In early January I traveled to Europe to compete in some IBU Cup competitions. The first weekend was in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. The countryside around Nove Mesto has rolling hills with patches of forests and lots of fields. Imagine the Creek Road between East Albany and Craftsbury, but add high rise apartments and a few smoke stacks to the villages. Cross country ski trails crisscross the landscape and connect villages together, much like the VAST snowmobile trails back home. A couple other CNSC skiers, Ethan and Tara, are currently getting to know Nove Mesto as they prepare for next weekend’s World Juniors for biathlon. Follow their results here.
I struggled a little with my races in Nove Mesto – my skiing wasn’t sharp and I missed a lot of targets. I was excited to get another chance to race the IBU Cups the following week in Altenberg, Germany.
Altenberg also has a network of ski trails connecting all the area villages and we got to venture away from the race trails for some classic ski excursions. We also explored town. In addition to the wood carving shops which I have blogged about previously, I also found a shop dedicated to model trains. It had shelves of trains, tracks, houses, landscape accessories, and miniature people. One could buy little street lights, fir trees, pumpkin fields, cemetery gravestones, construction workers, and just about anything else you can imagine.
After several days of exploring the area, it was time to race.
At the start of the sprint race, I didn’t have particularly high expectations for myself. My zero groups were the biggest they’ve been all year and I almost missed my start because I forgot about ski marking and had to do a last minute sprint over to equipment control. When I left the start gate, I immediately fell in behind a German girl who was coming through the lap lane. Knowing that the Germans tend to be very fast skiers, I tried to stay behind her up the first km of climbing and calm myself down. Sometimes when I race, I feel frantic and I waste a lot of energy. Skiing behind somebody who is fast can help me ski fast because I can be more efficient and relaxed. I cleaned my prone shooting and I knew I was having a good race during the second lap when I got a split saying I was in 5th place. The only big hurdle left was standing shooting. I entered the range and prepared to shoot, but then I heard my name over the loudspeaker; it stood out from an otherwise incomprehensible garble of German. Needless to say, it was very distracting; I’m not accustomed to being in the spotlight at such a big race. I’m glad we’d practiced those sorts of scenarios at training camps over the summer. I managed to hit four out of five of the targets and held on to a top ten finish. It was a very exciting day.