Rogla, Slovenia – Nine American skiers are currently in Slovenia contesting the OPA Cup Finals, an event modeled on the popular Tour de Ski and World Cup Finals.
Racing started on Friday with a 2.5/3.5km classic prologue, and continued Saturday with a 5/10km mass start. The overall winners will be determined in a 10/15km handicap start based on the overall standing from the first two races. The first across the line is the champion.
The large contingent of US skiers in racing the OPA Cups dwindled somewhat, with Brian Gregg, Mike Hinckley, and Caitlin Compton all getting World Cup starts this weekend, and several other skiers heading home after a longer stay in Europe.
The fields have not been large, but the competition plenty challenging. Overall, US skiers have held their own with Mike Sinnott leading the way.
Sinnott Challenges in Prologue
Sinnott finished 6th in the prologue, just 6.7 seconds behind winner Dietmar Noeckler (ITA).
In an interesting aside, Juergen Pinter, a veteran of the Austrian Team who was banned form the sport four years by the Austrian Ski Association, finished 2nd.
Pinter was banned for his involvement in the 2006 Torino doping affair. It appears his ban was retroactive, so all FIS results from 2006-2008 (when the ban was finalized) were removed from the records, and the four years started from the 2006 Games, so he is just back in action.
Sinnott posted the best FIS points race of his career, breaking 40 for the first time.
Sylvan Ellefson was the next American in 34th, +25.8. He was closely followed by Noah Hoffman in 36th, Brayton Osgood in 42nd, and Peter Kling in 47th.
Kling also set a personal-best in FIS points.
76 men completed the race.
Nicole DeYong led the American women in 19th place, 22.3 seconds in back of Denise Herrmann (GER). Herrmann won silver in the sprint at the U23 Championships in Hinterzarten, Germany in January.
Overall, Germany took four of the top six spots, going 1,2,5,6. Italy, with Elisa Brocard and Virginia Topranin, took 3rd and 4th. Brocard, a veteran of the Italian team, raced the sptint at the Olympics and finished 27th in the 2010 Tour De Ski.
Herrmann’s teammate Hannah Kolb was 6th. The 19-year-old Kolb started two World Cup races this year, finishing inside the top-20 in both.
Becca Rorabaugh finished 30th, .8 seconds and one place ahead of APU teammate Katie Ronsse. The pair was just over 30 seconds back of Herrmann.
Tazlina Mannix rounded out the US starters in 39th.
DeYong Steps Up In Mass Start
DeYong took thing us a notch in the 5km classic mass start, matching Sinnott’s 6th place result from the prologue. Just 12.2 seconds back, DeYong had an excellent points race, nearly matching her career-best set a week ago at the OPA Cup in France.
Brocard won the race in a sprint with teammate Topranin.
Among those DeYong beat were Barbara Jezersek (SLO) who finished 17th in the Olympic pursuit, and prologue winner Herrmann.
Rorabuagh was 15th, +54.4 seconds, and Ronsse 20th, +1:05.2.
Mannix did not finish the race.
Juniors were split out into a separate race, so the field was much smaller than in the prologue. Only 26 women completed the event.
Sinnott turned his second excellent performance in a row, taking 7th place in the men’s 10km classic mass start. He was 18.3 seconds behind winner Romain Vandel (FRA), but just nine seconds out of 2nd place.
Ellefson finished 18th, +1:13, again, just ahead of Hoffman – this time just a single place.
Osgood ended up in 25th and Kling 33rd in the 34-man field.
Overall standings for the OPA Cup Finals are not available, but Sinnott will likely be competing for a top-10 overall result in Sunday’s handicap start freestyle race.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.