Sun Valley’s Colin Rodgers lost his shot at the 2010 Olympic team after a battle with compartment syndrome last year. But in Saturday’s skate sprint prelim at the 2011 U.S. championships in Rumford, he showed that he still has his speed.
With the men’s qualifier concluded, live timing showed Rodgers edging CXC’s Garrott Kuzzy by a tenth of a second, with Simi Hamilton (USST) in third. Torin Koos (Methow ODT) was fourth, and Tim Reynolds (Craftsbury) fifth.
After a sparkling 2009 season, Rodgers finished no higher than 22nd on the domestic circuit last year, then missed the entire second half of the season before undergoing surgery for compartment syndrome in March.
He finished third in the classic qualifier-only sprint in West Yellowstone in November, but has yet to ski through to a sprint final this season, so his win Saturday comes as something of a surprise.
Same with Kuzzy’s second-place. The lanky Minnesotan dominated the domestic spring circuit in 2010, but thus far this year, his speed was yet to show up.
Hamilton has as much quickness as anyone in the world, though he has struggled through an up-and-down fall with an injury. He wasn’t far off Rodgers’ time, though—just six-tenths of a second down.
Hamilton said that the course was “pretty straightforward,” and the men didn’t seem to have too much of a problem with a sketchy corner just before the loop’s main climb. Organizers had four volunteers shoveling new snow onto a spot that became icy during the women’s race; they were working even during the 15-second gaps between men.
APU’s Lars Flora was seventh, and he said he was still feeling the effects of Thursday’s 30 k interval start.
“I hope that blew it out—it was kind of rough,” he said.
On a scary-fast 1.4 k course, a number of other distance specialists appeared to suffer the same fate—Noah Hoffman (USST) was all the way back in 62nd, while James Southam (APU) was 57th.
The rounds will likely favor speed over fitness, with Rodgers’ time just under two minutes and 44 seconds.
“You can just hammer out there the whole time, and not feel too much,” Koos said. “I think it’s going to be really fast. Per k, it’s going to as fast as any race you’re going to see all year.”
FasterSkier will have post updates from the race on the Continental Cup blog, and updates on @FasterSkier on Twitter.
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.