Under blazing lights burning holes through the incessant fog that hangs over Oberhof like the mood of a depressed, frowning old man on a rainy day – the 2010 edition of the Tour de Ski got under way.
Today’s course was the exact same layout as last year’s Tour start. The short, rolling course is peppered with 4 climbs and is a twisty/turny, biathlon-styled race course in the heart of Eastern Germany.
Devon Kershaw racing on the World Cup last season.
Although conditions remained very foggy, it was much improved over yesterday evening’s rain and fog, which was an unwanted greeting, while we tested our skis. A comfortable -6, with moderate winds and some snow falling and blowing from the heavens, it was a very “expected, and German winter” start to the 8 race/10 day suffer fest that has made the Tour a fan favorite since it’s introductory edition 4 years ago.
It was a solid enough start for Canada – Sara showed that her form is steady in the top 30, finishing in 27th. She skied well, fighting hard and coming on very strong in the last minutes of the race to pull back a lot of positions, while Petra (Majdic) showed her cards early in this Tour with her impressive victory.
On the men’s side it was a tightly contested battle, and although only victorious by 0.8 seconds (over Hellner), Northug once again displayed a “shut your mouth” performance to any doubters left in the cross-country ski world with his third consecutive World Cup victory.
Our team had two very solid starts out of George (17th) and Alex (18th) in the prologue. Both told me that they were feeling good and pushing well out there on course. It is insanely tight as one would expect in these short, special races and for two Canadians to be in the top 20 is a solid start for our crew.
My race wasn’t very good – as the 37th place finish displayed. It’s a far cry from my 5th place in the prologue last year, but I’ve been struggling over the last couple weeks, battling some health issues while the clock continued to count down to this Tour. Of course I am disappointed with the number associated next to my name today, but it was a big effort from me out there today.
Luckily things (health-wise) seem to moving in the right direction now, and I am just lacking that “last gear” necessary to challenge at the moment. My plan is and remains to “race my way” through the first 4 stages (without much expectation – easier to say than do though!), with hopes of becoming stronger and stronger as the race progresses, and as I get more and more intense work in the system. It’s not a perfect way to go into something so grueling, but that’s the reality of my situation.
I want to point out that Ivan was much improved over last year’s prologue effort, and although he finished 50th, he was only 10 odd seconds from George and Alex. A lover of climbs, he is salivating for that epic Alpe Cermis battle in 9 days time.
The key is to keep things in perspective, evaluate quickly and move on. There are 7 races to go, and tomorrow will be a very fast paced 15km classic race in an old (and way more exciting) pursuit format.
Tomorrow I expect things to start very hard. I’ll try and mix it up early, taking and expecting the surges as they come. After today, I’m curious to see how the body responds (because it wasn’t great today), but I’m optimistic that every day will be better than the last. Since my illness issues, I’ve earmarked the two classic races (stage 6, and 7) at the end of this Tour – so during these early races, I’ll work as hard as I can to stay positive and take opportunities as they present themselves to me.
That’s the news from Oberhof (actually, I am in Gotha (a town 35 + kilometers from Oberhof)), hitting the massage table and listening to some old acoustic Neil.
Happy New Year to all!