This winter I’ve become accustomed skiing on a ribbon on snow threading through the dry woods. First it was Muonio. Then it was Sjusjoen which was closely followed by Kuusamo. We flew to central Europe and skied in Davos and Pontresina on more manmade loops. Since I had only skied on short loops raised a foot or so off the snowless ground, arriving in the city of Dusseldorf, Germany to find a 750 meter loop of snow on top of the city streets seemed rather normal. This was my first experience racing a city sprint and it was awesome!
On Friday afternoon and evening snow is trucked into the center of Dusseldorf from an indoor alpine ski run near the city. With warm rainy weather the snow starts melting about as soon as it is laid down so they wait until the last possible moment. The course isn’t open for preview until the morning of the race and even then it’s only open for a short inspection period so we didn’t even travel to Dusseldorf until Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel where all the other teams were also staying and then went for a run along the Rhine. A lot of teams had brought rollerskis and were rollerskiing the afternoon before the race but my rollerskis are tucked away in the basement of Elinor’s house and will stay there until the spring. . The course was fast, icy, narrow, and flat and was bordered by the Rhine on one side and the city of Dusseldorf on the other . There is one small bump in the middle named “Mt. Dusseldorf” which has an elevation of approximately three or four meters and the rest of the course is flat. I was expecting it to be pretty slushy but it was actually very hard and icy. Saturday the snow was relatively clean but the wear and tear of Saturday’s racing as well as the pollution of city life had played its role and Sunday’s track was noticeably blacker. Saturday was a individual skate sprint while Sunday was a team sprint.
Skiing around the loop during Saturday morning’s inspection period was incredibly fun. It was packed with skiers and wax technicians hammering the narrow course while fans began to line up around the edges. The smell of Gluwein was strongly wafting through one turn of the course and there were cafes, bars, and lots of music everywhere. I couldn’t wait to race! Unfortunately I was a little too excited and tripped the want early, waited like a deer in the headlights staring at the screen while the starter said something to me in German, and the sprinted out of the gates frantically a few seconds later. I skied as fast as I could but the race was over before I knew it and you can’t give up a few seconds just standing there in a sprint that is well under two minutes. I was pretty frustrated with myself but it was exciting to watch a lot of aggressive skiing on the fast and narrow course. It was a great day for the American women with Kikkan winning her first sprint of the season while Chandra Crawford from Canada placed 4th! Sunday was a team sprint and I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had only done this event once before when I was a junior in high school. I partnered with Holly Brooks and skied the first leg in our semifinal heat of twelve teams. We messed up our first tag, lost contact with the lead group, and just missed qualifying for the finals. I did a running cooldown from the race through the busy Christmas markets and then returned to the course to watch the finals which Sadie and Kikkan were racing in together. It was another exciting race with an amazing finish as Kikkan moved up from 9th to 2nd during the last leg!! It was so inspiring to see two teammates on the World Cup podium!
As soon as the race was over the plows showed up to clear the city streets and we headed back to Davos, Switzerland for some more training before the next weekend’s races but I’m looking forward to coming back! Here are some pictures from the weekend.
The course alongside the Rhine
With the snow melting quickly, course access was limited and only a small part of the warmup was done on skis. Thanks to Concept2 for providing SkiErgs for athletes to warm up on. It's hard to be ready to ski 750 meters as fast as you can after a loof running so the SkiErg was a great solution. Here is Sadie doing some double poling!
The team sprint was exciting and chaotic with lots of skiers racing on the narrow loop. The exchange zone (shown above in one of the men's semifinals) was a maze of skiers, skis, and poles!
Dusseldorf was busy this weekend! We had fun walking around the downtown section of the city after the race and exploring the Christmas markets.The busy advent markets featured Christmas crafts, tasty food, and a big selection of Gluwein.