Craftsbury Green Racing Project skier Caitlin Patterson had a tough end to the winter in 2016: she locked up the overall SuperTour title, but got sick before the Ski Tour Canada and was unable to compete in the final World Cup series of the year, something that had been the focus for so many North American athletes.
But that SuperTour title earned her World Cup start rights for the first period of racing this season, and Patterson headed to northern Europe a bit early to get some early starts in Muonio and Saariselkä, Finland.
While the top Finns were present in Muonio, as well as Polish star Justyna Kowalczyk, the field in Saariselkä was primarily Russian, with the German national team also present.
“The races this past weekend were a bit of an adventure – 0°C and very tricky classic conditions,” Patterson wrote in an email about the races in Saariselkä, where she finished 23rd in the 5 k classic and 14th in the classic sprint. “And the courses had some funny 180 degree corners which are not what you usually see, and yet the races felt pretty big and official with all the different nations represented and especially so many Russians. Once again it was fun for me to put on a bib and race, and though I definitely didn’t feel my best for the distance race, I had quite a good sprint day and was happy to end the weekend on a good note.”
Patterson, 26, is now ready for to represent as the SuperTour leader.
“Yes, I am ready for the World Cup to start, or will be by the weekend at least!” Patterson wrote after traveling to Ruka, where the first weekend of racing will be held. “I have a few more days to become more familiar with the courses, test skis, do some pre-race intensity and then it will be go time! Of course I’m nervous, it’s the World Cup, but I’m also very excited and looking forward to racing!”
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?
I got a car, my first one. Yes, I’m 26. I drove my parents’ cars during high school, but I never had a car in Vermont until this summer.
2. Biggest change in your training?
A little more volume, better quality all around. There haven’t been any huge changes, just a progression that makes sense while following the same training philosophy as the past years with the GRP.
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
Strength, particularly core stability/body connectivity, which has helped me ski with better and more stable technique.
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
I’ve been working as closely as ever with coach Pepa Miloucheva, and enjoying training sessions with all of my GRP teammates.
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
Oo that’s a tough one, I’ve been on several great trips, one to Alaska to ski on the Eagle glacier for the first time, and one to Slovenia and Austria to train on snow there. I’d have to go with the Slovenia/Austria trip, because the Julian Alps of Slovenia were great for exploring and make me want to go back soon for more hiking. And Ramsau, Austria is a spectacular place and great for fall training; I am building up lots of good memories from the three September camps I’ve been to on the Dachstein glacier in Ramsau.
6. Favorite cross-training?
Running, which luckily is a staple of my summer and fall training
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
Looking at close-up details of the natural world, and sometimes photographing them.
8. Song that was your jam this summer?
I enjoy hearing what other people come up with for pump-up workout music or music for the gym and car rides, but I’m not exactly great at coming up with that stuff myself, or staying on top of current trends. Some of my favorite music is by a folk group called Crooked Still.
9. All-time favorite race moment?
Of my personal race moments, the 10k skate mass start in Falun last year, where I first scored World Cup points, stands out. During the race I had no idea what place I was skiing in, but I was fighting for every second and pushing myself as hard as I ever have. It was incredible to learn in the finish pen that the hard work had been worth it, I had skied to a 25th place result!
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
Metaphorically, I pack my camera first. Physically the camera doesn’t go into the bottom of my bag, that would be my ski boots.
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
All of the World Cup venues in Period I, since they’ll all be new to me. So we can start with Ruka, Finland, since that will be first!
12. Who will win the World Cup title this year?
Oestberg and Sundby
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?
I don’t regret that skiing has been my highest priority for a long while now, but sometimes I do wish that I could give my full effort to academic studies or an engineering career. As a ski racer my time and attention is just so divided, with training and travel and racing, that I’ve never been able to commit 100% to intellectual work. Some day in the future I will, but for now there’s no rush.
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
Doping. I wish there was a better way to ensure that all athletes are competing clean, to be able to trust our fellow competitors and have the public trust the integrity of the athletes.
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
This morning I made egg-banana pancakes and ate them with yogurt, berries, and honey. It took me a few days to fill in all these questions and I had to change this answer every day! I really like eating something different just about every morning, because breakfast foods are nice, and fun to cook! Especially this past week as one of the last that I’ll be able to cook for myself for a while, I’ve been rotating through many of my favorites. I just have to be careful not to let myself launch into complex or long-lasting breakfast projects most days because I need to get out the door and train.
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
Either ski racing at the Olympics, or engineering bridges while skiing on the side. Only time will tell which path is right.
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
Still skiing and enjoying playing outside as much as ever.