The new prologue distance that’s growing in popularity is about twice as long as a sprint. And by most accounts, it’s twice as hard.
The event puts a premium on pacing, and for athletes who go out too hard, a whole lot of suffering is in store.
The event, and the hurt, was on display Thursday morning at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, where the U.S. Ski Team (USST) is conducting its final dryland camp of the season, along with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and an elite group of juniors.
The men and women navigated two-and-a-half and one-and-a-half laps, respectively, of an up-and-down course for a total of 3.7 and 2.4 kilometers. FasterSkier was on hand to shoot a few photos and get a few perspectives on the format.
According to USST Head Coach Chris Grover, many of the athletes in the time trial were racing a prologue for the first time—including Kris Freeman, among others.
“The majority of the people came to the start line today, and that was the first time they’d raced that distance,” he said. “Since the seventh grade, anyway.”
Since the format is showing up more and more at the international level, the USST scheduled two prologue time trials for their camps this summer: one in Lake Placid, and one in Sun Valley, in September.
The U.S. Ski Team’s Noah Hoffman got a rude introduction to the prologue distance when he raced in a three kilometer event in Slovenia last winter. According to Hoffman, he went out at a scorching pace and “blew up completely.”
“I just got destroyed in that race,” he said. “I just was so overwhelmed by a three k effort…I was walking up a hill at a k-and-a-half into this race.”
While the event is far shorter than the formats that elite distance athletes are used to racing, “it’s not a sprint race,” Hoffman said. “You actually have to pace it.”
Hoffman had his second shot at the distance a few weeks ago at the Sun Valley camp, and he brought that experience to the start line Thursday. He said that he used fast rollerskis to give himself an opportunity to “work on some higher-end skiing, and…to be a little closer to Bird [Freeman], and [Andy] Newell.”
Consequently, Hoffman said, his third place on the day looks pretty good. But, he added, “it’s not about the results on rollerskis. And I feel like I executed pretty well.”
The key to the pacing, Hoffman said, was in metering his effort for the two times he skied the course’s full climb—and making sure to save enough to hammer the last half-lap.
“It’s all about how much over sustainable I go—it was like flirting with that line and pushing it over,” he said. “Then, obviously, the last hill—you’re just trying to deal with the pain and really throw it in.”
|1||Simi Hamilton||8:40||1||Katie Bono||6:17|
|2||Andy Newell||8:41||2||Morgan Arritola||6:25|
|3||Noah Hoffman||8:42||2||Becca Rorabaugh||6:25|
|4||Kris Freeman||8:58||4||Annie Hart||6:28|
|5||Tim Reynolds||9:01||4||Annie Pokorny||6:28|
|6||Sylvan Ellefson||9:03||6||Sophie Caldwell||6:38|
|7||Mike Sinnott||9:08||7||Jesse Diggins||6:39|
|8||Patrick O’Brien||9:10||8||Heather Mooney||6:42|
|9||Tad Elliott||9:13||9||Michaela Frias||6:44|
|10||Erik Fagerstrom||9:14||10||Caitlin Patterson||6:47|
|11||Colin Rodgers||9:17||11||Isabel Caldwell||6:59|
|12||Dylan McGuffin||9:20||12||Erika Flowers||7:06|
|13||Scott Patterson||9:24||13||Gage Fichter||7:20|