Lars Flora finally got the hard course he was looking for.
After the two distance races at last week’s U.S. national championship were held on relatively pedestrian courses—to Flora’s disappointment—Friday’s SuperTour race in Lake Placid, a 10 k classic, featured five trips up an unrelenting, steep climb: a full kilometer from the landing of the town’s Olympic ski jumps, all the way up to the take-off point.
Flora (APU) made the most of the challenge, skiing to an 11-second victory over Noah Hoffman (USST) for his fourth victory of the year.
“It’s fun to finally be on a course that has a lot of climbing,” Flora said.
UVM’s Scott Patterson was third in a breakout race, 20 seconds behind. Friday’s SuperTour was a combined event with the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association’s opening weekend, and the students didn’t disappoint: just behind Patterson, Dartmouth’s Sam Tarling was fourth, and UVM’s Franz Bernstein fifth.
The competition was Flora’s fifth in 13 days, and although he looked relaxed in the race’s early stages, he said he was tired—there’s a chance he could skip Saturday’s 15 k freestyle.
Athletes completed five laps on a two-kilometer course at Lake Placid’s Olympic Jumping Complex. Flora said he felt good for the first three, tucked in behind a teammate for the fourth, and then “really flooded” on the last one.
“It’s a good climb,” he said. “I kind of fell apart.”
But if things did collapse for Flora, he had still created enough of a cushion to hold off Hoffman, who said that his effort on Friday was an improvement on his races at nationals last week.
The two athletes are a study in contrasts. Flora’s technique is long, slow, and smooth, while Hoffman’s is short, fast, and choppy—but they both work.
Hoffman said that he was also a fan of Lake Placid’s course.
“Three-and-a-half minute climb, and then full recovery, five times,” he said. “That would be my kind of course, for sure.”
There were no U.S. Ski Team staff members in Lake Placid to support Hoffman, so his skis were waxed by Janice Sibilia, the competitive programs director for the New England Nordic Ski Association.
Sibilia also waxed for eight other athletes, including a few from CXC and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and she said that she was up until 1 a.m. Thursday night. It paid off, though—Hoffman said he had “great skis—some of the best out there.”
Patterson, an 18-year-old Alaskan, went out like a bullet, and never slowed down. Another strong climber, he was a whirlwind of high energy heading up the first hill, and held on to take top honors in the collegiate race.
“I’m not very good at double-poling. I definitely like the hills,” he said. “I knew I had a pretty good day—I was getting pretty good splits against the college people.”
Patterson leaves shortly for the World Junior Championships in Estonia, where he said that his goal is the top 10, though he’s really “shooting for the podium.” He placed 17th and 19th in two races last year in the same event.
Andrew Johnson, UVM’s assistant coach, said that Patterson “certainly has the talent, and he’s tough enough to make a race like this happen.”
And as long as Patterson’s travel goes well, Johnson said, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to hold his form for the next few weeks.
“He’s a pretty unflappable kid. He gets his plan, and he’s pretty confident,” Johnson said. “As long as he can get over there and get adjusted, he’ll be pretty fast.”
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.