Craftsbury, Vermont hosted the USSA SuperTour this weekend under blue skies and on top of firm tracks, with racers calling it “the best conditions of the year.” The three days of racing comprised women’s and men’s 5 and 10-kilometer freestyle races (respectively) on Friday, a 15/20 k classic on Saturday, and Sunday Sprints.
Friday’s Interval-Start Skate
On Friday Caitlin Gregg showed that she is a dominant skate skier, starting hard and holding it through to the finish in the 5 k, finishing first in 13:50.8. Caitlin Patterson (+42.9) found herself in a race for second with Erika Flowers, who took third just 1.6 seconds behind Patterson (+44.5).
“I haven’t felt quite as good this weekend as I had hoped to going into it,” Patterson wrote in an email. “Caitlin Gregg started only 15 seconds behind me and caught me within 1.5 k, proceeding to drop me by about 2 k into the race. She was skiing with very high tempo and extremely well. Her final time was 43 seconds faster than mine, which is a painfully large margin for a 5 k. I struggled to hang on and make it to the finish, and I consider myself pretty lucky that I found just enough energy to hold off the other girls who were just seconds behind in the final results.”
Flowers was happy with her race, and was excited by the extra competition offered by Gregg’s presence on the course.
“I just tried to focus on really accelerating throughout the 5 k loop, skiing smooth and then hammering the tops of the bigger climbs. I had no idea how my time was when I finished since most of the faster girls were behind me, but I felt good and was excited to be on the podium! Caitlin Gregg still had a runaway win but its great for the rest of us to have someone challenging us and helping us get to that next level.”
Scott Patterson (Caitlin Patterson’s brother) took first in the men’s 10 k, leveraging his familiarity with the course for all it was worth.
“Sections out in the depths of the course determine the placing, and I know exactly which parts and how to ski them to win the race” he wrote in an email. “I was also focusing a bit on some of the things that I recognized as potential areas for improvement during [the U23 World Championships in Italy]. By combining all of that on a course that I like and know how to ski well, I think I made it pretty tough to post better splits than I did.”
Indeed, it proved too tough for any of the other racers to post faster splits him, and he won the race with a time of 24:54.2. Raphael Couturier skied his way into second 27.2 seconds later, and Dartmouth College freshman Patrick Caldwell took third (+49.6).
Caldwell said that this weekend was about “being with the team and getting [his] feet back under [him] after travel.” Indeed, it was his only race of the weekend, as he wanted to focus on recovery.
Saturday’s Interval-Start Classic
Gregg and Scott Patterson were asked on Friday to make a prediction for Saturday’s interval-start classic race; Gregg picked Anya Gruber as the winner, singling her out as an “amazing classic skier.” Patterson, on the other hand, picked himself.
“I don’t like publically predicting places of races that I am in, but I am feeling pretty confident,” he wrote in an email.
His confidence was well placed, as he handily won his second-straight race. Gregg, for her part, ended-up besting Gruber, but she could not out ski Rosie Brennan, who won the 15 k race in 47:55.8. Gregg was 19.2 seconds back, while Gruber took third (+58.2).
Gregg was graceful about her missed prediction, however, writing that “I felt like I skied one of my best classic races ever today, my skis were great again, my energy was great and I even felt strong double poling! Rosie skied a fantastic race and I am very impressed! She is tough and talented!”
Brennan was uncertain about her pacing for the race, but she seemed to make it work.
“I wasn’t sure how to pace given that we don’t do individual 15km very often, if ever. But the skiing in Craftsbury is amazing right now, perfect, soft, cold snow so I figured that if I just enjoyed the skiing and kept moving things would work themselves out. After the first lap, I was getting splits off of Caitlin Gregg that we were tied and throughout the 2nd lap my splits were varying between being up a little, down a little, and tied. I knew it was going to come down to the end, so I just went for it the last lap and things turned out well. I was excited with how I skied because I have not been pacing myself well this season and I finally felt like I nailed it. I have also struggled in classic, but with the tracks as they were today, it was impossible to not just love classic skiing.”
Scott Patterson’s time-to-beat in the 20 k was 55:21.9, while Reese Hanneman battled his way to second (+22.9) and Welly Ramsey was third (+55.5).
Hanneman’s Saturday performance was redemption from a disastrous ski on Friday, where he finished 78th.
“I’ve been at home in Alaska since Nationals, training quite a bit, and I am feeling super tired,” he wrote in an email on Saturday. “I figured I would be pretty flat yesterday, but did not anticipate it would be that bad.”
But that wasn’t all:
“I also realized today that I raced yesterday’s skate race with my classic poles, which would explain why my back was killing me, and why I had multiple coaches tell me my technique looked horrible.”
He was able to pull himself together for Saturday’s race, though.
“I just tried not to think about yesterday too much, and just went out and […] just tried to do my thing. It was nice to have the right poles today too!”
On Sunday racing wrapped up with sprinting, bringing exciting spectator action, in spite of reduced competition – the sprints were not an NCAA event, so many of the collegiate skiers did not participate. Third-place Caitlin Patterson summed up Sunday’s racing:
“Today was an exciting day of racing in Craftsbury,” she said in an email on Sunday, “after two individual start races, it was certainly fun to have a sprint and give the spectators head-to-head racing to watch. I think many of the competitors, myself included, were starting to feel the physical toll of the past few days of racing, but there was some pretty high speed skiing out there anyway.”
Caitlin Gregg returned to the top of the podium, followed by Jennie Bender and Caitlin Patterson. A surprise entrant into the top six was 18-year old Gatineau, Quebec native Sophie Carrier-Laforte, who finished 5th after making it into the finals.
“I don’t think I knew who she was before this weekend,” Caitlin Patterson said of her young rival, “but she certainly has some impressive sprint speed. It was great to have someone unexpected to challenge the rest of us US SuperTour skiers. The men had even more challengers, with quite a few fast Canadians down here for the weekend.”
None of those Canadians were able to get on the podium, however, as Sam Naney took the top spot in the sprint in a big victory for him, Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess took second, and Reese Hanneman took third.
“I was pretty tired from the previous hard training and two consecutive distance races,” Hanneman wrote in an email. “But I was content with the qualifier, and then felt okay in the heats. I tried to break away in the final on the big climb, but couldn’t get enough of a gap and then Sam and Dak took it into the line a little faster than me.”
Many of the racers said that these races were an exciting way to continue their preparation for the remainder of the spring racing season, particularly the remainder of the SuperTour races.
The SuperTour circuit continues next weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota.