I have been racing in Europe since the beginning of January, mostly in small remote places, some without even a gas station!
I started with 2 weekends of World Cup sprints in Otepaa, Estonia and Rybinsk, Russia. The World Cup races did not go anywhere near how I hoped. My body wasn't moving well and I was far off the all-important top 30. It was really disappointing to not perform when it mattered and I missed my chance at a World Champs start. It's one of those experiences where I learned a few things, and now have to move on and let it go! I started feeling more like myself after a few weeks in Europe and racing has been going better since then.
Otepaa was my first stop. We stayed in the nicest place I've stayed so far in Otepaa. It was a small, cozy hotel and was a relaxing place to get over jetlag despite the 24-7 Christmas music soundtrack (it was mid-January!)
After 2 days of travel we arrived in Rybinsk, Russia. Our bus had a police escort from the airport and we passed lots of huge concrete apartment blocks along the road. We stayed and raced at a resort well out of town, on the Volga river. This was the view on my walk to the restaurant:
The stands with lots of excited Russian fans in fur coats:
After the World Cups I decided to stay in Europe until the B-tour trip started, along with Patrick Stewart-Jones. We rented a car and went up to Jami, Finland for the Finnish Championships. It was a fun weekend of racing against a deep Finnish field. Everyone was so welcoming: Rex ski service waxed our skis and Lahden Hiihtoseura club let us stay in their cottage! So nice to make some new friends!
This was the skate distance day, thanks to Jyri for the photo and cheering!
Next we traveled to Mantta, Finland where Ilkka and Auli Nikmo hosted us for a week of training. Ilkka is the brother of a family friend in Salmon Arm and it was so nice of them to take us in!
It was such a treat to stay in a home with laundry, a kitchen and sauna after weeks in hotel rooms. The skiing was good too, with lots of terrain for long workouts.
Auli took us on a cultural tour of Mantta, showing us a beautiful new art museum and some historical buildings. This was the door of the old part of the art museum. It used to be the home of the owners of the paper mill that is the main industry in Mantta:
After a relaxing week we met the rest of the B-tour team in Helsinki for the next stage of the trip. We headed to Vietalva, Latvia for some warm-up races at the Latvian Champs. We were in a remote area with not much to see but our hotel was very nice and the food was great. Our hosts took us on a tour of a nearby German mansion is being restored which was a fun afternoon outing.
These were small races but I was happy to win Valentine's day flowers in the sprint, as well as a freshly printed laminated certificate of achievement.