Let the Tour De Ski commence - allié Le Grande Bretagne
Part 2 of our roving reporter Eileen Cosgrove's blog on her take on supporting the British Nordic Team as they prepare for the start of the Tour De Ski in Oberstdorf, Germany. It's race day and Eileen was following and supporting the team as they prepared for the first race of the Tour.
Top British Nordic reporter Eileen Cosgrove caught up with the 2 Andrews this weekend as they prepared for the start of the Tour De Ski.
Great to see TV coverage for British Nordic although the cameras failed to pick up Youngy this time - perhaps he was going too fast for them to keep up.
We woke to fog, damp air and temperatures around zero. The forecast suggesting the rain would start at 1 pm, a few minutes after Muzzy's start.
The waxer's set off about 8.45 to do their magic, while the rest of the team had a more leisurely start. The 2 Andrews appeared about 9.30 to have first breakfast and to fill plates with bread, cheese, ham and peanut butter, to be eaten at more precise times before their individual start times. They seemed pretty relaxed and resigned to the conditions. Roy spent the time on his computer or talking to Mike Dixon to fill him in on the latest team news.
After debating what grades of sandpaper we needed to get yesterday the waxer's have put in a request for the one we didn't get, so Roy begged a favour of Nick the Aussie who lives nearby to pop into the hardware store on his way to the tracks.
At 10.55am the 2 Andrews, Kelly Roy and I piled into the van, picked up Phil and set off to the stadium. The banter in the van was a bit nervous. The clouds that had filled the valley earlier started to lift and Kelly was able to see the beautiful scenery about which I'd been waxing lyrical.
At the stadium it was again all rather frantic as they did final tests of the skis and their warm ups. Kelly and I ran a few errands for Roy, such as paying the radio licence fees. Roy then allocated the support team locations out on the course. Alex and I were at the bottom of the first downhill, armed with spare poles in case of breaks, fortunately not required.
As the race started the clear skies started to cloud over, but no rain just yet.
Muzzy had an early start at 14 and set off at an awesome pace, the radio was crackling with excitement as Roy and Kaare report his position as he sped past them, 2nd, still in second, however by the second lap, his recent cold was showing its effect. Phil the Australian was the next person to cheer on and had a good race, as he prefers sprinting to distance. He finished 81st overall. Then Youngy came by at which point my iPad decided it was too cold or something and stopped taking photos.
Fortunately Alex had his camera too which is far fancier and should have better pictures than the little dots I seem to have captured. Anyway the radio was again active commenting how far behind he was but with each report he was going up the rankings. When he finished he was in 24th position and Muzzy in 20th. We tried to do quick calculations of worst case scenarios for final positions, assuming everyone behind Youngy beat him, or just the top 30 seeds, either way it seemed OK. In the end Andrew was 44th with his best ever distance points ( more than OK) and Muzzy 32nd just outside the magic top 30.
Alex and I headed back to the wax cabins after Andrew had finished, Muzzy and Phil were already on their cool down. At this point Andrew didn't know his final placing but was happy enough with the race. He said there were a lot of British spectators cheering them on, but hadn't heard Alex and I cheering him on! He was getting changed to go for a cool down run. With all the athletes away cooling down, Kelly and I went into the food tent to get a space for the others, and a good thing we did as we realised the food was running out so loaded up plates for The 2 Andrews and Roy made sure Aasmund and Kaare got there too. The promised rain finally arrived. The latest forecast is that it will continue until 4am when it will turn to snow for a light dusting. Already the snow is quite thin in places, so the 2.5k loop for tomorrow's 15k will take quite a bashing.
After the race there was a lot of tidying up to do, cleaning skis, looking out skis for tomorrow, collecting promised kit from Salomon and Exel. At 3pm Alex drove the bus back with the boys, Kelly and I, leaving Roy, Kaare and Aasmund to carry on sorting skis and to wait for team leaders meeting at 5pm. Meanwhile back at the hotel, Kelly set up her physio table and gave both boys a 30min massage. Because she's been working with them for awhile now, she knows where their weak spots and niggles are , so could compare how they were with respect to after the Lilliehammar races, when she last saw them. Various squeaks and squarks filled the hotel corridors, then there was silence as I presume they had a nap.
By 7pm the others had returned from team leaders meeting and the boys were on the hunt for food. After dinner the Andrews went off for a run, then back for a meeting with all the support staff to plan their assault on tomorrow's race and then the best recovery strategy as they have to travel for about 3.5hours to Switzerland. Yet again accommodation is not near by and they are staying near Mals in Italy, rather than Val Mustair in Switzerland. They will leave the hotel earlier tomorrow so they have plenty of time to test skis, as it's a longer race and uncertain conditions. So that means an earlier start for the waxers too.
For me, I'll get a taxi to the train station and start my journey back home, but hope I've got internet connection around 12.30pm.
It's been great to be part of the Cross country team for a few days, to meet again some of the support team and to appreciate how much they do in the back ground to make it all possible for our team to post some great results. For a small team like ours everyone needs to multitask as well as perform their main task, to deal with and help solve unexpected challenges. We're very lucky to have such a brilliant group of support personnel. I've also enjoyed the banter between the team and other athletes, even if I have been the butt of some of the jokes.