“We’ve found some seats together in the other carriage” Sue reluctantly disengaged herself from her conversation with the handsome distinguished foreigner and followed us, protesting all the way to our new seating. We were on our way by train to Innsbruck after a week in Dobbiaco in the Dolomites where we had “competed” in the Dobbiaco to Cortina race. This race is also known as the Toblach to Cortina race as most places in the area also have German names. This is because the South Tyrol, previously Austrian, was “given” to Italy following the First World War when Italy was on the winning side. Most of the local inhabitants seem to have doggedly stuck to their original language and now the area is a shining example of “devo max” with all three language groups (Italian, German and Ladin) having to agree on everything.

On the way out we flew from Aberdeen to Innsbruck via Frankfurt Airport and then by taxi ( there were four of us) to Dobbiaco and the Hotel Dolomiten. Before tea we had time for a quick ski as the loipe was only a hundred metres from the hotel. In typical Cosmics fashion Colin would have been up the mountain if we hadn’t stopped him whilst Pauline shot off up the stadium roof and descended with whoops of joy.

The excellent evening meal was 5 courses including “lamb spit” which turned out to be quite nice and not spitty. Over the week we were treated  to “roast cattle”, “boiled sheep” etc. Fortunately the quality of the meals far exceeded the quality of translation. They were served by a very smart Slovenian waiter in full regalia including striped apron, waistcoat and bow tie.

The webcams had been showing poor snow conditions low down  and the result was that large areas of loipe were closed.  The final race programme decided by the organisers was two courses shortened from the original 42K; a skate course of 30K from Fiames (5k short of Cortina) to Dobbiaco on Saturday and the same course as the classic on Sunday in the opposite direction. Some  loops in the Val Pusteria were removed and a circuit of the FIS loipen near to the Nordic Arena in Dobbiaco was added.  The new classic route took  you round the FIS loipe then through the towering Dolomite scenery on a lovely track gradually upwards for about 20k past the Lago Di Dobbiaco and  Drei Zinnen Blick to the col at Cimabanche at over 1500m then down through the old railway tunnels and then a steeper descent to Fiames. The FIS section used was not the Olympic Black but nevertheless was a bit technical for the start. Conditions on our practice day were very good with a nice icy tracks for a fast schuss down, almost to the finish. Unfortunately the piste men were still making the race track so we had a bumpy walk to reach the very end. Near the top of the climb we bumped into (well not quite) some of the  Huntly Nordic Ski Club who were assessing the long ascent from Fiames. The question was whether to do both races on consecutive days or just one and which one – classic or skate. Colin and Pauline took a skate lesson at and perhaps this helped them to decide to play safe like the oldies and just do the classic on the Sunday.

Next day, using the Mobil Card (issued by the hotel which provides free transport throughout the Pustertal) we took the bus to the Val Fiscalina for a slightly easier day. This area is slightly higher than Dobbiaco and the snow conditions were perfect and a good choice as verified by Eric Woolley who was there with his Exodus skating group. He recommended another high area; the Platzweise plateau (2000m) but we never made it there as it is a long bus journey with several changes and also would have been very cold.

Another day out was the Prags valley when we caught the bus to the Pragsersee Hotel, had a walk round the frozen lake, a strong coffee and Apfelstrudel and then skied down the long valley. Towards the end we decided to lengthen the day by climbing up to Altprags where we encountered an extremely steep almost vertical section. Later, I realised that my failing eyesight had not spotted the short black section on the loipe map. It would probably be alright in descent but we opted for the bus back to Neiderdorf and Dobbiaco.

Much time was spent on the FIS loipe especially by Colin, sometimes well into the evening whilst Pauline and the oldies were having a rest.

Race weekend arrived. We were in the last block of starters and soon the melee started with many falls and entanglements as we headed out of the stadium for the FIS loipe. Colin fell foul of this but managed to extricate himself from the knitting of sticks, skis and bodies and headed off up the hill. At some point during the race he must have passed me as I noticed him at the bridges before the tunnels. In the dark in the tunnels I‘m afraid I was bumper to bumper with him. I managed to pass him on the next section but the tracks (or my skis) were not as fast as the time before . I feared he was catching up and decided to change tracks to what appeared to be a faster one and in doing so tripped on ice and fell at speed. As I was struggling to get back up Colin shot past (I’m sure I heard a whoop ). As we entered the stadium, with a large crowd of one person politely applauding, the snow storm came in and we battled against an icy headwind for what seemed ages to the finish. We were just in time to catch the end of the prize ceremony. The Cosmic s Ladies appeared sometime after having braved the storm for much longer. The finale for my event was losing my ski boots in the mass of debris left in the male changing room – a good excuse to buy new kit for the next race which is the Birkebeiner in March.

http://www.dobbiacocortina.org/en/information/index/1-0.html

Cosmics Results:

LARMOUR Colin -M50 768/863, 3:18:23:2

CAMPBELL Roderick -M70 769/863 3:18:47.6

LARMOUR Pauline -F50 853/863 4:01:30

TAYLOR Susan -F60 861/863  4:22:41