Coming off a career-best result in Kuusamo, Finland, Noah Hoffman of the US Ski Team had five days to recover and rev himself back up for Saturday’s 15-kilometer classic individual start at World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway.
In an email, Hoffman explained he might have been too well rested because he “felt a little stale.”
In the final pursuit of the Kuusamo Ruka Triple, Hoffman clocked the fastest 15 k freestyle time for ninth overall. He carried that energy into Saturday’s race and felt good, but was hoping for a top 20. In a field of nearly 85 men, he ended up 41st , 1:31.9 behind Norwegian winner Pål Golberg.
“My pacing strategy was to start deliberately backed down from my normal race level,” Hoffman wrote, which he executed pretty closely, but not quite 100 percent. Ultimately, he explained that he struggled to ski relaxed and “big” in classic.
“I am going to revisit my classic technique before my next classic race in the Tour de Ski,” Hoffman added. “I am disappointed by today’s result because I think I am in better shape than I showed.”
Hoffman will start third in the U.S. men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay on Sunday in Lillehammer, as the first skate leg ahead of anchor Simi Hamilton, who sat out Saturday’s 15 k.
“No 15 km for me today, but stoked for relay tmrw!” Hamilton tweeted.
Andy Newell will scramble the first classic leg and tag off to Kris Freeman as the second classic skier.
Freeman, who trains with the Maine Winter Sports Center, finished 75th on Saturday (+3:33.3). Mikey Sinnott was the other American in the 15 k and placed 81st (+5:06.0).
“It was an awful race,” wrote Sinnott, last season’s overall SuperTour winner from Sun Valley. “I’m feeling flat and I can’t afford to be anything but my best in this field. I was looking forward to this opportunity, and I’ve turned up to a gun fight with rubber band gun. I would be minuted back in the SuperTour field with this kind of effort, so it’s very frustrating to not be showing my true ski potential.”
As the first starter, he had hoped to experience the leader’s chair. Sinnott started conservatively and “slowed down from there,” unable to get going, he wrote.
“My races so far in Europe have been largely forgettable,” he added. “More than a place or time, which can be hard to gauge in a new field, I wanted to feel good racing.”
Regardless, he wouldn’t trade the international experience or opportunity to strive for the U.S. Olympic team.
“I’ve been loving the experience and trying to feed off the positivity and confidence of those around me,” Sinnott wrote. “Every World Cup race is a learning experience for the future, and each one affords me the chance to grow with my comfort and familiarity. Hopefully with the sprint races yet to come I can find my stride and use what I have learned to put things together.”
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.