Although we raced in Finland at the end of November, this past weekend (December 5/6), felt like the official 'season kickoff'. We were hosted at the nordic venue in Ulrichen, Ubergoms in the Vallais canton of Switzerland. Although it is only 150km the way the crow flies, it required some Swiss infrastructure to access the valley via numerous tunnels as well as driving your car onto a train that drove through a tunnel in a mountain. That's Switzerland for you.
The weekend kicked off with a 1.2km skate sprint on Saturday for the women. The trails were buzzing with lots of young racers as well as quality senior fields with many on the men's side coming directly from the World Cup in Scandinavia (including Canada's Jesse Cockney, fellow Bow Valley representative) to race this weekend and use it as preparation for the Davos World Cup. The snow is fairly scant in Ulrichen, as well as in Davos and the race trails were are heavily supplemented by man-made snow.
In the prologue, I lacked the snap and turnover to win but my teammate, Nadine Fähndrich, had plenty in store and absolutely crushed the field winning the prologue by over 6 seconds. I finished the morning in second. In the afternoon, the sun came out and my body got into sprinting mode, I was happy to walk away from the final with a win! A day for the diary for me. Dear Diary, Today I won my first win as a Swiss athlete, pretty neat :)
Sunday greeted us with a bit colder of temperatures and groomed tracks for the 7.5km Classic Individual start. The Senior Women's category was extremely small today so having raced the same distance as the juniors, we were lumped together in results. I say 'juniors', but these ladies can throw down some speedy racing. Having trained with them over the summer and now pulling it all together for race season, it is exciting to watch the progress of not only myself but of my teammates as well. I finished the day in 3rd place, 0.5sec from 2nd after a decent classic fight but stuck in one gear and couldn't seem to shift power!
Although I'm a Swiss national team athlete, when racing in the Swiss Cup series, wax and accomodation support are provided by your team. I was really impressed by the wax service and support from my new club, Schweizerischen Akademischen Skiclub, or SAS. We had great skis the whole weekend and I am pumped that I raced both days on new pairs of Salomon skis from this year. The bar is raised every year!
This weekend was again full of many 'firsts' for me. First time in Ulrichen, first time seeing a Sammiklaus parade complete with 30 black face-painted men with cowbells marching through the streets, first time racing for my new club (SAS) and my first win with a Swiss suit. Rounded out a great weekend.
This week, the Swiss Team is all-hands-on-deck in Davos as we prepare for our first home World Cup this weekend in Davos. Incredibly exciting and although we could use some more snow, the town and athletes are ready to rock. I will be starting on Sunday, December 13 in the Skate Sprint. There's so much to be excited about this week with my mom coming to visit, seeing old friends, my daily chocolate surprise in my advent calendar and obviously the World Cup this weekend!
In the meantime, do a little snow dance for Switzerland and check in soon!