MADISON, Wis. — In his SuperTour debut, Jari Joutsen put forth a strong showing for Finland, winning the men’s 1 k classic sprint qualifier in 1:55.1. The 33-year-old, who skis for Vetelin Urheilijat, beat Skyler Davis of the U.S. Ski Team and Stratton Mountain School (SMS) by 1.1 seconds.
Davis was the second-fastest qualifier on the snow-covered streets surrounding Wisconsin’s State Capitol building, 1.2 seconds ahead of Dakota Blackhorse von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy) in third.
“I’m really excited,” Davis said in his first classic sprint since placing fifth at U.S. Nationals in Rumford, Maine, last month. “I’m glad that the qualifier went as planned. I saw that a Finnish guy beat me. Dakota and I will have to change that in the heats.”
Davis started second after Blackhorse von Jess kicked off the weekend on the manmade course. Fifteen seconds behind, he could see Blackhorse von Jess throughout much of the course with four tight righthand turns, one gradual uphill and one long downhill.
“With him out in front I could kind of see what tracks he was going in and what lines to take,” Davis said. “So that was good.”
With one warmup loop on the all-double-pole course, Blackhorse von Jess said he wasn’t sure how to approach the descent before the finish.
“The downhill on the backside is, who knows? Tuck? Double pole? In tracks? Out of tracks? I don’t really know,” Blackhorse von Jess said. “I knew Skyler was behind me and I figured whatever I did he was probably going to do the same so I figured I would just stay in the tracks, no reason to mess with it.”
With 10 seconds between the top 16 qualifiers, Blackhorse von Jess said the heats will involve different strategies.
“The heats are always a totally different animal and once they start it’s going to be way easier,” he said. “I bet the slowest guys are close enough to the top guys that unless you drop the hammer, they’re going to stick on you, so might as well ski slow beat them at the end.”
Davis planned to use shorter poles as he anticipated softer snow closer to noon on the 34-degree day. While he said the course was a leg-burner, he liked it.
“It was cool to have that downhill before the finish,” he said. “You kind of like revamp and give that last push.”
The top 16 men advance to the semifinals.
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.