I think there's a good reason, why, in the estimation of US Olympian Liz Stephen, Jeanine and I are the only non-team-affiliated American fans here. That sounds too crazy to be true -- surely there is some huge xc fan ex-pat fan living in Munich -- but I can understand it because Val de Fiemme is impossible to get to without a car and the logistics of a World Championships spread out over three cities -- with us staying in the fourth -- are over the top.
From Bolzano it only took a train to Ora (here's Jeanine already thinking, "How did I get myself into this?")
and then a harrowing bus ride up and around mountain cliffs (with small vineyards everywhere) to Cavalese, the first main town in the valley, and then another bus ride to Tesero, and then, because yours truly managed to not book a room in one of the three main towns where the events are (!), we took another bus 2.7 k up into the mountains to our hotel in Stava, which doesn't even make most maps, but anyway these should help you make sense of it:
Out hotel is great and has a classic view of the Dolomites, which are pretty much in all directions. The Estonians are in our hotel, and next door is the German team hotel. They keep driving by in their "German Ski Team" Audis. We took the bus down the hill to the women's relay, the race in which the Americans had the best chance of medaling.
Our first stop was the merchandise tent, of course. We looked for an American flag, but none for sale.
I'll spare you the boring details of the race (or the perplexing question of why Holly Brooks was left off the relay squad), but in a nutshell, the American women did great, and finished fourth, and probably would have won the bronze if their best skier had not had an off day. It was very exciting and would have been especially gripping had those damn Russians not pulled away from us in the last leg. Here are a few shots of us watching near the finish line (that's me with a Forst), the start, and our new Norwegian friend.
I promise better sun-splashed photos of the stadium from better seats soon. After the race, Norwegian Oktoberfest broke out in the big tent (of course). In case you hadn't noticed from the title of this entry and the photos, we were essentially in Norway: probably 70 percent of the fans here at WC are Norwegian. Suffice it to say they like their skiing. Here are a few parading in the beer hall.
And here's some video (not sure if it will play):
After the beer hall we went into the stands (all Nordic Combined events are free!), where the Italians entertained us with Dance Time. I mean, I'm not making that up. It said Dance Time on the big screen, and a bunch of high school girls, and boys, for that matter, came out to dance in the stands. This was accidental video, including some of Skiri, the official mascot:
The Americans didn't do very well in this Nordic Combined race (an individual 10K) because of their poor jumping in the morning. Here's our view from the stands of the course as it weaves through the stadium in multiple places:
We'd been joking ever since Bolzano about when we were going to see the crowds, but suffice it to say that we finally found them leaving the stadium.The post-race buses to Predazzo, the location of the jumping stadium (sort of) and also the US hotel, were an absolute disaster, and after waiting half an hour we jammed into a bus Mumbai style and nearly got crushed en route. We got off near the center of Predazzo, not the jumping stadium 1k down the road, so we could pick up a poster US skier Noah Hoffman had nicely left for me. We missed him given the absurd bus situation, but we did meet Andy Newell (the best US sprinter) and also Liz Stephen, who absolutely crushed it in the relay, moving from 9th to 4th in her leg. Here's the requisite photo with an Olympian (Liz) in their hotel:
Happily blowing off the jumping, we then took the US Ski team's advice and went to this amazing pizzaria down a hidden street. Look at this place: amazing oven and Nordic figurines all in one.
Needless to say, sitting at the table next to us were the US team doctor, team photographer, and publicist. For the record, she would not go on the record about Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn. And of course two of the Nordic Combined athletes, the Fletcher brothers, were also eating. (We had thought that their father was a true non-team-affiliated American when we met him at the race, but not so!). Then we headed to the main square in Predazzo for the evening's festival and fan parade. Seems as if the organizers asked, "what should we do about throngs of Norwegians parading through the streets?", and the intern answered, "let's call it fan parade." You can't make this stuff up; the shirts actually read "Official Fan Club":
And best of all, here's Jeanine with Skiri, the official mascot of the championships. We were only partially successful getting the strange unnamed secondary mascot (a bird?) out of the way:
To me that photo was worth the 30 minutes we then had to wait for the bus to Tesero (really, "all services are enhanced for World Championships"?). And then we found ourselves stranded in Tesero because the bus up the hill stops at night. After a couple of unsuccessful calls to cab companies, we went into a bar and -- of course, this being Italy -- the bartender called his friend who drove us up the hill for a mere 10 euros. Here ends Day 1. Day 2 gets even better.