[Allen Sorgenfrei races for Team NordicSkiRacer!]
Lienz, Austria. Due to a low snow year in the Alps, the main classic race venue changed from a 60 km race in the flat valley of Lienz, up to the biathlon course in the nearby valley near Obertilliach, which is always the location of the skating races, two laps, 42km in total. Dolomitenlauf 2021 was not held due to COVID, and the 2022 version was cancelled the day before the race when Omicron caused a spike in infections.
We flew into Munich, and then drove into the Alps, through Kitzbuhel, up and over a pass, and into Lienz, about a three-hour jaunt. Snow covered the fields, but no snow existed around the streets in town. We settled into our apartment right on the main square and walked around town. We found a traditional restaurant nearby called Adlers Stuberl, and enjoyed some delicious food and tasty beer. The beer of choice there is Gosser, which has a brewery in town and is a big sponsor of the race. So of course, it made sense to support them.
Driving into Lienz
Switchbacks up to Obertilliach
The weather for the next few days was predicted to be the same, sunny with a low of 14 and a high about 30. We drove up to the biathlon center to figure out kick wax, pick up my bib, and see how the place worked. The drive went up the valley for 25km, then we turned and went by a big sawmill, and up the side of the mountain, over a couple of switchbacks, then down through a small valley with the road mostly clinging to the edge of the hill, though piles of logs. We got one of the last good parking spots and had a look around as everyone else got ready for the skate race. We met some people from the US who were travelling with Lumi Experiences, a company that Garrot Kuzzy, a former US world cup skier, runs. They were enjoying their trip. Bib pickup was easy, they had enough lines, and the race only has about 800 skiers total. The facility is pretty nice, two stories including a weight room, ski shop, garages for groomers, lots of bathrooms, changing rooms, a bar and a cafeteria. Lots of windows looking out over the finish area and shooting range made it a nice place to sit and watch events.
Ski trail between wood piles
We went out to watch the start of the skate race, which was a bit narrow, but got out to a field right away and up a hill. I went out and tested some kick wax, then we relaxed with a cappuccino in the bar as the 21km finishers and then the 42km finishers came in. Awards happened right out front, with all 6 of the awards for the 42km races going to members of the French team. Pretty impressive!
We went back to the apartment, did some shopping, and had a nice dinner at Adlers Stuberl again. I waxed my skis and prepared everything for the next morning.
Sunday morning arrived, we got up, got dressed, had some coffee and oatmeal and drove off to Obertilliach. We arrived a little earlier today, got into the main parking lot, which was a little longer of a walk to the lodge. Pre-race was pretty casual, my only real worry was getting warmed up well and not freezing my fingers before the start in the 18 degree temps. I got a good ski in, checked out the bridge crossing near the stadium, then dropped my skis into the tracks in my starting corral, about 20 rows back in the eight-track wide start area. I went back out and kept moving to stay warm, then dropped my warmups off with Khris and headed for my skis.
Time to go! The finish is in the background
After a few minutes waiting in the tracks, the guns went off and we headed out. The course was wide enough that things weren’t too crazy, and after the first hill things spread out a bit as we started to cruise down the valley. There were a few dicey curves on downhills, and a lot of double poling down to the turn around bridge. I got onto a little group as we started the 10km climb along the river. I lost a bit of ground on one steep hill, but mostly pulled away from people along the long grade. We went through the stadium area, then started the real hill. The first part was fine for kick double pole, but then there was a kilometer of steep. Finally at the top, over to another bridge, then down the hill, a few flats and another fast curve, then through the shooting range, got some energy drink in front of the lodge, then through the tunnel and ready for the second half. I managed to reel in a group on the way down, then left them behind going up the grade to the stadium. The first part of the hill was good, I passed a few people, then the 12 minutes to climb the steep part. The group went by me, maybe I can catch them on the way down. Never saw them again, I went hard down the hills, as I heard a national anthem being played for an award ceremony, but then I heard someone coming up on me. Just as I hit the little bump before the last 100 meters, he was there beside me. A few quick steps and then I double poled away to the finish. 2:54:07, 15th in my age group. Turns out the guy chasing was in my age group, so that was good. Unfortunately, there were 5 skiers in my age group in the group that put 1:40 on me on the hill. So close…
After the Ziel (finish line)
I made it in time for the awards for the 42 km race, mostly won by Italians. They all got their schnapps shots that were served by two ladies in traditional garb with wooden flasks hanging from their shoulders. Don’t worry, they wiped the glasses clean between servings with white cloths. Khris had met a lady from Canada, we waited for her husband to come in, about a half hour. He won his 70+ age group by just over a minute. I had to get my Worldloppet passport stamped, and managed to find where to get the lunch for competitors and my beer. Documentation was not very thorough at the Dolomitenlauf, I knew I had a ticket for lunch and a drink, but no information on where to find it, along with no information on what was available at the aid stations. Anyway, I got my beer and food and found Khris, Liz and Tom, from Canada, in the bar. Liz went and got two more beers, no ticket needed, and Tom got his food and beer. With Gosser as the main sponsor, I guess keeping beer flowing was no big deal. It all tasted great.
Getting Schnapps at the awards
At the end of the racing day, time to drive back to Lienz, have a shower and then walk down to Adlers Stuberl for another fine dinner. I slept well that night. The next morning came some new snow, dressing things up nicely. We headed for the local distillery and enjoyed a fine experience, once we pushed the car up the snowy hill to get there. By the time we finished, the switchbacks over the passes were well cleared, so no problem driving, and we got back to Munich for a few days of recovery.
Fresh snow in the square, time to go