James Southam (APU) won yesterday’s 15K classic race at Bohart Ranch in Bozeman. Brothers Bryan and Chris Cook, filled the rest of the podium, Bryan in second and Chris in third.
It was a cold day out at Bohart. Race organizers were watching the low temps and rumors were circulating late last night about the race being moved within the town of Bozeman to Lindley Park, the venue for yesterday’s sprint. Luckily ambient temps stayed manageable, or the day would have been closer to home but also turned today into a gerbil-style front yard distance event.
Bohart is a relatively nice venue for spectators for cross country skiing events. The FIS puts the cutoff for event cancellation at -4F, and the temperature hovered safely around +5F during the race. While the race was legal, a slight breeze blew even through the protection of the trees and cooled down the trails, freezing warm breath to racers’ faces and leaving spectators jumping around to keep their toes warm. There are several spots out there where you can see races traveling in different directions, and the slow snow tamed some of the gnarly whoops and turns, making the course much more skiable on classic skis.
After two seventh place finishes last week in West Yellowstone, Olympian and yesterday’s winner James Southam is getting up to speed in his longer races.
“I haven’t had a chance to do many time trials since it was really cold in Anchorage and up in Fairbanks. That said, I knew my training was going really well and my times were looking better.”
Primarily a distance racer that favors skate skiing, James Southam says he and APU head coach Erik Flora have been working especially hard on classic technique the last couple of years.
“I’m historically more of a skate guy, but last year my classic really came around. APU thinks a little differently about classic technique then most of the other clubs. We like to think about kicking later than most people. A lot of people think about kicking high and forward, but we talk about being pretty low. (Finnish skier Aino) Saarinen is sort of the model we look at. She’s super low, and she never comes up.”
When asked about the mechanical specifics that this adds to the technique, Southam says the idea is pretty simple.
“It’s all about where the momentum goes – making everything go down the track and keeping everything going in the direction you want it to go in.”
Bryan Cook (CXC/Team Vertical Limit) finished second 9 seconds in front of his brother, Chris. Bryan says this race caters to his strengths, primarily longer classic races.
“It was definitely fun. Both Chris and I have been unlucky lately and drew the front of the pack.”
While Bryan’s coach Bryan Fish was throwing splits out on the course, it can be tough to go from processing to using the data during the race.
“It was confusing. there were lots of people that started really hard. I had no idea I was going to be in second. I did know James (Southam) was having a really good race, though. We were grouped pretty close together.”
Today’s course offered more opportunities to climb and rest, which is a welcome change after the last few courses at West. Cook says he likes climbing, hammering the hills and then getting some rest. Also, he has recently returned to CXC/Team Vertical Limit after taking some time off, and is excited with the change.
“It’s been pretty fun to get back with the team and see how it’s changed. We added Igor, a new assistant coach. It’s been a big help having really good skis out there.”
Bryan beat his older brother, and former US Ski Team member, Chris Cook for the middle podium spot today. While performing consistently and standing on the podium several times during the last couple of weeks, Chris Cook hasn’t yet landed on the winner’s pedestal.
“There’s guys skiing fast and that’s hard to do. I felt a little sluggish from the three races before and going all day in the sprint. I’m not at all disappointed.”
It’s a good course with technical turns. I think the layout is really good and they did a good job with it. The last two K had those walls. It reminded me of a World Cup course with big climbs.”
The Cook brothers have some tough racing ahead of them in Canada where the Canucks will be holding their Olympic qualifiers in a winner takes all scenario. Bryan and Chris both are excited to have a sibling along for the ride, and manage to squeeze in some training time together during the action the last couple of weeks before heading to races later in the season.
“He’s (Bryan) pretty busy with the CXC thing, but we definitely get a chance to train together. We’ve always been competitive…I knew when he was getting fit.”
Bryan enjoys his brothers company on the circuit. “It’s been really nice this past week since we got train a bunch; we did intervals at Bohart on Thursday. I have lots of summer camps so we don’t get to train all that often in the summer.”
“We get to bounce ideas off each other. He has strengths and I have strengths, and it keeps you honest. He’s a really good sprinter, and I can learn a lot from him. if I could train with him more I definitely would, but when we both have pretty good races it’s exciting.”
Silver Star/Vernon, BC is the next stop for all racers here in Bozeman.
“I’m really pumped. It was my first time there last year. it’s really nice skiing and the community is really good,” says Bryan.
James Southam is also excited for the next stop. “For sure, Silver Star is one of the more enjoyable places we get to go. The Canadians are really going to be going for it. It’s a blast.”
Next week is one of two major Olympic qualifier races for the Canadias. Their field will be filled with the types of skiers that haven’t yet secured a spot on their Olympic team and are looking for one last chance. There is a 10/15K skate and a skate sprint in Silver Star, and then two back-to-back classic sprints in Canmore, where the winner of each race automatically makes the team and goes to Whistler.
The Canmore races conclude December 20th, and while most Alaskans head home the next day, the rest of the nation’s field will arrive just before the new year to prepare for US Nationals. This is the next major race on the American tour, and that week will decide who gets a berth on the Yankee bus to Whistler.