From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 10 - March 8, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

On the race track in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, biathlete Jason Ray heads uphill in the slushy snow. But for this race, all the others scheduled on the Europa Cup Circuit were cancelled. This race relied on man-made snow to make the course raceable, and was the only snow on the ground.
Olympic-hopeful Jason Ray finds European race conditions soft
Now heads to U.S. Championships showing before Olympic team
by Julia Stuble

Jason Ray, Pinedale’s biathlete and U.S. Nationals Team contender, just got back from racing with the U.S. Development Team in Europe, where the biathlon racing was a bit of a disappointment.

“All but one of the races was cancelled because the snow had melted,” Ray explained, noting that after three weeks of intense training in northern Italy, the team drove to the Czech Republic to race on manmade snow, which was rather slushier than snow should be on a race course. This race was the only one on the Europa Cup Circuit that was not cancelled for lack of snow.

Whether or not this was a global-warming induced skiing letdown, Ray said that the only “snow we saw while in Czech Republic was on the track, and that was man-made.” Because of these conditions, Ray said he didn’t have “a very good show.” While racing the 2.5 kilometer loop, the man-made track was “one foot deep slush”, which was not helped by the constant rain, either. At night, Ray predicted that it didn’t get colder than 38 degrees Fahrenheit, so the snow could not freeze.

Ray finished the course 37th out of 70 contenders, though he had been hoping for the top 15, based on what he had seen from other racers.

“I’ve been skiing much faster, but I’ve never skied in conditions that soft and horrible. I skied slowly, and didn’t shoot well the first day,” he explained. The second day, Ray moved up 12 positions.

“The conditions favored guys who are just workhorses and can push right through,” Ray said, who, slighter than some skiers, is a very technical skier to make up for it.

Though this race on the shortened Europa Circuit was a disappointment because of the soft conditions, Ray’s season with the Development Team is not over. This week, he leaves for the East Coast for what will be one of the biggest races of the season.

The U.S. National Championships, held in Fort Kent, Maine, will have Ray skiing against team members of the Nationals team, and “anybody who’s anybody” in biathlons. The Championships are comprised of three races, stretched over three days. The first, an individual race, is followed by a sprint and a pursuit.

The weekend after that, Ray will head to New Brunswick, Canada, for the Canadian National Championships, which is the last major race of the year.

In early April, Ray will return to his home in Daniel and the trails around White Pine, to get as much training in as he can, before the inevitable.

“And then, it’s dry-land training,” Ray groaned, of the training he does on shortened skis with wheels, to facilitate a coarsened skiing – on pavement instead of snow. Before that, he hopes to get in more training on the snow at White Pine, where he typically puts in two sessions a day of intense training which covers over 30 kilometers. Of moving from the Development Team to the Nationals Team, and on to the 2010 Olympics, Ray was calm.

“I just hope to have a really good showing at the U.S. National Championships. It will be really nice to race in from of some of the guys on the team,” he commented. After the two championship races coming up, the biathlete will “wait to hear” if he garnered a position on the Olympic team.

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