Just three days ago Caitlin Gregg was winning the U.S. National Championship 20 k by a stunning three-and-a-half minutes, while husband Brian battled to second in the men’s 30 k.
And now, after traveling from Utah to the Czech Republic, they are reflecting on their first World Cup experience of the year.
The couple arrived in Europe on Thursday, leaving little time to prepare for Saturday’s freestyle sprint in Nove Mesto.
In an email, Caitlin wrote that the travel was smooth, aided by family in the U.S. and the U.S. Ski Team in Europe.
With an exit row and plenty of food and water, they were able to get some sleep, and minimize the impact of the trans-atlantic flight.
With the 20/30 k at Nationals playing an important role in their quest for an Olympic berth and a spot in the 30/50 k, the two were unable to head to Europe earlier.
Brian struggled in the men’s sprint, finishing 87th out of 88 skiers.
“I feel that I executed the race well but am disappointed with my result,” he wrote. “To be twenty-five seconds out is really bad. My skis were really good, and I feel bad I couldn’t do them justice.”
He entered the race with a goal of being ten seconds of the lead in qualification, and while he was well off that, he generally enjoys the short events.
“I have been pegged as a distance racer, but actually really enjoy sprints and still feel that I can do well in them especially if the course is long and challenging,” Brian wrote.
Based on his performance today, he said he may skip the next World Cup sprint, focusing exclusively on the 15k classic in Poland.
“I don’t want to waste the team’s time and energy if I am not competitive,” he explained.
His goal for the 15 k next weekend is to crack the top-40. His strongest events are longer freestyle races, but will take whatever World Cup starts he can get.
Caitlin was more positive about her race. She placed 64th out of 69 skiers and wrote that she”felt really good considering the racing and travel!”
In hindsight she feels that her sprint lacked some power, but that her “energy was high.”
With her sights focused squarely on distance races, particularly the Olympic 30 k, Caitlin was unconcerned by her sprint result.
“These first few events are not a huge focus, but we thought they would bring some good perspective and learning potential!” she wrote. “This is only my third sprint World Cup ever and it’s always a humbling experience when you are a ways out. I like getting my butt kicked though, it keeps me hungry and focused on my future races!”
Some easy training, mainly shorts skis and jogs to aid with adjustment, will be followed by some intensity and the distance race next Sunday.
The couple are currently scheduled to fly back to the States on the 20th, but if they make the Olympic Team, Brian said they might try to stay in Europe and find a place to train at altitude.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.