The second half of B-Tour started off with four beautiful days in Toblach, Italy, where we were treated to delicious food, beautiful skiing, and sunshine. All too soon, we drove back to Planica, Slovenia, to get ready for a weekend of World Cup racing.
My first race in Planica, and my first international World Cup, was a 1.2km skate sprint on a course that included one long climb and lots of technical descents. Although the course had been choppy and soft the day before the race, on race day the tracks were hard-packed and cold, which was great for me because that’s the kind of snow I usually ski on in Canmore.
During the qualifier, I felt great and was able to ski smoothly and powerfully. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I heard one of the other Canadian girls, Dahria, yell at me that I had finished 31st and she had finished 32nd! Although I needed to be in the top-30 to qualify for the heats, I was very happy with the day. That race really helped give me the confidence that qualifying is possible in the near future.
For Dahria and I, our sprint results meant that we got to race together in the team sprint the next day. Unfortunately, neither of us had a stellar team sprint, but being able to race heats at a World Cup level gave us a lot to learn.
After the Planica races, we went to Ramsau, Austria for a few days to recover and get ready for the following weekend of racing in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Luckily, it had snowed in Ramsau about a week before we got there, so there were beautifully groomed trails right from the hotel that went from town to town through the Austrian mountainside.
Unfortunately, myself and a couple of other girls on the team came down with a cold about halfway through the week, which meant we had to cut back on our training. Fortunately, that gave us a lot of time to do homework, and by the time we got to Nove Mesto for the World Cup races a few days later, I was healthy enough to race.
The first race in Nove Mesto, a 10km individual start skate, was my first ever distance World Cup race and a big learning experience for me. We raced on a 5km loop that had lots of climbing and good recovery descents between each hill, making it a really fun course to ski. While I was happy with my race and my effort, seeing how far back I was from the leaders and watching just how hard they push was a huge eye-opener and helped teach me a lot about what it takes to be a top World Cup racer.
The second race in Nove Mesto, and my last race on B-Tour, was a 4x5km relay. This race was especially exciting because it was the first time Canada has had a women’s relay team since the Sochi Olympics. Although we didn’t have a spectacular result that day, finishing 12th, simply being able to have a women’s relay team was a big step forward for Canadian women in cross-country skiing.
After a long but uneventful travel day yesterday from the Czech Republic back to Canada, I’m now in rest and recovery mode. Next up on the agenda are Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, where I will be aiming to qualify for the Ski Tour Canada in March.