The first SuperTours of the year went well! First stop was picturesque Canmore, Alberta. I love Canmore, as do most skiers I feel like due to the gorgeous surrounding mountains, usually perfect sunshine and perfectly groomed nordic ski trails. We got to Canmore about 7 days out from the first races in order to acclimate to the ~5200ft altitude.
The race weekend was a mini-tour style: skate sprint Friday, 10km classic race Saturday, and 15km skate race Sunday. I felt pretty solid on the fun sprint course, and snuck in qualifying 25th. It is fun combining the US and Canadian skiers in these races because it doubles the depth of the field at least! I was 11th American after qualifying 25th. I got a bit boxed out in my quarterfinal and didn’t have room to move up in the heat before the final downhill and sprint.
The next day was a 10km classic race individual start. The 10/15km classic races are one of my favorite ever since back in college. The course in Canmore is very challenging with long steep climbs and swooping descents. We did 3 laps of 3.3km for the mens race and the course profile combined with the altitude and changing snow condition proved for a good hard race. I went out a bit faster than I possibly should have done, and had good splits in the top 3 for the first lap and a half. I started to fade a bit on the second half of the race and lost a bit of kick throughout the race, and finished 3rd overall! Still a solid result on a tough course.
The last Canmore race was a 15km skate race on a cold sunny morning. After the 10km classic race I decided to pace the 15km much better. I went out quick but stayed relaxed and very light on the long steep climbs. I think my time split at the first time check a few km in the race was 26th or something. I felt good the first half of the race and then pushed the last 2 laps really hard, and with some extra energy on the last few climbs I pulled away and was able to win the race by 0.8 seconds!
The following weekend was the SuperTour in Sun Valley, Idaho. The last time I was in Sun Valley was when I left the Gold Team back in spring of 2016.
The first race at Sun Valley was a classic sprint. It was a classic Sun Valley day: gorgeous blue skies and temperature rising into the low 30s. The qualifier felt pretty decent for a good hard course and I qualified in 8th. Usually I feel pretty weak, tired, and nervous before the quarterfinals. I’m a bit used to it now, but I still am working out how to feel better before the heats. I went out a bit fast in my heat and surprisingly got in the lead. I tried to control the pace up the first climb and then was passed on the first downhill into the second longer climb. I pushed hard with Utah skier Noel and finished comfortably in 2nd place in my heat, moving on to the semi finals! Somehow I felt even worse before my semifinal, legs and arms shaking from fatigue, heart rate high just walking around, etc. I got in the lead on the first climb again, yet slipped to third place before the 2nd climb. I tried to push hard but stayed in third in my heat and just barely missed out on lucky loser and did not move on to the A Final. I finished 7th overall for the day.
The following day was a 15km skate race on a tough altitude course. There was a small climb out of the start then a lot of grueling flat and gradual climbs with little rest. I tried to ski light and smooth, conserving energy and pacing appropriately for the altitude like I did in Canmore’s 15km skate race last weekend. However, my legs felt heavy and flooded and I had very little energy to push hard through the middle and end. I finished in a disappointing 6th place, only 0.4 seconds from my 4th place, which is always a tough pill to swallow. However it was an excellent day for our team, the GRP mens team had all 4 skiers in the top 10!
Finally we could return to sea level after a few weeks at altitude. It was time to head back for the holidays and fine tuning for US National Championships in Houghton, MI.
After the first two weekends of the US SuperTour, I was able to obtain the overall male SuperTour lead, which qualified me for Period II World Cup starts for the US Ski Team: the Tour de Ski. However, considering my experience last year and how long it took me to recover from the Tour (sickness mostly), I decided it would be best for my personal goals and season to compete at US Nationals instead of the prestigious Tour de Ski.