can imagine, being this far north, we had a cold and dark week of training on the trails in Rovaniemi. The temperature was as cold as -16 and we only saw the sun once all week. The food here in Finland did not agree with my stomach at all. Both Stefan and I have been battling stomach aches all week. We stopped eating at the cafeteria and started to made our own suppers.
With the stomach problems not getting any better it was time to race! yippee!
The course profile was simple, the first half was all uphill and then you made a 180 degree turn at the top and came ripping down the same trail back to the finish. It was a pretty tough course to stay on your feet, there was tons of bridges, sharp turns, and ice to try and knock you down.

A-Final Start

I was happy with my qualifier. I finished in 7th place right behind Stef, which is better than I have done in a classic qualifier in a while. All the Canadians made it into the heats with ease.
Unfortunately two of my teammates (Phil and Freddy) were in my quarterfinal with me. You never want to race in the same heat as your teammates, the odds of all 3 of you advancing are slim to none. The quarterfinal  turned out to be pretty intense. I had a rough start so I was forced to ski right in the middle of all the chaos. A couple hundred meters from the finish on the long downhill, a Finnish skier intentionally cut Phil off forcing both of them to crash and ending their hopes of moving on. The crash was reviewed by the Jury to see if the someone should be disqualified, but because the Finnish guy did not advance to the rounds there was nothing that they could do for Phil. The crash spread the group out and made it relatively easy for me to go to the semis.
Stef and I were the only two Canadian guys to move to the next round. Both our girls (Chandra and Dasha) easily made it through the quarters and semis leading the entire time.

250m to go to finish, just cross the bridge and head to the finish. (a-final)

My semi-final went very smoothly until the last bridge crossing before the finish. A Finnish skier was not  giving me any room on the inside of the final corner and was forcing me right towards the railing of the bridge. I was yelling at him to make sure he knew I was there but he didn’t budge. I was forced to straighten my  skis and let up for a second and follow in behind him. I was pretty pissed off at this guy and was ready to destroy this guy in a sprint finish… but he never made it to the finishing straight. He slipped on some ice and took a major face plant.
So it was off to the A-final. This heat was a toughy. I was racing Rotchev (former world champ), Torin Koos, Vahur Teppan (Estonian) and a couple fast Finns. I made my move on the big climb moving myself up from 4th to 1st place at the top. Cresting the hill I pushed as hard as i could and got into the lowest tuck that I could, and hoped for the best. Vahur was able to use my draft and pass me on the downhill. I quickly tucked in behind him and sprinted into the finish in 2nd!
So Pumped!
The Girls had an even better day! Chandra and Dasha finished 1st and 2nd respectively. Awesome!
Stef ended up 8th, Fred 15th, and Phil 24th due to the crash in the quarterfinal.
A great day for Canada!

Skiing over the teepee bridge.

Today I have a 10km classic race, and it’s also my Birthday. So hopefully it goes alright!

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