Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marcialonga-Martin's Report

We already know that Martin skis with his brain as much as with his body, so it's really interesting to follow along with this play-by-play analysis of his Marcialonga race last weekend.  Also intriguing: his commentary on skiing without wax in classic races.  It sounds like all the big kids are doing it now, so I'm thinking of even more double poling on the roller skis next summer!

Here, his exciting story.  Read along, and imagine you are there!

The memory of a good race is exactly 365 days long. One year ago, I had the day of the season when I finished 14th in the 38th Marcialonga and earned a good start position for the 39th Marcialonga next to Jörgen Brink and Stanizlav Rezak. Well, between me and Rezak, in the same track, there was a French guy who apparently won La Transjurassienne last year. La Transjurassienne is a skate race and immediately after the start I learned why I have never seen the guy in the front pack of a classic race. He could not double pole. Stuck behind him, I was forced to passively observe how the gap grew between him and Rezak, and how guys started passing me on both sides. Panic? No, I do not react in that way. Instead I stayed calm and did not change track. That is how over-politeness and stupidity ruin a good start.

A good start is essential for me in Marcialonga. The first 15K climbs 300 meters and is raced like an ordinary 15K race with the finish at the top. To be able to follow the best guys, I need to ski right at the threshold for the first 50 minutes. And when being stuck behind slower skiers and skiing below threshold, I need to compensate by skiing above threshold to catch the fastest guys. Sounds simple, but it does not work in practice. In a steep climb after eight kilometers, the lactic acid turned my arms and legs into rubber and I realized I was not going to play with the big skiers this year.

After the steep climb, the course follows a creek up the valley and the incline becomes more modest. From here on to the top, it is all about double poling. But with the body full of lactic acid, the double pole machine did not want to start. With both first and second pack ahead of me, I was fighting to stay behind a single guy who caught me from behind. A small gap formed a few times, but I managed to close it every time and we turned around at the highest point together. Now I quickly recovered and we started taking turns to catch the second pack, if possible. Ten kilometers later, we saw the tail of the pack and only a few minutes later I was skiing together with a bunch of top skiers again.

I was the only one with kick wax in the group, but my impression was that I had as fast skis as the other guys, at least when tucking on the downhills. In fact, I do not know about anyone who finished top 40 but Jörgen Brink and myself on kick wax. How could I catch and stay with the pack so easily now on the gradual descent, when it was impossible to follow it on the gradual climb? Were the skis draggy when double poling? It is very hard to quantify, but it is a fact that fewer and fewer top skiers use kick wax in marathons. When the snow is firm, double poling is often more efficient than striding, even going uphill. A lot uphill, the total climb of Marcialonga is more than 1000 meters. Next weekend I will start with blank skis in König Ludwig Lauf.

I skied well in the middle of the race, but neither the beginning nor the end can be characterized by physical or mental perfection. I felt that the pack was not moving fast enough, but instead of making a decisive move and breaking the pack, I helped everyone by pulling the pack at a comfortable pace. And when we reached the final ascent to the finish with three kilometers to go, several guys had stayed cool and waited for the right moment to attack. All those guys finished ahead of me and I lost the last single World Cup point of the 30th place by 3 seconds.

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