Noah Hoffman’s nascent Tour De Ski journey finished on a high atop the Alpe Cermis.
Hoffman skied to an impressive 17th place up the infamous alpine climb in a time of 31:19.3, 1:19.7 behind stage winner Marcus Hellner.
Hoffman was able to use his start position to his advantage, steadily picking off skiers as the race progressed.
“It was good to start in the wave,” Hoffman told FasterSkier. “I think that’s an advantage if you’re looking for time on day. I mean, had I been able to stay with the leader of the wave those guys finished 3rd and 4th for splits on the day.”
Hoffman began the day aggressively, joining a pack to keep the speed high leading up to the decisive pitches of the Alpe Cermis.
“The first half of the race by distance is flat and gradual down,” Hoffman said. “There’s a big advantage to be in the lead there, we were skiing pretty fast as a group in that section.”
Once the gentle terrain gave way to the initial 12% gradient, Hoffman kicked into gear.
“I’m really good when the terrain is really hard, like today,” Hoffman said.
As any observer back home will note, the course designers integrate a series of switchbacking gates roughly halfway up the climb, which was a novel course feature for Hoffman.
“The gates were interesting,” Noah emphasized. ” We’ve done some hill climbs in the US, in spring series, but never with gates like that, which require you to traverse across a run, as opposed to going straight up. It was a surprise for me during my course preview yesterday. It was interesting. I wasn’t expecting that.”
After navigating the switchbacks, Hoffman utilized good energy to finish just 22.4 seconds out of the top 10.
Hoffman’s final climb result saw him finish well within the points, which was a big goal of his for his first Tour de Ski.
“Today was a good day,” Hoffman said. “I have more in me on a climb like that. There’s definitely some improvement to be had there. I was happy to score some points.”
Hoffman, 23, finished his first Tour de Ski in 46th place overall, 10:39.0 behind winner Alexander Legkov; he’s encouraged by his result and has new goals to focus on for the 2014 edition.
In particular Hoffman will try to increase his ski speed on gradual terrain, a necessary improvement he identified to be competitive on the crucial ‘queen’ stage from Cortina to Toblach.
“That point to point race was an eye opening for me,” Hoffman told Fasterskier. ” [It’s] very different from any World Cup course I’ve been a part of. It’s a crucial race in the Tour De Ski. You really need to be competitive if you’re going to do well in the Tour. That kind of terrain — gradual up, gradual down — is a challenge for me and I need to continue to work on that.“
Overall, Hoffman is upbeat about his performance in his first Tour de Ski.
“I think I can do really well in this event… If things go correctly and I come in in the right shape and improve in general.”
Hoffman leaves the Tour in 41st position in the overall World Cup standings.
He plans to stay in Europe, recover, and begin training again in preparation for La Clusaz in 13 days.
Freeman Struggles With Blood Sugar, Finishes Last Tour de Ski
Kris Freeman was succinct in his sentiment regarding his completion of the Tour de Ski.
“The Tour didn’t go as I hoped it would,” Freeman told FasterSkier. “I’m glad it’s over.”
The 2012 has been a disappointment for Freeman, who initially set a goal of finishing in the top 10. He would finish 44th overall, 10:09.7 behind winner Alexander Legkov.
“Nothing seemed to go right,” Freeman said. “After the long Cortina to Toblach race, I had some very severe blood sugar problems.”
Freeman, a type 1 diabetic, said that “it’s too much craziness for me to keep on top of balancing sugar [in the Tour de Ski]. There’s too many different variables happening.”
Leading up to the ‘queen’ stage from Toblach to Cortina, Freeman had been able to manage his blood sugar well, but then inexplicably it began to wildly oscillate.
“I went extremely high, and then extremely low, and extremely high, and then extremely low.”
Such variances in blood sugar have severe consequences on the body, roughly equivalent, in Freeman’s doctor’s words, ‘to being shot.”
“When it goes extremely high something happens to your muscle enzymes,” Freeman explained. “And when you go extremely low you produce a lot of stressor hormones.”
At one point, Freeman seriously debated whether to continue.
“We basically talked awhile about whether or not I should continue. He said the recovery process would probably take a few weeks. But that continuing to race wouldn’t hurt me as long as the sugar stayed under control,” Freeman said.
Ultimately Freeman chose to continue, finishing 41st in the final climb in a time of 32:32.7, 2:33.1 behind stage winner Marcus Hellner (SWE).
That’s a respectable result for someone that “had nothing,” in Freeman’s words.
But Freeman was looking for more.
He concludes that this Tour will be his last, and will return his focus to targeting specific races where it’s easier to manage his blood sugar.
“There’s too many different variables happening,” Freeman said. “I always race at my best when I have time at a venue to figure out how my body is reacting. When you’re changing venues every day it doesn’t work.”
Freeman, 32, leaves the Tour de Ski in 54th position in the overall World Cup.
Freeman plans to use his time back home to rebuild after the blood sugar problems and train.
“My plan is to go back to the States, regroup, and basically be home for three-and-a-half weeks. I’ll come back for the Davos World Cup and target World Champs,” Freeman told FasterSkier.
He may even jump into the Craftsbury ski marathon, one of his favorite races.
If he does, he doesn’t fear his brother, Justin.
“I think the way my brother is skiing now I think I could beat him on one ski. I don’t think he would deny that right now,” Freeman said.
In any event, Freeman is already moving past his Tour de Ski disappointment, and is confident he can return to form.
“When I’m in one place I make my best gains in training, that’s when I have my best races,” Freeman said. “I know from Canmore that the fitness is there, the training has worked, it’s just a matter of getting to the start line ready to go.“