Monday, December 29, 1997
Christmas in Bormio
We rented the local rink and for some extra fun we've accepted the challenge of the local bantam-aged team to a hockey game. They provide us with a goalie and hit the ice in full gear while we use our slalom shin guards for leg protection! We scrimmage around with the youngsters and manage to hold our own but at the end of the hour are completely exhausted and head back to the hotel to lick our wounds.
We arrived in Bormio last Tuesday and had one perfect day of training on Christmas Eve Day. Luke Sauder from Cambridge, Ont., was left in charge of the tree preparations (bought, borrowed, chopped down -- we were never told). We brought lights and everybody had to make one Christmas tree ornament to hang on the tree. We watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to get us into the spirit. All in all, we had a very good Christmas Eve, everybody chipped in and even though we were thousands of miles form home, it didn't feel like it.
The race course in Bormio is a very demanding course, which has been gaining respect from racers as rivaling Kitzbuehel in the toughness. The course this year is very fast but not quite as icy as it has been the past two seasons. We had our first training run Saturday, and after one of the first forerunners went down the hill and crashed, they held the racers until they could shave one of the runs down. Aside from that minor issue, the course ran well.
The start is one of the crucial areas of the Bormio course: instead of letting you warm up to the course before some of the more challenging sections, they first turn is one of the hardest. It is always prepared with water to make it ice hard and very rough. You must negotiate the first turn well because by the second turn, you are already launching into the air.
The course follows the natural terrain of the slope as it winds down to the middle of the mountain and the racers come into the hardest section of the course. Last year more than 10 people crashed into the fence in this section and this year should be no different. The skier must turn nearly 150 degrees over on of the rougest and iciest patches of snow on the mountain. Then try to stay balanced whil getting bounced in all directions across a side-hill traverse. The bottom is equally exciting with an enormous jump and a very fast icy section that is always in the shade.
Saturday's training run was more encouraging than the past few weeks. Brian Stemmle from Aurora, Ont., and Sauder tied for 15th, while I ended up 19th. Yesterday wasn't so good for me as I broke my ski half-way down the course and had to limp it in to the finish. In one of the difficult turns near the top of the course, my binding pust pulled away from my ski -- it stayed on but was too loose and rattling all the way down the course. Not exactly what you want on a course as tough as this one! I have to talk to my serviceman today. Oh well, that's what training runs are for, to figure things out before the race!
Next week the World Cup downhillers take a break and all of the team is heading home except me. I will stay in Europe and be the only Canadian racing in a World Cup Super-G in Schladming on Jan. 10. I had the choice of going home for a few days but traveling so much and having to fight the jet lag again before a race would have been too difficult.