Tour de Ski 2010/2011 – Part Two

Behind the scenes at the Tour de Ski from the coach Finn Marsland

The Tour is over. Callum Watson made it through to the top of the final climb at Alp Cermis, finishing in 36th place out of the 75 athletes who started the prologue in Oberhof nine days before. The final stage was tough, with Callum losing contact with the wave start on the way down the valley to Alp Cermis and ending up four seconds behind Francois Soulie from Andorra in the overall standings. See Callum Watson’s blog updates for more details from the horse’s mouth and read on for the perspective from the wax cabin…

Stage 5 – Toblach Sprint Freestyle
This was a fairly relaxed day, with Callum unlikely to make the sprint finals and no big time to be gained or lost in the 1.4km course. Callum dropped about 18 seconds to the fastest qualifier and was a couple of seconds up on the slowest. Place after Stage 5 – 57th. There was a vocal Aussie support crew on the side of the track, see the image below. We ended the day by taking the test skis to about the 25km mark on the Stage 6 course to see what wax was running on the long gradual downhills in the latter part of the race.

Stage 6 – Cortina to Toblach 35km Freestyle
The setting for the start of the first point to point race in the Tour was spectacular. Snow was trucked into downtown Cortina and the first 400m of the stage headed up the street with people packed along the fences. It wasn’t as cold as expected on the Cortina side and Callum opted for a pair of skis that we’d waxed slightly warmer. He skied the first 5km in reverse direction down to the start as warm-up, and we left Jeff at the first feed station to make sure he was there when Callum came through. In the first two kilometres Callum thought he was in trouble, he lost contact with the pack and was in the hurt box, but luckily Soulie from Andorra was also doing it tough and dropped back to him a couple of kilometers later. From there they skied the race pretty much together, swapping the lead and working together. Jeff and I followed the local example and parked randomly along the highway while ducking on and off the track to give drinks. Callum’s skis ran well, faster than Soulie’s on the downhills but not fast enough to break away. They both attacked towards the end of the race but it came down to sprint in the finish straight, Soulie just pipping Callum on the line. Some of the sprinters withdrew before this stage and some other skiers didn’t make the distance to Toblach, so Callum’s place after Stage 6 was 45th.

Stage 7 – Val di Fiemme 20km Classic
After six stages with quite cold conditions the temperatures went positive in Val di Fiemme and the klister trays were pulled out of the wax box. In addition to testing a lot of warmer glide waxes we spent a lot more time testing structures. Without chunky rills in the skis the classic tracks really started to suck. Callum ended up racing on his new stick skis as they ran a lot faster than his klister skis even before we rilled them. In the 20km classic mass start Callum got away to a good start, but after the second lap he started to lose time and was dropping back towards the final place in the field. On the third lap he suddenly looked to have a lot more energy again, it turned out afterwards that the coke he took from Jeff at the feed station made a massive difference to the way he was feeling. On the final lap Callum was on the boost and put over a minute into Soulie from Andorra – he ended the race in second last and eight minutes behind for the day, but now up into 39th place overall after a couple of athletes pulled out during the race. Waxing-wise Callum had good grip but his skis were running a little slow, the extra layer of klister I added for security after the final testing probably wasn’t necessary on the relatively softer skis.

Stage 8 – Alp Cermis 9km Freestyle Final Climb
We were all pumped for this final stage, there was 15 or so skiers set to wave start seven minutes after the leader Dario Cologna from Switzerland and we were hoping Callum could hit the bottom of the final climb in a bit of a bunch. Unfortunately for the first time in the Tour we delivered Callum really sub-par skis, they sucked on the wet dirty snow down the Marcialonga course and Callum arrived to the climb by himself. It was a rookie mistake really, I meant to re-rill the skis after the final wax and for no reason at all I forgot. To top the day off, Jeff left his camera on the gondola, never to be seen again. By the time Callum reached me 2/3 of the way up the climb he was already 1:15 behind Soulie from Andorra, and though he fought and gave it all to the end he couldn’t claw back any time and ended up four seconds behind after five hours and six minutes of racing. Not the best way to finish the Tour, all up though it was great experience for everyone involved. The crowd was awesome on the final climb, and there was a lot of support also from other teams.

The circus rolls on, we travel now to Oberwiesenthal to join the rest of the team and then there are the German Championships in Hirschau and the World Cup in Liberec later this week. Cherio for now.

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