Noah Hoffman (USA) followed up his first World Cup top-20, in Saturday’s 10k skate by holding position in the top-30 and finishing 26th in the Ruka Triple Mini-Tour.
Starting the 15km classic pursuit in 24th, Hoffman lost just two places while placing 35th on the day.
Historically a stronger skater, he was pleased with the result.
“I executed well and did all I could with what I had to work with today,” Hoffman wrote to FasterSkier in an email.
U.S. Ski Team coach Matt Whitcomb had nothing but superlatives for the 23-year-old Coloradan.
“Just an amazing weekend for Noah,” Whitcomb said. “He is looking like we have known that is able to look for a long time.”
Whitcomb noticed a significant difference in Hoffman’s skiing the past few days — more patience and confidence.
“He never looked that classic Hoffman frantic,” Whitcomb explained. “He just accepted that his kick and his glide were powerful enough, and that if he could ski within his own limits, that was going to be good enough.”
Hoffman sees potential moving forward, noting that “there’s more there (in terms of results) when I have a little more energy to work with.”
The only other American with a shot at cracking the top-30 in the mini-tour was Kris Freeman, starting in bib 37.
Freeman, however, dropped out after suffering, “a rapid bonk at kilometer seven.”
In an email Freeman explained that he has been advised by his doctors to drop out of races when this happens, “in order to avoid chronic fatigue from low blood sugar incidents”
A fierce competitor, Freeman says the hope is the move will pay off over the course of the season, and make the challenge of abandoning a race worth it.
Freeman was joined on the DNF list by teammate Andy Newell.
According to Whitcomb, the plan going into the race was for Newell to evaluate during the event. If things were going well, he would push hard and finish, but if not, he would pull out with an eye on the Quebec City sprints.
“As an athlete it always sucks having to pull out of races but with Quebec right around the corner, I didn’t want to take any chances,” Newell said.
He added that his body is fine, and that he is healthy, “just feeling a little low on energy.”
Overall, only three U.S. men finished the race. In addition to Hoffman, Tad Elliott was 77th and Sylvan Ellefson 83rd out of 84 finishers (though a handful of skiers were lapped and pulled from the race).
Simi Hamilton did not start, like Newell looking ahead to Quebec.
“I’d like to be rested and feeling good this week to prepare for the next two weeks of racing across the pond [in Canada],” Hamilton told FasterSkier. “My coach and I decided quite some time ago that I would only race today if I was feeling extremely good and the conditions weren’t too harsh.”
Ellefson wrapped up the early winter European World Cup tour not entirely happy with how he is skiing.
“I’m really trying hard to keep my head up after each race,” Ellefson said. “It’s hard to do race after race, never even jumping into the 60’s when you’re trying to pop a Top-30.”
He thinks he may “forcing it too much,” but has done a good job putting the tough races behind him.
At the end of the day he knows that if he is in top form, he “can be there for sure.”
On Sunday specifically, he said he was “very flat” and did not have the ability to push.
But he is positive looking ahead, and sees bigger and better things for the U.S. men in the near future, potentially starting with the Canadian World Cups.
Ellefson departed with Finland with a frostbit toe and a healthy respect for his female teammates.
“What is there to say about the women that hasn’t already been said?” Ellefson said. “They’re awesome. They all skied Top-25 today and then came out and cheered me on as I was the second-to-last person to finish…It just speaks to their charisma beyond their skiing ability. Really cool.”
Elliott had similar praise for the women, and also Hoffman, but is looking to step up his own game after battling a cold in Europe.
He will skip the Quebec sprints and head home to Colorado for some recovery before the distance races in Canmore.
Despite disappointing results, Elliott is not worried. While he says his “form is off,” he has been making progress in other areas.
And like Ellefson, he is optimistic about the U.S. men’s chances as the season progresses, saying “We have a great team and are just off of some good results. I have major confidence in our whole men’s team. It is coming. Stay tuned.”
Matti Rowe contributed reporting.