This month, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team (USST) held dryland camps simultaneously, about 6,000 kilometers away from each other, in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Villard-de-Lans, France. Five of the eight women on the team attended the camp from July 11-20 in Lake Placid, which, up until a couple of years ago, was a September staple on the USST calendar. Meanwhile, four of the team’s men trained together in the picturesque, mountainous region of southeast France from July 9-18.
Who was where? In Lake Placid, USST A-team athletes Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent worked out alongside development (‘D’) team members Julia Kern and Katharine Ogden, as well as several others from their respective clubs and Stefani Böhler of the German National Team. Outside of camps, the five USST women spend most of the offseason training with their respective Vermont-based programs; Diggins, Caldwell, Kern, and Ogden are all on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team, and Sargent trains with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP).
The other three women on the national team — Sadie Bjornsen, Hannah Halvorsen and Hailey Swirbul — are based in Anchorage, Alaska, where they train with Alaska Pacific University (APU) and have multiple opportunities to ski on snow on nearby Eagle Glacier.
“Getting participation in a country as large as ours is always a challenge,” U.S. coach Matt Whitcomb told FasterSkier in Lake Placid. “… But the Alaskans have gone out of their way to give us adequate representation at these camps. They work really hard to, when they’re present, be very present.
“It’s not so much an APU or Alaska issue, it’s a distance issue,” he continued. “We can fight it as hard as we want, but we’re going to be running into a wall because it’s hard to get from upstate New York to Anchorage or Fairbanks; it’s a long ways. We do our best. We try to identify which camps the whole team will be present at, and while we’d love to be able to get together five or six times a year like the Norwegians do every four weeks for eight days, it’s not the reality for us. Our club system is the key for us, and APU is doing a great job with or without the Ski Team at a camp up there, and you have all these other clubs now running their programs like mini national teams. If we can have more of those, that’s how we’ll get better.”
In France, Erik Bjornsen (fresh off his wedding there), Simi Hamilton, Ian Torchia, and Paddy Caldwell trained under the guidance of head coach Chris Grover. Two of the team’s B-team members, Scott Patterson and Kevin Bolger, did not make the trip; Patterson has been rehabbing a fractured toe in Anchorage and Bolger is currently training in Norway.
From Aug. 20 to Sept. 10, half of the team plans to train on snow in New Zealand (Diggins, Sargent, Kern, Ogden, Hamilton, Bolger, and Sophie and Paddy Caldwell) with three coaches: Whitcomb, Jason Cork and Gus Kaeding. Then from Oct. 8-21, most of the 16-athlete squad will meet up for a final dryland camp in Park City, Utah, before revving up for another World Cup season.
Here are some photos from the two mid-summer camps, courtesy of the U.S. Ski Team:
“The Villard-de-Lans camp was excellent, and the men came away from camp mentally charged for the next period of training, although certainly needing some physical rest,” Grover summarized in an email.
French national-team member Adrien Backscheider, who lives part time in the area, joined a few of their workouts. Grover explained their training included five “high-quality sessions” during the 10-day camp, all held on the rollerski loop in Corrençon-en-Vercors: a classic speed session, a skate speed session, a Level 3 classic workout, a Level 4 skate workout, and a classic team sprint simulation. The remaining sessions were either distance, over-distance or strength.
“We had 2 classic roll + run combo workouts in the mountains, including skiing up l’Alpe d’Huez two days prior to the Tour de France stage and then hiking/running up the mountain from the village to create a 4 hour/6000 vertical feet workout,” Grover wrote. “We are very grateful to all the people we met in the Villard-de-Lans area for welcoming, supporting, and taking care of us.”
“Being sea level, we can do more of an effective intensity camp, which this is a semi-intensity focused camp here,” Whitcomb said of the USST’s 2018 Lake Placid camp. “It’s only 2,000 feet here. The running is really great here and the mountains, you get these great Adirondack peaks all over 4,000 feet. The roads in upstate New York are hardly used and the pavement is fantastic. It’s really great rollerskiing out here.”