JERICHO, Vt. — No matter how you slice it, last weekend’s race efforts at the North American Biathlon Rollerski Championships were hard. For Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke and Susan Dunklee — three U.S. Biathlon national-team members who competed for the first time at the Blink rollerski festival in Norway earlier this month — the Jericho races signaled a sort of wham-bam-you’re-back reentry phase.
Back home on the East Coast, the biathletes and their teammates have embarked on a three-month leadup to the 2014/2015 World Cup season. After training in the snow tunnel in Torsby, Sweden, they flew back to the U.S. a week before the rollerski championships at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in northern Vermont.
Before heading back to Jericho in late October for the second set of World Cup trials, they’ll train at their base in Lake Placid, N.Y., and head west for a training camp in Park City, Utah.
We caught up with the winners of last Saturday’s sprints — Bailey and Dunklee — as well as Burke, who cleaned the sprint (but was disqualified for mistakenly skiing the different-length loops out of order). On Sunday, Bailey won the mass start, Dunklee placed third, and Burke was fourth.
“We just had a really good camp over in Europe — it was really productive, got to work on technique a lot in the tunnel — and then this week was pretty easy off and feeling pretty recovered now,” Dunklee said after the sprint.
She spent the previous week in nearby Craftsbury, Vt., where she trains with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, flagging out mountain-bike trails.
“I felt a lot better than I expected to, physically,” she said of her first race back. “Technique felt really strong and good and I was able to implement some of the stuff we’ve been working on in the snow tunnel. … Usually here it’s really hot; normally it’s like 90 degrees and it’s really hard to shoot and ski in those conditions. Usually the whole team struggles, but today was good for us. Better percentages overall on average.”
Dunklee described the Ethan Allen rollerski loop as one of the best that her team goes to.
“It’s got really nice hills and transitions and it skis like a normal skiers’ course does,” she said. “It’s really good practice.”
Two weeks earlier, she was racing in front of some 50,000 spectators at Blink.
“Blink was cool because it’s a very similar field to what we see in the winter in the world cups, a lot of those same big names,” she said. “They have like a two-or-three-million-dollar budget for that event. It was fantastic.”
At the same time, it was more relaxed than the in-season World Cup.
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.