Bieg Piastow 2018, Poland

Poland certainly puts on an extensive array of races at the Jakuszyce cross country trail area including 3 Worldloppet races, being 2 silver and 1 gold as well as some shorter races.  Friday 2nd March was the 30km freestyle (silver), Saturday 3rd March (gold) was the 50km classic and Sunday 4th March (silver) was the 25km classic race.

Our last visit to Jakuszyce, Poland was in 2014 when the snow was extremely marginal causing the Bieg Piastow Worldloppet races to almost be cancelled.  Races were run,  just, but were significantly shortened to just 10km with a lot of unavoidable brown snow and stones in the finish approach area.  This year we were absolutely delighted when we peered out of the train windows as we left the Czech Republic and approached Jakuszyce, Poland to see an awesome snow cover.  We couldn’t wait to get our skis on and explore the well-groomed trail network for several days prior to the races.

Whilst skiing around the tracks we kept meeting up with other Australians who we didn’t know were coming to Poland.  In the end we counted 12 Australians so we all had dinner together one night in one of the many affordable restaurants in Szklarska Poreba.  It was great catching up with Aussie friends and news as we had flown out of Australia on Xmas Day heading to China on our Worldloppet extravaganza.  It was hard to believe there were so many Australians who had come so far to ski the Bieg Piastow.  Between us we were skiing all three Polish Worldloppet races, so we had a good cheer squad as well.

To get to Poland we had flown into Prague, however there is no straight forward route via public transport from there. There are slow trains, often with numerous changes, however we caught an express bus to Liberec then the scenic train to Szklarska Poreba. The journey took about 4.5 hours. However, we learnt that there is now a direct train from Wroclaw Poland to Szklarska Poreba taking just 2.5 hours so that maybe worth investigating.

There are a few hotels at Jakuszyce where the cross country trails are, but we chose to stay in an apartment at Szklarska Poreba to enjoy the atmosphere and facilities of the friendly small tourist town less than 10km from the skiing.  The train departs every hour or two for Jakuszcyce and is very inexpensive, i.e. $3AUS.  On race days regular free buses are provided from Szklarska Poreba (and beyond) to the race start area for skiers and spectators.

At bib pick-up a detailed colour course map for each of the distances was included in the race bag so it was easy to know the exact course before the event and get to know where the tricky downhills and long uphills were situated.

The Polish race organisers invited all Worldloppet Masters to a delicious free dinner on Friday 2nd March at the Bornit Hotel in Szklarska Poreba.  It was great to meet up with skiers from many different countries.  The Polish Worldloppet Masters’ Reception is certainly hard to beat with food and local presents.

The 30km and 25km courses were very similar with the 30km course having a tough extra 5km that wound up and down some hills.  The 50km course went in reverse to the shorter courses and included some extra distance on further out loops.  All of the courses involved quite a few hills with the longest and steepest on the 50km course.  It was an extremely interesting course with a variety of terrain from forested tracks to high points with views across to snow covered peaks. The 50km course seemed to twist and turn, up and down and I felt like we visited every track junction on the trail system and more.

The cold temperatures continued for the first few days with the thermometer hovering between -10 and -15 degrees, however there was little precipitation like in other parts of Europe.  Friday dawned clear and cold with a frosty start for the 500 freestyle racers as they tried to stay warm before the race began.  Classic skiers (approximately 30) appreciated the one classic track being provided despite most skiers being skaters.

On Saturday it was another cold start of around -14 degrees though by the time the 2 000 skiers had skied the first 4kms uphill most people had warmed up.  The bag deposit and change tents were right next to the start area so it was easy to stay inside until a few minutes before the race began.  It was mostly cloudy during the event apparently warming up to -8 degrees though with the cool wind I felt it was much colder in the forest.  Nearing the finish I skied into a sunny patch and instantly warmed, mmmm …nice!.

Sunday’s 25km race had approximately 1200 skiers who thoroughly enjoyed the warmer temperatures of -4 degrees and sunshine, though a cold breeze was blowing during the afternoon. There was a significant number of slower skiers requiring faster skiers to regularly change lanes. Race organisers could encourage slower skiers to stay right unless overtaking by displaying a few signs with arrows indicating this, as the Vasaloppet does.

The races started in waves of approximately 250 skiers with 2 minute intervals. This was just enough time to spread much of the congestion, though the tracks were busy for much of the race in the classic events.  For instance, the 25km race was very congested until the Orle drink and food station, about half way into the course.

There were regular drink and food stops attended by friendly volunteers.  It was great to have a variety of food available at refreshment stops such as banana, chocolate pieces, orange segments, muesli bars and biscuits.  A suggestion for organisers is to place rubbish bins or rubbish collection structures 20 metres along the track after the station so skiers can throw their rubbish in bins rather than creating a mass of cups and a hazard all over the tracks as well as being a big mess to be cleaned up afterwards.

Whilst the races were in progress the cross-country ski tracks were officially closed to other skiers. This meant there were few non-racers on the tracks but also meant there were very few spectators along the race course except at the start and finish. Due to heavy security that wouldn’t allow you on the tracks even an hour before the races began, it was extremely difficult to have a ski and cheer for our Aussie team mates when we weren’t racing as we would usually do.

As I skied the 50km race I ticked off drink stations from last week’s Oppet Spar and found the course to be so short and easy compared to 90km of less than a week ago.  It was great to reach the finish stretch with energy and mindfulness to sprint double pole the last 3 kilometres to beat another skier who had been on my tail for kilometres. There were masses of people lining the finish shute, cheering as I crossed the finish line.  It was a great feeling to have notched up another gold Worldloppet race.

I highly recommend the Bieg Piastow to other Worldloppet skiers because of the interesting varied course (no boring repetitive loops), great organisation and the warm welcome that Worldloppet skiers receive.

By Marg Hayes

Australia

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Kortvasan & Sunday’s Oppet Spor 2018

Sweden’s Vasaloppet Week is amazing, as some 100,00 skiers participate in a variety of races leading up to the main race the actual 90km Vasaloppet on Sunday 4th March.  Races include the 30km Kortvasan, the 30km Tjejvasan (Women’s race with some 14,000 participants), Halvvasan (45km), NightVasan(90km), a relay race and the Oppet Spär(90Km).

Getting entry into the actual 90km Vasaloppet is extremely difficult for us, as internet connections in our small town in country Australia are unreliable at the best of times, so trying to be online at the exact moment race entries were opened and trying to complete the race entry before the race was filled 5 minutes later was an impossible task for us. Instead, we entered the Oppet Spär which is the Vasaloppet Open Track, run on the same 90km course 1 week prior to the main race Being an Open Track there is no winner or trophies however individual skiers’ times are recorded and best of all qualifies a successful skier with a gold stamp for a Worldloppet passport.  The start is low stress with a single line moving through a timing gate as opposed to a hectic mass start.

Arriving in Mora, Sweden (about 3.75 hours by train north of Stockholm) a few days before races commenced, we were extremely excited to see so much top quality snow.  All the way north from Stockholm there was snow everywhere.  Locals told us this was a superb snow season, the best in perhaps 20 to 50 yeas, and we were very happy to be part of it especially since on our last European Worldloppet ski trip in 2014 where we had had 3 race cancellations due to poor snow.

The atmosphere in Mora was building up with lots of road closures and barriers in place as all races finish in the main street of Mora, a medium sized regional town.  The shops all displayed welcoming signs to skiers.  We stayed at Mora Parken, a cabin park, less than 1km from the race finish. The actual race course went right through the park, so it was a great location to watch the multitude of races, as well as being able to ski right out the door when there wasn’t races happening. Ski waxing  rooms are also provided at Mora Parken, facilities we struggled to find in many of our previous accommodations.

Friday 23rd February was the Kortvasan, a race along the final 30 kilometres of the Vasaloppet course.  Successfully finishing the Kortvasan, some 12,000 skiers skied the gently undulating 30km course.  It was extremely well-organised with skiers leaving in waves of approximately 1,000 skiers every 15 minutes from 9am from Oxberg.  This meant the fastest skies in wave 1 were finished in Mora before the final waves commenced their race after 12 noon.  It was -3 degrees and still in the forest.  The recent snowfalls meant the snow was very light and fluffy resulting in slow glide.  The tracks remained in good condition throughout, even for the slower, later skiers.  The course was mostly in the forest with a few small villages being skied through. Enthusiastic spectators gathered at any possible road /race course junction to cheer skiers along, yelling “hejah, hejah.” It certainly spurred skiers on.

Sunday 25th February was Sondag Oppet Spär with some 7,200 skiers, there was also another Oppet Spar on Monday 26th February with 5,000 skiers. If staying in Mora, the 90km Oppet Spär involves catching a bus from Mora between 4am and 5am to be transported 2 hours to the event start at Salen. Being an Open Track, skiers could start anytime between 7am and 8am. Cut-off times seemed fairly generous, with the final being 7pm at Eldris, 9km from the finish.

Temperatures had dropped significantly in the 24hours before the Sunday Oppet Spar. It had been a pleasant -3 degrees with snow falling all day Saturday during the Tjejvasan, but predictions for Sunday was for -12 degrees rising to -8 degrees. However, when we arrived at Salen, the race start, at 6.30am, temperature gauges were displaying -17 degrees. Speedily, we got ready not wanting to linger in the cold. There was a plentiful supply of toilets, warm water was available and the baggage trucks displayed big number signs.

It didn’t seem too cold as we started skiing at about 7.15am, plus I figured with a 2 kilometre hill (the longest hill on the course) after only 1 km skiing, I would warm up quickly, however this wasn’t the case as the temperature seemed to get colder and colder, even expending energy climbing the hill didn’t warm me up. There was a moving queue on the big hill, much more so than when we had skied the Vasaloppet a few years ago. Up and up we went and finally reached the top of the hill crowded amongst the other skiers. The terrain then became undulating and continued like this all the way to Mora. There was a few larger ascents and descents in the middle of the course around Risberg/Evertsberg but realistically the track is fairly benign.

By the time I had skied 10 kilometres, I was bitterly cold; I knew I needed more clothing if I was to continue. Fortunately, I always carry a bumbag with light-weight jacket, warm gloves /and extra hat, otherwise I would have had to pull out as the risk of hypothermia was too high. I donned all my layers and it took another 5 kilometres before my frozen body started to warm up and I began to enjoy the pretty scenery with the first morning rays reflecting off the snow-covered trees. The race course passes numerous frozen lakes; some tiny, others expansive. Traditional wooden holiday cabins dotted the landscape.  The sun gave little warmth, but it was glorious skiing under blue skies with superb lighting on the frozen landscape.

There are few ski races where the average citizen skier begins skiing before the sun rises and if fast enough finishes before the sun sets, though with the final cut off being 7pm at Eldris (9kms before the finish) tired skiers were skiing the last sections of the course in the dark, with some coming in as late as 8.30-9pm.

For the first part of the Oppet Spar the track is extremely wide with some 8 classic tracks extending for 20 + kilometres. Skiers were shoulder to shoulder, faster skiers zipping between tracks if a small gap occurred. Onto Evertsberg (halfway) there was 6 classic tracks and for the final part of the course there was 4 classic tracks. All the way it was busy making it important to pay attention to what other skiers were doing, especially on the downhills. The classic tracks held well considering the numbers.

The drink stations were masses of skiers, so busy and chaotic that at the first couple of stops it was a long queue to even get a drink. A few volunteers had trays of drinks but often you had to queue at tables. Choices were very limited with only water, blueberry drink, enervit, coffee (at some) and small bread rolls offered. I was extremely glad that in my pockets I had extra food bars, cashews and some sugary treats otherwise I would have been very hungry. I recommend skiers carry extra food with you for sustenance, unless white bread rolls are your food of choice.

Organisers managed the rubbish from skiers extremely well by providing many rubbish bins as well as marked zones where skiers could drop rubbish. There was also a 15 minute penalty for anyone dropping rubbish outside of these zones which is a brilliant idea as in some race like the Marcialonga we were appalled at the rubbish from energy sachets dropped in many locations along the race course. Maybe other races should enforce a similar time penalty for those who incorrectly dispose of their rubbish.

Every kilometre there was signage informing skiers how many kilometres to the finish and how many kilometres to the next drink station. Compared to most other Worldloppet races the signage was exceptional; being of a size that was easily seen, very clear and easy to understand. It was so good not having to do a mental calculation to work out how far to go.

Transport of warm clothes was efficiently conducted with trucks in start areas indicating race numbers where skier’s numbered plastic bags could be deposited. On finishing the race, skiers were transported via bus a couple of kilometres to the sports stadium where skiers collected their plastic bags then had warm showers before being bussed back to the start area to pick up skis and diplomas. Drinks and protein bars were available at the end of the race, but no meal was offered after any of the races except after the actual main Vasaloppet race.

Finishing the Oppet Spar I felt a real sense of achievement, having skied 90km in one freezing cold day and arriving before sunset in less than my friend’s prediction of 9 hours. I recommend the Oppet Spar to all Gold Worldloppet skiers, you should do it at least once in your Worldloppet career.

By Marg Hayes

Australia

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Jizerska50 report in 2018

Three days of skiraces, classic and skate, many participants and a good skiarena. Yes, Jizerska is good. This year the weather was also good or did you notice? It’s when weather is bad people notice. Temperatures where around minus 5-6 to almost zero degrees each day (degrees celcius, we are in Europe).

Skiarena in Bedrichov where start and finish are, is about 10km from Liberec centrum. On Saturday and Sunday there are shuttlebusses for participants and later on spectators. The skate race on Friday starts as late as 13:00 and we drove our own car to start. Parking should be plenty we were told but when we showed up, not late, we searched a lot to find a parking spot. I don’t think we were allowed to park where we ended up but we had to, race was on.

The skate race was 30km and not that many skiers, around 500. Good thing it was no more because the tracks were often wide enough only for 1.8 skiers skating, not two. So varying rude passings were made every now and then. To top it off: one skier NOT participating in the race told me to get out of the track because he was skiing faster than me. WTF?! With many skaters and narrow tracks the uphills got softer snow and made uphills even more hard. Espacially this non-stop 6km uphill after the 7km mark. After that part the tracks were pretty nice and easy.

The view you get in this kind of tracks is a lot of trees. Dens forest. It is a lot of forest roads you are skiing on. With snow on trees it was a christmas postcard scenary. A little more mountain views and oversights would have been nice. Each WL race is different, different taste and format.

The main 50km classic race on Sunday had a lot of skiers. Maybe not a record or maybe it was. Good weather again. One recommandation I would like to give the arrangers is to widen up the first few kilometers of track. It is just to narrow for this many skiers. With more wide tracks the skiers levels would even out faster. We ended up walking in line for a long time. Elite skiers get less walking in line, good for them.

In finish area we got a big glass medal that got very visible on my trophy wall back home. Food for evey skiers is included in start fee. All races should have that. I have seen some marathons that only offer cold fruit drinks in finish and you have to buy warm food. Three different meal were offered. All good, I think, because you only got one. The queue lines to get food were not noticed on the short races on Friday and Saturday but on Sunday these lines were very long, miles it felt like. From one end of the long eating tent, to the other end and then back again! Wow. Some people just skipped that line and bough warm food on one of the stands outside. Please add more capacity to the food serving.

Jizerska is a good race destination. Several races, good races, good ski arena and very low prices. Go to a restaurant, eat and drink beer all you can and you’ll see the low prices compared to other nations. Hotels and busses are also very cheap. Compared to other WL races this is a very cheap trip BUT just as good as any WL race destination. Value for money is what we call it.

Worldloppet Reception on Friday evening was very nice. Nice food, nice people. “The best reception” as Boris said to all.

-mvh Lars

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Konig Ludwig Lauf 2018 race report

On the weekend of 3/4th February, Germany’s Konig Ludwig Lauf Worldloppet race was held in Oberammergau. The race start was near Ettal and finished at the Sports Centre in Oberammergau. On Saturday at 9am some 500 skiers lined up for the start of the silver 20km race. At 10am the long race 42km, or was it 45km or was it 50km (hard to work out from signage/publications) with  360 skiers started. The weather was predicted to be snowy with a temperature range of -7 to -1 degrees. Fortunately, at the start it was only overcast and the temperature was -3 degrees.

The long race involved 2 loops initially heading to Ettal as in previous years, then little  ups and downs to a bridge beyond Graswang before heading back down the valley with great views of the mountains, crossing the road towards Oberammergau then back through the start area. We were disappointed to see the ski through Linderhof Castle has been omitted from the current course. This had been our highlight when we initially skied the Konig Ludwig Lauf many years ago and was much talked about with family, friends and other Worldloppet skiers. Skiing through the castle educated us to the name of the race, Konig Ludwig Lauf and gave us an understanding and connection to the history of the area and the race. Hopefully skiing through the castle grounds can be reinstated in future years.

At the end of the first loop long race skiers turned off the track to Oberammergau to head back to the start area, however this was where the least interesting part of the course was, a series of s-turns where the track kept double backing on itself, as if to just make some kilometres. It seemed to take forever to get back to the start area but there was a welcome drink station before heading through the now quiet start area, to do it all again.

The course involved a variety of forested areas, open paddocks, past farmhouses, barns, churches and even past the urban areas of Ettal, Graswang with the finish right in Oberammergau. There were stunning views of the surrounding mountains right from the start line with steep rocky peaks in all directions. At Ettal there was some keen spectators ringing large cow bells to cheer skiers on. They were even still there on my second loop through which was a significant time after the elite skiers. Thanks!

On the second loop as I skated out of the forest into the Graswang plains, I noticed that the mountains had disappeared from view, they were hidden in a big black cloud. Within 5 minutes large snowflakes began to fall. It was extremely pretty having the snow fall float down, as in Australia when it snows it’s usually a blizzard with strong winds and low visibility. The snow continued intermittently for the rest of the race and looked lovely clinging to the tree branches.

Initially, Saturday’s snow was well-packed for the short race skiers but the mass of skiers quickly turned the snow to a cornflour like consistency. The second loop for longer race skiers the snow surface had become significantly softer. Even though it was a freestyle race, the classic skiers appreciated the classic tracks that were available for the majority of the course. The drink stations were well attended by friendly volunteers who gave out drinks, bananas, oranges and muesli bars. Thanks to the Ambulance personnel who were available in several locations to assist if needed.

Congratulations to Aussie skier Sarah Slattery who won the female section in the 9km freestyle race on Saturday morning.

Sunday’s weather was predicted to be a mix of sun and cloud with a temperature range of -10 to O degrees however when we woke on Sunday morning it was snowing lightly. By the 9am long race gold Worldloppet start time the snow had stopped and it was just overcast, still and about -1 degrees when the 775 skiers began the race. The snow began again at about 1pm whilst the 250 silver short race skiers who started at 12 Noon were still out skiing.

Sunday’s course was the same as Saturday. The grooming was excellent on both days with 3 or where possible 4 classic tracks available on Sunday.  The classic tracks iced up a little and very excellent for lots of double poling and stride poling. Being a predominantly flat course it’s probably the most stride double poling I’ve ever done.

Staying in Oberammergau we were given a Konig Card by our accommodation providers which gave us many free entitlements including free bus travel from Linderhof Castle and a free ride on the Laber-Bergbahn to see the wonderful views over the alps. It was a great place for coffee and cake (pre-race carbo loading) whilst enjoying the scenery. There are many other freebies with the Konig Card so well-worth combining skiing and seeing the sights  of the local area for a few days.

Having to travel to Munich on Sunday night for early flights to Estonia, the silver race’s late start time of 12 noon made travel arrangements more difficult for those Worldloppet skiers doing multiple races. It would be much simpler for those travelling if Saturday’s race timings were used for Sunday though one of the slower long race skiers said he enjoyed the short starting 3 hours after him as many short race skiers caught him and he felt he was really in a race rather than being out skiing on his own at the back of the field in the long event.

It was great to see Hannes Larson, the grand emperor of Worldloppet Masters (32 Masters) skiing the Konig Ludwig Lauf, despite recent health issues. Congratulations Hannes, for completing the silver race on Saturday AND the silver race on Sunday. We all hope to be skiing Worldloppet races when we are your age, you are an inspiration for us all. We all look forward to meeting you at many more Worldloppet races in the future.

Marg Hayes

Australia

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2018 Marcialonga Report

Passo Lavaze: On Thursday 25th January the crowds flocked to Passo Lavaze for the annual 22km Silver Worldloppet classic ski race. The sun was shining, it was still and the temperature was just below zero, making for extremely pleasant conditions with dry powdery snow. The tracks were impeccably groomed. Some 340 skiers lined up at the start line, with the start being low key and relaxed.

The course did a loop on the open hilltop before descending through thick forest to break out in the sunshine at Malga Costa.  The tracks for a steep climb back up to Passo Lavaze testing grip wax effectiveness.  A quick drink station, then descending through a steep hairpin, with some undulating up and down, followed by a steady climb to Malga Ora for a well earned drink station. The undulations continued through the small downhill run at Malga Varena then predominantly downhill to the finish area at Passo Lavaze.  There were 2 drink stations and no food available on the course, although at the finish, skiers enjoyed meat rolls and warm drinks in the sunshine whilst chatting about the race.

It was great to be at the after race presentations especially to cheer the young Aussie duo who came 4th lady and 5th man. Congratulations Mark and Ella!

One suggestion for race organisers is to time the start of the race so that skiers travelling via public transport are able to participate in the race. Currently the race is programmed to start just 5 minutes after the first bus from Cavalese arrives making it extremely difficult for international skiers travelling via public transport. Fortunately the race start was deferred for 10 minutes to allow for those bus travellers but it would be more relaxing if this was known in advance.

Now the big Marcialonga race….

Bib pick-up was in the Congress Centre in Cavalese beginning the Thursday afternoon before the Marcialonga. The process was extremely well-organised with lots of friendly volunteers eager to assist. There was also a huge array of sponsor products which provided interesting displays.

On Saturday night at 5.30pm there was a Worldloppet Masters reception. Angelo Corradini made some wonderful announcements which are extremely pleasing for all Worldloppet Masters. Angelo said that Marcialonga really value Worldloppet Master skiers and really want their participation in future races. Marcialonga understand the difficulties with the current entry system especially for Worldloppet Masters in faraway countries and so from now on all Worldloppet Masters will be given entry to the Marcialonga by contacting the Marcialonga office before the release of entries to the general public. Contact the Marcialonga Office as early as possible before the online entries open. If you have any difficulties contact Angelo direct. Wow, what brilliant news, especially for us non-European Worldloppet Masters who have to travel half way across the world to reach Italy. Gaining entry to the Marcialonga has always been an adhoc, costly venture for us, so now we will be relaxed knowing we can source the most appropriate accommodation (like apartments) rather than having to stay at expensive hotels which offer race entry packages. Thank you to the Marcialonga organisers for valuing the participation of Worldloppet Masters in this fantastic event.

Race day dawned clear and still. The bus transport system from Cavalese to the race start was extremely efficient with a line of 20+ buses greeting  skiers in the main street of Cavalese. Waiting in the toilet queue at the race start of Moena, it was beautiful to watch the first rays of sun hit the tops of the Dolomites. The red rocky peaks really shone over the valley. This was my sixth Marcialonga and the warmest start I can recall but still a cool -1 degrees for us Australians.

The clearly labelled trucks with different bag colours were easily to find, to deposit clothing bags for pickup at the finish. Before the sun rose the first race group, the Elite Women were off and racing as the rest of us fiddled with last minute clothing adjustments.  Lining up in an orderly manner to get into the fenced off areas according to bib numbers, one felt a little like a caged animal, but the system worked. Once your group’s barrier lifts, you have 5 minutes to leisurely walk out to the start area, put your skis on and to ski across the start line truly makes the Ideal Start a relaxed, calm way to get 7,500 skiers  off and racing.  It is noted the shorter 45km skiers start with the 70km skiers.

Climbing the first hill to Moena, I remembered the queues of my previous Marcialonga skis and wondered how the crowds would be today. Right from the first houses, spectators lined the course yelling “ Bravo, up-up-up” and cheering us along, as the route wound between double storey houses barely 2 metres apart. The trucked in snow was quite soft, and dry, falling apart, feeling more like deep dry sand rather than snow. It would have been extremely difficult to make a snowman out of this snow. Looking up, the sun was glistening off the red rocks making for an amazing spectacle.

Climbing above Moena there were a few short hills where the pace slowed to a crawl as skiers herringboned up the steeper pitches.

Multiple tracks with 3 or 4 classic tracks where the width allowed was welcome. This gave an opportunity for faster skiers to zip through and overtake those skiing slower. Most skiers were calm and encouraging to others.

For some 17km the trail climbed up the Val di Fassa valley, meandering alongside a small creek, Torrente Avisio, with snow still hanging in the frosted trees.  It was great to finally break out of the shaded valley into the sunshine at Canazei. There were many cheering spectators as skiers pushed through the heavy deep snow to the turn around point right in the middle of Canazei.

It was great to cross Torrente Avisio and begin to head back down the Val di Fassa valley on the shaded side, with lots of double poling opportunities. The kilometres seemed to zip past with Pozza di Fassa uniquely covered drink station being reached in good time. Climbing the Soraga hill the church bells were ringing to indicate noon.

But the predicted 9 degrees began to make its way into the sunny segments and the tracks became wide and glazed in some areas.

Skiers seemed to thin as tiredness was creeping in for all. The managed descent to Moena was exciting with lots of crowds lining the course in Moena and cheering you over the small bridge. Meandering between the buildings and within centimetres of Torrente Avisio was very different to most ski races which are held in forested areas away from villages and wild spectators. It certainly adds to the memorable uniqueness of the Marcialonga.

Continuing down, down to the Val de Fiemme valley, it was good know most of the tricky bits of the course were behind me now. Passing Predazzo and waving goodbye to the 500 participants in the 45km Marcialonga Light, skiers seemed more spaced, just surviving staying upright with tired legs and tired bodies. The snow had changed to Australian powder (wet slop) so I felt right at home and my crown skis were gliding well.

The cheering spectators continued to give you an extra boost to push on a bit harder. It was hard not to enjoy the beautiful weather, sunny and clear though variable temperatures depending whether you were in the shaded areas or out in the open paddocks or river flats. All the way the red rocks of the Dolomites towered above us.

It was great to see the church spires of Cavalese and know that there wasn’t too far to go now. Under the Alpe Cermis cablecar and finally I got a glimpse of skiers heading up the final hill, knowing it was close but not that close as I still had to ski 3kms down the valley to the turnaround at Molina then another 3kms back up to the base of that famous climb.

There was a party atomsphere at the Molina drinks station as skiers knew it wasn’t far now and that they could do it.

Klister stations at Molina and the base of the climb were welcomed by skiers running out of grip wax.   However my crown skis gave me enough grip to keep progressing.

Finally, I made it to the final climb, a 3km uphill slog from the river to reach the finish line at Cavalese. Skiers just kept on going, onward and upward knowing the end was near. Finishing in Cavalese is amazing, skiing through the narrow streets, with cheering crowds helping me to push that little bit harder to make it to the finish line. What a feeling it was to cross the line and know that I had been successful in another Marcialonga.

Time to collect the bag, change the shoes, drink some hot soup, find my friends, then to the Cavalese Congress Centre for the pasta party. Marcialong Light  skiers reported the pasta party at Predazzo in a warm tent was wonderful too.

A highlight of the Marcialonga was the plentiful food/drink stations at each small village you skied through; music and friendly helpful volunteers cheered you along. In several of the towns (Canazei, Predazzo and Cavalese)  skiers’ names were announced as you skied through which encouraged you  a little more. The enthusiasm of spectators  hanging out the balconies or just cheering you on as you skied past was a real highlight too.  Some spectators even supplied water to slower competitors just at the right location.

Even though many of the small descents became icy bobsled runs with piles of corn flour snow pushed up on the sides courtesy was shown to fallen skiers to be safe and encourage them.

All in all, the Marcialonga is one of the iconic Worldloppet races with lots of appeal to skiers and well worth including on every Worldloppet Master skiers’ program.

Marg Hayes

Australia

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Dolomitenlauf 2018

We arrived in Obertilliach Austria on Wednesday 18th January, a few days before the weekend of Dolomitenlauf events. Obertilliach is a small mountain village with a population of 700, mostly farmers at about 1500 metres elevation. The farmland is all covered in snow and the cows are all in the barns in the village. It was great to familiarise ourselves with the course with a few other skiers. It was also a relief to realise that the course is now 2x 21km loops on a lot flatter terrain than in previous years. In 2001, the 60km Dolomiten freestyle was held at Obertilliach as there was insufficient snow in Lienz. As we recall, it was a very hilly course, involving climbing up the open slope zig-zags twice as well as a couple of other significant steep climbs on a narrow track in the forest. So, we were pleased to see the easier flatter course was to be used this year, for both the classic and freestyle events.

On the Friday evening there was a Worldloppet reception where quite a few Worldloppet Masters from a variety of countries gathered to socialise. We were in awe to be welcomed in 3 different languages by the talented race official, as coming from Australia anyone speaking 2 languages is amazing to us. After the reception, the exciting Elite Sprints were held at BiathlonZentrum, rather than in Lienz, as we had become accustomed to in previous years. Staying at Obertilliach we realised, was an absolute bonus with most Dolomitenlauf events now being based at Obertilliach. Our choice of Obererlacher Gaestehaus was incredible, as it turned out to be only 50 metres from the finish line which we hadn’t realised when we booked. Also the after race meal was literally across the road. There are numerous well-located guesthouses and hotels in Obertilliach and certainly save the travel up from Leinz; so our recommendation is to stay in Obertilliach.

Saturday 20th January dawned clear and sunny; a magical day for the classic Dolomitenlauf race. At Biathlonzentrum some 412 entrants gathered for the 42km race and 144 for the 20km classic. Temperatures were varied with a cold start, then we skied into the sun up the hill towards Obertilliach village and warmed up very quickly. There seemed less zig-zags than I remembered which was wonderful. It was a real hoot to shoot down the zig-zags between the many little barns that dotted the open hillside, past a tiny church and we quickly arrived at the first drink station before having more gentle downhill to the far end of the course beyond Untertilliach.

Crossing the creek, the temperature seemed to plummet as the cold air hung by the tiny stream and snow still clung to the tiny trees and bushes. Fortunately, it was gradual uphill so this warmed us up. The track re-crossed the creek several times even popping back into the welcome sunshine for a brief few minutes. The narrow track wound up the valley right on the edge of the babbling stream to the second drink station in a sunny spot. Continuing up, up finally reaching the farthest point of the course it was downhill and some good gliding to Biathlonzentrum drink station. Then it was time for the 42km skiers to do it all again. By now the fastest skiers had already lapped me and as I headed off to ski my second lap the elite were heading to the finish line right in the main street of Obertiliach. The classic tracks had glazed a little by the second lap so it was a little faster. The last 2km of the course was uphill but it was a wonderful atmosphere to finish in the main street of Obertilliach and have the post race meal in the kindergarten hall where friendly locals served pasta, goulash soup and beer.

We woke on Sunday morning to about 10cm of fresh snow covering everything. Light snow was still falling as 306  skiers lined up at the start line for the 1st stage of the World Cup 42km freestyle event and 180 for the  shorter 20km event. The temperature seemed just below zero and was relatively still. As the gun fired everyone surged ahead until the first hill when it was quite chaotic with everyone trying to find their pace.

Sunday’s course was a mirror image of Saturday’s though the weather conditions were very different making it feel like a totally different location. Because of the continuing light snowfalls, the frontrunners pushed through the soft snow compacting a platform in the middle of the track for us slower skiers. It was great to skate from. Due to the snow compaction there was much more glide in the second loop. There was even classic tracks for the few intrepid skiers who used the classic technique in the freestyle event though the tracks were fairly slow due to little use.

The after race meal was great with plenty of pasta, goulash soup and beer.  And provided an opportunity to share the day’s achievements and stories with old and new skier friends.   Grooming was perfect on both days.

Congratulations to the Dolomitenlauf team for putting on an exceptional event; well done and thanks to all the volunteers.

Marg Hayes, Australia

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China-Vasaloppet 2018 race report

20180104_095534_m_.jpgBeing independent travellers and finding information for the China Vasaloppet so difficult to obtain, this race report will provide lots of information for fellow travellers as well as info on the 2018 race.

Several years ago, when China Vasaloppet first became an Associate Worldloppet race we investigated the possibility of visiting as independent travellers but as we could not obtain any information from the China Vasaloppet race organisers, who seemed to only be interested in skiers coming on the organised trips, we decided not to come.  The reason is that an organised trip with only 1 day skiing before the race was not an option for us; coming from an Australian Summer of 35-40 degrees Celsius to Changchun with a temperature of -15 degrees C, we needed to be able to acclimatise for at least a week before the event and also wanted to do some ski training so we didn’t injury ourselves in the race, and could enjoy the race as much as possible.

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So fast forward several years and we decided to have another go at trying to ski the China Vasaloppet in 2018. However, despite many emails with the race organisers they weren’t able to give us any suggestions of places near Changchun to ski before the event, as we were told the race course was only available to ski the day before the event. Fortunately, an Aussie skier mentioned he had skied on a frozen lake near the race course. So, with this one piece of information we decided to make the journey to Changchun and ski the China Vasaloppet.

On Xmas night 3 Aussie skiers, Bruce Wharrie, Jim Finnie and myself boarded a plane to Beijing, then onto Changchun. Arriving at Changchun Airport at 10am with the temperature -15 degrees C, we chose to learn how to use the public transport system to travel to our accommodation at the Sheraton Hotel, the closest hotel to the race course (about 3kms). We found the best deal for a room at the Sheraton was via Booking.com (AUS $ 120 pn). If we had known how difficult public transport would be, we would have caught a taxi from the airport (160 yuan approx), which is our recommendation for future skiers. Catching a train for the 15 minute trip from the airport to the city, we were required to present our passport to buy the 8.5 yuan ticket, then once in the city we wandered the streets in the freezing cold, as couldn’t find the light rail station; after buying tickets we weren’t allowed on until we bought an extra ticket for our skis, then after a 1.5 hour light rail ride it was a 2 kilometre walk along a busy road to the hotel. So, catch a taxi from the airport!

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