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Ski Tour Race

Dave Thompson tests his endurance at this year’s La Meurianne ski tour race and narrowly missed a podium place!

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La Meurianne is the first of the local ski touring races. As always it was organised brilliantly and with much enthusiasm.

First and foremost these races are a test of endurance and speed and are frequented by remarkable lycra clad enthusiasts with not an ounce of fat on them but enough energy, seemingly, to power a whole network of ski lifts. At 6ft 4 and 14 stone I don’t quite fit the mould and use this frequently to excuse myself from the upper echelons of the eagerly awaited resultats lists after races!

La Meurianne also tests the skills of the racers. After a straightforward dash up the piste from the bottom of the telecabine at Ardent, the rest of the race is all off piste. The longer of the two courses takes competitors to the col just below the Pointe de Vorlaz, then skins off, ski down, skins on again for a shorter climb before the final descent to the finish line next to the Mossettes piste. There is time to be gained by those who can quickly manoeuvre their skis around the points of the zig zags once you leave the pistes and reach the steeper slopes. Like triathlons changeovers are frantic and it is essential to remove or replace skins speedily.

Any technical mishaps cost dearly, as I found out in the same race last year as I opted for the wrong set of skins to climb off piste. I used a skinny set perfect for a swift dash straight up the piste but useless for upward traversing as the exposed base of the ski did exactly what it is designed to do – slide downhill. It was hugely frustrating watching our (you compete in teams of two for safety reasons) opponents march past, probably even more so for my indignant team mate.

This year, without a partner, I took part in the shorter race. With nearly 800m of climbing it was still lungbusting and I had to admit to myself that I was glad not to be doing the extra 400m ascent that the longer race included. Conditions were surprisingly good, there was good snow coverage on both the piste and the off piste sections. Having turned 40 last year I made my debut in the veteran category, missing the podium by a place. Must train harder!

And so the season continues. There are three or four more races in my diary for this year so I’m hoping to push for a place on the podium. If not I will just enjoy the occasions and revel in the fact that there are crowds of people living here insane enough to think that chasing each other up a mountain is good idea.

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