XCFeedsWorld Junior and Under-23 Championships: Scott reports on the Sprints

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 27, 2010

div align=”left”The World Championship Sprints are done; the results only tell a small part of the story, so let us begin…/divdiv align=”left”br //divdiv align=”left”br /The fat lady has sung and it was a bitter sweet tune that we will be humming for a while.br /On Monday, Erik raced in the junior men’s skate sprint. His qualification time trial went off at 10:43 and he went out of the stadium looking very impressive. The men are able to V2 all the hills on the course even though the first one at around 200 meters is quite steep. His time placed him in 22nd position (first American), about 7 seconds behind the leader but only 2 seconds out 10th and 4 seconds out of 3rd. So the field was packed in very tightly with 12 guys all stacked up in the 2 seconds ahead of Erik. For a good head to head skier like Erik we felt that this would be to his advantage to have so much close competition in the heats.br /When his quarter began we realized that one must always be careful what one wishes for; Erik’s heat was the fastest heat of the day and it had some very aggressive skiers in it. Last year Erik got shoved by a Russian in the quarterfinal who liked Erik’s track better than the one he was in. This year being a skate sprint the chance for skier contact and obstruction really favored the most aggressive skiers. Erik came over the top of the first climb in 5th-6th position but he carried really good speed over the top and by the start of the next big climb he was in 4th and moving around the Norwegian who was in third. Up the long second climb his V2 powered him solidly into third place, gaining time on the eventual heat and race winner Thomas Northug. The next section was a long fast downhill with a pretty sharp right hander at the bottom. This right hander lead into short gradual uphill and a 180 degree left turn. During all of this twisting and turn to the stadium in the last 300 meters I had only once seen the lead change in all of the heats I have watched over the last 2 days. So it has been apparent that the order over the top of the second or “big” climb is usually the finish order with only some jockeying in the 2-4 placers. Erik’s speed in third spot on the big downhill allowed him to get a bit of a sling shot effect and pull alongside the second place Italian. This was the crucial moment in the race as it caused Erik to take a somewhat wider line out to the left. In doing so he got boxed against the next turns inside V boards and trapped. I watched him stand up and raise his poles to avoid breaking them as his tactical error became painfully obvious when he dropped from a hard fought second place into a powerless 5th. From there to finish his fate was sealed as there is no room on this course to make a move in the last sections. /divdiv align=”left”br /His heat was the fastest one of the day and he finished 1.5 seconds behind the leader. It was such a fast heat that both the lucky losers came out of that heat meaning that, had the course layout allowed it, Erik could have moved up to 4th and then been advanced into the semi finals. He clearly had the speed and power necessary to ski with the leaders. His inexperience and tactical error cost him big. And yet, that sort of tactical error can be a great learning experience. Unfortunately for our US skiers it is only when they race in Europe that they get a chance to ski in such fast, tight and aggressive fields. The gentlemanly US sprints do not prepare our developing young skiers for the rough and tumble top level. As with last year’s all too distant shoving event Erik’s first reaction beside the obvious disappointment was incredulity: “How can they get away with that”? he mused, disappointed as much in himself as the other skier. /divdiv align=”left”br /On Tuesday the Under-23s raced. Sadie has been in top physical form for the last few weeks since she had a great sprint at US Nationals (before falling) and then a very fast qualifier in the Methow Super Tour Sprint the day before leaving for these races. I have watched both Sadie and Erik these last few weeks come into racing shape and can see that they are both skiing better and faster than ever before. Sadie seemed in a very good space heading into today’s race and sensed a good race coming up. Her plan was to not push it too hard on the first hill (a mistake she made in the qualifier in Anchorage at US Nationals that cost her several seconds later in the race). Having watched all of the junior girls races I was of a different opinion but in the final decisions she is the one to make the call and I am here to support her considered choices. She was 2-3 seconds off the top pace as she came past me in the middle of the big/long second hill. But she looked very smooth and strong and was beginning to add the power as she V2ed over the top of the hill. Her finish time put her into 13th place (second US skier) and I could tell that there was a lot more speed on tap./divdiv align=”left”br /Having seen Erik get boxed out of a semi heat with his choice and seeing the banging and shoving going on in almost every heat I told Sadie before her race to “take the gloves off”. This was going to be racing like she probably had never done. Nothing I could say would overcome her lack of confidence though. And this in the end was her downfall. This year she has always been able to lead out of the start and this sets her up for controlling the race if she chooses. She was out in her quarterfinal in her typical bolt of speed alongside the two fastest Russians. After 100 meters just as she passed me I saw her stand up and slow down and drop into 3rd. She said later: “I have never lead at World Championships in any race and I was not confident I should be there.” She climbed the first hill in 2nd position and began the big climb in a tight third with her skis overlapping the second place Russian. I had tried to make the point to her, in our pre-race discussions, the importance of going over the top of this big hill in first or second place since there was no place to pass afterward. She put herself nicely into second at the top and I am sure felt good about her position. In the same spot as Erik had made his mistaken move, the third place Russian shot alongside Sadie and gave her hefty shove. This knocked Sadie off balance for a stride and she slipped to third. Like Erik, Sadie was rattled and got boxed out of her third place spot on the next turn. She finished less than one second out of first in her heat but not in a position to move into the semis. Also like Erik, she was indignant at this unsporting behavior.br /After a sufficient cooling off period she realized that she had had more speed on tap and had been too timid over all. She felt strong the whole way and could have given more. An expensive lesson to be sure but sometimes those that cost the most are the most valuable. /divdiv align=”left”br /While the results are not so impressive the confidence building was huge and the speed is there so it is only a matter of time till they put it together./divdiv align=”left”br /Other news:br /-US skier Simi Hamilton won the U23 Sprint qualifier by over one second. He had a nice solid lead in his quarterfinal until a Norwegian skied over his pole basket and pulled his pole out of the handle. There is no recovering from this sort of thing in a sprint so he was knocked out of any further heats./divdiv align=”left”br /-Ida Sargent qualified 4th in the women about 3 seconds ahead of Sadie and being a very scrappy skier battled he way all the way into the A final and wound up 4th there too. Congrats to both Simi and Ida for showing that we can get it done!/divdiv align=”left”br /Our next 6 weeks of racing on the European Continental Cup will provide 5 more opportunities to knock heads and trade some paint with the best Europeans who are not at the Olympics. More lessons, more experience, more chances to give as well as they get. /divdiv align=”center”br //divdiv align=”center”br //divimg id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5431627117537123810″ style=”DISPLAY: block; MARGIN: 0px auto 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/S2EEFd0t3eI/AAAAAAAAAWk/hQfZ7DgjDOM/s320/erik+moves+to+third.jpg” border=”0″ /br /p align=”center”emErik battling in his quarterfinal heat/embr //pbr /br /img id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5431627741730785282″ style=”DISPLAY: block; MARGIN: 0px auto 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Mg2hQbkHkNs/S2EEpzIFSAI/AAAAAAAAAW4/IiYYRJ-_Yqw/s320/sadie+trading+paint+with+a+Rusky.jpg” border=”0″ / p align=”center”emSadie picking up some streetfighting tactics from a Russian/embr /br /br //pdiv class=”blogger-post-footer”img width=’1′ height=’1′ src=’https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/2910103639238326543-407985428863954237?l=methowolympicdevelopment.blogspot.com’ alt=” //div

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