Milan City Sprint

The World Cup circuit made its way to Milan, Italy for a weekend of sprint events, and with it the Australian contingent of Esther Bottomley, Callum Watson and Phillip Bellingham (along with coaches and support crew). The races were held on a purpose-built loop of snow trucked in to the city centre, making for a flat course.

First up was Esther Bottomley in the women’s Freestyle Sprint qualification, which had a relatively small field. For Bottomley, Milan was the second sprint race of the season, and she reported feeling not quite in top form yet:

“In the flat city sprint in Milan skiing strong, without too fast tempo for the first lap was the aim, after a solid lap then pick up the pace and get to the finish fast! That was the aim, the first lap went according to plan and then then moving up into the next gear didn’t quite happen. Looking forward to the next few weekends of races to try and find that top speed again.”

In the men’s event, Callum Watson placed 63rd and Phillip Belligham 67th in his World Cup debut, impressively avoiding signing the list. Belligham said he felt happy with the weekend’s races, “I was super nervous about the whole thing especially right before the start of the sprint on the first day, but found my feet pretty quickly and skied solidly. I felt i skied as well as i could have, and felt fresh going into it. Slightly slushy snow didn’t help me as I’m not the lightest guy out there and was happy to not come last.”

Watson was very happy with his result, finishing one place above his ranking going in to the event (wearing bib number 64). “Milano City sprint certainly lived up to its expectations with the race course situated right out the front of Sforza Castle. The race track was in very decent condition for a city sprint and not completely flat with a very slight uphill section to create a bit of variation. With the race time for the men starting at 1pm, the snow was already getting quite soft. Due to a block start format being used due to the consisting of two laps, I started almost a full 30min behind the first male which turned out to be quite the disadvantage. The course softened further and due to 63 men going before me it was quite cut up by the time I got to it. A flat course is definitely not to my advantage so with this in mind, I was very happy with my result.”

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Sunday’s Freestyle Team Sprint event saw Watson and Belligham team up against a field of 23 other teams, in what may have possibly been Australia’s best World Cup Team Sprint result to date. Teams in this event consist of two skiers, each completing three legs, alternating. The plan for the race was to maintain contact with the skiers at the front for as long as possible throughout the six leg race. Two semifinals and a final event are held, with times recorded for final ranking. Watson skied the first leg, avoiding a large collision between a number of skiers (having already accrued sufficient collision experience and hospital time this season) to tag Belligham in 4th position. The pair then managed to maintain contact with the front bunch of skiers for the first 4 legs of the race, losing contact at the end to finish 14 seconds off the winner of their semi-final. This put them in 20th place ahead of Estonia II, Italy III, Italy IV and Germany II in the final rankings. Belligham and Watson were both shocked and incredibly happy with the result, having gone in to the event with a combined ranking about 100 FIS points worse off than the closest team.

Training continues in Seefeld with good conditions, before the World Cup events in Estonia this weekend. The majority of the Australian team members currently in Seefeld (which is host to Innsbruck’s Youth Olympic Games Cross-country events) will head to the Great Britain Championships in Germany this weekend.


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