Off days are good for any number of things: big breakfasts, easy ski sessions, and watching NASCAR on TV. (Yeah, it’s been a slow afternoon at the FasterSkier regional headquarters). But they’re also good for catching up on all the things we missed from the last few days. Below is a brief selection.
–Simi Hamilton’s dominating performance in the men’s prologue on Tuesday was a demonstration of what a well-trained athlete can do in a setting that suits him. But it also was a lesson for those who obsess over every single workout. Here’s Hamilton on what he was up to in the lead-up to the SuperTour Finals, after a long stint in Europe racing at World Championships and in lower-level domestic competitions.
“I spent a fair amount of time at home, and just kind of turned my mind off of racing a little bit. I actually went to the desert for a couple days and rode my bike, and did a fair amount of backcountry skiing at my cabin,” he said. “And I think it was perfect—I didn’t really know how that would affect this week, but I wasn’t super-worried about it or concerned. I was ready to come into this week, and if I didn’t ski well, then whatever. But I knew I was still holding a pretty good peak from Europe, so I knew that if I just stayed active…I’d probably be able to maintain most of that fitness.”
“Being in Europe for six weeks,” he added, “just takes a lot out of you. You’re constantly thinking about racing, and what you can be doing to race faster. Every decision that you make revolves around how you’re going to ski faster. When I got home, I just needed to take a little bit of a mental break, and just kind of do what I wanted to do. But the skiing was good down in Colorado—got some good backcountry days in, warm days.”
Hamilton was leading the SuperTour Finals overall after the prologue, but dropped down to eighth after a 13th in Wednesday’s mass start, which he said was “pretty happy” with, even if it was “not the best day ever.”
“I felt, definitely, a lot better my second and third laps. First lap, I think I just kind of spent a lot of energy just yo-yoing around in about 10th place there,” he said. “Especially, I think 15 k is a distance I kind of struggle with sometimes, so, yeah—I think it could have been a lot worse.”
–Another athlete for whom the classic mass-start could have been worse was CXC’s Tad Elliott, who skied with the lead
group and ultimately finished fifth. In the past, Elliott has excelled in skate skiing, and struggled with classic, so he was especially pleased with his performance on Wednesday.
“That was amazing…I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
“I think it’s partly altitude. Another reason is [teammate] Bryan Cook came out and trained with me in Durango the week before we came up here, and that guy is an amazing classic skier. It was awesome to get to ski behind him. He gave me some of his wise-man classic advice,” Elliott said. “Getting to do intervals with him, and skiing that pace, up high, at like 9,000 feet in Durango—I think the stars aligned. It’s nice that it’s not so black and white any more—maybe it’s like black and grey. It’s getting better.”
–In that race, Elliott was the beneficiary of a crash in the last half-kilometer that claimed both Noah Hoffman (USST) and Brent McMurtry (CNST), who had been fighting with another athlete for third place. Hoffman was clearly a little chagrined with the incident, but afterwards, his reaction was, “that’s just ski racing.”
“I was trying to pass on the outside, and we got a little tangled, and that’s what happens. It’s always too bad when you get tangled that it takes so long to get up. That’s no fun,” he said. “I had that happen a couple times last year—this is my first time this year. That actually was something I’ve been working on this summer, to try to stay more relaxed and more aware of my surroundings. So, it’s disappointing, in that sense, to have it happen, but by the same token, it’s nice that it hasn’t happened until this point in the season.”
–When Hoffman and McMurtry went down, Elliott was able to claim fifth place, for which he was awarded $100. The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is dispensing prize money all week, for the four stages of the SuperTour Finals mini-tour, and on Wednesday, both Kikkan Randall (APU/USST) and Kris Freeman (USST) cleaned up, thanks to their victories, and the mid-race cash sprints (known as primes) that they won.
Freeman took three of them, for $100 each, which, combined with his $500 winner’s check, left him with $800 on the day. Randall took all four primes, and went home with $900. It may not be much compared to the tens of thousands of dollars Randall earned on the World Cup this winter, but it’s still something.
“[I’ve] been in Europe all winter—I did pretty well in some sprints there, but yeah, it’s really nice that they’ve put a few carrots on the line here,” Randall said. “I think it made it fun. I was hoping I’d get a few challenges, maybe, for those early primes, but I guess I’ll have to buy some drinks the last night.”