Monday, January 5, 1998
It's all in the number
For three days in Bormio, we had been blessed with great weather and the race days were the same. Perfect downhill racing conditions -- clear and cold.
World Cup downhillers prefer the temperatures to be cold because the course is more consistent from top to bottom. In the warmer weather the course will deteriorate too quickly and make the track dangerous for the later runners.
For the first race on Monday I chose bib No. 14. All the racers whp picked before me chose early numbers expecting the course to slow down slightly. I could have chosen No. 13, but I am just a little too superstitious.
The bib selection ceremony is unique in Bormio, because the top 15 athletes parade through the centre of the old town with the local children leading the way.
There is a traditional Italian band playing and girls wearing traditional Italian mountain-style clothing, long skirts and hooded coats. The centre of town is crowded with ski fans who are drinking the complimentary 'Glu-wein' (hot wine) and cheering for their favorite racers. Very festive ... hence the 'White Circus'.
After the bib draw, we returned to our hotel and prepared fo rthe next day's race. As I mentioned last week, Bormio is quickly gaining respect among World Cup racers as one of the hardest and most challenging courses on the circuit. By race day the track has been iced from top to bottom.
In addition, one very unique aspect of Bormio is the fact that racers do not have a second's rest in which to compose themselves or gather their thoughts once they blast out of the starting gate. Either you have it or you don't when you leave, but you are definitely not going to find it halfway down.
Starting 14th, I was the first Canadian down and came across the finish line seventh. I am happy, but I know I'll move back a bit before the race is over.
I had quite a good run, but I was a little out of control on the turny section of the course. I managed to pull out all the stops on the bottom though I won the last section of the course.
As soon as I finished my run, I grabbed the team radio and told Luke Sauder from Cambridge, Ont., and Brian Stemmle from Aurora, Ont., who are still at the top, my report on the course.
I tried to tell them how the course was running so nothing surprises them. I try to point out where they can make up some speed. Both Brian and Luke have good runs and wind up 16th and 18th respectively -- our best team result of the season to date and getting better.
The second race on Tuesday did not go so well for me. I hit something on the top part of the course, which damaged one of the edges on my skis.
On a course as icy as Bormio, you need razor-sharp edges. Needless to say, I was sliding around too much and right into a poor finish position.
Brian and Luke were able to hold on the ice and managed excelled runs -- ninth and 13th respectively.
After the race, I decided to stay in Europe to train for a World Cup Super-G in Schladming, Austria on Saturday.
I decided to spend New Year's eve in the beautiful city of Venice, then I made my way down to Slovenia to watch Banff's Thomas Grandi race in the World Cup GS in Kranjska Gora where he wound up 12th, follwoed by a career-best 10th in slalom yesterday. Thomas is really on a roll and we all hope his confidence keeps building through to the Olympics.
Kranjska Gora is an interesting place just across the Italian and Austrian borders. They had very little snow and the GS and slalom courses both deteriorated quickly and that was the main reason Alberto Tomba (sitting in second position in the slalom after the first run) declined a second run. The first-run winner ended up 24th! Thank goodness downhills are still primarily one run!
Talk to you next week from Schladming for more on the 'White Circus'.