Former USST member Leif Zimmerman of Bridger Ski Foundation/Madshus brought the funk back to the trails today to win the Mens’ 15K skate in West Yellowstone. Garrot Kuzzy (USST/CXC Team Vertical Limit) took second, and Noah Hoffman (USST) took third.
The course was not technically challenging, but the lack of any big climbs or downhills made the high altitude terrain difficult. Racers had to continually put the hammer down, and those the better open-field cruisers had the advantage over those that prefer tougher hill climbs.
First place finisher Leif Zimmerman was available after the race to comment on his effort.
“I felt like you had to work the whole time, but it was fun out there. It was definitely fun to hammer around out there, but also you couldn’t lose your focus, you had to push the whole time.”
“It was about as hard a course as they could have made out there. They did a good job with that. The climbs were very fast today with the humidity. Some places I would normally V1 I was really getting up there with V2. The uphill skied really well.”
“The coolest thing was all the BSF kids cheering on the tough climb. It felt like 200 teammates out there with all the younger kids cheering their heads off. That’s the loudest I’ve heard over here, it was like Europe.”
By the sound of it, Zimmerman’s race went as well as anyone could have planned. He started conservative but skied progressively faster and was able to pull away for the finish.
“I got one split that I was 10 seconds down early in the race. I was pleased because I was in striking distance but hadn’t gone too hard. I got another one that I was a few seconds out half way through the race, then 5-6 seconds up on the last lap. I was the last A seed so I was in the drivers seat for splits.”
Garrott Kuzzy was happy with his race, but also said the course was hard and unrelenting with it’s rolling terrain.
“I caught a ride on Bart Dingle (APU) my buddy Bryan Cook (CXC/Team Vertical Limit), which helped. The course was fast and fun, like a roller coaster.”
“I’ve got no complaints on skis, Bryan Fish (CXC/Team Vertical Limit coach) was waxing, and we were using a Finn Sisu grind.”
Noah Hoffman (USST) went out of the start gate like a rocket. Reminiscent of his grinding 50K back in March where he led Ivan Babikov for 40K, opinions on the course was that Noah was either going to tank under the thin air, or totally shred this medium-difficulty course. Turns out he was first on the scoreboard across the line before challengers Kuzzy and Zimmerman crossed the line.
“The course was tough, but there wasn’t much recovery because it was more rolling. I had trouble being conservative.”
“I’ve been working with BNS and Pat Casey. We’ve got a really good crew, and they’re working hard.”
Gord Jewett skis for the Alberta World Cup Academy, and took third today behind America’s fastest skiers. Expecting to win, but also racing his first race of the year, he played with the course a bit before realizing where he stood.
“I thought I could win today, but I was a bit too respectful in the first bit. [Only] after about 3-4K it was pretty good.”
The Canadians are mostly coming from Canmore, Alberta, and don’t usually race this high.
“I’ve had some back problems, so I’ll only be skating this year. But, I’m heading home tomorrow.”
Along with fellow Canadian Drew Goldsack, Jewett raced here in West back in 2002, but is excited to be her now.
“I was here about seven years ago. It’s nice to have two big races before our Olympic qualifiers in mid December. Otherwise we’d only have one race in Canmore before then.”
Matt Liebsch and Brian Gregg, both of CXC/Team Vertical Limit, finished 5th and 6th, 41.3 and 44.4 seconds behind, respectively.
“It was hard. Altitude is tough for me,” Liebsch said after exiting the finish chute.
“I started a little slow and got to catch a ride on Hoffman after he caught me. I had really good skis,” Gregg said while enjoying a little redemption after a disappointing sprint on Thursday.