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A new World Cup

The past two weeks has been full of racing excitement on both the men’s and women’s side. The men had races in Wengen, where a new combined format was run for the first time.

The past two weeks has been full of racing excitement on both the men’s and women’s side.

The men had races in Wengen, where a new combined format was run for the first time. Following Wengen the men moved to the Austrian Alps for the Kitzbuehel downhill and just recently they raced a night slalom in Schlamding, Austria.

During that time the women’s circuit was in Cortina, Italy for some speed events, and also raced in Zagreb, Croatia and Maribor, Slovenia. There was a lot of racing going on!

In Wengen our men’s team was skiing strong and showed some more great results in the downhill. They also raced in a new format of the Combined race that weekend that consisted of a shorter downhill run in the morning followed by one run of slalom in the afternoon. The fastest combined time of the two events was the winner. We had a bunch of Canadians in the race and our top finisher was John Kucera.

In the past the combined format was one downhill run the day before a two-run slalom.

It’s always exciting to watch the combined events because the downhillers like to come out for the race and the slalom usually isn’t too pretty.

In the Wengen slalom two Sundays ago Thomas Grandi gave us some excitement when he had the fastest time in the first run. The Wengen slalom course is one of the toughest on the circuit, usually taking many of the racers out. To finish with a clean, fast run isn’t easy, but Thomas did just that. He had difficulties in the second run and didn’t win the race, but not to worry because he knows that he’s a contender to win in the slalom as well as the giant slalom.

On the women’s side we got to experience the first World Cup race ever held in Croatia. Not only that, it is also the first World Cup race to be held in a capital city.

The population of Zagreb is just under one million and the ski hill is about 35 minutes from the downtown core. The race was a night slalom held last Thursday (Jan. 20). But here’s the cool part – all of the World Cup competitors and teams were put up in the downtown Zagreb Westin hotel. The beds were heavenly, so that was a nice bonus for the skiers. On top of the creature comforts we’d been missing out on the road, the organization for the race was exceptional.

On race day the police closed all streets in the downtown core for 15 minutes while team vehicles were led in a convoy to the hill. This was so that nobody had to deal with traffic in the city or risk getting lost – not many of us can read Croatian! It was unbelievable. We drove through the city in a convoy of about 70 vehicles and were escorted right to the race hill.

The race crew had been working on the hill for a long time so that it would be perfect for race day. Well, it definitely was. I have never seen so many course workers on a race hill before.

Everything happened on time, the course was perfect, and the fans were incredible, with several thousand lining the length of the course. Police and security were everywhere to keep the crowd in control. Croatian sports fans are known to get a little bit on the "out of control" side of things.

The other perk that night was that for the first time ever there was prize money for the top 30 racers. Usually it’s just to the top 10, and added up it was the most money given out at any women’s race. Not too shabby.

At the end of the night, when the racing had wrapped up and we thought that the party had ended, a fireworks show started. And this wasn’t just your regular firework show.

I was sitting on the chairlift with our physiotherapist and my ski technician and we were at eye level with the fireworks. It was amazing! Our team physio, who is from Vancouver, agreed with me that the show we saw that night matched the Vancouver Symphony of Fire.

The whole night from start to finish was one of the best World Cups I have ever been a part of and I will not forget it.

From Zagreb we went to Maribor in Slovenia for a giant slalom and a slalom race. At the same time, the men had a downhill in Kitzbuehel cancelled on Saturday and a slalom race on Sunday.

Here’s a little bit of inside information – this year in Kitzbuehel they didn’t sell any hard alcohol around the race, only alcohol that was six per cent or less, so basically just beer. This is a very big step for Austrian racing fans because usually they just go to races to party (i.e. drink) and the ski racing is just an excuse to be there! It’s pretty interesting to see them in action.

In Maribor we had strong finishes in the GS but unfortunately on Sunday both Brigitte Acton and I didn’t finish the slalom.

Next on the schedule will be the world championships in Bormio, Italy. The super G races start on the 29 th of this month so be sure to check the results either online or on TV.

I will be back in two weeks with more Canadian team stories. Until then we will be on the road, packing and unpacking, driving and sleeping in hotels, and sometimes skiing! That’s the tour.