HomeTag Matt Whitcomb

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“It has everything,” Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla told FIS before the start of the 10-kilometer interval start skate in Nové Město, Czech Republic. Though she was describing the steep uphills and working downhills, found along the 5 k track, it might have also been an apt description for what the weather had in store. As athletes headed out on course, the light icy precipitation transitioned into chunky white flakes accumulating on the deteriorating ribbon of man...

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The fateful Alpe Cermis. The 10-kilometer capstone of the Tour de Ski, athletes complete the 1.5 k sprint loop before following the river valley down to the base of the alpine hill, climbing steeply for nearly 400 vertical meters to the finish. Bodies aching with the cumulative fatigue of the tour, racers are totally spent at the finish of the event. Crossing the line, they collapse with their faces pressed into the snow gasping for...

The 100th Tour de Ski Stage in Val di Fiemme, Italy, featuring a four lap 10-kilometer mass start classic. Coupling the results in distance racing over the last 14 months since Therese Johaug returned to the world cup and those of Stage 4, it seemed like a safe bet to predict a rematch between Johaug and her teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg. Another opportunity to race head-to-head over every meter of the course, and for Johaug...

The hunter becomes the hunted. Looking back on previous tours, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov has not worn the leader bib going into the pursuit stage except for the 2016/2017 tour in Oberstdorf, Germany. That year, Ustiugov won six of the seven stages, placing second in the mass start classic in Stage 6, but still raced up the final hill climb with a significant buffer for the overall victory.  This year, Ustiugov was the man to beat....

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Toblach, Italy. A stunning stadium and backdrop with the Dolomites lording over the venue and a steady cling-clang of baritone bells greeted skiers along portions of the course. Stage 3 in Toblach, a 10-kilometer interval start skate, turbocharged the 2019-2020 Tour de Ski (TDS).  After two stages, a Stage 1 mass start skate and Stage 2 skate sprint, Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva sat atop the overall standings. In third overall, Norway’s imminent threat, Therese Johaug, was positioned...

Day two of the Tour de Ski offered the American women the Sisyphean task of earning back time after a miss on ski and wax selection in Stage 1 prevented them from performing to their capability. This was particularly so for Jessie Diggins, a favorite for the overall tour podium who finished the first stage in 29th 1:20 behind Norway’s pace-setting Theresa Johaug. Her teammate Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, also a top all-arounder, was in the...

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The starting corral was blocked by a wall of red before the start of the 15-kilometer mass start freestyle in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Of the top ten ranked athletes, eight hailed from either Norway or Russia, interrupted only by Iivo Niskanen of Finland and Lucas Chanavat of France.  Front and center was last year’s victor Johannes Høsflot Klæbo. He became the youngest Tour de Ski Champion at 22 years of age after holding off Russia’s Sergey...

From under the umbrella to inside the snow globe. Fat flakes were falling in Planica, Slovenia at the start of the freestyle team sprint. A painful mix of speed and endurance, each team member skied three 1.2-kilometer laps for a total of 7.2 k. Comprising the victorious Norway I team, Sindre Bjørnestad Skar and Erik Valnes stopped the clock at 16:54.52. Fellow countrymen Håvard Solås Taugbøl and  Gjøren Tefre took the Norway II team to...

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With the tight racing and jostling for position the team sprint presents, another factor was in the mix during Sunday’s Planica, Slovenia women’s 7.2-kilometer freestyle team sprint: big, fat, and plentiful snowflakes.  Saturdays’ rainy, and lightning ridden sprint racing on an artificial snow loop, had a 180-degree backdrop flip-flop with a white winter arriving in Planica in time for the holidays and a World Cup TV broadcast. A several inch veneer of fresh snow covered...

Davos, Switzerland: gifted athletes, throngs of spectators lining the course, plenty of Vitamin-D and a spectacular day for the 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint. Racers chased down and skied away from their long afternoon shadows as the sun moved across the cloudless bluebird sky.  The crowds were in for a treat. In sprint racing, heats often have significant variance. Some will be fast, some will be slow with a final upsurge in intensity at the end. In...

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Call it what you want: national pride, national bias, flag-waving: the team relays elicit nationalistic tendencies. In Lillehammer, Norway, you might think and maybe expect it’s your birthright to see the hometeam crush. That’s been the recent norm almost without exception.  Here’s the quick stats to either dispel or reinforce those tendencies: Norway has won nine of the last 11 relay races on the World Cup. Russia won the other two. In fact, Russia took...

Athletes warmed up amidst fat falling snowflakes as a storm blanketed Lillehammer, Norway. The gun fired, and a flurry of this snow clouded the boots, poles, and relay socks as a wave of skiers strode their way up and out of the Birkebeiner Stadium for the first leg of the women’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay.  With outstanding performances in the first two World Cup race weekends, it is clear that the U.S. women are hot....

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Ruka, Finland looked quintessentially Nordic at the start of the 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit. December at 66 degrees north: temperatures in the low teens (F), flat Northern light, frosted pines looking as though they were spray-coated with foam. Athletes warmed up in puffy jackets with mittens, neck warmers, and taped faces while crowds huddled with cups of soup.   First out of the start and racing in a balaclava and mittens, Norway’s Theresa Johaug attacked the course...

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A big day for Sadie Maubet Bjornsen of the U.S. Ski Team (USST) in Ruka, Finland. She placed third overall in the women’s 1.4-kilometer classic sprint.  Italy’s Lucia Scardoni established the time to beat in the qualifier, 3:03.01. Maubet Bjornsen played her fitness cards early as she qualified in second, 1:15 seconds back.  “It has been an interesting fall battling through some frustrating tendinitis in my feet that didn’t allow me to run or ski...

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Straight to the point, no U.S. men advanced to the heats in Friday’s opening World Cup 1.4-kilometer classic sprint in Ruka, Finland. Since the sprint is part of a three-race series ending with a pursuit, all skiers started the qualifier.  As snow flurries fell in a semi-dark and Arctic Ruka —skiers raced under the lights — Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway won the qualifier in 2:37:42.  Kevin Bolger of the U.S. Ski Team (USST) just...

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Concurrent with the U.S. Ski Team and other nations partaking in the Toppidrettsveka rollerski series based in Trondheim, Norway, local organizers hosted the 2019 International Coach Seminar from August 24-25.  The conference attracted coaches from eleven countries including Russia, the U.S., China, Finland, and Norway.  Guri Knotten Hetland, a former Norwegian competitive skier, helped steer the conference’s agenda. Hetland is also leading Trondheim’s bid to secure the 2025 Nordic Ski World Championships and is the...

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Making yourself visible while rollerskiing is a must. And with a recent reminder from U.S. Ski Team (USST) World Cup coach Matt Whitcomb, the time of year has come when many skiers are training on roads in lower angle sunlight as we tip away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere. Below we are including the rollerskiing safety bullet-points and slides from Whitcomb’s presentation on the topic at the recent National Coaches’ Symposium. Before that,...

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By the time you read this piece, some skiers from the U.S. Ski Team (USST) will be settling in Trondheim, Norway for a two and a half week training camp. In total, five are making the journey from the U.S. The sixth skier, Kevin Bolger, no stranger to training in the region, has been in Trondheim for nearly a month. Bolger’s experience in Trondheim goes deep. He has trained there in the off season for...

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Fostering cultural change within complex organizations is painstaking. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is no different. Most often the most effective type of change comes less from edict and more from many a collection of stakeholder’s voice For the past decade, the U.S. cross-country team has had unparalleled success. Whether the metric is developing athletes to winning medals, most observers see a winning culture. That has not kept the minds at U.S. Ski & Snowboard from...

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As winter wanes and spring looms, many athletes choose to announce the bittersweet change of their own season of life, retirement from the sport to embark on a new pursuit. This March, after seven seasons on the U.S. Ski Team, 31-year-old Ida Sargent decided the time had come for something new. “I knew after Sochi that I wanted to go to one more Olympics,” Sargent told FasterSkier in a call. “So at that point, I...