PARK CITY, Utah (Oct. 23) – Arguably the strongest preseason training and conditioning regimen has Head Coach Pete Vordenberg smiling about his U.S. cross country athletes as the World Cup ski season nears.
Vordenberg, who moved up in the spring to head coach after four years as World Cup coach, and his staff set an immediate goal of being one of the best-conditioned teams on the tour this season. Through dryland camps in Utah and Lake Placid, NY, plus the annual August on-snow camp in New Zealand, he felt the athletes made improvements each time they gathered. “Yeah, it's the preseason,” he reasoned, “but they look awesome. We've had some excellent training.”
After the World Cup season opens with the annual sprints Oct. 28-29 in Dusseldorf, Germany, the Ski Team will head to Ramsau, Austria, for a mini-camp and then set-up the final preseason base in Sweden. The season resumes Nov. 18-19 in Gallivare, Sweden.
Sprinters Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), who produced the first American top-3 finish in more than two decades last season, and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who turned-in the best U.S. women's result in Olympic and World Cup annals, point to the emergence of the sprinting program. Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), a two-time Olympic racer as is Randall, and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) – who, like Newell, was in his first Winter Games last February – also came up with World Cup top-15 results a year ago.
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), another two-time Olympian, trained mostly at home during the preseason, focusing on a return to the basics which helped make him a World Cup challenger before sickness derailed him in each of the last three seasons. He's had two World Cup top-10 results and a top-5 at Worlds. “Kris is healthy and comfortable with his training, which is what we wanted; he's gone back to his roots,” Vordenberg said.
The 13-member 2007 U.S. Cross Country Team is the largest in nearly a decade. In addition to the World Cup group, several skiers – starting with Olympian Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT) plus Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) and Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID) – will compete in Europa Cup races to broaden their experience.
The U.S. coaching staff has almost a completely new look from a year ago. Vordenberg hired three-time Olympian Justin Wadsworth as World Cup coach while former development Coach Chris Grover returns after two years away and is the new sprint coach. Matt Whitcomb and Pat Casey are the development coaches.
The World Championships are set for Feb. 22 – March 4 in Sapporo, Japan.