Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ski Racing Season

As some of you know, winters here are pretty harsh, with snow descending upon the village in November or December and hanging around until March. This is a good opportunity for us to take a break from the bikes and get ski-ing. Oddly enough, I used to come to the Alps more often to ski downhill when I lived in London than I do now. The new passion is for a different type of ski-ing - one with skinny skis and the same clothes you would wear to ride your bike in winter - cross country ski-ing. This sport changed face slightly in the early nineties from the "classic" / langlauf style to the more modern "skating" style - which just happens to be the perfect crossover sport for an "out of work" cyclist.

The col d'Ornon is a great training area - 25km of pistes just 2km from the door so winter lunch times see us ski-ing round these trails and trying to improve our rusty fitness and scrappy technique. Alpe d'Huez also have good trails but they just take a bit longer to get to.

The logical progression for us was to do a few races. The usual form is a course of between 20 and 42km (marathon distance), over a variety of bumps, lumps and technical sections. We love it.

The first race of the season was a marathon, but over a flat course at the head of the Maurienne valley - the Marathon de Bessans. We headed off early - 5 of us in total - 3 racing and 2 taking in the local pistes at their own pace. It was great - despite warm weather preceding the event, the organisers had prepared a great course and we all got round in reasonable shape. To give you an idea of speed and distance, a flat 42km event is won in jut over 1hr 35. We all got round about an hour slower than that but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next up was the Traversee de Chartreuse - a shorter but tougher event - only 17km this time but with a 7km climb to finish at Charmant Som - brutal it was, with only myself along for this one. The post-race meal was a particularly welcome crozets (pasta squares) and sausage feast. Yum. The day was warm and the organisers did so well to put a race on at all.

The next event is the Foulee Blanche this weekend in Autrans in the Vercors, with several of us taking part - Matt & Colette Swift, Martin (dark horse) Heusse and Ed Nicoll (local Vercors hero and ex Olympic XC skier) as well as myself. I will report back afterwards - this one is both long and hilly so I am a tiny bit scared....

Thanks for reading.



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