Saturday, February 7, 2015

2015 ISMF World Championships: Sprint and Vertical Races

Yesterday was a strange day for me.  I was excited to line up for the sprint with a big goal of moving through the time trial round and into the quarter finals, which no US man has done previously.  I also wanted to race as hard as I could and take some scalps along the way if possible.

The sprint race is 75-90 meters of vertical gain and consists of low angle skinning, kick turns, a boot pack, some more kick turns, and then a hairball downhill leading to a short skate to the finish.  The rounds start with a time trial and the top 30 move on to heats of six with the top two from there moving on to semi finals and the top three from those heats to the final of six.

I had a fairly clean race during my time trial and was seeded 27th moving into the quarters.  I felt recovered and strong.  The start however, was disjointed and frantic as I was expecting a formal "track command start" but instead reacted to my fellow racers reacting to a sudden gun.  No worries, I would just attack hard from the start, or so I thought.  In reality, I pushed beyond my coordination and clumsiness won the day as I got tangled in a pole and went down hard, 20 meters from the start line.  Any dream of moving on was now dashed as well as any realistic hope of beating one or two of the higher seeded Euros.

I got up, and heeded Sam Inouye's rallying cry of "Onward and upward!"  I was able to make contact with one or two guys in some of the transitions but worked really hard to end up butt naked last in my heat.  Again, or so I thought.  As it turned out, one of the fellas just in front incurred some time penalties and I was moved to 5th in my heat and 24th overall.

I have learned a couple lessons here which are pretty obvious.

Overall, the US did well with Max Taam also finishing in the top 30 and the three women also making the quarter finals.  The senior men's final was won by Robert Antonioli of Italy, followed by former world champion Josef Rottmoser of Germany, and a Swiss athlete took bronze.  Also noteworthy was a really strong finish by Canadian friend Melanie Bernier, who took 5th.
Chasing down a couple other athletes who started at 20 second intervals in front.  In the USA suit is Matt Burgander who is a U23 racer and in the French suit is Letitia Roux, the female sprint champions and perennial favorite in all events.   Photo by Jason Dorais

After the sprint, we laughed about how dumb I looked on the ground, shook it off a second time, and then went skiing.  Verbier is absolutely stunning and could almost get me into riding least to get out into the wild terrain beyond the ropes (although just about all the terrain within the ropes is also really wild).

Teague, Billy, JB, and I took the necessary series of gondolas to the top of Mont Fort to have a look around.  Our minds were collectively blown.

The next day, we woke up early to try and catch the 7 AM train to head out farther beyond Mont Fort.  We even ran to the train station so we wouldn't miss it.  As it turns out, the first train from Martigny on Saturday departs at 8:24 AM.  Plan B was a bus and Plan C was to hitch hike.  After neither proved successful, we headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast again.

En route, we were stopped by a kind gentleman inquiring about our skis.  We explained our deal, and after some pleasantries, he invited us to his house for tea.  We walked across the street to a rather beautiful house, shared some tea and chocolate, and found out that we were sitting in the home of the former President of Switzerland, Pascal Couchepin.  He talked to us about international politics, meeting the Clintons, Romney, Putin, and others.

With that as an interesting start to the day, we decided to try and go skiing a second time.

We all got up early to catch the 7 AM train

There is no 7AM train so we went to the bus station but there is no 7 AM bus.  We tried to hitch hike and when that failed, went back to the hotel to rest.  Instead we bumped into the former president of Switzerland, who invited us to his house for tea. 

Scott Simmons looking mighty fancy at the President's house

Jason and Mr. Former President Pascal Couchepin

Attempting to head out to ski for the second time

If only we could read French this would be so much easier
We repeated the necessary lifts to the summit of Mont Fort where Jason, Scott, and Teague again took in the incredible views.

The fellas nearing the summit of Mont Fort

Jason on the summit of Mont Fort

We skied off the back of Mont Fort and finally left the resort, although it's tracked like the Wasatch
From Mont Fort, we went on a mellow tour to a small peak called Rosablanche.  While this drainage is mellow, we could see the Matterhorn and dozens or even hundreds of other inspiring peaks not too far in the distance.

The avy danger is high enough to keep us off anything steep so we found perfectly flat terrain instead. 

The flat led to the gentle slopes of Rosablanche, a mellow classic tour from Verbier. 

The tour is mellow but the gnar isn't far away

Dream lines for days

Jason along the summit ridge of Rosablanche

Big Teague topping out

We skied out another valley and found this Dam line
We then rallied to the streets of Verbier where snow had been shoveled into the street for the start of the Vertical Race.  This event is an uphill only race so no helmets, packs, or other safety gear is required.  The big guns started out incredibly hard, with the rest of the field falling apart behind.  In the end, Killian was dominant in the men's race, finishing the 850 meter course in just over 39 minutes.

Early in the Vertical Race with the young German Palzer leading it out. 

Killian ended up with a dominant win. 
The Americans were led by Eric Carter of Canada, followed by Rory Kelly just seconds behind, then Jon Brown of Crested Butte and Billy Laird of Crested Butte.  They all put in honorable efforts which were clear on their faces as they neared the finish.
Rory Kelly, new to ski mountaineering, was the second American behind Eric Carter but both put in fantastic efforts.  

The carnage
In the women's race, the top 13 places were dominated by the usual suspects but 14th belonged to an incredibly strong Lindsey Plant.  She was followed by Meredith Edwards, who did well to race just hours after traveling from the US, and Jari Kirkland who also raced the sprint yesterday.

Tomorrow is a rest day, which means more skiing, which means it's time for sleep.
Lindsey Plant was the top American woman finishing in 14th in a solid field. 

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