Well the first month of the competition season is now over and as we take a few days to enjoy the holidays and catch up with some rest it’s a good time to take a quick look back and then move on to bigger and better things.
I started the season in typical fashion cramming as many people as we can in to our cars, hitting the road, and packing in to a hotel room in West Yellowstone to get the first races out of the way. I always look at this as an opportunity to get in the rhythm of competition and iron out any issues that we may encounter while on the road. West Yellowstone provides us a chance to race in a high quality field without the pressure of really having to perform at our best since our goals are a little farther down the road. I was able to get my racing legs back under me on snow and relearn my pacing for racing. It seems like it always takes a few races for me to get it right. We left West satisfied and ready to really get going. I took off the next day after the race for Lillehammer, NOR for a 3-week stretch of World Cups.
We took an aggressive approach to the first period as a team and the goal was to get as many guys in the world ranking list top 50 as possible. With a slow start in Kuusamo we were able to turn everything around as a team and focus on what we knew we could do. I sat out that weekend as the 5th man on the trip (we only have 4 World Cup start rights). I did what I could as far as being available to help out wherever I was needed. Running jackets and skis back and forth and helping test xc skis while I got in the swing of things and took the time to adjust and train as much as possible. The results from Lillehammer were much more on track for where we set our goals and everyone was in high spirits and motivated to keep the momentum going.
On to Ramsau, AUT for one of our favorite stops on the World Cup! The conditions were outstanding in Ramsau. A rock solid xc course and calm winds made for smooth running competitions and some really fast racing. I got my first crack at competition in the two man team event. Taylor Fletcher and I didn’t quite jump to where we would have liked but with such a close race we were able to still lay down a good xc effort. The fast flat course made for some good pack racing. Todd and Bryan had a great race and managed to get 4th! Taylor and I ended up 15th which was respectable considering our start position.
After Ramsau Bill Demong went home to crush our home Continental Cup races and end up winning the first period of COCs! This meant we had four guys and I would get the chance to ski two individual events in Schonach, GER, the next stop on the tour. My jumping was okay but not quite good enough to make the cut to top 50 so I wouldn’t get to ski in the first event. This was a tough day for most of team USA as 3 of us missed the cut. But we found a positive side in that we all knew we could turn it around and jump better. We decided to pack up the van and go to Oberstdorf for a day for a couple intense sessions of jumping. This was great for Taylor Todd and I and we all made big positive changes in the 12 jumps we were able to take while Bryan Fletcher was the lone man competing in Saturday’s event. We showed up Sunday ready to throw down but the wind was not cooperating and the jumping had to be cancelled. They were forced to use the provisional round, which was a bummer because of our start positions but we were at least able to race. The xc race started with pouring rain that moved in about 2 minutes before the start and we just had to put a smile on and hammer out a sloppy 10km in the rain. My nerves got the best of me and I hammered myself in to the ground on the first lap. Not a great day for me but starting 57th you have to try something drastic to move up.
While I didn’t get the results I was hoping for this first period I was happy to just be back on the road doing what I love. There are always some twists and turns in the road but sometimes you just have to get through the storm. The rain and cold and a long travel day home left me with a little sickness and I’m taking the next couple days to recover and move on to the next step.
Olympic qualifiers are this weekend in Park City and then on to Chaikovskiy, Russia for the next World Cups!