World Cup Diaries With A.J. Ginnis.
Madonna Di Campiglio holds a special place in my heart as it was the home of my first ever World Cup race six years ago, and it was also the place where I got to score my first ever World Cup points. The venue and fans are electric, it's the first night race of the year, and the hill is lit up beautifully and finishes right in the middle of town. It's the oldest World Cup race in Italy, dating back to the 1930s, and it's an absolute honor to be able to kick out of the starting gate!
The hill is probably one of the funnest ones on the circuit as it allows you to go all out from top to bottom. Pushing out of the starting house, you have about 8 gates before breaking over the first roll. Depending on the set, you usually catch air off of it.
After that, it's an absolute drag race to the steeps as the hill twists and turns. The pitch is probably the trickiest part of the course because it's very important to switch gears from all-out skiing to being very controlled and precise with your movements.
Once you're off the pitch, the finish line is in sight, and you just have to keep the momentum moving down the false flats. But it's not over until it is over, and you have to be smart over the last two rolls before crossing the finish line and being welcomed by thousands of screaming Italian fans (not this year, though, unfortunately).
I've competed four times in Madonna Di Campiglio, and every time I compete, I feel like I'm skiing with a chip on my shoulder because, despite a solid 26th place overall, I still haven't put two clean runs together... YET!
Despite all the highs and lows - joys and pains I've experienced here, I'm always looking forward to the food in this charming mountain town. My favorite local meal is hands down the pizza they serve in this mountain town. I've been to a handful of different restaurants serving it, and they've all been delicious.
If I wasn't racing, I'd be grabbing myself a few slices of pizza and go up to the top half of the course and watch the action. If I were spectating, I'd be placed right where the trail turns about 20 seconds into the course. It's fast, and the racers are absolutely pushing the limits of what's possible up there.
Night races are very different from what we're accustomed to as ski racers. Inspection isn't till 4 pm, and the first run start isn't till 6 pm, while the second run start isn't till 9 pm. We have so much time on our hands in the mornings that we really don't know what to do with ourselves. This year I went for a fun little walk around town with my team and then crawled back into my bed and switched off between reading, playing online chess, and watching TV shows. I love it because you never feel stressed.
I'm thrilled with how I could organize my season and super stoked on how my staff has supported me. Unfortunately, the course deteriorated significantly due to the warm conditions, but I was super excited about my skiing. Three splits in, and I was in a great position before hitting the shelf and rut in a weird way that threw me out of the race.
After I blew out, I shrugged my shoulders and told myself that I gave it a good shot. It wasn't till I saw my coach on the side of the hill near the finish with his head buried in his hands that I thought to myself, "Shoot, maybe you should have backed off that gate just a smidge and brought this one to the finish."
It's a fine line, though, when the conditions are tough, and you're trying to qualify against the very best in the world. You can't give an inch, or else you'll be slow. I'm happy with my skiing, and I'm excited to get back to work after this little break and get ready for my next upcoming slalom race in January.