Friday, February 26, 2010

The story from the "back" pack of the race.

I had a tough year (I am talking about an academic year) - my sports ambitions have been completely replaced by a new job. I was hesitating "to ski or not to ski" my La Transjurassienne FT 30 until the very last moment - i.e. until I put my skis on the snow on 12.02.2010, when we came to Jura from Paris.

I was trying to be realistic: I had some skiing shape left from the winter ski camp + some rather sporadic running and swimming and cycling activities afterwards. On the other hand, my skiing technique has improved since the last year and my new skis had to be tested on the race ;).

Bottom line, what I could expect was to finish the distance and, in the case of a good gliding, to improve a bit my timing of a previous year. [* in 2009 it was a fresh snow and quite a slow race. In addition, I made a serious mistake - I did not eat during the first half of the race - and had a bad sugar drop. As a result, a long and painful race it was].

14.02.2010. The day of the race.

Anna and me shared a hotel room with a broken heater. We had a room temperature around 16oC - exactly what is needed for an athlete before the race according to the C.T. Bible. ;)

I woke up at 9h00 in the morning. Thanks to a good portion of blankets and an "official La transju cap", I had a good almost 10h sleep. Valia has left very early for his 76km and I had no news from him except of an alarming sms at 8h05, saying that he is on the starting line and "..Bogdanov is not there yet" (?!????!!)

Misha and Ania, who did their races the day before, made me a company. With Ania, we have eaten all the bagets included in the hotel breakfast + some improvised porridge, prepared in a cup of a warm milk provided by our hostess. It was snowing outside - not a good start of the racing day. Comparing to the previous days [we have arrived in the place on 12.02] it got warmer and I had to revise my racing outfit. As the start was planned for 14h30 - I had all my time to prepare.

The plan for today for all three of us was to pack, to check out, and to go to the start place in Chapelle des Bois.

After my packing was done, I have taken 2 little tubes of L-Carnitine powder, a portion of magnesia, and have prepared my belt for the race: 3 gels and a bottle of a hot water from the tap [it would cool with a time but there is a chance that I would still have it not icy cold at least in the beginning of the race]. Misha gave me a portion of a magic powder [perhaps I should not write about it here as I still do not know what it was exactly - it was in a glass jar from caviar..] which supposed to improve my performance on the distance even more! ;). I have diluted it in 300ml of water and put into another bottle in order to drink it in the car. Frankly speaking, the mixture of a not-very-clean-bottle taste and a chalk taste of this powder was not very pleasant. In addition, I knew the rule that you should not taste new things before the race. I was quite hesitant but curiosity won and I have taken a half of my portion.

My skis have been waxed the evening before by the team of Misha + Valia + Ania. I have trusted them a good deal ;). We have checked out around 11h40 and started towards Chapelle des Bois.

We passed by Les Rousses first and then headed to my starting place. In spite of the fact that distances were very short, it took us a good deal of time and risk to come to Chapelle des Bois as we had summer tiers. Thanks to Misha, who drove very carefully, we arrived to the starting point of FT 30 around 13h - 1h30min before the race - perfect timing!

As we have been there with Valia the day before following Ania on her 25km CT and Misha on his 50km CT, I knew the place quite well. Today it was less sunny and less windy. The food stalls have been almost empty thanks to hungry 54 and 76km skiers who kept passing by.

Misha, Ania and me took the skis and went on the track. I was happy to admit that my waxing team did a great job and that my skis are working well. What bothered me a bit, was an unusual starting time - 14h30. As I had no time for a lunch [and had no idea what I could eat before the race as a lunch?!] I was afraid that my energy received in the form of breakfast will be over even before I start the race. I have decided to eat 2 cereal bars 1 hour before the race and promised to myself NOT TO MISS the first food stall after 10km and to take a gel there. That was it.

Misha and Ania went to explore the circle around Chapelle des Bois, I was warming up slowly, skiing about 3km, eat my bars as planned and went back to start at 13h45. I put my warm clothes to the bag and left it in the micro bus which would transport it to Mouthe. Just before I've got an sms that Valia has finished his race. I refilled my bottle with the hot tap water in the toilette. As I would run wearing a thin odlo sweater only, I have decided to keep myself warm and stay indoors until 14h15.

Chapelle des Bois – Mouthe

I came to the starting line at 14h15. There were 2 starting lines, separated from each other by a net: the first one for the elite, and the second - for all the others. Our elite line counted about 8 athletes.

When I came, there was not so many skiers yet and I have taken a place on the right side of my line, close to front, keeping the distance from my neighbors. In 5 minutes I found myself very tightly surrounded by other participants and started thinking about my strategy:

1. Do not rush into the crowd after the start! Equipment is expensive.. 2. Do not bother about a crowd running through you and leaving you behind. People start fast - it is normal. You did it many times and you know well that it does not work! Let them go and see what will happen on the second half of the race. 3. Do not burn yourself running hard after the "speedy racers" - find your group and follow them. 4. Run first 10km, see how it goes, eat, and then try to correct your speed based on your feeling. 5. Be aware of this ascend on 15-th km. 6. Try to finish smiling!

That was the plan more or less..

5 min before the start Misha appeared. He spotted me in the crowd from the hill next to the start line and started explaining me the profile of my first 10km. I heard nothing but was very glad to see him. It is so cool to have a team cheering you up!


The first two parts of the plan was not so difficult to follow. The crowd rushed away from me and I was trying to keep my poles safe. I have realized that my skis are working damn well! I was able to step into the classic track and, working only with my hands, started overtaking people on the main track. Alas.. not for a long time. I had to leave the classic track at some point and Boom! I fell right on the strait line, not further then 400m from the start! Fortunately, none followed me. I lost the speed, started again and immediately passed by another funny scene: 1 old guy fell and dragged another old guy with him to the ground. Their equipment got stuck somehow and they started fighting and shouting in French. People passing by were smiling.

First 11km were rolling hills: I have realized that I can "collect" people easily on the even short downhills. Sticking to my plan, the problem with "finding my group" appeared almost immediately. I was trying to reach the people and follow them but I was immediately leaving them on the next downhill. Here I have realized that probably all "my groups" are already very much ahead of me.. This was a disadvantage of "starting slowly"..

I was skiing almost all the time alone. "Never mind, it gonna be better when we merge with the common track, where people from 54km and 76km are still skiing." After 6km I have checked my time - almost 31min. So slow!!! But I forced myself not to panic and not to speed up too much, especially because I have realized the first signs of hunger. Several flat parts and downhills helped me to collect a bit of my energy and to speed up at the zone marked as "sprint 200m" ;) . I have arrived at the first food stall in Chapelle des Bois - our starting point - in 51min after the start. I took my time, eat a gel and drank 2 cups of worm sweet tea. A long train of skiers passed me by - that did not bother me much.

I have started towards the "famous" hill on the 15-th - 16-th km, which we have been practicing with Valia the day before. I knew that I have about 5km reasonably flat ahead of me and after eating carefully, I was feeling much better again. I was chasing people: my skis were working perfectly well. One girl - I've reached here already but she went ahead when I was eating ; the guy; two men from 76km [very exhausted though..]... I was not bored :). At one point I've spotted Ania running towards me from the road and holding the camera. Here is my team! I should work for the camera and ski nicely! ;) I changed the skiing style to one-skate and passed by my photographers.

15km mark. I have to be careful and recover before climbing the hill which starts soon! But.. NO WAY!!! I see the full gang of people cheering me: Valia, Zhenia, Sean, Ania, Misha! So great! I planned to start the hill slowly - they did not let me ;). I tried to reach out of their sight, to hide and slow down a bit - but they kept following me in the car. Damn it!

I climbed the hill after a group of guys who slown me down. I was feeling good and knew that the hill is over soon and tried to accelerate, but the track was quite narrow and bitten - no way to overtake anyone. I ended up following the crowd. I kept collecting people on the downhill and passed 16km mark. Next food stall was coming. I've seen all my supporters again! Oufff! I cannot make it for a good picture anymore! Give me a break! I drank a tea and took a piece of orange.

The second part of the race went much smoother then the first one. Some hills to climb and some flat parts to speed up and a long icy downhill not to fall on - piece of cake ;).

When I've reached this downhill I could see from far away the skiers stopping before it and starting slowly into almost a "bobsleigh tube". Reaching this point, I was feeling quite confident and decided to try it on the parallel skis on the side of the track. That worked well. I have even harvested some "envy" comments from the guys whom I have managed to overtake.

8km before the finish I've got an unexpected trouble - my right eye got frozen [in spite of the mask I was wearing] : I've got a blurred vision and I have realized that I do not see the depth of field any more. Blinking did not help. Since then my alternating between the classic track [for downhills] and main track got much more difficult. Another point - I was skiing alone still. Not so cheerful.. Even when you have 2 cars of your supporters following you and screaming to you almost all the time. At one point I have almost missed the sharp turn to the right - with my blurred vision, I have noticed the flags on the snow only at the very last moment.

5km before the finish line - I've got a cramp on the right hip. Ok... I have changed the skiing style trying to relax it. It helped a little. I was rushing to the finish and saw one guy from the same race [FT 30] ahead of me. I wondered if we could compete with him on the finish line! I was following him. Seemed like I could catch up or even overtake him! Last 1km. I have reached the guy and rushed forward. I did not see a damn on the ground thanks to my blurred eye and had to lift my legs high to avoid falling on some "invisible" bump... I think it looked quite funny ;) Valia was cheering me on the finish line!! I left the guy behind and was smiling, just as planned!

To finish the story: it was a very good race! Very unusual for me too: I did the second half 10 min faster than the first one; I did a good job on all downhills; my skis worked very well all the way; I was feeling good, and I had A LOT of support from my team! Downsides: I was skiing alone, perhaps 2 min were separating me from "my group". Probably I should not start THAT slow next time. I should also plan better my nutrition [not to spend so much time for the first eating].

Overall, I could do better and I will next time!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How it was: La Transjurassienne 2010

After an unsuccessful race last year at La Transjurassienne I was better prepared this year (last year I was 10 minutes late and started just after the 3rd line, thus I had to overpass a lot! of people) .

14th february 2010, the race starts at 8:30. The way from my house to Lamoura, where Transjurassienne begins, is about one-hour drive. Well ... not really, since some roads are closed on this date because of the race. The best way to go from Lausanne is through Gex, Mijoux, Lajoux to Lamoura. Please, do not trust GPS on this day, otherwise you risk to be late for the race. Our plan was to pick up Sean at the top of Lausanne, come back and pick up Eric on the way to Lamoura. Thus I had to start at 5:10 in the morning. I prepared my skis (Kuzmin "-", swix LF7, toko molybdenum powder ) and went to bed quite late (too bad, never can do it right :))

Strange, usually nothing can prevent me from falling asleep when I go to bed, but that day it just refused to happen. I "slept" overall around 6 hours. Alarm waked me up at 4:30. I prepared my cereal with marmalade, filled up my camelback, drank a portion of magnesium, drank some L-Carnitine (it improves the processing of fat by body which makes you faster in long races and is not considered to be a doping AFAIK). I also decided to try out coffee effect for long races (it is generally a bad idea to try new things before an important race but I couldn't test it before), so I drank a big cup of coffee. Then took skis and left the house.

Of course, after all my preparations I was a bit late and left the house at 5:20, but on Sunday morning there is nobody on the road, so I reached Sean's house quite fast. Then we left Lausanne to pick up Eric and all three of us went to the start place. It took us around 1:30 to get to the start from Lausanne and we were there one hour before the race. Just perfect! We parked not far from the starting area, took the skis and went straight to the start.

This year I was given a starting position in elite line thanks to my not-bad cross country ski results this year with bib number 63. I took my place at the elite line and waited. After the shooting the skiers as a big wave rushed into the ski track slowly taking all the space. I was pushing hard and got in front of this wave. I noticed a russian guy going on the right (I remember him from Koenig Luwdig where he won 42 km skating). I followed him and was 6th-8th in the peloton for some time, skiers were going now as a big long queue. We climbed up a hill, then while we were going downhill, I let the other guys overtake me since I was trying to drink from my camelback, so that it doesn't get frozen. Thus, before next uphill I was around 50-60 in the pack, which didn't bother me at all.

Then at some point, the leading group went forward and we lost the contact with them. Can't remember how it happened and why, but do remember that guys were faster then me downhill, sometimes because I was trying to unfreeze my camelback. Well, in any case at some point there were two packs. The leading and the second (I don't know what was happening behind :)). When we got to the flat area, I was the last in the pack, however I felt strong after some time and the speed of the pack didn't satisfy me anymore. I went in front of group and started to accelerate a bit, though it was quite difficult in front because of the wind. We caught a guy who tried to run away from our pack and was way ahead. This way our pack was going for a long time with some people rotating in front. I tried to unfreeze my camelback from time to time, since it got frozen fast.

Around 38 km the toughest part began. The hill was loooong and steeeep. I literally died. People passed me by like I was a child and I couldn't do anything about it. But it had an end!!! Good! Now a long downhill and I am trying to unfreeze my camelback again, no luck. Damn it! After 45km it is flat again, we go in a bit different pack now. I feel again strength, I feel I can run away from the guys, but at the same time I can't. I have small cramps in my triceps and I am afraid of having bigger issues. So I go slowly in the pack and try to make a small massage to my muscles. I also take my second powergel in hope to get some salt and recover the muscles. Well, I think it helped a bit. By the time we got to the last steep uphill I felt a bit better. In this uphill two guys in the pack started to accelerate like crazy. I followed them and we broke the group. We caught some people from the previous pack. Not bad, no we go downhill and on the flat they start to accelerate again, we are getting closer to the group of 5-6 people and now I start to feel hungry. All my 3 powergels are eaten by that time. Camelback is finally frozen. 12 km to the finish. Damn! I realize that I can't keep up with the guys, I just don't have any energy left. At the feeding point I managed to get two —Åoconut cookies. Well, it is too dry, but I finally managed to push them through my throat. It gave me some energy. Feels better a bit. Now it is more or less flat all the time. I almost reached a guy ahead. Boom, I fall down and the guy is again ahead. I reach him again and unexpected thing happens: I have a cramp in my right hip. The guy overtakes me again. I must've been looking very funny with my painful leg: I modified the technique to alleviate cramps pain. I held the right leg very high when returning it back from the kick, so that the muscles are stretched and cramps go away. It worked! I again passed by the guy and ran away from him.

Around four kilometers before the finish line I got close to a woman who was finishing 50 km race. She was able to stay behind me untill the end. I should note that her skis were strikingly good: she strongly pushed my poles while we were gliding down on hills. I was impressed!!! I am still impressed. After we finished we gave each other a firm handshake.

It was the good race. I liked it a lot. I know I could do it better, but I didn't. Well, it is still good, I have something to work on! I should've taken two more gels. I should've taken a better camelback. I should've eaten more magnesium two days before the race, three days before the race... to have a good reserve. I should not probably have put toko molybdenum on my skis (as Valya told me it could make it worse). But the most important thing is that in this kind of races one has to have a support team that would give you gas during the race!

Russian version is here

Monday, February 15, 2010

La Transjurasienne 2010 (our results)

Results of cross-country skiers in Lausanne and our close friends.
Congratulations to everybody!!! Especially thanks to our girls. You are awesome!!
It was a tough but good race!
Vive le ski de fond!

30km skating(78 participants)
19 2:15.33,01 Rychkova Irina (Paris 1, Pantheon - Sorbonne)

25km classic(64 participants)
18 2:00.17,82 Chernilovskaya Anna

30km skating(124 participants)
19 1:47.46,44 Masse Kunal

76 km skating (1915 participants)
31 3:37.54,63 Bogdanov Evgeny (EPFL)
269 4:18.50,66 Thompson Sean (EPFL)
286 4:20.04,53 Pardyjak Eric (EPFL)
878 5:12.30,16 Rychkov Valentin (Unfortunately, Valya had hurt his back 3 weeks before the race, thus he couldn't realize his best performance. We expect him to be completely recovered before next year :)

50 km skating (387 participants)
269 4:58.47,78 Villiger Damien

50km classic (564 participants)
217 3:33.17,17 Velikanov Mikhail

All the results can be found here:
La Transjurasienne 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Swiss University Games will take place soon

Hello everybody! Don't forget to register for this year edition of U-Games!
BTW, we need to find an EPFL team of cross country skiers!!
Cross-country ski (Ski de fond, not far from Lausanne):
15km skating on Saturday 6 march and 1km skating sprint on Sunday 7 march.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Koenig Ludwig Lauf 2010

We ran two races 21km skating on Saturday and 42km classic on Sunday. In general, I liked it! On Friday night, while registering for the race I wanted to get a place in the elite pack. I told an official: "I want to start from elite line." For the classic race - without any problem, but for skating he said: "I can't". I told him: "I have to!" At the end, after a while, he sticks to my number a golden emblem with the sign of the first line. Satisfied, I went home. Sean (my friend) was also given the elite line for both races.

In the evening, we arranged a ski preparation room in the basement of the rented apartment (The old lady was perfect, next year I will stay at her place again). I scraped my skis with a scraper from Kuzmin, put wax (Swix Ch -2-8, didn't have another one:)), on top - put Toko Molybdenum (just for fun:)), a small night run, stretching and sleep.

Early in the morning we moved to the start. After last year's being late for Transjurasienne for 10 minutes, I prefer to do everything in advance, thus we are at the start 1:40 before the race. We asked Toko guys, what they think about their riller, they advised a large linear structure and on top a large broken structure, and they even offered us to do that. Of course we agreed. Some more moving around before the race.

From the start I went third. Initially, the pace was pretty high, though not extreme, it was quite easy for me, though some people couldn't keep up. After the hill, on flat, we slowed down a lot. I skied as during a normal workout. Two 42km guys went forward. We were six in a pack, three for 42 and three for 21. One of the 21km was my friend Andrea, a very strong skier (he was 3 minutes faster than me in the Swiss Championship 20km duathlon race). I didn't try to catch the two 42 guys, although I felt that their pace was not very high. We were three for the 21km in the pack, thus I was automatically in prizes and I was a bit afraid of being tired if I tried to go with first two people. As it turned out later, Andrea also thought to catch up with a couple, but said that he could not. After we splitted, we were left three of us, I was confident in the strength of Andrea and was waiting when he would start to run away from german guy. But he never did ... We passed a sign 1km before the finish, I was confused. GPS shows 18.5km, must be some mistake (I did not know at that time that the race was 21km instead of 23). As a result, we came to the finish together. Andrea went in front 400 meters before the finish line, I did not managed to do that. At the finish sprint I was able to beat german guy on the outer radius.
Even an the end had enough time to get my arms up. Happy and almost not tired I went to prepare for the 42km.

It was the first International Marathon classic race for me. The lap was easy, an idea to run without kick wax was spinning in my head. Some friends said that it is necessary to put a bit of kick wax, so that one could push with his foot. My friend Valentin Rychkov advised me to take the risk without the wax, and then we decided to prepare both classic and skating skies and see what glides better. So I did, prepared both pairs with the above mentioned recipe. Though didn't scrape classic with Kuzmin scraper, because it is without scraping glides well enough. In the morning I went to test the skis. Classic skis glided better than the skating ones. I decided to try to apply TOKO riller to my skating pair and see what happens. It is ironic but true: this is the second time in wet weather, when Toko riller makes skis slower! I decided to go on classic skis. Then my head started to think again about grip wax (bad head!). I remembered the race two weeks ago, when I ran 30km classic. I did apply a bit of a wax and went double poling with one leg push a lot. Thus I decided to put a bit of a klister. Front of 10cm shorter than normal kick area, back at the middle of the shoe. A silly mistake! Only double poling for the entire race. I guess gliding suffered a bit. Never mind, now I became more experienced! The start was ok. The crowd fairly large, up the hill the group was a little stretched, almost everybody was double poling, no kick wax! Then on the downhill some people catched up with the leading group again. We skied in a crowd for a long time. Somewhere after approximately 10 kilometers after the start I was skiing next to a guy. I remember that I had already seen him and that he was Russian. So I asked. It turned out that it is Sergei Ivanov from Balashikha, I have heard a lot about him! The entire first lap I was in the crowd. And then, when we entered the second lap, in a gentle uphill the group began to be torn up. The first group went together, and we were a bit behind. I rushed to catch up, but turned out that I do not get closer. Up the hill I was able to run away from the nearest neighbors, trying to catch up with the guy who fell down and got separated from the main group. By the end of the hill I was caught back by two people, and then we went three of us. On the flat, I began to raise the tempo in order to escape from the guys behind us. We ran away, I looked back and saw no one behind. Then three of us caught up with a guy from the main pack. He couldn't go with us. Then we caught another one (as it turned out, he was the winner of this marathon some year). And then we went together, four of us. I periodically looked back, could not see anyone (maybe, because I'm blind, skied with no glasses and with no lenses). 5 kilometers before the finish we increased the pace, 4th in the group couldn't keep up. After that I did not look back anymore. Between me and two people in front there was a gap of 1-2 seconds and I couldn't get it back. We continued this way until the finish. At the finish line I was surprised to find out that there was a norwegian skier behind and at the sprint I couldn't do anything so he won. Moreover, it turned out that Sergei Ivanov is just 4 seconds behind me and a few more people are not too far. In any case, I was pleased with my 17th place and 4.5 minutes behind the winner. It is done. Now Transjurasienne! 76km! Skating!

Czech Republic/Germany ski trip (EPFL team)

Dates (30jan10 - 7feb10)
Some photoes are here
Czech republic day 1, 10km skating
Czech republic day 2, 6x3x6 mixed relay
Czech republic day 3, 20km classic
Koenig Ludwig Lauf 21km skating
Koenig Ludwig Lauf 42km classic


Evgeny, comes to pick me up in his 1.25l Mazda on saturday morning for our ski trek across europe. Our first destination : the world junior and U23 world cup in Hinterzarten (well not really). Our road trip took us 3.30 hours and I had promised myself not to fall asleep in the car so that Evgeny could have some conversation. I lasted 30 minutes. I had to wake myself up from a good dream about 15 times during the trip. We cross the border into Germany. Gas is more expensive and cars are much faster. Sometimes I have the impression we are parked when those Mercedes/BMW/Audi pass us. Evgeny tries to push the Mazda past 140 but the vibrations threaten to unscrew some important bolts on the car. 12 naps later we are in Hinterzarten. We arrive just on time for the U23 Women race (or so we think). We asked a Norwegian ski coach, a man plowing his entrance, and a German ski jumping official, none of them could accurately tell us where the X-C/langlauf races were held. Finally an old lady told us what we did not want to hear. We were at the wrong place and the X-C stadium was in Notschrei, 30 km and one mountain pass away. "I hate them all", says Evgeny. The mountain pass starts in Kirschzarten and very quickly the road is blocked. The recent snow fall and the heavy traffic has iced up the pass and many cars without winter tires are forced to stop and put on chains. The steep hill prevents heavy busses from starting to move again and a traffic jam is formed. Evgeny, being a very foreseeing chap has a set of winter tires and we are capable to pass quite easily the line of stopped cars, even with a 1.25 l Mazda. We make it to the Notschrei ski zentrum where we rapidly eat lunch : Saussages mit brot, a classic. We grab the russian flag and a ski pole, run up the hill to the stadium just in time for the start. I wish Fred Touchette (Canada) good luck and he gives me the "what are YOU doing here?" look. A very impressive race overall. The Canadians did very well (all 4 guys in the top 15), the Russians less. Evgeny meets a very nice Russian athlete (Polina Medvedeva). They say things I don't understand, most likely they talked about the most recent russian skier who was caught for doping (number 9 this year). After the race we put on our skis and try out the race course. 6 painful laps of 3.75 km. This is definitely a world cup circuit. There is one especially steep and long climb that saps all your force as you go up. No wonder the guys had drool dangling from their chins and strange faces when they reached the top. After the ski we race back to Kirschzarten for some last minute grocery shopping. Thank goodness food is cheaper in Germany because we were starving. We shop to the music of marching band practicing in the streets. Then we go to Breitnau and spend the night. We stayed in a very cozy apartment that cost us 13 euros each. Plus as an added bonus the very friendly old lady who owned the place let us use her kitchen. For two hungry men this was a champions meal: 500g of pasta with sauce (500g of ground beef, 500g of tomatoes), salad (1 cucumber, 10 cherry tomatoes, 5 carrots, olive oil), Beer (1L), Juice (2L), Cake. Life is good


The next day we pack up and head back to the ski stadium for the junior relays. The women do 4x3.3 km and the men 4x5. The first two athlete do the race in classic and the last two in free style. The girls go first and very quickly the pack is divided. Canada does poorly and Norway wins. The canadian men on the other hand where much better. Patrick Stewart-Jones (the only boy from Quebec) did his part of the race quite strongly. The Russians were absolutely terrific. Led by Peter Sedov (an Evgeny favorite) they finished in second place when the Norwegian boy passed Sedov in the last 200 meters. After the race, we charge to Würzburg where we are supposed to stay with Evgeny's friend Valentin. The trip was uneventful, for some reason Evgeny's car radio is not capable to catch more than two stations at a time and even then they only last a few minutes before dying out into a static buzz (Great I love this song, oh wait... this is the remix by DJ static, its not that good). We make it to Würzburg as the sun goes down. Valentin is not there yet so we decide to go for a run in the city to keep ourselves warm. We tour the city for about 45 minutes. The Germans really know how to glorify a simple industrial city. Great stone bridges with larger than life statues of famous people of old guarding the sidewalk, statues of mighty lions looking down at you, great towers of red stone, a lighted castle fortress overlooking the city atop a steep hill. Wow. Valentin greets us with open arms and quickly the conversation returns to doped Russian athletes. I learn that a good trick to spot a doper is to monitor his performances throughout the season. Someone who is dominant each race is usually clean, but an athlete who returns from a 1 month training session in far northeaster Russia and is suddenly a champ is bound to be caught eventually. Valentin has initiated Evgeny to "the cyclist's training bible", a book he can hardly put down and when he is not looking I take a peek and suddenly I'm hooked too. So far there is nothing in the book I did not already know but it does shed light on many obscure concepts about training that have always haunted me.

Würzburg/Prague/Nové Mesto Na Morave

Next stop, the Czech Republic to race in the Czech university games. The competitions are a 10 km skating race on tuesday, a mixed relay on wednesday and a 20 km classic race on thursday. We hop in the car and Evgeny who is now sick of driving proposes I take the wheel. Its about a 6.00 drive to Nové Mesto and 4.30 hours to Prague. When we cross the border into the Czech Republic, two things seemed to have changed: there is now a speed limit (130) and the highway is littered with advertisement, especially when we reach Prague. Evgeny's radio now catches 3 stations and for the first time since the beginning of the trip he is unable to decipher the language that is spoken. There seems to be some similarities between Czech and Russian but not enough for him to understand. When we approach Nové Mesto, the roads start to look like Russians one i.e. not cleared. I feel like we are in a winter rally race. Finally we arrive at our hotel where we meet the other athletes of SAS Jonas and Fabian. Again the hotel is lovely, Elise my girl friend would have loved it. The room is warm and clean, the floor is a warm carpet, the bathroom floor is also heated, there is a heated towel rack (awesome), the furnace is not too hot as to burn the clothing we put on it to dry and best of all the water from the shower is instantly hot when you turn it on. The Cost of living in the Czech Republic is very small, our room and board for three days plus the inscription for the three races was 120 Euros (3000 crowns). We were well fed in the restaurant each meal with soup, a main dish and desert. That evening we quickly went to the race stadium to see the race course for the next morning. It turns out Nové Mesto hosted world cups in the past and we are going to race on nearly the same course the pros do. World cup races are not your average races, they are designed to be as steep and technical as possible so the peloton is separated quickly. If the race is too easy the athletes will stay together the whole time and nothing happens. So on the race menu tuesday, steep climbs, long gradual climbs, twisty climbs with less twisty climbing at the top. But overall its quite fun.

Nové Mesto day 2

First racing day, I go out for a 10 minute jog before breakfast. Fabian and Jonas think it useless but Evgeny agrees with the theory of running before a race. Case closed. We head out to the stadium early to prepare our skis. Our team (SAS-Ski Academic Suisse and me) shares a heated waxing booth (again awesome) with the Austrian delegation: Roman, Rosi and Sara. It seems SAS is richly sponsored and waxing the waxing equipment is advanced. All our skis were fast, very fast, so fast I almost felt sorry (but not for long) for the guys I wizzed by on the downhills. The racers start every 30 seconds and I am the first of our group. I had a fabulous race (16/53) and so did all the SAS skiers. Evgeny posted the 3rd best time (impressive) beating a Czech skier we saw at the world U23 championship that weekend. My time is 20 seconds slower than Fabian and Jonas who are two seconds apart. After the race Evgeny and I go downtown Nové Mesto so I can buy a pair of classic skis. Unfortunately I broke my previous pair the weekend before in a race at Mont-de-Riaz in Switzerland. I get a shining new pair of Fischer RCS with bindings and a new water bottle, all for the whooping sum of 12 000 crowns (Wow, I never had such a big number on a receipt before). I am very exited and I can't wait to try them. That afternoon, we go back to the ski center for a little training. The sun comes out and the wind picks up blowing the powdery snow off the huge pine trees of the dark forest. It seems it has been a good winter for the Czechs this year. Apparently in the past this race was held on a 2 km loop of artificial snow in the stadium so we are lucky to get such good conditions. The Landscape outside the woods is a sea of rolling white hills of untouched snow with patches of black forest everywhere. Back at the hotel we make the teams for tuesday's relay. Evgeny decides he prefers to rest for the 20 km classic race so I team up with Roman and Sara the Austrians.

Nové Mesto day 3

Today is the team relay, a 3 leg race and I go first. I had planned to tail Fabian the whole race before passing him at the end to pass the relay. I respected my strategy except I had not planned that Fabian would fall on the second lap of the 6 km, so I pushed my advantage and was able to maintain my lead to the end. We were 7th. Sara has a 3 km lap to do and loses a few positions but raced quite well coming in just behind her rival teammate Rosi. By this time the stronger women really streched out the pack and Roman has no one to tail for his 6 km race. Our team is the 12th to pass the finish line. Evgeny was on the sidelines for this race cheering louder than everyone else: DAVAY, DAVAY, DAVAY! The Czech cheer is quite funny: POD! POD! POD! (In Hinterzartern the Norwegians would cheer with: Hayah! Hayah! Hayah!) Funny fact, my ski suit is the same as the old Czech national ski team suit, I seem to get some extra encouragement because of that. We head back to the hotel for some much deserved rest. Interestingly it has snowed every day since the beginning of the trip. Today the snow was wet and very heavy. The trees are so loaded they seem as soft as I was at the end of my race. That afternoon we set out to test our classic skis for thursday's race. This time, as we ski through the forest, the heavy snow falls like an avalanche off the trees. The snow scores a direct hit on my head and I fall. During the training, we do a few sprints and Evgeny seems in great shape, running away each time. I love my new skis. After supper there is a party for the students in a small bar 2 minutes away from the hotel. It is a lovely place that reminds me
of the «cabanes à sucre» from Quebec, my home land. The students are all siting and chatting at long wooden tables and the barman seems to be constantly filling glasses with beer, I meen non stop. That evening there is a beer race organised for all the racers. The object of the game is to be the first team of 4 people to finish all there glasses. Each team member sits behind the one in front and on GO the first player drinks his glass ,half a litre, until empty. Then he puts the empty glass upside down on his head and the next one goes. I am proud to say that I am not the slowest drinker on the field and our team was average. I saw the winning team and those Czechs could literally finish a glass in threee gulps. WOW. after that I talked hockey (it was awesome) with a Czech national team enthousiast for an hour. It seems that the Czechs almost like hockey as much as they like football, wich is saying much for european standards. I spent the end of my evening sampling different «traditional» Czech drinks until I had to call it a day. I was skeptical but they were in fact Czech drinks.

Nové Mesto na Morave/Würzburg

I wake up the next morning to Evgeny's alarm, I deliberatelly chose to ignore mine for some unknown reason related to alcohol. The morning hangover ritual is strangely similar to the preparation before a race: a heavy breakfast, a morning run, a shower, lots of water and coffee. The others seem to be in the same shape as I am exept of course for
Evgeny who was very reasonable the night before and seems in top shape for the race (go Evgeny, I think to myself quietly). Today it is not snowing for the first time since the start of our trip. It is a crisp sunny morning and the snow is perfect for classic. We simply put on blue wax and «voilà» almost perfect kick. That is what we think before
we get tired and our technique gets sloppy. I need to warm up for at least one and a half before my headache goes away, it seems the more I push the better I feel, GREAT! The race course is the same as the 10 km race we did on tuesday exept we do two more laps. AARRRGGGGGGG! I have a great start but on lap number 4 I die and skiers seem to pass me as fast as the BMW are passing me on the german autobahn. No matter I post a good time and I get to see Evgeny climb on the podium again. Good job! Unfortunetally for him, the prizes are the same as on tuesday. We clean our skis and say goodbye to our new Austrian friends. Hopefully we will see them again soon. We then leave for Würzburg for the second time. Again the trip was uneventful exept for some minor difficulties navigating the confusing lane system of german cities. After 3 races in 3 days Evgeny really needs a sauna and I am forced to tag along. I rarely go to saunas but I am sure they are not as bad as I remember them. Turns out the germans our not as shy about nudity as I am. This theory is confirmed during the next weekend but I will talk about that later. Roasting at 100 degrees celsius is not my idea of relaxation. That evening I finally get talk with my girlfriend again and Evgeny gets to use internet again. Its like a drug for him. Although I did not enjoy the sauna I must admit I went to bed feeling quite soft.


Finally a day of rest. after 3 races in a row I think we deserved it. We use this day to travel to Oberammergau where we will be racing in the konig Ludwig world loppet. The road trip is short and we are in no hurry to get there so I try and perfect my drafting/gas saving techniques. Oberammergau is a beautiful city... or so I was told because the fog was so thick the whole weekend that we could barely see the foot of the incredible mountains surrounding us. I will definitely try to make this city a destination in the future because it seems like a great place to hike/visit for its churches and castles. The city is also the location of a famous passion play. As we arrive at our room, I am again surprised at the incredible sens of hospitality the germans have. The old lady greeting us seems to be the kind of mother that did everything for her children. When I went to the kitchen to cook our supper, she boldly took all my food and prepared it herself German style (lots of salt, lots of butter). It was good but it felt heavy in our stomachs. We prepare our skis for the next day and Evgeny take what seems like ages carefully scraping his skis with his magick sweedish metal scraper.

Oberammergau day 2

Today we race in the 23 km free style race starting at the same time as the 50 km race. The free style race is the less popular race of the two konig Ludwig but there is still nearly 700 skiers at the start. A very impressive sight if you ask me. We get there a very long time in advance and we are probably the second skiers to get there. In order to be sure to have a good spot on the starting line, we place our skis where we want them so no one takes our spot. As the swarm of skiers show up at the start I beggin to feel a little intimidated. Evgeny doesn't care because his race strategy involves kiking everyone else's ass. My hesitation is what cost me a good start. I let everyone who was more aggressive than me pass. This ment I had to spend the rest of my race cursing at myself because I was stuck behind slow people. The snow was very humid and it was nearly impossible to pass. If you went off the beaten track, your speed dropped 50% and you were forced back into your spot in the endless train of skiers. Eventually the pack broke up and I had free space to pass. When I finally got going at a good speed, I got confused and thought I was skiing with the 50km loop. I stoped asked someone on the side who answerd that I had to just keep going (I'm such an idiot). Evgeny on the other hand was way in front with the leaders and was not working hard at all, in fact he barely realised that the finnish line was up ahead and was caught by surprise. He finished a solid 2nd place and received a wonderful prize. A handmade wooden statue (oberammergau is famous for it's wood carvers) of and eagle, which he would then trade for bigger statue of an old man with the winner (personnaly I think he made a good trade). The landlady was extremely impressed with it. After the ceremony, we do our usual after race ritual: feeding, stretching and sleeping. That evening we also take advantage of the low german price of food to do some shopping for our trip back.


Last day of our trip. We are all set to do the 42km classic technique ski marathon today. Unfortunatelly the snow conditions are not nearly as good as the last time we took out our classic skis. The snow is heavy, it is wet and dirty. This means the all dreaded klister. On the other hand, the course is very flat which means we could only use our arms for this race. Evgeny wants to do this but is hesitant but in the end decides to put a little bit of klister on for safety. Me, in those conditions I usually try the hairy ski before putting on anything (the hairy ski is when you only apply sand paper to the base of your ski) and it works fine. This time I am ready for the frantic race start and I am NOT polite at all. I do not concede one position even if I need to fight harder than I want. In the end it was all worth it because I was in a very good position to enter cruising speed. I was again in the top 30 skiers when something happened. I broke a pole and was very far 2 or 3 km away from a feeding station. I would have had to turn back, grab a pole from someone and keep going but I decided it was not worth it and headed back to the stadium to watch the end of the race. Quitting a race is always a tough decision, specially when you are doing good. I think it was because I was doing so good that I quit. After the race we watch the award ceremony, there was a small orchestra dressed in traditionnal german outfits. We then set off back home. Evgeny had bought a Thule rack for his car on e-bay and needed to pick it up in a town near Zurich. Only a minor detour. When we get there, the owners are not home but the box was left outside. Not having the proper tools to do the adjustments to fit the box on the car, Evgeny decides to ask the neighbors if they can help him. Luckily on guy had what we needed and we are able to space the supports adequatelly for the car. When we place the box on the car we realise that the supports are not the right size for the bars on the car. Therefore we are not able to attach the box tho the car. Evgeny, being thick of skull will not abandon his new car box in Zurich and we brainstorm for what seems like ages before we come up with a not so safe solution. Using straps from a ski bag, my back pack, Evgeny's sport bag and a shoe lace, we are able to tie each of the supports of the box to the bars. This of course did not safely attach the box to the car but we were able to make the trip home without going faster than 80 km/h on the highway. Few what a trip!