More than 150 training days, countless kilometers of rollerskiing, and dozens of loads of dirty laundry: A summer and fall’s worth of preparation will be put to the test in just over two weeks, when the U.S. Ski Team (USST) makes its departure for Europe.
All seven members will fly to Finland on November 7 for a weekend of tune-up racing north of the Arctic Circle in Muonio. From there, the squad will part ways, with the A-team of Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Morgan Arritola, Kris Freeman, and Andy Newell headed to the World Cup opener in northern Sweden, along with last year’s overall SuperTour champion Chris Cook. Meanwhile, the B-team of Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman will continue on to lower-level competitions in Rovaniemi, Finland and northern Sweden.
Typically, the USST has raced its B-team in North America in the early season, but Head Coach Chris Grover said that one of his goals is to put more of an emphasis on European competition.
Athletes and coaches seem to be paying heed, as Hamilton, Hoffman, and coaches Pete Vordenberg and Bryan Fish will be joined in Muonio and Rovaniemi by a large number of American athletes. The Craftsbury Green Racing Project is making the trip, as well as a group led by Maine Winter Sports Center coach Will Sweetser and funded partially by the National Cross-Country Ski Education Foundation. Athletes racing in Finland will include Craftsbury’s Ida Sargent, Torin Koos (Methow Olympic Development Project), and Leif Zimmerman (Bridger Ski Foundation).
“The idea is to team up with some partner clubs, and provide service for the athletes that are over there,” Grover said.
According to Grover, any member of that American contingent could get the call-up to ski on the World Cup if they are racing well.
“Whoever is racing…we’re going to watch the results,” he said. “If they have a phenomenal race, we might think really seriously about bringing them right into World Cup.”
Anyone brought up to the World Cup would be paying their own way, as Grover said that the USST doesn’t have “any extra money hidden anywhere.” But costs, he said, shouldn’t be too high, since most of the athletes in Europe are “probably going to be paying to go to one race series or another.”
Grover is already planning for Hamilton to join the USST following the races in Sweden, for two skate sprint World Cups—one in Davos, and one in Dusseldorf. Hamilton may also start a team sprint in Dusseldorf with Newell, although Cook should be gunning for that spot, as well.
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.