After the first half of nationals, I was really looking forward to the 30 kilometer skate. Of all the races on the US calendar this year, the 30 kilometer was one that I had singled out as a great opportunity to get Canadian world cup starts as well as a first national championship. Thus I went in with a little extra confidence with one national title already in the books; however, the pressure might have been even greater as this was a race that I had been aiming for.
The race began as any longer mass start does with most of the experienced skiers staying quite relaxed and controlling the pace with a few crazy skiers intermixed. I feel slightly bad railing on the college skiers since I was once one, but the purpose of the first 3k in a long race is not to see how many people one can annoy and how many poles can be broken. This seemed to be something that a lot of the college skiers still needed to learn. Luckily, I think there was enough experience to control the dynamics and avoid some of the carnage that occurs in shorter races and junior mass starts.
We were racing three times around a 10 kilometer loop and things started to heat up on just before the first lap through the stadium. Kevin Sandau, a Canadian who was the top seeded skier in the field, moved to the front and began the first serious acceleration. I matched and quickly it became the two of us leading the field by about fifteen seconds. However, this is also the part where my race started to unravel. As we skied through the flat of the stadium, I began to realize that my skis were in a different league from the others, and not in a good way. Strategies and tactics that I had developed all had to be thrown out the door and new ones developed on the spot. Places that I was planning to attack became useless as I couldn’t stay away for the downhill. After working around the flat section with Sandau, I dropped off on the next serious climb. Brian Gregg was leading a strong charge and pulling seven others with him behind us. As them catching the break seemed inevitable, I backed off early to conserve rather than waste a lot of energy holding onto the break. For the next two laps, I pushed the pace when possible to string out the pack on the hills only to have my work mitigated by leading a downhill. It was a frustrating experience when I felt like I had the fitness to break away but was held back by my equipment; however, that is part ski racing. In the end I pulled out a hard fought fifth place and acquired a few needed supertour points.
Two days later was the classic sprint and the last race of nationals. My shot at the supertour overall lead going into period 3 required a really strong performance as Brian Gregg had passed me and my teammate Reese Hanneman was looming as a very strong threat coming off a win in the skate sprint. A decent qualifier placed me in the heats in 25th place racing against two teammates in a relatively strong quarterfinal. After the start and initial downhill, I managed to slip my way into the inside track and tied for first in the heat before things got a little dirty. One of the Canadians in my heat moved in to push me into the powder on the corner; however, this was only a minor frustration compared to having his pole repeatedly shoved into my equipment as I tried to charge by on the succeeding hill. With these complications and fading in the finish, I ended fourth in my quarter. While this was enough to pass Brian Gregg for the overall supertour, Reese launched ahead of me with a second place. Additionally, teammate Eric Packer had an outstanding performance to take the win and sneak by me in the supertour. APU polished off a strong day with Tyler Kornfield taking fourth and third for Americans to complete a sweep of the US podium and three of four men’s national titles.
A little bit disappointing results in the second half of nationals were not all bad though. With the 30k I proved to myself that my fitness is great. Also I was able to secure the distance supertour leader spot. What this means is that I have world cup starts for the remainder of the world cup season. This tour will take me to the Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, and Finland before wrapping up with the Canadian tour. Now it is time to step up to the highest level in the sport.
Check out my calendar for a complete schedule.