RUMFORD, Maine — With the first day of U.S. Nationals racing over and done, here’s a look at what didn’t make it into the freestyle sprint recaps. Racers shed light on course conditions, changing strategies and the unavoidable bumps along the way.
“I planned my season to get good right now, and it looks like its coming together and that’s all you can hope for.” – Torin Koos (BSF), 1st in Tuesday’s freestyle sprint
“I had a lot of pent-up energy from an extra rest day, so I was like, ‘All right, just go, just go, [I] want to do this.’ [Monday], you know you have nerves and stuff and finally I was just at the point where I was like, ‘All right, I’m ready to do this,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s canceled, dangit, but now I’m just extra ready, I guess.’ ” — Jessie Diggins (CXC), 1st in freestyle sprint
“Yesterday, we’re like well I guess we have to go for a run. I mean it was fine you can’t get stressed out about the weather. … It was hard to contain all the race nerves from yesterday. It was kind of good to decompress and build up again.” – Jennie Bender (CXC), 3rd in freestyle sprint
“I’ve been playing Sonic the Hedgehog race car (on husband Brian Gregg’s iPad) all week preparing for that final. You can ask, I have been. I’ll show you my high score.” – Caitlin Gregg (CXC), 2nd in Tuesday’s freestyle sprint
“This is the first time I’ve come to the final really eager to race. Usually I come into the final telling myself I’ve gotta get going ’cuz I’m so tired, but the training’s been working. I’m feeling really good.”
– Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy), 2nd in freestyle sprint
“That’s the fastest snow I’ve skied on so far this year. I don’t think I’ve ever run for a ski race warm up before, so it’s good to learn. I don’t know if I did it right, but it seemed OK.” – Reese Hanneman (APU), 9th in freestyle sprint
On Tuesday’s conditions:
“So fast, the course probably took half the time it took Sunday [to ski]. The course is super good, no ruts or ice or anything like that.” – Hanneman
“It’s super fast. You’ve gotta be able to stay on your feet. Pretty icy in spots, gotta pick your lane carefully, but it’s a good course.” – Sylvan Ellefson (SSCV/Team Homegrown), 4th in skate sprint final
“They did a pretty fantastic job to get it back in racing shape after the rain.” – Mike Sinnott (SVSEF), 10th in Tuesday’s sprint
“It was perfect, beautiful course. Nice to do longer course conditions … plenty of room to ski out there. It was good conditions.” – Lars Flora (APU), fifth in skate sprint
“It was super fast, kind of oily, but good. … We had good skis. Salomon cold ski was awesome, had a Zach Caldwell grind. They were very fast.” – Maria Stuber (CGRP), 1st in Tuesday’s sprint qualifier, 10th overall
On the sprint itself:
“The qualifier is one of those, no matter how many intervals I do it’s always a shake out. The skate is fast, it’s more like a battle. You take up more space, so it gets a little more aggressive out there.” – Bender
“My sprinting has been off this year. To be honest, I was pretty nervous today about my body getting the response so I was happy that it did.” – Flora
“In my semifinal, (Tyler) Kornfield stepped on my skis and it was almost really bad. So I was like, you know, maybe I should just stay out of trouble. I felt so good, and I wanted to go, and it was obvious everyone was waiting. Being in front obviously is hard. There’s wind, and it’s so fast and all that.” –Blackhorse-von Jess
“The A-final went well, it was super tight. All six came over last hill together, got boxed out a little bit, pretty close. I don’t think anyone wanted to lead at the very end, it was kind of slow at the last hill. Torin was up front and was able to hang onto the lead.” – Karl Nygren (CXC), 6th in skate sprint
On race tactics:
“It was kind of this Zen moment, calm, you know? Like you know everybody’s coming … and everybody does, everybody’s waiting to hit the gas, and it’s just waiting to see who hits it first, ’cuz you don’t want to be the first guy coming down the hill, you know? Unless you’re Torin, obviously. Or I know Lars (Flora), it’s kind of his style too, go out hard, get in front.
“Torin and I skied side by side all the way to the pool, which is the top of the final descent, so I tucked in behind him, got a couple of good pushes, tucked in behind him and I think everybody just lined up. I didn’t feel anybody coming. And I thought man, I’m gonna get him.” — Blackhorse-von Jess
“I basically did every heat, not leading, not a good idea to lead down that unless you have a really good finish, and I know I don’t have that good of a finish and so I just drafted off the guy . I didn’t have the greatest draft, but I was able to swing around a few people in the last, like, 50 meters, which was pretty sweet.” – Tyler Kornfield (UAF), 3rd in the freestyle sprint
“Usually tactics is, on the backstretch on uphills, try to break it. I tried to do that in the semi but it didn’t really work, I didn’t really break them so by time I got to finish I was flooded.
“In the final, I decided to stay in second or third and then right over the top I wanted to pop it. It was really tight so I went to right, Dakota went to the right, I ran out of snow, still got around him but Torin had a little bit of a gap. Then coming down to final, I missed a couple key points.” — Flora
“I had a lead and then on the downhill, unless you had a good enough gap, I’d get passed. So I got passed in the semifinal on the downhill in a tuck even though I had a little bit of a break because there was just a pretty big draft, so my plan for the A-final was to really just go for it and drop everyone in the beginning because I was feeling really good in the heats.” – Ida Sargent (USST/CGRP)
“I just wanted to avoid crashes because last year I had some experiences so I feel like I put out quite a draft.” — Diggins
On racing at a lower elevation than Colorado:
“It’s more like we are used to starting slow and gradually go faster and faster, but you can just start hard and go hard for whole race so you have to switch your brain.” — Eliska Hajkova, University of Colorado Boulder
“It’s hard mentally more than physically because you have to know how to race at sea level.” — Joanne Reid, University of Colorado Boulder
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.