We traveled to Park City last Wednesday for another set of Continental Cup races. It was another tough weekend for me; I didn't do as well as I would have liked with a 42nd and 41st place finish. The first day I had a little bit better jump, and probably better conditions, which put me in 40th to start the race, whereas the next day, I jumped into 48th. Both days I had trouble finding a group to ski in, and did not have the kind of times that I know I can have. It was a good experience though, especially with the tough conditions that we raced in.
While we were competing in Steamboat last week, it was warm and raining in Park City. Fortunately the jumps are in the shade and had plenty of man-made snow on them, but things were a little interesting 2000 ft lower at the Soldier Hollow ski trails. They were able to make a ton of snow a couple of weeks ago and stockpile it up for when it was needed. On Friday, the day before the race, the groomers spread the snow out on the race course. Basically the only snow to be seen was on the course itself - the ground around it was oddly bare.
Considering the temperatures soared into the 40's both days, the groomers did the best good they could. Still, the snow was chewed, rutted, and mashed up beyond anything that I had ever skied on before, except for maybe spring alpine skiing. Stepping through ankle deep ruts on the uphills and pushing into "mash potato" snow on the flats made the racing pretty tricky. As a result, race times were 4 or 5 minutes slower than the more typical 22-25 minute times of last weekend.
This kind of conditions, however rare in Utah, are pretty common throughout Europe. It's safe to say most of the Euros were happy to see the soft snow, and in general they did better against the North Americans than the week before. I'm sure I'll encounter more tough snow like this in my racing career.
That's it for international competition until, if all goes well, World Junior Championships at the end of January in Estonia. Hopefully I will also get to go back to Europe in March to compete in more Continental Cups in Scandinavia. World Juniors is really my main focus for this year, but it would be great to get another chance to try to score some Continental Cup points.
The competition season kicked off this weekend with the first Continental Cups of the winter. 13 nations and 52 athletes, including myself, competed Saturday and Sunday here in Steamboat Springs. These competitions followed the typical format of a one jump comp in the morning, and then a 10km race in the afternoon. I felt pretty confident about my jumping going in, but it can be a different story from low speeds in tough conditions.
Saturday my comp jump was 75 meters, which put my in 48th place, 3:26 behind the leader at the start of the race. Since I went into these competitions with the goal of a top 30 finish, this wasn't the place I wanted to be in starting the race, but, at that point, the best one can do is put the jumping behind and race like hell. I skied most of the race with my teammate Michael Ward, and it was great to have someone to ski with, but we definitely didn't have the drafting advantage that some of the skiers in large packs had. I skied up to 40th place overall, and posted the 24th fastest race time. It was a brutal, 5 lap loop, and I crossed the line exhausted but happy with my effort.
Sunday I had a slightly better jump, but somehow still ended up 48th after jumping, although this time I was starting 30 seconds closer to the winner of the jumping than on Saturday. I also happened to be starting 2 seconds behind Mark Schlott, an Austrian who had the fastest race time on Saturday. Knowing that he could help pull me through the flats, I tried to ski with him for a while, and stayed on his draft for just over a lap. At this point in the race I was still feeling pretty good and hoped to be able to pick off as many racers as possible. I should mention that the race course had a very technically difficult S-turn downhill that we had to navigate through each lap. I had no problems with it on Saturday, and in my mind, the tougher the course, the better. However, this descent was my nemesis on Sunday. I went down skiing through it on both the 2nd and 3rd lap (although on slightly different parts of the turn). To say that this weird combination of tired legs, bad luck, and lack of focus shocked and frustrated me is a bit of an understatement. I probably lost 20 seconds between the two crashes, but most of all it was a mental obstacle that I had never really faced before. I ended in 44th place, with the 34th best race time. Considering everything, the race could have been a lot worse.
A view from the trees at racers going through the stadium.
I do want to congratulate my teammates Cliff Field and Erik Lynch for scoring points with their top 30 finishes! The US had 6 athletes earning valuable COC points on Saturday and Steamboat's own Todd Loddwick swept with back to back victories!
The circuit moves to Park City, UT next weekend. I'm confident that it will go much better than this weekend, and hopefully I come away with points!
Where am I?