Wednesday, January 21, 2009

World Cup Update - for real this time

Classic Sprint
Friday's classic sprint was Madeleine's first opportunity to test the WOP trails this season. Ranked 45th going into the qualification, Madeline finished a strong 42nd. Not enough to move on to the rounds, but just 11.5 seconds back of Kikkan. The race sensations were very good, her skis were excellent, and Madeleine was feeling positive. Perfect.

As the second, and final, distance race for World Championships qualification, Saturday was a big day for Madeleine. I had picked skis for her the afternoon before and Madeleine and I agreed on the best pairs. As Madeleine made her final preparations to begin the race, I headed out to the feed zone with the rest of Team Canada.

As the field came through the feed zone (~2.0km) for the first lap, things were looking pretty tight. Madeleine was in 22nd place and skiing in a group of about 15 athletes. However, as the race began to unfold the picture began to change. At 5km Madeleine was in 23rd, at 7.5km she was in 20th.

Now, based on that you might think that really nothing was changing in the race; Madeleine wasn't slowing done significantly. However things become more clear when you look at some of the other splits. Some of the girls were simply getting faster! Shayla went through 2.5km in 25th, 5km in 18th, and 7.5km in 16th. The story was very much the same for Brittany; 19th, 14th, 14th. Check out the full analysis here - FIS.

Ultimately, Madeleine completed the race in 22nd position; an improvement over her #26 bib. However, this made her the 5th Canadian which will be a long shot for World Championships. Overall, the pursuit was certainly not a disaster and had many positives, but it wasn't a full success either. It seems that for that day Madeleine was able to ski relaxed and in control, but was just lacking the top gear to cover breaks as the race developed.

Team Sprint
This is where things began to get interesting! Madeleine was assigned to Canada 3 for the team sprint and all of us were super excited about the possibilities held by this race. As a distance athlete, Madeleine typically lacks the top gear to go with the best sprinters in the country, however the team sprint is an entirely different story. As each team member completes three laps there is a huge endurance component to this event.

Madeleine and Brooke skied an amazing qualifying heat and were part of a tough field. The heat times were fast! As the qualifying round ended the announcer indicated that Canada 3 would be moving on to the finals as a result of their qualifying time! Unreal! Super stoked on this news, Lorris and I went and found Madeleine to give her a huge high-five. Wicked!

The break between races progressed as expected. Madeleine got a massage, the techs worked on her skis, and she got down to the business of warming up. Sadly, this is where things headed south. With just a few minutes to go before the race Brooke and Madeleine were on their way back to the stadium to pick up race skis. At this point, we received notice from FIS that there had been an error - the number ten and eleven teams had been mixed up. Canada 3 was in fact not in the finals and had finished in 11th spot, just a few seconds out of the required time. Talk about a crushing blow.


Here are the three most important things I picked up from the World Cup:

1. Attitude - I've said this before and it still holds true. At the end of the day those people who act like winners end up being winners. Alex Harvey is 20 years old and came home with a world cup medal. Other Canadian athletes are just as fit and finished well back in the field. What's the difference? Alex believes and acts like he belongs as part of the big show. This guy is an absolute class act and amazing role model for younger athletes. Alex may have the greatest potential of any athlete in Canada right now.

2. Poling technique - skiing technique is constantly evolving and I'm beginning to see a big shift in the poling technique of the world's best athletes. See Jack Cook's discussion on the topic here - Fast Trax article.

3. If you're a douche and win World Cup medals, you're still a douche. There is something to be said for sportsmanship.

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