Garrot Kuzzy (USST/CXC Team Vertical Limit) has had a terrific first week of racing. He won Wednesday’s classic sprint, took second in yesterday’s 15K skate, and won today’s 10K classic race in a close finish with Chris Cook (Steinbock Racing). Cook took second only 2 seconds behind Kuzzy and looked very strong on the course, while Canadian National Team members Sean Crooks and Stefan Kuhn finished third and fourth, together 30 seconds behind the winner.
Yesterday’s winner Leif Zimmerman (Bridger Ski Foundation/Madshus) looked very strong on course, and also finished only one second behind the Canadians in fifth. This was a close call because beating the high-scoring Canadians would have been great for U.S. points prior to the Olympics. But, Kuzzy and Cook put some good points on the board going into next week.
Always the positive personality at the venue, Garrot Kuzzy was enthusiastic about his consistently pleasing performances. When asked if he was ready to be done with the three races, he says he’s “just getting rolling.”
“I didn’t think I’d like the course. It was the hardest course they could have possibly made out there.”
Kuzzy looked stronger on the course today, but he has the technique of a tall racer, which gives little away about how fast he’s skiing. He skis with more strength in his stride, and a slightly slower tempo than Cook, Zim, or the top Canadians.
“I skied as relaxed as possible and tried to stay focused. I was in the driver’s seat starting late and the course was tight with three loops, so I had with plenty of help from splits. It was really a spectator friendly course too.”
Spectator friendly it was, and the weather and snow conditions were ideal for racing. It was just cold enough in the shade to get uncomfortable, but the patches of sun were delightful for standing and cheering.
“I skied out of the tracks a little, but the snow was fast and firm. I skied with Butler some of the way but otherwise was alone. It was good because I’ve been working on classic striding a lot this year, I got a chance to work on that in the race by myself.”
Kuzzy was also excited about some of the “special” training he’s been doing with CXC this year.
“You should see our weightroom,” said Bryan Fish, head coach for CXC Team Vertical Limit. “We’ve got all kinds of stuff. We’re skiers and we have a skier’s weightroom.”
“Igor’s got us doing some crazy stuff. We’re pulling tires, we’re pushing cars, too,” Kuzzy said about his non-specific strength workouts, which remind us of the kind of old-school work that makes training for a sport like skiing so irresistible. Remember stripping logs, or Moose-hoofing through 3 feet of mud? sign me up.
Next year we’ll be pulling cars,” Kuzzy jokes.
Chris Cook turned out a good result for his team Steinbock Racing, which he founded this year with fellow racers Andrew Johnson and Zach Simons.
“I felt good. It’s an early starter, so I didn’t know here I was yet.”
Like most of the top racers of the week, Cook likes the climbs, which doesn’t land him any kind of advantage on the relatively flat, high altitude course.
“I definitely am into the climbs. Getting a big long stride is a strength [of mine], so I tried to make as much time on the hill as possible.”
Cook wasn’t surprised with his performance, he expects to be at the top of the list.
“I wasn’t surprised. It was definitely a goal coming into this week to have a better sprint, but I was focusing on the classic race.”
“Kuzzy was in the drivers seat for this one. It’s hard to get back-splits but I knew it was close. Kuz’ has a hell of a double pole, which helped him on this course.”
Steinbock Racing, which by using Rossi skis, OneWay poles, and Toko wax, is essentially a Rossi elite team. Cook Founded Steinbock this year along with fellow racers Andrew Johnson and Zach Simons in an effort to reach out to new sources of sponsorships and bring more money into the sport.
Simons says they are using newer resources on the internet (mostly through twitter) to reach out to as many people as possible.
“Nordic skiing is a small pie, and there’s not a lot of money in it. The loss of the Factory Team effectively took 12 jobs away from high-level skiing. More people need to take the initiative to go out and start new programs or companies to bring more money into the sport, and find more ways to connect with the community.”
Simons especially stresses the need for focused athletes to get out and get moving if they want to help progress the sport.
“Being an athlete is a selfish enterprise – it’s all about improving yourself. But, you can accomplish a lot if you look at it from a new perspective.”
Canadians Sean Crooks and Stefan Kuhn lead the Canadian National Team’s contingent of solid FIS point-holders that our skiers were looking to beat this week. Today they placed third and fourth.
“That was the hardest easy course I’ve ever done,” said Crooks. “It was a good race. You never get that much rest out of the tracks. I felt like I did well and for myself had a good double pole.”
Stefan Kuhn, key FIS points holder, and winner of the 50K Classic at US Distance Nationals in Fairbanks last March, sat out yesterday’s race.
“This was a flat course, and I usually like the hills. I’m also a classic specialist, and a strong double poler.”
Leif Zimmerman skied a hard race. After feeling fatigued from winning yesterday’s skate race, he was just one second behind the two Canadians.
“In general I just skied really hard. But I felt fatigued from yesterday. I skied the hill really well, the climbing was nice. It was a really good combined two day result.”
“The course is so fast, you can’t let up. There’s no tucking at all. The snow was a little chopped up but my kick was great. I skied out of the tracks a lot, and it was pretty fast except some patches where the sun warmed the snow.”
Next week’s races are in Leif’s home town of Bozeman, Montana.
“I’m excited to for the races next week. I’m going to do both of them. I want to get in as much racing as possible.”
That’s all for this week from the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. There’s plenty of readable West Yelly ‘net swag out there on the FasterSkier blogs, other athlete blogs listed in the FasterSkier XCFeeds, and on johnnyklister.com.
Thanks for all of the hard work from the volunteers in West Yellowstone, and all of the reps, techs, athletes and coaches for a fun week!
See you next week in Bozeman!