The first skimo classic race in this winter season had everything what skimountaneering race should have. It was placed near Austrian ski resort Lienz, with real winter conditions, some fresh snow and sun in the sky. It was a really interesting course with two uphills and downhills, with 1420 vertical meters and total length of 17 kilometres. Apart from the first 10 uphill minutes and the last kilometre of downhill it was completely off-road (with deep snow track and quite difficult downhill sections), in a nice forest surrounded with high mountains.
On the start line we were just looking each other because nobody expected such a strong field of athletes (just a few strong names: Pivk, Reichegger, Weisskopf, Hofl, Beccari…). It always means exact one thing: full gas from the start. Therefore, there is no place among the best for an athlete who is not 100% prepared. My tactic was to try to follow the bests as long as possible, and if I ˝hit the wall˝, it means that I am not good enough jet. In the end, it was completely different story- I was leading the group from the start, which confused me (I didn’t know if I am really stronger or others are bluffing). But after couple of minutes, when gap started to extend I realised I am powerful enough, so I continued in my rhythm. On the first uphill there were also 2 parts where you should put the skis on the backpack, which made the course more interesting- every gained or lost second is worth gold. On the first summit I was leading for 20 seconds. Somehow I wanted to be an acrobat on the downhill so I made a real salto, what cost me the lead for the second uphill part. I had to push and overtake athletes again and somehow I arrived on top as 3rd (after the race Tadei Pivk said that the tempo of the race was so high that he couldn’t even take a drink or energy gel during the course), with backlog of a little more than 30 seconds. But then there was a long 8 kilometres downhill on a difficult off-road terrain with some skating parts in the middle, where I lost everything, and arrived in the finish as 6th. The result is still satisfying and gives me a lot optimism for the following season.
Moreover, there is difference between me, this is my 3rd season in skimo, and other athletes who are doing this for long years. Also in Slovenia we have conditions to train off-piste only this season after 3 years (in the last years we have had summer instead of winter). But I don’t see this as a huge disadvantage and deficit for me, but as a big potential to improve.
Races like this show us how the real ski touring races look like, because this sport is not only uphill, you also have to be a very good downhiller if you want to win or be on top. What is more, you have to be focused during the whole race, also at downhill parts (for example, my yesterday´s top speed was 86 km/h!!!), otherwise even a small mistake, which is consequence of fatiguem caused from the fast uphill, could lead to serious injuries.
My next race is night spectacle Mountain Attack in Austrian famous ski resort Saalbach, where I will compete in the most prestigious category of Marathon with really strong athletes on the startline (Boscacci, Pivk, Palzer, Hoffman, Hofl…).