Alliteration is just too hard to pass up when Rogla and racing go hand in hand. After a castle visit, far too many drives up the twisting road from Zrece to Rogla, and a week of figuring out the Rogla courses and conditions, we finally got to the second part: racing. The normal OPA cup racers from Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Switzerland all showed up the day before the competition to give us a little hint of what was to come. Our relaxing week of training gave way to competition.
My weekend started out with another early finish when I missed qualifying for the quarterfinals. There were a few too many fast guys there to allow me to sneak into the rounds. Although, this was not exactly surprising considering my previous success sprinting, it is always a bit disappointing. However, a shorter race day meant that I had more time to rest up for the following day. I transitioned inside to recharge for the following day only venturing back out to cheer my teammates into the finish. We gave a strong showing in the qualifier, but came up a bit short in the quarters to send many people into the semifinals.
On the bright side for me (and a bit disappointing for some of the other US guys), the Rogla sprint was our finals sprint for this European trip. Only distance races from here on out starting with the Rogla 30 kilometer classic. While not quite the true marathon distance of a 50 kilometer, 30 kilometer races are still a distance game. Thus they often can become quite tactical. This seems especially true in the US where everyone knows all their competitors and could probably recite strategies for everyone; however, that doesn’t mean that these strategies are not successful. On the European circuit things play out a little differently. Instead of riding on the tails of other’s skis or testing the tiredness of the pack at the front like in the US, the OPA fields often leave the American racers dangling off the back of the pack.
That was definitely the case in Rogla. For half the race, I was solidly in contact with the leaders. Unlike my last 30 kilometer classic at US nationals, this one was actually trucking along and had whittled down to nine people by 15 kilometers. Unfortunately the rapid pace that had thrown my teammates blew me off at 15 kilometers. For the remaining race, I was left fighting in no man’s land against the changing temperatures. Just like catching back onto the lead back, beating the weather became a losing battle. As the snow warmed my skis slowed dramatically mitigating all the energy I would spend on every hill. I would truck back towards the leaders seemingly gaining time only to lose additional time on the downhills. Gradually my energy faded and I maintained my place in 10th with large gaps in front and behind me.
Once the racing was over in Rogla, we packed up and made the trip to our next destination for the week: Ramsau am Dachstein and a weekend race in Eisenerz.