Canadian National Ski TeamGeneralRacingUS Ski TeamWorld CupTDS Stages 1 & 2: Val Müstair Bonus Quotes

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 3, 2017
The men's 10 k classic mass start heading out of the stadium on Sunday at the second stage of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
The men’s 10 k classic mass start, with Canada’s Alex Harvey in bib 5 behind Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug (28) and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner (18) heading out of the stadium on Sunday at the second stage of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

With the opening stages of the Tour de Ski  in Val Müstair, Switzerland, behind us, we wanted to share some athlete and coach comments that didn’t make it into the race reports:

***

On training over the holidays leading up to the Tour:

“We were in three different main locations over Christmas: France, Austria, and Switzerland, depending on which athlete you were. You kind of come back and see where everybody is. I think we all know each other so well that the feedback we got from France, even though as a coach, I wasn’t there, kind of told me where people were in terms of health and fitness.”

— U.S. coach Matt Whitcomb after Saturday’s freestyle sprint

 

On American Kikkan Randall qualifying for the heats for the first time this season in 29th, then going on to place 15th in the freestyle sprint on Saturday:

“Who skis poorly on their birthday? We knew Kikkan was going to get in there today. Even though she’s been coming from a different place than she’s ever been, it was cool to see her squeak in there and really fun to see her mix it up in what was actually a pretty fast heat. To be right there at the finish, to hit the gas like Sophie did, and to have some speed to access, says great things for the Tour.”

— Whitcomb

“We took a chance with entering Kikkan in this Tour, and she knows that. This is an investment, and she hadn’t scored points yet, she’d been close in Davos, she told us you know, ‘Hey, I want this, but I respect your call.’ We decided to make an investment and give her these starts because we really believe it’s going to help her get back to a place where she’s been before. Today, made me really happy to see her so happy about her results. She had a Christmas break where several key workouts went very well in Davos, she came out of there with some confidence and that’s always a good combination at the beginning of a World Cup.”

— Whitcomb

On American Sophie Caldwell qualifying in fifth and going on to place 13th on Saturday:

Sophie Caldwell (U.S. Ski Team) skating to fifth in the women's freestyle sprint qualifier at Stage 1 of the Tour de Ski last Saturday in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She went on to place 13th overall. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
Sophie Caldwell (U.S. Ski Team) skating to fifth in the women’s freestyle sprint qualifier at Stage 1 of the Tour de Ski last Saturday in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She went on to place 13th overall. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

“One of the best qualifications that she’s ever had, certainly her best this year. It’s great to see her healthy again. She was sick over Christmas, she was the last of the team to go down. She’s healthy again, and so that qualification said great things. She got stepped on, on the final climb and had to cover a gap that got opened up. I was curious to see, at altitude sometimes she can run out of gas and have less than what is required in the finish, and she was really punchy, she hit the gas and got speed out of it, and there was just too many people to go by. She lost by five-hundredths of a second. It could have gone either way; it could have gone fantastically or it could have gone the way that it went.”

— Whitcomb

“I was really psyched with the qualifier today. This is a pretty long, hard course at altitude, so to qualify that high was a really good day for me. It’s funny because this is the second time I’ve raced here, and because it’s long hard and because it’s at altitude, both times I’ve had to tell myself to go easy the first lap or 2/3rds of a lap. Of course you never actually go easy in a race, but if I keep telling myself to go easy, then I can at least take it out a little slower and pace it pretty well.”

— Sophie Caldwell on Saturday’s qualifier

“I’m someone who has a lot of fast twitch and I can get up to speed quite quickly, which is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. On a quick course it can be a great thing, but on a longer course at altitude, I risk having an epic blowup if I start out too hot. So after the first uphill today I was like, ‘okay, good job, your legs don’t hurt and you’re not breathing hard’, then across the long gradual uphilll I started picking it up a bit and then tried to hammer up the hill the second time and of course, my legs hurt, but they were fresh enough to make it over the hill. I didn’t know I was having a good race because it’s hard to feel like you’re crushing it when you’re really trying to pace, but I was really happy to see I was fifth.”

— Caldwell on her qualifier

“Being .01 from advancing was tough, but I’ve also been on the winning end of a lunge before and I guess you can’t always be the lucky one!”

— Caldwell on placing third in her quarterfinal

 

On American Simi Hamilton:

“I’m expecting big things out of [Simi] in Toblach [at the regular-season World Cup Jan. 14-15]. I think he’s set up for success there. In sprint racing, that doesn’t mean anything, but it’s the best we can ask for. He’s starting to feel better, it’s just today he had a conservative approach to the start as a way of conserving energy, and in this particular heat it put him in sixth, and he had trouble finding windows to make any moves. That didn’t go well tactically today. I think it wasn’t that he was scrambling to hang on, he looked good, he had good acceleration through the finish, he was able to pick off a couple guys. He finished fourth in his heat, and 18th on the day. It’s positive for sure, it’s not where he can race. We’ll see him on the podium again.”

— Whitcomb after Saturday’s freestyle sprint

“I wasn’t surprised with how the qualifier went. I was definitely happy with it. It obviously wasn’t the best qualifier, if you look at the time out from the leader. If you take Ustiugov out of the equation, I think I was somewhat close. I definitely treat it as a sign that things are moving in the right direction.”

— Simi Hamilton after Saturday’s freestyle sprint, where he qualified 14th and went on to place 18th 

 

On the decision for some U.S. Ski Team members to withdraw from the Tour:

“That’s been a part of the plan. It’s not something we decided on the spot. [Sophie Caldwell and Simi Hamilton] will participate in the OPA Cup in Slovenia along with Ida Sargent and Andy Newell this coming weekend. We saw a better opportunity for some of our sprinters than a skate sprint on Friday and a 10 skate on Saturday that they’ll do in Val di Fiemme, [Italy].”

— Whitcomb

On choosing between classic or skate skis for Sunday’s classic mass start:

Canada's Alex Harvey (5) racing in the men's 10 k classic mass start at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski on Sunday, Jan. 1, in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)
Canada’s Alex Harvey (5) racing alongside Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug (28) and Russia’s Andrey Larkov (7) in the men’s 10 k classic mass start at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski on Sunday, Jan. 1, in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Salomon/NordicFocus)

“I tested the skate skis, I was ready to go. I had my pursuit boots, I was ready to go double pole, but the final call was just going to be whatever my competitors were doing. In the end, all the Norwegian guys, Dario [Cologna of Switzerland], and [Finland’s Iivo] Niskanen went classic skis, so I just made the call, kind of looking at what these guys were doing … classic was probably a safer bet and thinking ahead, thinking for the next few days it is a bit easier on the body to stride, and apply the pressure and use all your muscles rather than just the arms and the core so could be a bit better to stride.”

— Canadian Alex Harvey, after placing eighth in Sunday’s 10 k classic mass start

 

On the classic mass start course:

“There was one, just not super steep, but very long climb like when you started at the bottom of the stadium. It was kind of all gradual for almost four minutes so that was tough, but it was not steep. On the second lap I was skiing behind [Great Britain’s Andrew] Musgrave [who was double poling] the whole way up and not catching him, just going the same speed, but then at the end of the lap, you would hit the sprint hill that we did twice yesterday and that is kind of steep and that is where the double polers were getting bogged down and crashing even. [Others] were trying to herringbone around them and hitting their ski tips, I think had it not be that hill, more people would double pole. That hill, even though it is short, is just enough to put so much stress on the arms that after, you’re kind of paying for it the rest of the course.”

— Harvey on Sunday

On rebounding from illness:

Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) racing to eighth in the Stage 1 freestyle sprint qualifier last Saturday in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She went on to place 23rd on the day. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) racing to eighth in the Stage 1 freestyle sprint qualifier last Saturday in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She went on to place 23rd on the day. Like teammate Jessie Diggins, Bjornsen was also racing for the first time in several weeks after missing the La Clusaz World Cup due to illness. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

“I was really nervous coming to this Tour for a couple of reasons; for one, when you felt great, and then you get sick, you almost lose confidence in your immune system, and  you’re like ‘What the heck? Am I going to wake up sick before the tour as well?’ It was a big relief to wake up, and be like ‘OK, I feel good, I feel healthy, I’m racing; this is awesome!’ It felt funny because I hadn’t raced in three weeks, and then we’re at this long sprint course at altitude. It was definitely an awkward start. I didn’t feel like I was really going, and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t feel that either, on this course at this altitude. … I was just thrilled to make it to the final, that was a surprise, but a very welcome one.”

— American Jessie Diggins, who placed sixth in Saturday’s sprint final after missing the World Cup in La Clusaz, France, two weeks earlier because of illness

“A lot of people look at illness as a negative thing, it’s really only negative in that you miss some races. [It can be a] somewhat positive recovery process that just unfortunately has to happen. We come out of it feeling fresh and sometimes faster than we were. I think in Jessie’s case, very happy with where she is, I know she’s feeling good.”

— Whitcomb on Saturday

On baby-friendly venues:

Kikkan Randall (c) racing in the 5 k classic mass start on Sunday, Jan. 1, at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She ended up 19th on the day. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
Kikkan Randall (c) racing in the 5 k classic mass start on Sunday, Jan. 1, at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. She ended up 19th on the day. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

“The [Val Müstair] organizers did an amazing job with this race and had a really nice baby room that my mom utilized with Breck. They had diapers, a changing table and toys to play with plus gifts for all the mothers. It’s really neat to see the [organizing committees] getting behind the support for mothers!”

— Randall after Sunday’s 5 k classic mass start

On strategy and expectations for the next few stages:

“It’s easy to try and overcomplicate things as a coach. I mean, we really want what we have to say make a difference to these athletes, but sometimes I think it’s better to just step back and make sure they stay happy, make sure they have access to good food and lodging, and effective travel schedules, fast skis, and just trust that if they show up and the start line feeling happy, relaxed, and with trust of their teammates and service staff and their coaches, that it’s going to go as well as it possibly can. So we don’t overcomplicate things with regards to strategy in a Tour. There may be an occasional point here or there on a sprint day or on a mass start, but basically show up on the start line rested and happy is our Tour strategy.”

— Whitcomb after Stage 1 on Saturday

“I’m definitely not over-analyzing. For a Tour, there’s so many things that need to go right every day for you to be in a top position, and I take it day-by-day. I don’t dwell on the past, I don’t dwell on the future. It’s just the right now I need to drink a lot, eat a lot, recover, foam roll … I just live in the moment during the Tour, because tomorrow when we’re going to drive four hours, then we’re going to do this, it’s a few too many things. … That helps conserve my energy, and not worry about things I can’t help.”

— Diggins on Saturday

“Moving into Oberstdorf, it’s just going to be more of the same. Try and recover with the demanding travel schedule, try and stay hydrated, we’re moving down from altitude, so that should help. And keep having fun.”

— Whitcomb after Stage 2 on Sunday

The men's 10 k classic mass start at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)
The men’s 10 k classic mass start at Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski, with Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby (l) leading Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

 

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