Cross-country news - 28/1/7
Yesterday saw the opening race of the British Cross-Country Ski Championships, taking place at Ruhpolding, Germany.
The 10k skating race saw the UK's best skiers - military and civilian - take on the gruelling Ruhpolding course, the home of biathlon in Germany. Winner in the mens' event was GB biathlon team member Lance Hodgkins (33:23), with Emma Fowler (also of the GB team) taking the 7.5k race's ladies' honours in a time of 30 minutes exactly.
The race was made more challenging by soft snow conditions following a week of heavy snowfall, which transformed a previously bare track.
For the majority of the military skiers, the races represent the culmination of a season spent training and racing on snow. Teams are drawn from the various army regiments, with new recruits taught how to ski, and expertise being passed down from more experienced team members. Athletes are drawn from among the fittest soldiers in each regiment, and a great deal of honour is at stake, and much good natured rivalry between teams. Nordic skiing and biathlon has long been a key part of the army's adventure training - it provides excellent, low impact physical training, while also developing teamwork and leadership skills. From initial training through to corps, divisional, and national championships, the process produces some extremely impressive cross-country skiers and biathletes, practically all of whom would never have considered the sport, had it not been for the army.
Facing the army teams are a small but focused group of civilian skiers, drawn from the various ski clubs based in the UK. These club skiers tend to do the majority of their training on roller skis, with much less time on snow than their military counterparts. Given this disparity, the results they have produced in recent years are pretty impressive. Represented in this year's championships are skiers from the Wessex Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club, Cairngorm Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club, the London Region Nordic Ski Club, and the Huntly Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club. Each year these club skiers produce some impressive results - in 2006 Alan Eason of the London Region won the 15k classic race and the Scottish clubs have some excellent up and coming skiers.
Of particular note on the civilian side is Barbara Baker who finished 26/47 in her first ever race yesterday. Barbara first took up rollerskiing in London on a rollerski.co.uk course in March 2006, and within 10 months is now a credible ski racer. Plenty of time on rollerskis, coaching focused on racing, a few rollerski races, a limited but focused period of time on snow (including the rollerski.co.uk Norway trip) and dedication to a decent training plan are the building blocks. Congratulations to Barbara for her achievement and her 'never give up' attitude!