In March, two-time U23 mountain bike national champion Tad Elliott told FasterSkier that he was planning to scale back his bike schedule in the coming year in hopes of snagging a nomination to the U.S. Ski Team.
“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.
Despite a strong 2010 season, he had not been named to the U.S. Ski Team for 2011. Head coach Chris Grover told FasterSkier at the time that Elliott’s busy bike racing schedule was part of the problem. But after more good results from Elliott in 2011 and a declaration that he would focus on skiing, the U.S. team reconsidered. In April, Elliott accepted a spot on the national team for 2012.
Just ten days later, he was on his bike winning the individual time trial at a pro race in Fruita, Colorado.
“I took a mid-summer break to ski train because I had some obligations with the U.S. Ski Team,” Elliott told Cycling News after finishing 6th in the pro cross country race at mountain bike nationals last month. “I definitely love mountain biking and that’s been almost all of my training this summer.”
According to Elliott, nothing. Even though he’s still done plenty of two-wheeled racing, he’s still training more for skiing than he ever has before, and is enthusiastic about the gains he’s making.
“It’s a really big difference,” Elliott told FasterSkier in an interview from the airport on his way to New Zealand for his first camp with the U.S. Ski Team since being named to the team.
“For the last four years I’ve just been bike racing, so I wouldn’t rollerski, or run, or weight lift, and now I’ve incorporated all those things into my training, and a lot less travel and a lot less racing so far this summer, which has been awesome. I think I’m a little more fit going into this New Zealand camp, especially for skiing, and a little more well-rested without all the travel and racing going on.”
U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Pete Vordenberg agreed that Elliott is looking more like a skier.
“He is already stronger in the gym than any time previous,” Vordenberg wrote in an e-mail. “He has done a lot more ski specific work than ever before – even before coming to Park City and especially since coming [here].”
Still, Elliott is dedicated to bike racing, and made it clear that if anyone thought he was going to quit, they were wrong.
“I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever give up in the summers,” he said. “I love bike racing and I’m on a great local team in Durango called the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I’ve done four or five races with those guys… and I’ve had a blast.”
In March, Elliott had told FasterSkier that he would race for a local team instead of the U23 National Team (he lost his U23 eligibility this year), mentor young riders, and compete mainly in local races.
To a large extent, he’s done exactly what he said he would. In April and May Elliott did three weekends of racing in Colorado, his home state, and then took a break to train with Vordenberg and teammate Simi Hamilton in Park City.
“Tad trained with Simi and I in Park City for the period we deemed appropriate leading into the NZ camp – it was around 35 days,” Vordenberg said. “For those 30 odd days we trained for skiing with lots of rollerskiing, running, bounding, weight lifting and the like as well as some solid mountain bike rides as well (which Simi was also doing).”
Then Elliott said a temporary goodbye to the skiers and headed for mountain bike nationals in Sun Valley.
“I told [the U.S. Ski Team] I had to do nationals and national finals, and they were fine with it,” Elliott told FasterSkier. “They said, ‘all right, go do that, have fun, enjoy it, and then you’ll be ready for New Zealand.’ They supported it.”
Vordenberg emphasized that the whole national championships trip was only nine days, and he was proud of Elliott’s sixth place finish, which he called “very good.”
Indeed, that result drew a lot of attention for Elliott, who is in his first year as a pro after a very successful run as a U23. Cyclingnews called the performance one of the strongest of his career; a month-long ski training binge in the midst of his season didn’t seem to be detrimental.
“I just went to nationals and had a really good result, especially my first year in that pro category, so I think being well-rested and super fit, it worked out really well,” Elliott said. “So I don’t think my biking performance has suffered.”
But will his ski performance improve if he’s still biking? For now, signs point to yes.
“We had some great workouts,” Vordenberg said. “His already good technique is better with a few little changes, but mostly we’ve worked to ingrain the positive parts of his technique so he falls back on them when he gets tired in races or when the wax isn’t perfect. I have really enjoyed working with Tad and with Simi and I think we are on track to some great results.”
Elliott was excited to see how he stacked up against his teammates at the New Zealand camp.
“In the fall last year I showed up to some U.S. Ski Team camps and I was kind of like the little brother out there, you know, who can’t quite keep up,” he said. “I was not weight lifting or rollerskiing, and in the running I was terrible. They had to wait a while for me to finish the run. So the best part about coming to Park City and rollerskiing and bounding and running… was that when I show up to New Zealand I can take advantage of training with guys like Kris Freeman and Andy Newell. I feel as good now, in mid-July, as I normally do in mid-October.
“I’m hoping it’s good, I guess we’ll see when I’m down there.”