Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Matt Liebsch - Early Season Race Recap

This year was my first time making an effort to jump into the race season “all-in.” In the past, I have trained through the early season, skipped races, and spent only a little time at altitude in preparation for the early season altitude racing… mostly this was due to financial constraints.

My 1st goal of the season was to qualify for Canmore World Cups. Fortunately, this season I have great sponsors and better funding so I could get to altitude early in the season and race fast at the opening SuperTour weekends.

The first weekend on the SuperTour schedule was West Yellowstone. This year was tough because there was very little snow. Ski enthusiast and athletes had to drive 40 minutes each way on a forest service road to get to the snow. This added a lot of extra logistics and travel, but the race organizers rallied to pull off a great race.

The course was a tough 9km point-to-point freestyle race that had a net gain in elevation. Chris Hall provided fast Fischer skis waxed with Swix SuperCera. I was blessed with fast skis, good race feelings and managed to pull out a win, one step closer to Canmore!

This was my first race trying a little shorter pole than I have used in the past. A shorter pole helps my technique as I can get over the pole better and have a stronger angle of attack when initial pole plant happens. I feel a little longer pole fights me initially and ski technique is all about that initial impulse.

With one race in the bag and one sprint race rescheduled for Bohart Mountain Ranch (due to low snow in West Yellowstone), my family and I traveled up to Bozeman for 3 races in 4 days.

In Bozeman, Bill Pierce with F.A.S.T. helping me with waxing… and with fast skis I still had a tough time with my first skate sprint race. I missed qualifying by 1-2seconds and I never got comfortable on my skis. It was tough not making it to the rounds where all the fun happens!

Ready to start the 9k point-to-point at West Yellowstone. Brian Gregg right behind

The second race was a classic sprint and due to low snow, and the race was moved to the upper trails. The upper trails of the sprint course were flat enough that almost all the men double poled the qualifier and heats. I was perfectly OK with this as I love double poling. I felt a little flat in my qualifier but got in with an 18th placing.
Waxing for the Bozeman sprints

In my quarter-final, I finished 4th in a stacked heat… the 3 guys in front of me included USST members Skyler Davis and Erik Bjornsen and Olympian Torin Koos. I had a little bump and go in the backstretch that slowed me down, otherwise I skied about as well as I could.
Sprinting at Bozeman as the sun sets in the west.

Sunday was the big one. One last race to decide who would qualify for the distance races in Canmore. I started with bib #1 in the front of the chevron and I thought “there is no chance I will have a problem getting out of the start clean”… wrong!?! About 5 seconds into the race I had my pole stepped on, which pulled me sideways and then someone skied through my pole and broke it. Ouch! Almost a repeat of last year at Green Acres, but I was the only one held up. I got moving and I eventually found a suitable replacement on my 4th pole. I dug deep to try and ski back to the front from 90th place. The wheels came off before the finish from all my exerted adrenaline dumped at the start. I finished 14th which happened to be good enough to secure a start at Canmore World Cups in December!

More updates coming once I am in Canada

Thinking snow,