This is the third installment of a seven part series in which the U.S. Ski Team’s Noah Hoffman recounts his 2010-2011 season.
The race season is in full swing and so far it’s gone really well. I’ve been in Europe now for 4 weeks and it has been a great trip. I’m learning a ton, racing often, and seeing some amazing places.
I started the year in Muonio, Finland. It was cold and dark, but they had great snow for November 8th! I only had four days to ski before the first races, so I took it really easy and made sure I kept my energy high. I didn’t race the sprint on the first day of competition, so I got to watch my teammates kill it!
The next day was a 10 kilometer classic individual start race. I was really excited to get the season under way, but I kept relaxed and was able to bring a lot of the technique work I’ve done in the off season to the race.
I’m bib 355. I skied pretty well, but was a little disappointed with my 64th place finish. However, my teammate Kris Freeman won the race! It was the second win in as many days for the US and the overall feeling was really good.
The next day was a 10 kilometer skate race. I didn’t let my disappointment from the day before affect me, and I went out and put in a good, representative effort. I skied to 25th place and was only 49 seconds back from the winner. To cap off a great weekend, Kris Freeman followed up his win with a 2nd place finish.
Because of my skate result, the US Ski Team decided to take me to the opening World Cup in Gällivare, Sweden. I was honored to be invited, and it was a great opportunity to race the best in the world.
The first race in Sweden was a 15km skate. The course was really fun, had some hard climbs, and suited my strengths well. I felt really good and put in a solid effort. I ended up 31st. It was the best distance World Cup finish in Europe for any American other than Kris Freeman since Carl Swenson in 2005. Unfortunately, the top 30 score World Cup points, and I only missed 30th by .2 seconds in a 32 minute race. It was a really solid result though.
The next day was a 4 by 10km relay. World Cup relays are huge in Scandinavia. They draw large crowds, and there is a ton of national pride. I skied the third leg behind Andy Newell and Kris Freeman. Newell skied a great scramble leg. He was only 15 seconds down when he tagged Freeman. Freeman skied one of the best races I’ve ever seen. He caught the lead group of a World Cup relay and hung on till the finish.
Kris is bib 7. He handed off to me with the lead pack of 5. Pressure! Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang on to the leaders. I dropped 45 seconds and tagged off to Chris Cook with the team from Kazakhstan representing 5th and 6th place. Cook was in over his head. He’s not generally a skate distance skier, and we dropped a bit at the end. But it was a really fun day!
Here is the lead pack right after I got the tag. I’m bib 7.
After my results in Gällivare, the US Team invited me to stay on the World Cup and go to Kuusamo, Finland. Kuusamo was an event called a mini-tour. It consists of 3 races in a row, a sprint and two distance races. The times from the first two days are added together. The amount of time you are behind the leader is how far you start behind on the third day (pursuit start). Then the first person to cross the finish line wins the tour. This meant that if I was going to do the distance races I had to do the sprint also. Sprinting is not my forte! I was hoping to at least put in a solid effort, but it was tough and it goes by so fast. I ended up 120 out of 125. The next day was a 10km classic. It went OK, but not as good as my skate racing has been. I ended up 66th. The last day, I started a long ways behind the leaders in 61st. I felt good and was able to keep picking people off. I skied up to 42nd, and I had the 34th fastest time on the day. Again, so close to World Cup points!
I was supposed to head home after the third weekend, and then head up to Canada for some lower level racing. However, immediately following the last Kuusamo race the US Team invited me to stay on the World Cup for three more weeks! That meant flying down to central Europe, taking this weekend off, then racing next weekend and the weekend after. We were able to work out the logistics, and I’m now in Davos, Switzerland. It is really nice to be back in mountains and to see the sun again!
Here is our very nice Hotel Kulm in Davos.
It is so fun to be on the World Cup for this long! Of course, the goal is to ski the World Cup all winter and eventually be competitive to win races at this level. This has been great experience. Hopefully I can keep improving the next two weeks.
Thanks as always for your continued support!
The US Ski Team’s Noah Hoffman spent most of the winter racing in Europe, with stints back in the United States for National Championships and the SuperTour Finals. With two top-30’s at World Championships in Oslo, Norway leading the way, Noah had his best season to date, adding strong performances on the World Cup and U23 World Championships.
Along the way, Noah sent periodic updates back to friends and family – a digital diary documenting the entire 2010-2011 training and racing season. The journey started over a year ago with the end of the 2010 campaign and a trip to New York City. With stops in Bend, Oregon, Lake Placid, New York, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Norway among others, Noah had plenty to write home about before he wrapped things up in Sun Valley, Idaho this April at the SuperTour Finals.
He has graciously shared these updates with FasterSkier, providing a unique year-long perspective on the life of an elite ski racer. We will publish Noah’s updates in serial form, with a new one coming every few days.
The Hoffman Chronicles