Andy Newell (USST) may not have been racing against the best skiers in the world in the National Training Group’s sprint time trial at Soldier Hollow on Tuesday, but he certainly was not lacking in motivation.
“If there’s one thing World Cup sprinters don’t want to do, it’s be juniored,” said Matt Whitcomb, the U.S. Ski Team’s World Cup coach.
Newell won the men’s time trial by 13 seconds over Erik Bjornsen (MOD) and Reid Pletcher (SVSEF), but there was no question that he was working: his finishing lactate was 15.4 millimoles—a level at which most ordinary people would be curled up in the fetal position.
“Having TTs in a camp setting like this is great, because that’s really the only way to push yourself that hard,” Newell said in an e-mail to FasterSkier. “It’s tough to post lactates in the high 15’s when you’re out there by yourself.”
According to Whitcomb, Newell is currently in the middle of an altitude block, and his ability to post such high numbers after a number of solid workouts is “a good sign that he’s been absorbing his training.”
But while Newell was able to capitalize on the presence of the National Training Group (NTG)—an elite group of juniors and U-23 athletes in Utah for a camp—he wasn’t the only one benefiting. Whitcomb said that the skiers behind Newell got a huge boost from butting heads with a World Cup veteran.
“The impact that he had on the juniors and U-23 skiers that were in his heat was unbelievable,” Whitcomb said. “They were so engaged—so aware of the techniques he was using, just chasing him and chasing him and chasing him.”
On the women’s side, Liz Stephen (USST) and Sophie Caldwell (Dartmouth) battled each other for three full rounds. After tying for the fastest time in qualification, the pair skied away from the rest of the fields in their quarter- and semifinal heats, before Caldwell pulled away on the last downhill in the final for the victory. Alexa Turzian (SVSEF) was third.
“[Caldwell and Stephen] were basically just on each other like glue through every heat,” Whitcomb said. “They had an incredible workout pushing each other all day.”
Newell had given a talk on sprint preparation and tactics earlier in the week, and as a result, Stephen said that she tried a new protocol for recovery between heats.
“It’s easy to just ski around between heats–you are filled with lactic acid, tired and trying to mentally and physically prepare for another round or three,” Stephen wrote in an e-mail. “Having a real plan to stick to keeps you on task, focused and as fresh as possible for the coming rounds.”
While rollerski speed can make a big difference in dryland time trials, all the participants in the NTG camp time trial were using Marwes. However, Whitcomb cautioned, “even when they are matched, there are discrepancies between them, it seems.”
Newell said that after training with the NTG group for a few days, he’s “impressed with the next wave of top skiers in the U.S.”
“These guys are going to be the future of World Cup racing in our country,” he said.
Video from the NTG Camp Freestyle Sprint
More video from this race can be found at the USSA Dartfish Channel
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.