Elliott to Emphasize Skiing, Scale Back Cycling

Nathaniel HerzMarch 11, 20117
Tad Elliott racing at the 2011 World Ski Championships in Oslo.

Nordic skiing already claimed the talents of one dual-sport prodigy five years ago, when Canadian Alex Harvey gave up a promising mountain biking career to focus on cross-country.

Now, it has gained another: American Tad Elliott says he’s also making a shift away from mountain biking, and will put more of an emphasis on skiing this coming off-season.

“That’s kind of the focus now, is putting more chips into skiing, and wanting to do World Cup skiing, wanting to do World Champs,” Elliott said after last weekend’s 50 k freestyle in Oslo. “I think there’s a bright future in skiing now, and I want to be a part of it.”

Elliott, 22, a two-time U.S. national champion in skiing, is also an accomplished cyclist. He owns multiple U-23 U.S. mountain-biking titles, and last year, he raced domestically and in Europe for a professional squad, Team Sho-Air.

But after one of his best ski seasons ever, Elliott says that he’s not going to go back on the international circuit. Instead, he’ll compete for a local team, working as a mentor for junior riders and competing in his home state of Colorado.

In the past, Elliott has made a quick transition from skiing to mountain-biking, and back again. This spring, for example, he won the U.S. title in the 50 k freestyle in Maine in late March before competing in the Sea Otter Classic in California in mid-April.

Elliot racing in a World Cup in Norway in February.

This coming season, though, he said that mountain biking will play a smaller role.

“I just get to race some local races, and use it as a building block for my skiing,” Elliott said. “My season starts late, and is over early, and it’s perfect.”

Currently, Elliott is competing with Central Cross Country’s (CXC’s) elite team. But this coming year, Elliott said that he hopes to attend more camps with the U.S. Ski Team (USST)—and he also said that securing a nomination to the latter squad was something that motivated his move. (Despite a strong campaign from Elliott during the 2010 ski season, he was left off the 2010-2011 USST, and Head Coach Chris Grover cited Elliott’s mountain biking schedule as a factor in the decision.)

“I’d love to get on that team some day. I’d love to ski for them, but that’s up to those guys, if they want to bring me,” Elliott said. “Everyone’s really positive about it—seems like a great plan. [CXC Head Coach Jason] Cork says he’s into whatever I decide, and whatever those guys decide.”

There have been a number of successful skier-cyclists competing internationally in the past, most notably Harvey’s father, Pierre, a road biker who competed in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, 1984. More recently, American Carl Swenson raced on the skiing World Cup during the winter, and the professional mountain bike circuit in the summer.

Neither of those men ever won a major championship medal, though Pierre Harvey was certainly successful, winning the prestigious Holmenkollen 50 k World Cup in Oslo in the late 1980’s.

Alex Harvey was also an elite mountain bike racer when he was younger, and a very good one—he competed at the World Junior Championships two times. But faced with a difficult transition to the senior level five years ago, just as his ski results were improving, he decided to pursue the latter sport full time.

“It was more of a natural decision—it was just good timing,” he said last week.

For Elliott, at 22, the shift is coming five years later. He said he was motivated by a desire to do more international racing, and he also noted his performance in the American 4×10 k relay squad at the World Ski Championships in Oslo last week, when he teamed up with Andy Newell, Kris Freeman, and Noah Hoffman to finish 14th.

“The result wasn’t there, [but] the group is there,” Elliott said. “That’s a group that could be there for a while, and I want I want to put more focus in it.”

Nathaniel Herz

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.

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  • Martin Hall

    March 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

    No mention of Carl Swenson—-who mixed both xc skiing and mtn biking quite successfully—or was it the money he made in the biking in summers supported his skiing. I think Tad is making the right move—all the travel and competing in 2 seasons takes a Superman. Always felt Carl was compromising one of his seasons—but he did it his way—which is always important…

  • RonBott

    March 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Sadly this decision needed to be made several years ago in order to reach his full potential as a skier. Better late than never I guess.

  • T.Eastman

    March 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Yo Ron, are you some kind of expert?

  • RonBott

    March 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    No, I’m by no means an expert. Do you really don’t need to be one to understand athlete development. There are decades worth of interesting research on the topic.

  • FasterSkier

    March 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Swenson is mentioned in the article.

  • cork1

    March 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    RonBott — please provide links to this research, excepting “Outliers.” 10,000 hours to reach proficiency is a great concept, but I guarantee that Dario Cologne hasn’t been training 770 hours annually since he was 12.

  • hbxcskier

    March 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I’m pretty sure both Northug and Cologna played competitive soccer in their junior years.

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