After 7 long weeks in Europe, it feels good to be back home in the US of A. I finished up the Europe tour with a couple of Europa Cup slaloms. I finished 20th in the slalom in Oberjoch, Germany with a fairly large mistake in the second run so a decent result. My knee is feeling good now and it seems to be healed well enough to push 100 percent in the course. After a couple of races starts, I had some good training here in Park City with the US guys and Swedish team on hard snow. It was just what I needed as I got some good repetition and fast runs to bring my confidence back up where I want it! It felt good to bring myself back up to speed and good form.
Now I’m headed off to Aspen for a couple of Nor-Am super-Gs and a super combined. I haven’t raced a super-g in a few years and I’ve never raced a super combined, which is a super-g run and a slalom run, so that should be exciting and something different. Then a little down time to watch the technical Olympic events. Just watched Andrew Weibrecht throw in a great run and take the lead in the Super-G. Go team USA!
January was a very happening month, but the results I was looking for didn’t really come. It started off with the Zagreb World Cup slalom in Croatia. I came out charging and had a great run going, on pace to make the top 30 if I could have kept it going, but I let a small roll in the hill push me low on a turn and ended up hooking a tip on the next gate. I was definitely bummed out, but the experience of racing there was so amazing that I was happy to have had that opportunity. Thousands of fans lined the slopes of the night race and as soon as I broke over the first roll, I heard the airhorns and cheers as I was skiing down, even at my later starting position. It was a very cool experience I haven’t seen before. Even as we were going up the chairlift, the crowd was cheering and waving at us. Europe is really the home of ski racing.
Next was Adelboden, Switzerland, also a place with a very enthused crowd. The conditions there broke down a little bit compared to Zagreb, but they were still great. The top of the course has a moderate pitch and I skied that pretty well and clean, but I started to get ragged towards the bottom as the slope dropped off onto the steepest pitch I’ve ever seen in a race. I made one small mistake and on a pitch like that, it’s difficult to get a solid form back. I made it to the finish, but it was too late. The mistakes were made and I was too slow for qualification; I knew it before even crossing the finish. I came down in 38th place and was pushed back a spot or two afterwards.
Next, I got a chance in Wengen, Switzerland where I again didn’t finish. I had a decent run going at the top and down the first pitch, but leaned inside a little over a roll towards the bottom. The softer snow there peeled right away from me and I slid off-course.
I tweaked my knee a bit after the Zagreb race and at a very inopportune time as all the World Cups were happening. It wasn’t serious enough to keep me off snow and I could ski pretty well on it, but I definitely still felt it and didn’t have full strength or confidence in that leg. It was unfortunate and I pushed through the injury during Adelboden and Wengen and the next couple Europa Cup races, but I just didn’t have the power in it to perform at my best. I’ve been resting it now for the last 10 days or so and it feels much better so I am hoping that I’ll be close to 100% by our next training camp in a few days in France before our final couple of Europa Cup races during the next 10 days before the flight home. It was a bit frustrating over the last few weeks since I felt like I was skiing at the top of my game at Zagreb, but things just didn’t come together for me. Unfortunately, the World Cup season is over and the Olympic selection has been made with my name not on the list, but there are still races left. I just have to keep fighting for the rest of the year and score some good results to set myself up for next season. I’m not done yet.
I had a nice break away from competition, but it’s time to fly over-seas again and go back to work.
My first World Cup experience was great! Of course, since I didn’t finish by hooking a tip in a flush half way down the first run, it could have been better, but it was still amazing to be there. The scene was definitely bigger than at any other races with hoards of people and helicopters buzzing around. When it came to race time, though, I really wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. The field was pretty similar to that of the Europa Cups that I’d just been racing and I was starting right at the end of a Dartmouth trio, behind Paul McDonald and Pat Biggs, so that was pretty neat. I felt like I had a good run going and then just hooked the double-gate of a flush somehow. Stuff like that happens sometimes so oh well. I just have to shake it off and look forward.
I have another start coming up at the next slalom being held in Zagreb, Croatia so I’m pumped for another shot. It’s a night race so it should be pretty thrilling, and I hear the crowd there is quite a sight. We’re training over in Austria for the first few days of January before driving to the race so we’ll get a good warm-up in beforehand. I’m rested and ready to roll. January is also packed with races so it’s going to be an exciting month!
Tomorrow, I am racing my first World Cup slalom in Alta Badia, Italy! The last two Europa Cups went well, finishing in 20th in Pozza with a bib number of 49, and 16th in Madonna after dropping back a few spots from 14th after first run. As a result, I have a World Cup spot for tomorrow racing the best of the best. You can imagine my excitement. I’m starting with bib number 52 so not really any further back than in the Europa Cups, in fact better than in the first Europa Cup slalom that we had in Oberregen. It should be a blast and I’m ready to rock! The snow is rock hard so it should be a fair race, and hopefully I can pop myself into the top 30 for second run and World Cup points. Follow along online wherever you are and I’ll update after the flight home for Christmas. Wish me luck!
After a long, but good prep period on skis, it’s time to go into full race mode. I spent all of November over in Summit County, CO. The training there was excellent, skiing on water-injected snow over in Vail and Loveland. Last time, I mentioned that there were open spots for the first World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland. I was hoping to get to do a time trial over in CO to qualify for the spot, but unfortunately, the US lost a slalom spot. That meant that there were no openings and no time trial even had to be run. It was a bummer since I know Tim Kelley, Paul McDonald, and I were psyched and ready to compete to get in there, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Oh well. We had some great training and can now bring that into the race season.
It’s great to train and work on skiing, but racing is what it’s all about and it definitely feels good to let loose and put it on the line when it counts. Loveland held two Nor-Am slaloms and the two GSs were over in Aspen. Both race events were tough races as the injected snow was about as icy as it can get, but that made for good racing. I hooked a tip in the first slalom putting me out of the race, but I put down two pretty solid runs in the second slalom and ended up 7th and as the top US finisher. I was satisfied with the result and it’s a good place to work from. There was definitely a lot of talent present at the races as a fair amount of World Cup racers were around for the following Beaver Creek World Cup event.
The GSs went fairly well. I didn’t have a great result, but my GS skiing is definitely coming along. I had mistakes in both runs the first day, but I did have a couple top 15 splits at the top of the course, which was encouraging for me with a starting position in the 40s. I had a DNF the second race, but I’m looking forward to more GS races to score some results there.
We are now in Europe and after a bit of training and wearing off the jet-lag, we went to a couple GS Europa Cups the past few days. The snow was very soft unfortunately and the course broke down pretty quickly. It didn’t help that I was starting in the 60s. Both races did not go well for me, but it was tough to do too much in those races. We got some great slalom training today on some hard snow which brought the confidence level right back up again. There are three Europa Cup slaloms coming up this week including to back-to-back night slaloms in Pozza and Madonna di Compiglio. Next Monday is the Alta Badia World Cup slalom, and my next shot to get a start there. There is one spot open and the three of us here are again gunning for the spot, this time for real, hopefully. The best finish in the upcoming Europa Cups will lock a start for the World Cup. This week should be exciting. Wish me luck!