Wednesday, March 6, 2013

WC Day 3, Saturday, aka I May Need to Start Wearing a Helmet

Before getting to Saturday, a couple of pictures from Cavalese Friday night.

By chance, Kari and Maijastïïna had planned to go skiing Saturday morning, so now -- it seemed -- our transportation luck had finally changed: after breakfast (and by the way, to state the obvious, European hotel buffets destroy American ones for similarly priced hotels; and could at least upscale American hotels get the memo on self-service espresso machines?), Jeanine and I were chauffeured just a few kilometers up the canyon behind our hotel in Stava, toward the downhill mountains, to Passo Lavaze. (The grass is not always greener: even though they had rented a car, Kari and Maijastïïna had determined that taking the buses to the events was easier than parking.) Forget about Oberstdorf -- this place is the Shangri-la of Nordic Skiing (and actually, I bet the grooming in the Himalayas isn't as good ...). Passo Lavaze has over 100k of development-free trails, and it's surrounded by craggy Dolomites on all sides. Didn't hurt that it was warm and sunny either. Sure the near-to-the-entrance "easy" trails were crowded, but most of the Nordic world had descended on Val de Fiemme after all -- and it was kind of cool to be dusted by members of the Greenland Ski Team, which, btw, could use some more Facebook friends. I guess this team employs only a part-time job coach; his page leads with a curling picture rather than a skiing one.) But anyway, it's now a goal to ski somewhere as stunning again -- we may not succeed, but the goal should generate some awesome travel. These pictures (some stolen) don't begin to do the setting justice:

Kari, we didn't make it to the pig farm like our Olympians did (photo credit:
Liz Stephen with Pig and Dog

Kari then whisked us to the stadium in time for the women's 30k. The Norwegian party was still going strong, and yet somehow the buzz felt subdued the day after the Men's relay. People took their time filling into the expensive seats for this long race (sort of like a Wizards game), and we didn't even have to wait in line for my Forst ration. Thank you Lydia for the seats!

The race was exciting, although the American presence was also subdued: Liz Stephen (with pig) skied to a solid 16th, but never really threatened, and Jessie Diggins disappointingly dropped out after a hard crash. Kikkan Randall sat it out with an eye toward the season-long sprint championship. But the race did feature perhaps the three best skiers in the world duking it out alone for the final 10k, with Marit Bjørgen, who won 4 gold medals in the championships, prevailing in a final sprint.

Here's the start of the race from our vantage point and a couple more shots of us in the stands:

After a leisurely outdoor picnic and a "hamburger" (round sausage patty) up near our stands we made our way down to the finish-line stands for the Nordic Combined Team Sprints. But, of course, first it was ...

In case you don't often watch Nordic Combined Team Sprints, they're a blast: two skiers per team keep tagging off after 1.5k legs for a total of 10 legs and 15K. And because every team starts at a different time based on their jumping scores, and everyone is trying to catch each other going around short loops, it sort of looks like roller derby on skis. The Americans, Billy Demong (of both Adirondacks and Park City fame) and Taylor Fletcher, skied the second fastest, but, argh, once again weak jumping did us in and we finished 6th. Even with just a little better jumping, the Americans would have been passing skiers into the medal places right under our and Mr. Fletcher's flags.

Today's bus avoidance strategy was to walk up the hill from the stadium to Tesero, as seen here:

All was well on a warm day, when all of a sudden, right as I heard Jeanine say, "Watch your head!", I managed to run right into a metal beam that was part of the support for the walkway overhanging the sidewalk we were on. It's a good thing Jeanine doesn't faint at the site of blood, which was gushing from the front of my scalp after I got up from the ground. That's right, loyal readers: that brought the total of self-inflicted gaping head wounds to 2 in 8 days. I think the old woman near us was more traumatized than we were, and she escorted us up the hill and into the first store, which turned out to be basically Tesero's newsstand and bookstore. Jeanine seemed a bit worried at this point, but I enjoyed making friends with the owner and her son, who provided anti-bacterial spray and a guaze pad (I'll never forget where I bought that mug). They also pointed us to the "White Cross," where three ER techs in European-style orange jump-suits cleaned and examined my wound and declared it non-stitch-worthy. They didn't speak a lot of English, but they did say they were disappointed we were from Salt Lake City and Manhattan and not Springfield (as in the Simpsons). The view from the White Cross was especially nice:

For extra medicine we had a cappuccino and the trip's first cannoli (one of Jeanine's favorites), and then we ate in Tesero -- actually at the place where our hero had called his friend the gypsie cab driver two nights before. At this restaurant we met some Vikings on the comeback trail:

We were tempted by "Green Night," the concluding party back in Cavalese, but one night amidst throngs in the square was enough. Really the main appeal of Green Night was its fantastic webpage, one of the best ever in the butchered-translation genre, which urged us to "Live the show until the end" and then noted -- oh heck, it's worth quoting in full:

Like every show worthy of respect, also Femme 2013 must have an end that "wouldn't already end"!

After having felt the power of the World Championship's people during the warm up, Dj Fargetta, Andrea Dub and Ivana Lola reconquer their trone and lead the night caravan to a last "battle" fo music and wild fun.

The 2nd March's Green Night looks like the last page of a book of adventure stories: first you imagine how it will be -- you would like to know how the writer decided to finish it -- then you turn the pages carefully, as if the magic of those last lines could fly away... 

This night is like this, enjoy it until the very last second. In Cavalese, 0-km products, turned-off lights, little electric cars that will drive up and down the streets of Cavalese, where shops and stores will stay open until late in the night: this is how we do it!

Dear deejays, write the first words and your public will do the rest! Put your hands up for the Green Night!

Jeanine and I thought we had imagined how the night would be and reconquered our trone by carefully planning dinner to make the last scheduled caravan from Tesero up the hill to our hotel. But then, in (what we thought was) the culmination of the absurdity, the last bus simply didn't show, as the hotel later confirmed. It was if the bus drivers had been fighting and fighting against the stereotypes of their people (hey, I can say this: I married an Italian), but then, finally, when Green Night beckoned, could hold out no longer and joined the party before the magic flew away. Luckily, however, we had Kari's magical taxi company card, and the less-than-3k ride home cost a mere $30!

As for Sunday, our departure day, let me just say this officially on the interweb for all time: Jeanine is a great sport for enduring so much travel to humor my Nordic passion. And luckily we did have time to eat at Bolzano's only brewpub, in an 800-year-old building:

Having established myself as the master of logistics, you won't be surprised to hear that I had planned this lunch gap perfectly so that we could watch on TV the Men's 50k, the last race of the Championships. But I was foiled by the completely unpredictable -- who ever heard of a brewpub without a TV?!

Cue extended travel, but let me just note that the brakes on our train car from Munich to Stuttgart overheated, which filled the car with smoke, sent us into hysterical laughter, forced us to miss our connection and produced a full-on sprint to catch a train, and finally led to an 11 o'clock dinner in the Subway (30cm deal!) near the Tubingen train station. I would have perished had Lydia not mailed us some Cliff Bars. All in all, it was a great trip, but I'm not sure which we now hate more: Italian buses or German trains. Next time we're flying to Milan and renting a car. 

Thanks for reading such long entries. I leave you with two parting shots: 

1 comment:

  1. Great adventure you had and we also :-), thanks for you !It was a pity that we could't take part and cheer in Lahti world cup.