• Maddie Phaneuf


I'm currently curled up in my bed eating mint chocolate and looking out my window to these huge, beautiful hills with little farms and houses scattered about. Italy is an amazing country. The food is delicious and the people are genuine and friendly. The only complaint I have is the lack of natural snow. We're in South Tyrol nestled in the Italian Alps, and it's brown. The only snow we have is the ribbon of manmade snow for our race loop. For anybody reading this who does not believe in climate change, I can tell you right now that I am experiencing it first hand. Almost all of my racing has been forced to be on manmade loops of snow, while the region itself has no natural snow.

Above our venue, you can see it is the only snow in the valley...

I'm really excited to announce that I am officially joining Protect Our Winters Riders Alliance. This is an organization which is mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action. Riders Alliance athletes have met with over 50,000 high school students, written numerous national newspaper op-eds, spoken to large groups, created inspiring content and have continually visited Washington, DC to speak to lawmakers asking for their support of a strong climate policy. I feel very passionately about protecting our environment and can't wait to get more involved with the help of Protect Our Winters. I'll be making a tab for more information on their organization and how you can book a school visit soon, but in the meantime feel free to contact me via my "Contact" tab if you're interested or want more information.

Got to check out the HWK headquarters in Austria

I'm sure you're all wanting to hear more about my racing, that's the whole reason I'm in Italy..right?! Well, first of all, for anyone who's interested, the travel to Italy was pretty uneventful. Everything went pretty smooth, just a bit of a delay leaving the Albany airport but we had plenty of time in Newark so I was never worried. The transatlantic flight was long, as it usually is, but I spent time watching some movies and trying to sleep (which didn't work, it never does). Our rifles and baggage all arrived, thank goodness. Then it was a few hours of waiting in the airport for the rest of the team, and then about a 6 hour drive to Italy from the Munich Airport! The jet lag and lack of sleep makes it very difficult to stay awake during the long drive, but I only caught myself dozing off a few times and then proceeded to eat some caffeinated chocolate and blast the tunes. We made it to Italy in time for dinner.

IBU Cup dinner, the entertainment was Krampus, this was just one of many

Photo by Sarah Lehto

One of my favorite things about Europe is these mini, three-wheeled trucks! Alex Howe showing us how roomy they can be.

The venue here in Martell is not particularly my favorite. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, it's just very tough. We're at a pretty high altitude (one of the highest venues on the circuit, at around 5,500 ft) and there are several tough hills and speedy corners. The range approach is a gradual uphill, therefore you tend to be breathing pretty heavy when you land on the mat.

The view of the course from our wax cabin, this is at the top of the hill after the range

Our first race was a 7.5 km Sprint, and usually with Sprint races you have the chance to qualify for a Pursuit race, but this first Sprint did not have a Pursuit following it...therefore the pressure to qualify for another race was lifted off your shoulders. We woke up to some crazy wind...huge gusts and very inconsistent. My teammates and I were all a little intimidated at breakfast and were not looking forward to having to deal with shooting in that wind. This race turned out to be a wind-lottery...meaning that since the wind was so inconsistent and gusty, you just had to hope you landed in the range at the same time the wind was dying down. For me, I came into my prone during a huge gust and had to wait it out...I ended up hitting 4/5 in the prone, but spent over a minute laying on the mat, which is unlike me! Coming into my standing the wind was more consistent, and I ended up hitting 3/5. This made for a shooting percentage of 70% for the race, which is not my best shooting but it was okay for the day. I found myself sitting in 39th by the end. Full results can be found here.

If you keep going up past the biathlon venue, you'll find this beautiful lake with more mountain views!

Our next 7.5 km Sprint would be followed by a Pursuit, therefore the top 60 finishers qualified for the Pursuit, which was the following day. The wind was again pretty inconsistent and strong at times, but I managed to come into the range when the wind was pretty dead and hit all 10/10 of my targets for the day! There was only one other girl who shot clean, who started behind me and we battled it out on the last loop. I had the fastest shooting and fastest range time, which made me happy! My ski speed was slow, I didn't feel that great, but I found myself in 12th place by the end of the day...a personal best for me on the IBU Cup circuit! Full results can be found here.

All smiles after some great racing!

Photo by Hallie Grossman

This morning was the final race; a 10 km Pursuit. Since I finished 12th in the previous Sprint race I started 12th for the Pursuit, just one minute after the first starter. I was nervous and excited to be starting this close to the top, because I knew I had a chance of moving up the rankings. I tried not to be overwhelmed and told myself to just focus on my own race and don't worry about how anybody else is doing. I could feel that my body was still pretty tired due to the altitude and the tough course, this made the skiing hard. I was very happy with my shooting though; I cleaned both of my prone stages, and then only missed one target in my standing!! I tied with one other girl for the best shooting percentage of the day. With this shooting I moved my way up to 10th place, battling it out up the last hill with my friend from Switzerland, Susi Meinen. This was now my new personal best result on the IBU Cup, and my first top ten!! I was happy with the result, and happy to be done racing...SO exhausted. Full results can be found here.

The mountain sunrise before our race one morning

With my solid shooting and good results, I was just recently named to race on the World Cup team for World Cups #5 and #6 taking place in Ruhpolding, Germany and Antholz, Italy. I will be traveling to join the team tomorrow, and our first race is the Women's Relay on Thursday, January 12th. I'm excited to race the relay in Ruhpolding, the atmosphere there is many people! I'm hoping to keep up the great shooting, and hopefully start skiing faster through the coming weeks. I've found that it usually takes me a few races to really get my ski speed up, so I'm not too worried.

I'll be sure to update you all once I get racing in Germany. In the meantime, be sure to follow along via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Currently listening to: Wave(s) by Lewis Del Mar

- MP