The Craftsbury SuperTour was also combined with Eastern Collegiate Carnival races and an Eastern Cup, which drew almost all of the competitive skiers from around New England in addition to the SuperTour field. This cumulative event is called the Lost Nation Cup and is a fantastic weekend of racing from top level SuperTour athletes all the way down to BKL skiers, showcasing that ski racing is more about community and supporting all athletes who strive for self improvement than just trying to win races. I also think it is great to add collegiate skiers to the SuperTour field, in addition to the Canadian skiers who came to race from Quebec and Ontario as it increases the level of competition for all of us.
The Lost Nation Cup started off with a classic sprint on Friday. I felt quite good in the previous week of training leading up to the weekend of races and felt confident in my ability to perform better than I did at US Nationals. The weather was predicted to be a bit sketchy with mixed snow, sleet, and rain throughout the weekend but luckily it held off, and Friday’s sprint was a mix of sun and clouds with quite warm temperatures, great for spectators. I had a solid qualifier, finishing 7th only about 3 seconds from the fastest skier. I was with my youngest teammate Braden in the quarterfinal just like at US National classic sprint and it is always fun to race with your teammates.
I took the quarterfinal out pretty fast and found myself in the lead, which I did not necessarily want due to the long downhill before the last half of the course. I was passed by Peter on the gradual climb and was able to herring bone behind him to stay in second place through the finish, moving onto the semifinals. I tried the same tactic in the semifinal but knew that more people would likely try to pass me on the climb after drafting on the downhill, and I was in 3rd place fighting to try and get 2nd, but finished just barely in 3rd place and did not get lucky loser. I finished 7th overall. I was pretty disappointed to not make the Final with how I felt that day, but just had to focus on the next races.
The next race was a 10km skate individual start. Usually on the SuperTour and World Cup circuits men race 15km individual starts so it was a fun change to do a fast 10km, reminded me of college racing. 10km is a fast race and especially at sea level you need to push hard right from the line. I was a bit nervous to be starting directly in front of multiple time skate National Champion Kyle Bratrud who would be getting splits off me the whole time so I went out about as fast as I could reasonably go. I felt pretty strong, springy on the climbs and recovered well on my long V2 on flats and downhills. I got back splits saying I was a few seconds behind Kyle throughout the race (but sometimes I think Pepa just says that to make me go faster). I started to really feel my legs burn on the last few climbs and did a little burst of speed at the last hill to the finish. I was able to take the overall win by just over 2 seconds! I thought Kyle was going to beat me due to some splits I was getting but I was happy to manage to take the win against such a solid competitor.
The last day of the Lost Nation Cup was a 15km classic mass start race. This is a very exciting format due to the large group of skiers and the short distance. Usually mass start races are kept for 20km and longer so these shorter ones can be quite exciting. I like to keep my race strategies incredibly flexible for mass start races to allow for any changes in pacing and attacks throughout the race, combining those factors with how I feel, snow conditions, ski speed, course profile etc. I usually like to stay near the front of the race, but not leading much so I don’t waste too much energy. I was able to be in the lead a bit on the first lap and then drafted in 2nd place or so for the next lap. The pace felt a bit conservative due to my excellent skis (thanks Nick!) that were fast on the downhills and amazing kick on the glazed tracks for the climbs. Near the end of the second lap I was feeling like something was going to happen. Zak did a minor acceleration at the top of Screaming Mimi where many of the spectators and coaches are. I tucked in right behind him and we kept the pace a bit faster through the next 600m or so. We had about 2 seconds maybe a bit more to the field, which is not enough time for anyone to be really worried because usually with the accordion of the pack on climbs that gets absorbed quite easily and effortlessly. However I decided to use that. With a spur of the moment decision I decided to make my move. I felt good, my skis were awesome, and we had a hint of a lead on the pack. I did a sprint double pole across the lower field, a speed into the short and steep chip hill so I could double pole half of it or so, ran over the top, and then another double pole speed across the upper field. I could feel the loading in my legs a bit and knew I had to keep this pace up. It was exciting not only to make the move, but to see and hear the cheering of people watch the move being made. I also was nervous. Those kinds of attacks have to be decisive and once made cannot be undone. If I got caught by the pack in such a short race I likely would have had no energy to stay with them as they pass me, sacrificing any chance to hang on. I knew I had to push the next 4km really hard, so I focused on skiing well and not trying to rest in places like I usually do. I pushed the corners hard, crested hills really well, and tucked really low. The pack could draft together to create faster speeds on the descents and work together on the climbs. I felt strong and kept getting splits that Kyle was only 5-6 seconds behind me. I knew I had to keep pushing hard. At the last few climbs I was starting to realize I could really win the race and hold my lead, which is when I really pushed the pace to solidify that reality. Better to hurt now and celebrate later, then ease up now and fight in a sprint to the line. At the lower field I felt confident that I had gained enough time to win the race and eased up just a bit on the last hill. It was an amazing feeling, and I was very happy with my fitness and excited to have such great skis from our wax techs on a tricky day. I always think that wax techs should share the podium with their athletes, this sport is so equipment dependent and the amount of work they put into our skis cannot be overstated.
It felt amazing to ski so well at our home course, in front of home crowds and my parents and girlfriend there to cheer me on! I managed to take the overall SuperTour lead once again, qualifying me for Period IV, which is the new 2020 Scandinavian Ski Tour from Sweden to Norway. It is 6 stages in 10 days, similar to the famous Tour de Ski. I also have a discretionary spot for the Falun World Cup distance race (15km skate mass start) on Sunday Feb 9th and will be flying to Europe soon! Thank you to all of my supporters and those who have helped me this year!