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  • Writer's picturerganderson915

Toblach, Italy - OPA Cup Finals Recap

Hi there!

I have been in Italy for the past 2 weeks for races, and condensed the trip into one blog. The first section is a general trip recap, the second section is a more detailed recount of each race.

General Recap

I was one of 20 (or so) athletes who qualified to represent the USA at OPA Cup Finals, a circuit similar to the US SuperTour but in Europe.

For much of this trip, we were in race-prep or race-mode. I traveled to Italy with 12 pairs of skis, all suited for slightly different snow conditions. Traveling with that many skis is not a blast, but it’s usually worth it. We spent a lot of time testing skis to see which pair would be the best for the conditions (sunny, 30-50 degrees), a different world than the skiing I’ve gotten used to in Minnesota this year (0-25 degrees most days). The scenery was breathtaking - I’ve never skied anywhere with those types of views.

The mountains (Dolomites) were quite amazing and lived up to the hype. They were majestic and huge. Driving through them, however, did make me carsick - the roads were no straight, flat, midwest freeways like I prefer… :)

When we weren’t skiing, we had sit-down group meals 3 times a day that often lasted 2+ hours. This was a huge highlight of the trip. Good food and good conversation are almost all I need in life. Not a day went by that I didn’t eat pasta.

The final aspect that made this trip so special was that I was surrounded with old and new friends. I've been skiing with Hannah Rudd and Margie Freed since I was 13 years old, and being on this trip with them as well as Erin Bianco, Sarah Goble, Alex Lawson, Kendall Kramer, Mariah Bredal, Nina Schamberger, and Alayna Sonnesyn was everything I could have wished for. What a great group!

From a racing perspective, my biggest takeaway from this international racing experience is the importance of sticking to the process that got me there. It’s easy to get thrown off by a new atmosphere and neglect little things that are important for a successful race. For me that means keeping my race prep as similar as possible and not experimenting with new things on race day. This practice seems simple, but it’s oddly tempting to try something crazy when I’m in a new setting. Sometimes I feel like I need to pull out a whole new level for a competitive race, when really, all I need is to trust that my normal pacing and mindset will get me where I want to go. I figured this out slowly, and luckily got it together by the end!

If you want to read about each individual race, I broke them down below. If not, feel free to scroll to the pictures.

Detailed Race Reports

We had 5 races throughout the trip - 2 the first weekend and 3 the next. Here’s a quick recap on each of them:

10k Classic - Falcade, ITA (weekend 1)

This race was a few days after we arrived in Italy which came with significant challenges. It was not easy to adjust to the time zone, so I was accumulating a series of very bad nights of sleep. I was also adjusting to a higher elevation than I’m used to, and I could feel that taking its toll as well. We were skiing on a ribbon of dirty ice instead of snow, and I chose to experiment with a new pair of skis that I had never tested before (not a pro move). The airline lost my bag, so I was borrowing every item of clothing I was wearing. I felt like a mess, and skied like a mess! I went out way too hard, blew up, and essentially walked to the finish line. This was the worst race of the season.

Takeaway: some days are bad

15k Pursuit - Falcade, ITA

After a shameful race the day before and a better night of sleep in the tank, I tried to come into this race with a clean slate. I started near my long time friend Hannah Rudd, and we skied together throughout the race. She pushed the technical sections and flats/downhills, and I pushed the hills, and together we were able to work our way up. It was so fun to ski with Hannah, and it was relieving to feel the “fire” throughout an entire distance race - something I haven’t felt much this season. The race was drastically better than the day before which was heartening.

Takeaway: One bad day doesn’t need to determine the next one.

Skate Sprint - OPA Cup (weekend 2)

I have had a big jump in sprinting this year, so I came into this race with high hopes. Sadly, I chose skis the day before the race despite better judgment (testing should ideally happen the morning of the race). I went with a ski suited for slushy, wet skiing, but the conditions on sprint day were firm and icy. This decision felt like sabotage, and I had no one to blame but myself! I had one of my worst sprints of the year, oh well.

Takeaway: Don’t change your process just because you are in Italy!!

10k Skate - OPA Cup

I haven’t had many distance races that I have been proud of this year, and the sprint the day before left me wanting more. I decided to take ski testing very seriously and didn’t settle for anything that felt subpar. I found a ski that felt great, and went out with confidence. I think I was so tired of “learning experiences” on this trip that I was very motivated to make it a good day. I tried to ski transitions aggressively and fight for every second instead of just going through the motions, and I finished feeling proud of my effort. The result was good for me.

Takeaway: it’s never too late in the season to have a good race!

15k Classic Pursuit - OPA Cup

Best for last! For this race, I decided to race with more kick wax than usual. The saying “thin to win” encourages having as little kick wax as possible on your ski so that you can maximize glide/speed, but this race I went with “thick to stick.” I have had a few too many races this season that have been a struggle, so I went aggressively in the opposite direction by choosing a low-pocket ski with a lot of wax. I ran up every hill with ease, and it was so thrilling that I didn’t mind when I was passed on the downhills. I felt like superwoman during this race and just hammered! It was fun and by far my best race distance of the year.

Takeaway: High morale during a race can do wonders

Next up is SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury, Vermont. A huge thank you to all the support that has made these opportunities possible.

Thanks for reading,



Hannah, Sarah, Renae, Margie, Erin - post race!

Falcade, Italy

A photo from the road trip break - we were all carsick

Racing with Hannah! with a view

nervous mirror pictures - pre race

erin renae and hannah


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Mar 21, 2023

Great post! Striking pictures.

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