Monday, March 24, 2014

Heading to the Bernese Alps: Swiss Nationals in Bex

With the weekend came the opportunity to see a little sliver of the globe I've never been to before, the French-speaking corner of Switzerland. This year the Swiss National Championships were in the very much mountain town of Leysin. I'm pretty sure one day I saw most the kids from primary school walk by for a ski day. Later that night, a group of locals were outside my hotel, putting climbing skins and heading out for a moonlight-and-headlamp alpine tour. The local ski club Bex also is home to two national cross country team members, Erwan Kaeser and Jovier Hediger. In Davos, Jovier lives in the flat right underneath the one I share with Bettina and Mauro.

The first day in Erwan and Jovier's hometown, the view of the multi-summited Dents du Midi was pretty spectacular.

This season, Jovier put up the fastest qualification time on the World Cup, and made a couple WC Finals. Racing on his home course, Erwan won his first national title - at the expense of me trying to take it from the gun before getting spun out from behind on one of the many corners of the mini X-Games like course. It was still a pretty great night of racing though, and I felt a decent satisfaction to stand on the podium with Erwan and Mauro Gruber. As a country, only Norway has more depth in men's sprinting than Switzerland (FIS points). It was also pretty cool, because though I was ineligible to take the medals or cash as a foreigner, later that night 4th place finisher Martin Jager gave me a Swiss Franc handshake, splitting half his prize money with me.

I'd trained a fair amount with Martin, his father waxes my skis when I race in Switzerland, and I have only have the upmost respect for the guy, but I thought this was really a classy move. Thank you Martin!

One day in Leysin, it was +17 Celsius, the other day bombing down snow. The weather in the mountains can be so unpredictable, it's like they are breathing in and exhaling their own high-altitude air. Somewhat surprisingly, both days I raced on the same pair of skis, a new pair of Rossignol X-iums with the white bases and a warm factory grind. When its high humidity, I am now definitely a believer in giving the harder base material a go. Now in addition to classic and skate, flex patterns, stone grinding, wax testing, testing the difference between base material will be a growing factor for racers going forward. The quiver of race skis just grew bigger.   My shoulder hurts just a little now, thinking of having to lug all those skis through train stations and airports in the future!

After the sprint, I raced the three-person relay for the Swiss Academic Ski Club  International team with Finland's Antti Peltonen (guess which ski company he uses...) and Russia's Evgeny Bogdanov. I was the anchor and had my best distance race of the year, bringing us from 11th to 4th, and put up 3rd fastest time of the day (or about 25 seconds back of Toni Livers) . It was a good feeling to have the motor running well again after a long and tiring illness caught at the Olympics. 

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