While Standard and Poors may have recently downgraded Austria’s credit-worthiness to ‘AA’, no one is questioning Tyrol’s ability to put on world class ski races. Clear skies and cold temperatures delayed start times by one hour, but the resulting bomber tracks in Seefeld Stadium heated up quickly beneath the skis of the world’s fastest Junior racers during Tuesday’s YOG Classic races.
Russian athletes took advantage of the familiar brisk conditions to steal the show—in the Women’s 5km classic race it was Anastasia Sedova who won Gold, finishing well ahead of two Slovenians: Silver medalist Anamarija Lampic and Bronze medalist Lea Einfalt.
In the Men’s classic event, Russian Alexander Selyaninov posted the fastest time of the day on the rolling 10km course. Kentaro Ishikawa of Japan finished in second place, and Kazakstan’s Sergey Malyschev snatched Bronze away from Norway, finishing 28.7 seconds behind the Russian.
How the races unfolded—
The women’s field completed two laps of a rolling 2.5km course. Racers headed out of the stadium, immediately ascending a short, two-tiered hill before bombing down a fast descent onto the pancake valley floor. From there, the course veered sharply up the most challenging hill of the day, which began with a short, steep herringbone section, before leveling out to a stride worthy grade. The course then spat racers back down to the flat valley floor, before gradually winding upwards towards the stadium.
Russia’s Anastasia Sedova blazed her way to an impressive victory—posting the two top splits of the day to take the win by nearly 20 seconds. Sedova is relatively new to international competition, with a FIS race in Finland in 2009 being her sole listed international result.
Heather Mooney— a Peru, Vermont native who is currently a Freshman on the Middlebury Ski Team— posted the top North American finish of the day, finishing 13th amongst the field of 40 athletes. Mooney skied a smart race, posting the 20th fastest first lap, improving to 13th overall after a strong second lap.
A calculated effort allowed Mooney to pick up the pace on loop two.
“Heather planned to ski into the major climb, and save her hammering for the top of the climb on the first lap, and then just go for it on the 2nd lap,” explained US Team Coach Sverre Caldwell in an email interview with FasterSkier. “She did that quite well!” he noted.
Mooney explained that she was able to capitalize on the smooth pacing of Norway’s Silje Theodorsen, who ultimately finished 4th in the race.
“Silje blew by me on the stadium hill after the first lap… but I could see that I was gaining time on her on the double pole section,” Mooney explained to FasterSkier in an email.
“She skied the hill really well though and I lost contact. It was good to notice how she just floated up the hill, and it’s something I know I need to work on now!”
Norway, along with the rest of the traditionally strong Scandinavian nations, was notably absent from the podium positions during the Classic races. The Norwegians fared the best of the Nordic countries, with skiers claiming 4th place in both the Men’s and Women’s races.
In the Men’s race it was Russia’s Selyaninov who took the win ahead Japan’s Ishikawa. The two racers were tied at the 3.3km split, with Ishikawa leading the Russian by 1.3 seconds at 6.6km. Selyaninov put in a massive effort during the final lap to take the win by 11.4 seconds overall. Sergey Malyshev of Kazachstan posted a first lap split 12 seconds faster than the Selyaninov and Ishikawa, but faded on the final lap, ultimately finishing 28.7 seconds down on the Russian.
Selyaninov has not competed in any major races outside of Russia thus far in his career, and this win marks his first major victory. Ishikawa competed in last year’s Junior World Championships in Otepää, Estonia, with 22nd place in the 20km pursuit his best finish.
Vermont’s Paddy Caldwell, whose father Tim competed on the Seefeld courses during the 1976 Olympic Games, skied a strong race to wind up 16th overall, finishing just over two minutes off the winning pace.
Caldwell noted that the course’s sole steep climb was his primary focus during the race.
“It [the main climb] proved to be especially tough because it was on the first kilometer of the loop. My strategy was to ski it well without putting myself under. I succeeded with this until the last lap, when I was just running on fumes,” explained Caldwell to FasterSkier via email.
Coach Caldwell, Paddy’s Uncle, noted that the young Vermonter did an excellent job sticking with some of the strongest skiers, many of whom started just after him.
“Paddy had the 7th place finisher [Slovenia’s Miha Simenc] start right behind him, and ultimately caught him around 3.5km,” Caldwell explained. “He stuck with him for the second lap and then just held on the best he could. He didn’t bonk and only lost one place on the third lap—it was just pure heart and guts.”
In both races, many of the top junior competitors had relatively little international experience. However, many relied on the tried and true Eastern Cup Series to gather the necessary skills to compete at the top level. And we’re not just talking about Mooney and Caldwell, who are fixtures on the NENSA Eastern Cup Circuit. Both Russian Gold medalists have notched numerous starts in the ultra-competitive ‘Eastern European Cup’ events. Even Japan’s Ishikawa, who took Silver in the men’s race, boasts extensive experience on the FIS ‘Far Eastern Cup’.
It’s an exciting sign to see a changing of the guard in Nordic skiing. Having the US right in the thick of it makes it that much sweeter.
Cross Country action continues Thursday afternoon in Seefeld with Freestyle Sprints.