Tag Archive | "holly brooks"

Blog Roundup w/Brooks, Stephen, The Hoff, and Kershaw

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July 04, 2013 – Catch up with Holly Brooks, who is celebrating her Fourth of July differently this year. Plus, Liz Stephen looks back on the recent Western REG Camp, Noah Hoffman reveals his secret desire to be a track runner, and Devon Kershaw checks in from Canmore.

Holly Brooks
Hard Decisions, Obvious Decisions
This upcoming July 4th will be spent entirely different than my last couple. For the past four years I’ve raced Mt. Marathon in Seward, Alaska. Mount Marathon – they claim, is the Nation’s second oldest foot race behind the Boston Marathon and this year will be the 86th running.

It’s a tradition for Alaskans on Independence Day and the small town of Seward swells from 3,000 people to 30,000 thousand overnight. While only 500 or so people actually compete in the race, the rest crowd main street eating ice cream, socializing, and watching the race unfold. For those unfamiliar with the format, the race starts on main street, runs 3,022 feet directly up a mountain, rounds a rock at the top and descends 3,022 feet.

Read more here.

Liz Stephen
REG and ELITEAM
This week was full of excitement with the Regional Elite Group (REG) camp in town. This is a group that each region of the US has, and they get together for a training camp each summer. From these camps, USSA picks some athletes to come to the National Elite Group (NEG) Camp. It was really great to have these awesome athletes in town to train with and get to know some of the up and coming athletes that will represent our next generation of US skiers. Read more here.

Noah Hoffman
Track Workout
I secretly want to be a 5,000 and 10,000 meter runner. Every year my coach allows me to do one track workout to indulge my fantasies but also probably to remind me that I am not even close to fast enough to be a runner. Today was that workout. On Thursday morning I’m running a 5 kilometer road race here in Park City, so today was a little tune-up for that race. It may be my only running race of the year. My coach allowed me to plan today’s workout based on pace instead of heart rate, the same way a runner plans his workouts. Unfortunately I am full of myself and thought I could run faster than I can. Read more here.

Devon Kershaw
Kicking Back Here in Canmore, It’s Raining, I Can Be a Bit “Hippiesh”
It’s here – “monsoon-June” has rubbed its wet, stinky glove right in Canmore’s face and the rollerski boots and wet pavement are ubiquitous reminders that the Rockies “wet season” is upon us yet again. I thought perhaps Lenny’s calming influence would have had an effect – but apparently not.

As you can probably tell, I’m reaching a little for material this week. That’s a good thing. It’s been a lot of “normal Canmore living” here these last seven days. Aside from some wet training (and only “some” – for the most part it’s been fantastic weather-wise actually since I’ve been back from Bend/Tremblant/Toronto), life is ticking along in a standard way. Read more here.

USA’s Randall Podiums at Falun 2.5km FR – Brooks 7th, Diggins 8th as Bjoergen Wins

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March 22, 2013 (Falun, Sweden) – USA’s Kikkan Randall is storming strong, even as the end of the World Cup season quickly approaches. Only days ago, she successfully defended her World Cup Sprint crystal globe, but the Alaskan star is not resting on her laurels.

Today in the 2.5km free technique event, Randall snapped up a bronze medal only 6.6s behind Norwegian powerhouse Marit Bjoergen and 2.2s behind second place, Charlotte Kalla (SWE).

“The times were really tight out there and I’m happy to be on the podium. I think we had great skis today and I’m really psyched for our performance as a team. Two more races to go now, hope we can keep this momentum rolling! The course was short but challenging. The downhill turn that everyone was concerned about was definitely a little wild but safe enough,” said Randall in a team release.

“It’s been an interesting last 24 hours here in Falun, but with a seemingly happy ending. Yesterday after previewing the course there were concerns from several athletes that the new technical downhill section was going to be unsafe. We called an athletes meeting and went back and forth with the jury to try and find a compromise on a safer course. For me, as the athlete rep, it was a lot of running around yesterday. But in the end I’m glad we found a good solution and everyone agreed to start today.”

USA’s Holly Brooks had a great race, finishing seventh, while teammate Jessie Diggins also made the top-10 with a strong eighth-place finish. Other North American results include Liz Stephen (USA) in 20th, Ida Sargent (USA) in 38th, Emily Nishikawa (CAN) in 41st, Rosie Brennan (USA) in 46th, and Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) in 47th.

“It felt good to race a skate prologue – I really like this distance. It was also nice to get a good race feeling back! I had been feeling really tired and pretty done after World Champs, but today my body was ready for one last race series as we finish World Cup Finals,” commented Diggins. “The coaches did a fantastic job on the skis and it’s really exciting to have three girls in the top eight! It really boosts confidence and it’s always nice to end the season on a high note.”

After significant athlete protests, the infamous Mördarbacken (Murder Hill) hill was cut from this weekend’s race courses. Read more about it in our coverage here.

Women’s 2.5km Free results HERE.

USA’s Randall Dominates at Sochi World Cup Women’s 1.3km FR Sprints

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February 01, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – USA’s Kikkan Randall dominated the FIS World Cup women’s 1.3km free sprints today in Sochi, making her mark at the venue as the top contender for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic. The American team had a strong day overall, with five U.S. skiers qualifying for the heats. Read more here.

Randall started her day with a second place finish in the qualifier and then went onto win each of her heats, leading the final from start to finish for an undisputed victory over second place, Aurore Jean (FRA) who passed Norway’s Celine Brun-Lie near the finish to take the silver.

“I’ve been working really hard in my training to make every sprint course a good course for me so it was cool to get out there and see how it felt,” said Randall. “The course is deceptively tough and there’s not much rest out there outside of maybe 10 or 15 seconds on one downhill but you’re preparing for a turn so I think the weather conditions are really going to play in how the race goes but I think it’s a good course for me and I’m a strong finisher and it’s a really long stadium, so I like that. This is definitely a confidence boost for next year!”

Ida Sargent was the next-best American finisher with a personal best sixth after finishing second in her quarterfinal and then sneaking through in her semifinal as lucky loser to contest in her first ever “A” final.

“I like the course here,” Sargent told Trax. “It’s short but hard and technical and there isn’t much recovery out there so you’re working a lot. We had very fast skis today and I was 17th in the skate qualification which was a PB. In the rounds I tried to ski at or near the front and was very happy to make the final!  I was pretty tired by the time the final heat came around but it was still an awesome day for me.”

Jessie Diggins (USA) charged to third in her heat with Holly Brooks (USA) placing fourth in hers. Sadie Bjornsen (USA) was eliminated after her fifth-place quarterfinal. In the end, they ranked 15th, 16th, and 21st, respectively.

“I was disappointed to end the day after the quarterfinal, but considering that it was my best qualifier and my best sprint final place to date, I’m really happy,” said Brooks in a post-race email exchange with Trax. “It’s awesome to have a good experience at the Olympic venue, on the Olympic course … and be able to leave here with a great vibe. Kikkan [Randall] took the win easily which points towards success one year from now and Ida [Sargent] had her first appearance in the A-final!”f

Dasha Gaiazova was the top finisher of the two Canadian qualifiers, finishing 12th after she placed second in her heat and sixth in the semis. Perianne Jones (CAN) finished in 18th spot.

Elizabeth Stephen (USA) and Chandra Crawford (CAN) did not qualify, and finished 42nd and 51st, respectively.

Qualifications HERE.
Final results HERE.

Diggins Report – Checking Out Sochi

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January 28, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – At the moment, the 5th Russian fix-it-man of the day is watching Holly try to explain/pantomime that the upstairs shower leaks through the ceiling and upstairs someone else is working on the pipes. And this has been the “down-time” part of the last few days! Russia has been very exciting, like this huge adventure. I’m never quite sure what to expect, where to go and when to be there, but it’s cool as long as you go with the flow. And don’t bother asking questions – you won’t get anywhere!

So here’s how our travel to Sochi started: we drove to the Zurich Airport a full 4 hours before our flight was supposed to leave. Just in case, you know. And we had to tag and drop off all our ski bags and duffels, and then go purchase tickets inside. Then we boarded the plane. So far, this sounds like a normal travel day, right?

Because this was a charter flight full of athletes and all their skis, wax tables, benches and boxes, there were about 90 bags that didn’t make the flight. But not for lack of trying. The last 10-ish rows of the plane had the seats folded down and duffels stacked up – and the row in front of them was emptied “for safety reasons”. In case the bags started sliding, I guess. I think the plane was weighted funny because when we landed, we landed HARD and there might have been a few screams from the back row (we were in the back rows).

But the flight was fine, and then we had to get through customs. Turns out getting into Russia isn’t that easy and you need an invitation, then a visa, and then you fill out identical sides of this tiny piece of paper that they stamp. What they don’t emphasize nearly enough is that the other half of that little paper is your ticket back out, and you can’t lose it. Just don’t let it out of your sight!

Our team was really lucky and all our bags made it through, so we loaded them into these huge trucks and then waited in the rain for a bus. Once we were on the bus, we waited on the side of the road for 30 minutes, then drove slowly through traffic up to the venue. Then waited some more, before going through accreditation processing.

Once we got our credentials, which you also CANNOT LOSE because there are guards in fur hats everywhere that check your creds at all these checkpoints, we went through another security scanner. Then we hopped into a gondola that took us to the Olympic village and trails at the top of the mountain, at the venue called “Laura”. Turns out the venue is named after a raging river, which is named after a girl named Laura who jumped in it to kill herself instead of living with an old prince she didn’t love. Whoa. More info on the venue and 2014 Olympics in general HERE.

After getting off the gondola, we had to check in again to get our keys to the condo, and after eating dinner at 1:00am we took the bumpiest bus ride EVER to get to our lodging. It was super exciting! We all thought the bus ride was hilarious so everyone had their phones out. The picture below helps to explain some of the bumpy ride. So yep, that was our travel to Russia! But because we arrived in the dead of night, we woke up to see beautiful mountains and check out the venue.

Basically, we’re staying in brand spanking new condos that have 5 rooms each, for 10 people total, and they’re super roomy. The only problem is the aforementioned leak in the ceiling whenever Simi and Noah shower. But we’re working on that! However, most of the village is still under construction so there are cranes and construction crews all over.

And the GUARDS. They are everywhere, and there must be several hundred volunteers all in blue jackets. The volunteers are super friendly and most speak very good english, but most of the guards don’t say a word. Except when they stop the buses to check everyone’s credentials. I told you – you don’t want to lose that thing!

Once you leave the really modern new strip of housing, things get a little messy. And I do mean that literally since there is mud and water all over, and in some parts of the road all you can smell is sewage. But what I noticed most was the absolute lack of privacy. Some people say “God is always watching”…but now I know the real deal. The Russians are always watching. There are cameras everywhere, along the fences, on the course, in the entrances to buildings.

The dining hall is about an 8-minute walk away, up the side of the bunny hill where little kids in boots up to their knees are bombing around. And what starts out as a waist-high metal fence on the right slowly morphs into a 10-foot tall fence with barbed wire spiraling over the top and cameras mounted in all directions along the wall. On our side of the fence are the new buildings, glass-walled bars, chalets and chairlifts, and on the other side there is mud, construction zones, and containers stacked on containers that provide housing for the workers. And I’m not complaining about a thing because I’m on the right side of that fence!

So here are some things I’ve figured out about Sochi so far:
– The ski trails are amazing – rolling, super wide, and with seperate trials for cross country and biathalon
– There are also two seperate stadiums, and while the biathalon is a permanent structure, the cross country stadium is a temporary one. But it’s still gigantic.
– It doesn’t look like there are other lodging options up here except for the condos, but there is a hotel at the bottom of the gondola where some of the teams are staying.
– There seem to be rules and regulations about so many little things. Like checkpoints, fences, credentials, transport, meal tickets.
– And then sometimes there seem to be no rules at all. Like what time you eat and train at, or whether your wax cabin is unlocked.

The races start on Friday with a skate sprint, Saturday a 15km skiathalon, and Sunday is the classic team sprint. I’m excited to be here and will put up more pictures when I can!

Tour de Ski Wrap – Team USA’s Stephen, Diggins, Brooks, Randall, Hoffman and Whitcomb Talk Shop

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January 07, 2013 – With the 2012/13 Tour de Ski in the history books, Team USA’s Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins, Holly Brooks, Kikkan Randall, Noah Hoffman, and Coach Matt Whitcomb talk shop, reflect on the TdS, and look ahead to the rest of the season.

 

Liz Stephen – 15th overall

Noah Hoffman – 46th overall

Matt Whitcomb

Jessie Diggins – 21st overall
Wow, Cermis was really, really tough. This was definitely the hardest race series I’ve ever done! And it feels so great to have completed it healthy and in one piece. I am so proud of my teammates and all the staff for such a positive and energetic ride through all the stages – because that was the most fun I’ve had on the World Cup yet!

The race today was really cool – my teammates warned me that the stretch of trail from the stadium to the base of Cermis was super narrow and really only one skier wide, so I got right out in front and me, Liz, an Italian and French girl all took turns leading. That really made a difference, too – drafting was so much easier than when it was your turn to pull! But we worked together and made up time before the base of the climb.

I’d watched the race video from last year to get a feel for what the hill looked like, but the cameras show the athletes coming up, it doesn’t show what it looks like from the viewpoint of the person actually racing! So although I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, I definitely had one of those “Oh-my-gosh-where-IS-the-finish-line????” moments out there!

Holly Brooks – 38th overall
The second half of the Tour was extremely rough for me and I’m still wondering (a bit) why I kept going…. If I was from any Euro team I’m sure I would have been sent home a long, long time ago. I kept hoping that my energy would turn around each day and it never did. Maybe that’s the optimist in me? Yesterday was especially tough and it was clear that no miracles were going to happen. But, with only one stage left to go I decided that I would “get her done.” I put on some extra sparkles, wore some white aviators and tried to have fun out there.

I had some bright spots at the beginning of the Tour (prologue and sprint) and I’m happy for that but at this point, I’ve had two tough years at this event. But, I’m glad I tried it this year so that I can plan accordingly for next year, which is an Olympic year.

Most of all, I’m just really proud of my teammate’s accomplishments. While Liz may have been #2 today on the Cermis she is “Queen of the Hill” in my book!

All of us will skip Czech in order to rest up from our efforts. Sadie and Ida will be representing us there. Our next appearance will be in La Clusaz. My plan is to take some time away from skiing and go visit some dear friends in Polcenigo, Italy. After a period of rest I’m looking forward to a training break. I’d love to do a race or two that aren’t World Cups as part of that training period – we shall see.

Kikkan Randall – 12th overall
A tough day out there – how were you feeling this morning? What was the atmosphere like on the final stage… similar to previous years? You looked solid until the very last section… tell us about today’s race.
KR: Today was a tough race for me and not the performance I was hoping to get out of myself. But, it was still a good experience and I will pull some good lessons from it. I actually felt pretty good this morning. My warm-up went smoothly and I felt like I had good energy. In my two previous tours, I have struggled on the climb. Going into today I was optimistic that my skating form was stronger and my goal was to climb better this year.

With some good skiers starting just ahead of me I put in a big effort to get myself in their pack. After about 2km, I got into the group and was able to conserve some energy for the climb. Unfortunately, once we started to head up the steeper sections, I struggled with my focus and let my tempo settle too much . I was skiing with my legs too straight and not fighting hard enough to keep my skis moving. The further I went up the climb, the more I struggled. I’m pretty sure this race is tough no matter how rested you are. So somehow I have to figure out how to keep my focus better and use my leg strength.

Still a great performance by you with second in the Sprint standings and 12th overall – and the team. Liz had the second best time today placing 15th overall and Jessie had a strong day finishing 21st at the Tour.
KR: I am still really satisfied with my Tour as a whole. To win two stages was amazing and I was really psyched with both of those performances. I had a couple solid classic races as well and to finish second in the sprint standings is a nice bonus. Despite being disappointed when my own race today I am incredibly psyched and proud of my teammates! I am really impressed with Liz [Stephen] for her first World Cup podium (although after the Blink festival climb this summer I was pretty sure she was going to rock Cermis this year)!! She dropped a full minute off her time from last year and fought hard all the way to the line. It is really fun to have such a great race to celebrate and I’ll have to do a few more climbing workouts with Liz to learn the magic!!

Also an impressive day for Jessie [Diggins], she had a really solid climb and visibly left all she had out there on the course. Holly [Brooks] also finished the Tour with a lot of heart, fighting through some heavy fatigue and making it all the way up Cermis, no easy task! Noah [Hoffman] skied a great rookie tour, Kris [Freeman] also kept pushing and Andy [Newell] had some good races in there.

I really have to thank our team of staff and coaches. We had such dedicated support through this really demanding week and it feels especially good to have accomplished what we have with a fraction of the resources and man-power of some of the bigger teams!

All of this has to feel good going forward to the Worlds.
KR: Having a good performance at the Tour de Ski is exactly what we were looking for and it fits in perfectly with our plans for the rest of the season. We’ve done a lot of racing so far, now we will focus on recovery, some training and refining everything in preparation for Worlds.

It was also really important to get some more time racing on the World Champs courses here in Val di Fiemme and we’re more confident than ever that this will be a good venue for the whole team!

What happens now as you prepare for the Liberec WCup… ?
KR: Now I will actually take a training break to recover from the Tour and I will not be racing in Liberec next weekend. It was a tough decision to miss a sprint World Cup, but last year continuing to race hard after the Tour put me in a precarious position health-wise midseason. I am heading to France tomorrow to do some training with my husband and recharge for the second half of the season. I am planning to rejoin the team and the circuit the following weekend in La Clusaz. Since we don’t get to go home for the entire season, I am really looking forward to a break from the hotel scene, I’m actually excited to do some laundry and some cooking!!

 

Randall 8th as Kowalczyk Triumphs at 15km FR in Toblach at TdS Stage 4

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January 03, 2013 (Toblach/Cortina, Italy) – The women attacked the 15k freestyle pursuit, stage 4 of the 2012/13 FIS Tour de Ski, after a well-deserved rest day. Ideal conditions met the skiers as three-time TdS champion Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) aimed to defend her lead and her closest chasers fought to gain back precious time.

Kowalczyk started 50.3s ahead of Therese Johaug (NOR), but the top Norwegian in the competition was unable to maintain her position as she was caught by 2008 TdS winner Charlotte Kalla (SWE) and Johaug’s teammate Kristin Stoermer Stiera.

The USA’s Kikkan Randall who started fifth couldn’t keep pace and fell back to finish eighth on the day, also causing her to slide from fifth to eighth in the overall standings. Her teammate Liz Stephen was a strong 19th while Jessie Diggins was also in the points placing 27th with Holly Brooks just behind in 34th.

The big move today came from Sweden’s Kalla who claimed second at 18.3s behind Kowalczyk who held onto her lead while Johaug took the third spot at 18.7s. Kalla now sits second overall behind Kowalczyk who is winding up to claim her 4th Tour title… but it’s not over yet.

Results HERE.
Overall standings after Stage 4 HERE.

Interviews w/the Moustache Gals – Randall, Diggins, Stephen and Brooks after the TdS 1.4km FR Sprints

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January 02, 2013 (Val Mustair, Switzerland) – Check out these comments from the “Moustache Gals” U.S. Women’s XC team skiers Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins, Liz Stephen, and Holly Brooks – after the Tour de Ski 1.4km FR Sprints in Val Mustair, Switzerland. Randall dominated the field, winning by over 8 seconds, while all of her teammates qualified for the heats. Full Stage 3 results HERE.

 

Kikkan Randall (USA) – 1st Stage 3

 

Jessie Diggins (USA) – 17th Stage 3
Felt great to be getting my racing shape back slowly after being sick! I didn’t play my tactics quite right in the quarters and was just a little too tired but I’m happy with the day for sure. Today was too fun getting all of our girls into the heats and seeing Liz in the rounds and then seeing Kikkan crush the field!!!
Elizabeth Stephen (USA) – 25th Stage 3
Today was an incredibly fun experience for me. I have never made the heats and to be able to ski World Cup heats was so much fun I can’t even believe it. I still have a lot to learn, but today was step 1 of that process and I have a few of the best sprinters around me to learn from, so I’m pretty lucky.
The two-lap course was fun and I thought Val Mustair did an amazing job making it a cool venue for spectators, racing at night was really awesome and they had a great crowd of fans show up to watch. Everything was so well organized and well thought out – it was one of those venues that was a joy to be at as an athlete. Congrats to Kikkan on her amazing performance today. She really is one hell of an athlete.
Holly Brooks (USA) – 18th Stage 3
I was really, really happy with my qualifier. If every sprint could be long, hard and at altitude I would be totally pumped! Once again, the top ten eluded me but to qualify 11th in a stacked field felt great. It was my first “heat” of the season and it was great to toe the line with my teammates. We had a great team cheer and hug for the camera which started us off on the right foot! I wish I had a bit more gas to get right behind Kikkan on the second loop. I got stuck in third and Lauren (Sui) dogged it on the hill, then went I went to pass on the right, she turned on the gas. I think that was her tactic all along but I’m not sure. When we crossed the line Liz exclaimed, “That was the funnest thing EVER!” I couldn’t agree more – I only wish I could have had a do-over because I was feeling good!
We were actually really happy to hear that we were in the same quarter as Kikkan, Her QF are generally pretty quick so we thought our chances of being “Lucky Losers” were good. I should have pushed harder at the beginning of the quarter seeing that Lauren is very good for short bursts/sprints. At the Blink Festival she might have podium’d in the 100 and/or 500 meter sprint. We went into the lanes together but she got me at the end… I also had a little stumble in the sprint which allowed Vesna Fabian to out-toe me at the line. I was bummed about that but 18th place is my best sprint to date so I have to be happy! Sometimes progress comes in small steps and it pays to be patient. I’m just trying to learn from every opportunity and that’s one of my favorite things about the Tour.
I LOVED the venue. I wish that we could finish up the Tour here. They have beautiful skiing in all directions – apparently 100k of tracks. The Swiss went all out with everything….. from the “globe lights” to brighten the course to the huge snow-sculpture Stienbock in the middle of the track, to the food in the VIP and athlete rooms. This place is great. We had cold snow, sunshine, good food. I haven’t heard a single complaint. I just felt horrible for Dario who fell in the final on his namesake ” Cologna Corner” …. it almost looked like he (ironically) got tripped up by a Swiss Flag but I’m not sure?
I’m still feeling pretty darn good. The fatigue is certainly building up but I believe it is for everyone. We’re spending a lot of time on recovery every day – jogs, ice baths, massages, eating well – and often. We shall see! I’m really looking forward to the next event, the 15km Skate in Toblach. The course is notoriously difficult to pass on (it’s narrow) but I have good memories of it from last year at the OPA finals! In the classic races and the Hill Climb I’m just going to put my head down and fight for every second, and every place! I’m really enjoying the Tour this year….

The Sasseville Report – Things I Think I Know after Ruka

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December 05, 2012 – The World Cup passed through its second stop of the season at Ruka, which is just outside of Kuusamo in Finland, this past weekend and this is what I think I know after the three races that took place there:

– Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug are the best skiers in the world right now. Bjoergen dominated winning all three races and is undefeated on the season in the World Cup. This comes on the heels of some talk in the Norwegian press that she was losing a step after having been beaten in some early season races. Northug did not win any of the races on the weekend – he was 2nd in the sprints to Russian Nikolai Kriukov and 2nd again to another Russian, Alexandr Legkov in the 10 km but he won the overall sprint at the end of the third race from another Russian, Maxim Vylegzhanin. He is now leading the World Cup overall.

– The Russian team is ramping it up in preparation for the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. In addition to the above mentioned men’s results they had 5 men finish in the top 10 overall at the end of the three days and that did not include their sprinters like Kriukov. The Russian women’s team is also getting better and better with Julia Tchekaleva 3rd in the 5km and Evgenia Shapovalova 2nd and Anastasia Dotsenko 3rd in the sprints.

– Justina Kowaczyk (POL) is still the 2nd best female skier in the world. She is starting to round into form after a very hard summer and fall of training and she finished 2nd to Bjoergen overall at the end of the weekend. She will be a force in the Tour de Ski after Xmas for sure.

– Kikkan Randall is the real deal in distance racing with a second podium finish in the 5km. It is interesting that she is doing better in distance than in sprints so far this season. She will challenge Bjoergen, Kowalczyk and Terese Johaug of Norway for the overall World Cup this year.

– The rest of the American women are also the real deal. Ida Sargeant had a career best 9th in the sprints and joins Kikkan, Holly Brooks, Liz Stephen and Jessie Diggins to make up one of the strongest women’s teams in the world right now. They should do very well in the Canadian World Cups over the next two weeks.

– Perianne Jones (12th)and Dasha Gaiasova (14th) had great sprint races but continue to struggle in distance races. Chandra Crawford is struggling everywhere and needs to get it together quickly if she is going to race well at home in Canada.

– Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey are starting to come out of their funk. Both had decent results over the weekend but it is nothing like how they finished the year last year. The pressure is on to perform in Canada, especially for Harvey in his hometown this weekend in Quebec City. I wonder what they will do?

– Noah Hoffman is starting to shine. As a junior he had a great engine but poor technique but it seems that he is starting to put it all together. Last year he was a medalist at the World U23 games and his 19th place in the 10km and 26th place overall shows big improvement over last year. The other men on the US team are still back in the pack and need to pick it up soon.

– Many of the top skiers will not be coming to Canada for the World Cups. Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug stated after the races in Ruka that they would not attend. The Finnish team will only send 5 sprinters to Quebec City, but will send more to the distance races in Canmore including Aino-Kaisa Saarinen. This means that there will be more World Cup points available for North American skiers, as the fields will be diluted.

– Having World Cups in Canada is also a great opportunity for younger, less experienced North American skiers to show what they can do against the best. Careers can be jump started by having a great race over the next two weeks. These are the skiers that I will be watching closely. Now is the time for them to get on the “escalator” that will take them to Sochi in 2014. By skiing well now they will get more opportunities to ski at this level later on in the year which will give them more chances to qualify for their National Teams and for their Olympic Teams. It will be very hard for skiers who are not on the escalator now to make it to Sochi next year.

– All of the Canadian races will be shown on either CBC or Bold over the next three weeks. Consult your local listings for time and dates and set your PVR – there is going to be some great racing!

The American Revolution…

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December 05, 2012 – The first three weeks of the 2012-2013 World Cup season are in the bag – and they (FIS, the rest of the World) are calling our start the “American Revolution.”  And no, they are not referring to the historical event where the Colonies joined together to break free from the British Empire. Instead, they are talking about the American women’s ability to turn heads and turning heads we are…..
So far this season we have three “medals” including the first 4×5 relay performance, the first (and second) US women’s distance skiing podium and many “best ever” moments. While the lack of daylight in Lapland may have been tough for some of my teammates that can come sunnier locales it sure didn’t stop us from skiing fast!  I am currently on cloud nine sitting 14th in the overall World Cup standings. In the first race alone I accomplished one of my most ambitious goals that I thought would take an entire season to tackle.
For me, this season represents an entirely different world. I have one full season of World Cup racing under my belt. I’m familiar with the scene, the travel, I know other people on the circuit, I’m racing World Cup venues having “been there before.” The heightened level of confidence is palpable on our team. When we walk into the dining room we do so with our head’s held high…. we look people square in the eyes, media from other countries are requesting our time; they want to know what our secret is.  Funnily enough, there is no secret – just hard work and dedication.
I for one think that success is contagious. Once you get a small taste of it, it’s much easier to believe in yourself, your abilities and your performance. When you see one of your teammates doing well you think, “Hey, I can keep up with them in double pole roller ski intervals” or I can do “just as many pull ups as them”, therefore, if they can pull a top ten result in the World Cup, maybe I can too?!?!  This is where American skiing stands right now – this is the essence of the Revolution. As a ski nation, we are starting to believe in our talents and our abilities.  The rest of the world is noticing that we’re on a roll.  As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the way to slow us down! Go Team USA!!!!
Thank you SO SO SO much to everyone who has contributed to NNF and made these racing and training experiences possible for us. Without funding help I most surely would have stayed and raced domestically this fall. Thank you for your part in the AMERICAN REVOLUTION!

USA’s Sargent a Strong 9th at FIS XC WCup Kuusamo Women’s 1.4km CL Sprint as Bjoergen Wins

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November 30, 2012 (Kuusamo, Finland) – USST’s Ida Sargent turned heads as the top North American with a breakthrough 9th in the women’s 1.4km CL sprint in Kuusamo today with impressive, smart skiing. The Dartmouth skier, on the Craftsbury Green Team, was also the fastest NA qualifier in 13th. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen was the undisputed winner claiming the second round of the FIS XC WCup after qualifying fourth and squeaking through to the final as a lucky loser.

Evgenia Shapovalova (RUS) stormed to second, followed by teammate Anastasia Dotsenko in third. Top qualifier Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), was a surprise non-finalist as she was eliminated in the semis and finished up in seventh.

The USA’s Kikkan Randall, who qualified 16th, had an auspicious start storming to second in her quarterfinal behind Kowalcyzk. Randall made her move on the final climb surging into first place but settled for second in the finishing straight. In her semi she started strong, but apeared to lose power on the hill as she used the same strategy fading to fifth to finish 10th on the day.

Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) was the top Canadian qualifier in 18th and looked very strong in her quarterfinal as set the pace taking the lead. As the group hit the climb she did not have the same kick and did not advance to the semis.

Her teammate Perianne Jones, qualifying 20th, had a strong 2nd place finish in her quarterfinal advancing to the semis. She was looking good until she was thrown off pace by a minor stumble and ended up last in her heat finishing the day in 12th, matching her career-best individual World Cup result.

The final was an exciting one, with Kowalczyk out and Bjoergen sneaking in. Katja Visnar (SLO) and Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) both went down mid-race, while Bjoergen stormed away off the front.

Other North American results include Jessie Diggins (USA) 33rd, Chandra Crawford (CAN) 37th, Alysson Marshall (CAN) 38th, Holly Brooks (USA) 40th, and Liz Stephen 68th.

Women’s Qualifications HERE.
Women’s results HERE.

The Sasseville Report – Gällivare and the Start of the Racing Season

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November 29, 2012 – So here we are – at the start of another World Cup racing season with the first races in the north of Sweden in Gällivare. Last season, when there were no Olympics or World Championships races on the schedule, the races on the World Cup were the most important contests of the season and no one was really peaking for any big event, other than the Tour de Ski.

But this season, many racers are taking a different approach to their training with the Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme in February. By focusing on peaking for these championships, many skiers plan to train hard right through the first races of the season before Christmas. As a result, you will see that some of the top skiers do not have very good results during November and December. The other side effect is that many of the top skiers will not travel to Canada for the World Cups before the holidays, preferring to stay at home where they can train more and have less fatigue from travelling.

This could be seen in the individual race in Gällivare in the results of some of the top racers – most notably Dario Cologna (Sui), Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol) and even, I think, in the results of Canada’s Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey. Cologna was 19th, Kowalczyk was 27th, Harvey was 36th and Kershaw was 44th in the freestyle races.

But it doesn’t matter what the racing program is, or whether you are peaking or not if you are as strong as Marit Bjoergen (Nor). She and her Norwegian country woman, Therese Johaug, finished 1st and 2nd, followed by American Kikkan Randall in 3rd. Bjoergen won the first race last year, too.

Randall was on the podium for the first time in a distance race – a sign that she is continuing to improve over her stunning season last year where she won the Sprint Cup and was 5th overall in the World Cup. Randall, who has been walking around in an air cast most of this summer and fall due to a stress reaction in the bones of her foot, must be relieved that this injury has not affected her results.

Her teammate, Holly Brooks, has also kicked it up a notch or two, finishing 5th. Brooks, who is on the US B Team and is primarily self-funded, started well last year too, but a wrist injury slowed her down at the end of the year.

The American women were the talk of the XC skiing world on Sunday when they finished on the podium for the first time ever in a World Cup relay, taking 3rd. As well as Randall and Brooks, Jessie Diggins and Liz Stephen skied great relay legs to nip the 2nd Norwegian team finishing behind Norway 1 and Sweden 1.

The Canadian women’s team results were disappointing for everyone on the weekend with a best in the individual race of 61st by Dasha Gaiazova and a relay finish of 14th out of 18 teams. Three of the four women – Gaiazova, Chandra Crawford, and Perianne Jones, are primarily sprinters, so the hope is that their results will be better in the sprint that is scheduled in Kuusamo, Finland this coming weekend.

In the men’s individual race, the surprise winner was 28-year-old Martin Sundby of Norway. This was his first World Cup win, but he did win all three races at the Norwegian Championships last winter and was on the podium at two World Cups last winter at the end of the year.

Sundby finished ahead of another surprising skier, Alexei Poltoranen of Kazakhstan, and Marcus Hellner of Sweden. Perennial favourite, Petter Northug was 7th. Poltoranen has a history of doing well in the early season races and I think that Northug likely falls into the group of skiers who are training very hard right now for big races later.

It was nice to see Canada’s Ivan Babikov finishing 14th in this race. Babikov has had a couple of slow years since Vancouver, but he has re-dedicated himself to training hard and it is showing. Kris Freemen had the best US team result at 33rd and I am sure that he is looking forward to going to Kuusamo this week where he has had great results in the past.

In the men’s relay the Canadian men finished a terrific 5th just 3 seconds from 2nd place. Norway, anchored by Northug won the race followed by Sweden and Russia who out-sprinted the Swiss and Canada for the podium.

There has been a change in the format of the men’s relay races on the World Cup level now as they have gone from 4x10km races to 4×7.5 km to make it more exciting for the fans and shorter for TV. This shorter distance will not change the results but it will get the races to the finishing sprint sooner.

Len Valjas made his World Cup debut this season in the first leg of the relay and met his goal of finishing within 20 seconds of the top skiers. Valjas skied with a cast on his hand after breaking a knuckle and should be very happy with his result.

The American men were a disappointing 15th out of 22 teams. There is a strange parallel between the US men and the Canadian women and the US women and the Canadian men. It will be interesting to watch if this changes over the winter.

So now it is off to Kuusamo in Finland for the next leg of the World Cup. There will be a 3-race mini-tour for the men and women including a sprint race, an individual start race and a pursuit race.

From there the World Cup comes to Canada for races in Quebec City on December 7 and 8 and in Canmore on December 13, 15 and 16. I am fortunate to be involved again in the broadcast of all of these races on CBC and Bold. All of the races will be telecast so check your local listings for viewing times.

Diggins Report – The Most Exciting Race Ever!

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November 28, 2012 – Wow, that sure was an awesome way to start off the World Cup season!!! Not that I expect every weekend to be as wildly exciting with multiple historical US podium results, but geez that was cool. Our Women’s 4x5km relay placed 3rd, which was the first time ever in US History that we’ve had a podium relay finish! Here are two YouTube videos of the race:

http://youtu.be/aG8V001cMR4

I first want to say a big THANK YOU! to everyone for all the kind words, emails, tweets and more that have come flooding in, and a thanks to all those who have been supporting us US Women every step of the way. It sucks that the podium isn’t big enough to put everyone involved onto it, because there’s a whole lot more than four racers that made the day happen. The ENTIRE team includes the teammates cheering, coaches, wax techs, and friends and family and fans back home. So thanks to everyone!

Here’s the race story from the day!

I was super nervous beforehand because with the results from the previous day, it was clear that the team was in shape and ready to rock, and there are only 3 relays this year, so this was our only shot for a while at making our goal of having a team on the podium.

Then, as I was warming up, I saw the racers go by and turned to Matt, a full-blown panic attack seconds away. I’d just seen Liz in second and was like “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” I was hyperventilating. Even though I was trying to convince myself that this was going to be just another 5km skate race, I couldn’t ignore the fact that our team was higher up than we’d ever been and the extremely hard work of my teammates was about to be put into my hands.

In the tag zone, I looked over at Marit and said “No big deal… no pressure… aaaaaagh!” and she gave me a little smile that basically said “Good luck, sweetheart”.

So when Liz tagged me, I might have gone out a little hot. And by might have, I mean that I definitely did. I had so much adrenaline pumping that I didn’t feel anything till the top of the first hill, and then it hit me. I just kept trying to stay within sight of Marit, and I was so focused on keeping every second I could that I wasn’t even aware of team Sweden, Finland and Norway 2 coming in hot behind me.

When Kalla (Sweden) passed me, I tried to hang on but was going full throttle and didn’t want to hit the wall completely halfway through the race, so I had to let her go, which was tough. But when Kristoffersen (Norway 2) passed me, I did hang on, just barely, because I knew I usually have good kick at the end of a race and there was maybe a chance.

Liz and Ida and the rest of the team were screaming from the side of the course, but two things stood out to me. Ida was sprinting alongside me yelling like I’d never heard her yell before, and Liz frantically screamed “C’mon Jess, you have to believe you CAN DO THIS! BELIEVE IT!!!”

So when we got within .5km of the finish, I had this flashback to the last relay I raced, in Nove Mesto, where I waited too long to start sprinting and Kalla beat me to the line. I didn’t want to make the same mistake, and decided to make a move before the s-turn to the stadium, sliding ahead of Kristoffersen right before the first corner.

We rounded the stadium corner and started sprinting down the home stretch, and I saw Kristoffersen’s skis come into view, but the only thing I could think was No. Not. Happening. I can’t screw this up now! I think in those final hundred meters I dug deeper than I have in a long, long time.

I crossed the line only .5 seconds ahead, and made this half-yelling-half-screaming-mostely-I’m-in-so-much-pain-right-now noise, and collapsed. The next 2 minutes I was in a haze but I felt my teammates piled on top of me, and then it sunk in and we all realized what had just happened.

There were cameras going off everywhere, but we were huddled in this little circle, crying and laughing and going through this wild flood of emotions (and probably endorphins too, I’ll admit)!

The feeling we all got, standing on the podium having reached a major goal that we all set down on paper earlier this year, was incredible. For me at least, it makes me want to train hard and work even harder to keep these kinds of feelings coming – there’s two more steps on that podium to climb, after all!

I thought it was so cool that all these athletes from other teams were coming up to us and congratulating us on the day – they were psyched for us! Every one of them remembers what it felt like their first time on the podium so they knew what we were going through when we were all huddled together crying :)

That night I had such a hard time getting to sleep (gee, I wonder why?) I just kept replaying that final sprint in my mind and hearing Liz and Ida scream “BELIEVE!”. I think I’m going to be hearing that for a while.

Brooks Blog – Greetings from Gallivare

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November 21, 2012 (Gallivare, Sweden) – The US Team drove 3 hours from Muonio to Gallivare yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed a long sunset… and then it was dark at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. This made for a short day – even for someone like me from Alaska! It’s cool to be here for a couple of reasons. Peter, our head wax tech is from Gallivare. It’s cool to see his home town and hopefully he’ll share some local/beta/knowledge with us. Maybe we’ll even get lucky by doing some laundry! (Yes, it’s the little things….)

Second, the ski stadium here is called “Hellner Stadium” after Swedish ski star, Marcus Hellner. Marcus grew up skiing around here and apparently he won his first World Cup here, in his own home town. Upon arrival last night I went for a short jog and the ski stadium was bustling with energy; mostly old Swedish men setting up for this weekend’s upcoming race. You could tell they were loving every minute of it! No pictures yet but I will get some soon!

If you are curious about Gallivare, the FIS Cross Country site always has a bit of info about the World Cup venues…. Check it out HERE.

“Gällivare, located 100km north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, is a small mining town where the Sámi culture and modern industry coexists.”

November on XC Ski Girl
November is up and ready on XC Ski Girl for those who are interested! Read it HERE.

Reese Hanneman Photo Shoot


Last but certainly not least, pictures from the photo shoot I did with Reese Hanneman at Lake Hood are up on his website HERE. I’m sure that many of you have already seen them on Facebook and/or Fasterskier but the complete collection, in high res (!) is up on his engine room media site. Be sure to check back on Reese’s site often because he always has something cool up his sleeve!

Good luck to Reese and the rest of my APU teammates who will be hitting up the races in West Yellowstone this weekend! I’ll be cheering for you guys from Swedish Lapland!

Brooks Blog – Lappland Here We Come!

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November 13, 2012 – I’m about to board my second of four flights taking me from home in AK to Northern Finland, “Munio.” It’s hard to see on this map but it’s to the left of “Lappi” …. you may notice this is WAY above the Arctic Circle. Don’t worry, I packed some neon to keep things bright and happy….

My favorite wax tech helping me travel wax skis. I had this pic on Facebook earlier and many people are surprised by the number of skis I have.  Reality is, everyone has this many to be competitive at the international level.  Each one is for different conditions… different cambers, stiffnesses, grinds, etc.

Fast and Female Anchorage (last weekend) is deserving of its own post. I’ll try to write an update later. Basically, it was AWESOME and we had over 200 girls. Thanks so much to everyone who pitched in and helped out!

After the main event we took the opportunity to get a bunch of Alaskan women influential in sports together for a social/pow-wow. Women shared incredible personal stories and also gave updates on the programs they are currently involved in. We had everyone from Nina Kemppal (4x XC Ski Olympian) to Deedee Jonrowe (30x Iditorod sled dog racer) to Margaret Timmerman in charge of Tuesday Night races to Joey Caterinichio – US Ski Team Nordic Program Director, Rosey Grundwaldt – 2006 Torino Bronze Medalist, etc, etc. I wish I had had a tape recorder on the conversation because it was amazing.

Rob dropped me off at the airport last night. Always hard to say goodbye. He’s my biggest supporter. (Thanks for the help babe!)

Opp! They’re calling my name to board! Next flight to Frankfurt, then to Helsinki, then to Rovanemi & finally, a drive to Munio. I have a long road ahead!

More soon!
Holly 😉

The day before my departure I got this in the mailbox. I’m excited to be writing an international column for the statewide Nordic Skier Newspaper. In case you live outside of Alaska or don’t receive the paper, I’ve included my article below….

From Alaska to Europe & Back
by Holly Brooks

Eight years ago I moved to Anchorage because I wanted to live in a ski town. After growing up in Seattle, I craved a place where roller skiers weren’t considered freaks and I could see snow outside the kitchen window. I was ecstatic to find friends who knew of Swix Extra Blue and a spider web of fabulous trails throughout the city, complete with lights for skiing at night. I made my rounds of the local ski scene working at Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, serving as the head coach for West High, spent six years as a coach for the Alaska Junior Olympic team and finally, five years as a fulltime junior and master’s coach for the APU Nordic Ski Center.

I started out racing in the local Anchorage Cup series; the Hickok, Pia’s Classic, the Sven, the Oosik, the Tour. Then, in 2009, I entered the American Birkebeiner and “lost” the race by what some called a “toenail” in a photo finish. In many ways, that race was one of the defining moments that inspired me to focus on skiing at a new level. Luckily my commitment and hard work was rewarded when this past May, I was named as an official member of the US Cross Country Ski Team.

Last winter I unexpectedly spent almost five consecutive months in Europe racing the World Cup. Needless to say, this was quite the jump from the Alaska community racing scene where I frequented the coastal trail, had a “handful of skis” thrown into the back of my Subaru or spent Tuesday nights doing intervals at Hillside with my friends. In all, I traveled to & raced in ten different countries and accumulated 26 World Cup starts. There were highlights such as my contribution to the best women’s 4x5k team relay finish in history and there were certainly low lights as well. Christmas night I was running on an icy road, fell & broke my wrist just four days before the start of the infamous “Tour de Ski” stage race. (I foolishly competed anyways!) This winter promises to be full of more tales and adventures. I’m by no means a seasoned veteran of the World Cup but I’m not a rookie either.

As you may know, three of the six US Ski Team girls reside and train in Anchorage including Kikkan Randall, Sadie Bjornsen and myself. We represent the USA, the State of Alaska and APU Nordic Ski Center on the International stage. This year World Championships will be in Val di Fiemme, Italy and in less than two years we hope to be “toeing the start line” at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

When driving up the serpentine roads to the racing venue in Slovenia or landing a chartered plane on an obscure military base in Russia to compete it’s easy to feel far from home and far from the people, specifically the Alaskans, that helped us reach the World stage. Realizing that, I’m excited to be writing a monthly column for the Nordic Skier that will attempt to bring stories from the World Cup into your hands. While I may not spend much of the winter in Alaska anymore I spend the spring crust skiing at Portage, the summer running in the Chugach and the fall roller skiing at Kincaid. While I love being on the road, my heart is always at home. I hope you’ll join me for the adventure that is the 2012-2013 World Cup season

If you would like to follow Holly’s ski adventures on a more regular basis, check out her blog @ www.hollyskis.blogspot.com

Bjornsen Blog – Doing the Snow Dance!

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November 01, 2012 (Anchorage, AK) – Since getting back from Park City Camp, Anchorage has yet to get any snow. Of course, when every skier is looking for moisture, the sun finally decides to show in AK. With no snow, the temperatures haven’t hesitated to resemble the typical Alaskan weather at this time of year.

As temps dropped down into the single digits, rollerskiing gets less fun! Pounding freezing cold pavement isn’t exactly the nicest thing for your joints. But, with a little extra clothes, and a longer than usual warm up- we made it happen.

One day we were rollerskiing at a local park, where all the ducks have decided to reside around a half frozen pond. They also have chosen to poop all over the trail. So, aside from the trail being half frozen, our skis were also being stopped and tripped up by frozen pooo. It provided for some laughing, a little swearing, and fortunately only one fall that didn’t end up too bad.

Last weekend was also the annual APU ski swap, where all the elite athletes pass down our great equipment to the younger generation of skiers. This is one of the neatest qualities about this elite/junior/devo team. A great pair of skis never leaves the team as someone grows out of them, it just keeps living down the chain. The ski swap is also a time that Kikkan takes the opportunity to clear out her closet and raffle off all her stuff to the young kids.

This is one of the most exciting things I have ever watched. Kikkan manages to accumulate some pretty awesome gear, so the kids get called out by number, have 10 seconds to pick something on the table, and then the next person goes. It’s a pretty awesome thing Kikkan does- and I am sure that 90% of those kids mark the day on the calendar, it’s that exciting!!

On that same day we had one of the young devo team boys and Rob Whitney put on a fundraiser run for Mary Robicheaux, a young devo on our team that got hit by a car while she was biking. Mary has been in the hospitals for the past two months as she is learning to walk again. She suffered a fractured skull, many broken bones in both legs, a broken spine, and a tough road to recovery. She has been amazing though as she has continued to improve from day to day with a whole lot of heart.

Anyways, one of her friends, Luke Jager headed up a running race for the community. He set up a little 5k course that weaved over logs, through trees, around in circles… you name it. It was pretty fun. It was amazing to see the community come together, with around 300 participants, who managed to raise $14,000 for Mary’s recovery.

So, this leads to last weekend. On Wednesday last week, I headed up to Fairbanks for a little on-snow time. Since Fairbanks has about 3 inches of snow, our team was off to find it. This weekend is also the First Tracks Camp, where all the skiers of Alaska group together for the first “on-snow” camp of the season.

It is pretty awesome, they all get to chase all the elite skiers around during training, and then there are a bunch of talks set up from Nutritionists, Health Specialists, NCAA skiers and coaches, and the World Cup Team. With everyone in the same place, everyone gets to take advantage of the others around them. This is the first time I have attended one of these First Tracks Camp, but it is pretty amazing. Thanks Matt Hajdukavich and Challenge Life Alaska for an awesome time!

The final day, we celebrated Halloween and dressed up in costumes for our ski. I was doing intervals this day, so it meant throwing down pretty hard in a pink onesie suit with a white cotton t-shirt on top. It provided for some entertainment though for sure.

Kikkan and Holly also organized a “world-cup field” for the final day where they brought all their race suits from other countries they have accumulated, and then raffled off who got to wear them the final day. The kids also got to wear world cup bibs on top, so it was pretty hilarious to watch the “foreigners” skiing around.

So after four days of sweet skiing, we had to head home for some good “home time” before leaving for the winter. This is also the hardest part. Trying to get your life truly organized before being gone from your home for potentially five months!! Yikes. In the mean time, if you see me on the side of the road dancing… I am just doing the snow dance!! C’mon snow.

Brooks Blog – October at Altitude

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October 16, 2012 – The countdown has truly begun…. in just a short 29 days I will be headed on another 30-hour travel to Europe to kick off the 2012-2013 ski season. With less than a month to go, nerves and excitement are starting to brew in my belly and the anticipation is high.

I find our sport to be qualitative to a fault. It’s usually this time of year when I start to wonder, am I fit? Have I prepared well enough? What page of the results will I be on for the first race of the season? Unlike running, biking, or baseball we have comparatively few ways to measure our progress or improvements. We don’t measure wattage, we don’t keep stats, and skiing isn’t as simple as running a repeatable track workout. We can repeat intervals on roller skis but weather and temperature change the speed of the pavement up to 20%. We can do a running test or a strength test but realistically, just because you can do more pull ups than 6 months ago doesn’t guarantee that you’re double pole is going to improve.

Physiological testing at the USSA headquarters in Park City, Utah is just one of the reasons why US Ski Team members make an annual trip here to train come October. The weather is generally beautiful, we can use the facilities at the Center of Excellence & we can “test” with the sports science department. On top of all this, we can take advantage of the opportunity to live & train at altitude.

In fact, as I type this, I am sitting at our condo in Deer Valley @ almost 9,000 feet! For those unfamiliar with altitude training it is basically a natural way of increasing your red blood cells & hemoglobin – both of which are responsible for carrying & delivering oxygen throughout your body. All said and done I will have been here for a full 18 days which should be enough time to spike my hemoglobin. I took a test upon landing and will take another one just before departure to track the change.

In addition to the hemoglobin tests I was scheduled to do a series of “max effort” tests on the ski treadmill to measure my Vo2max among other things. Unfortunately, I’m suffering from a bit of an intercostal muscle pull and at this point, have been unable to test or use my left arm to it’s full capacity. Some of you may remember seeing this from a post I wrote in May:

I was hoping to repeat this test (and see improvement!) but the priority is on fully healing my muscle so that I can do on-snow intervals in Alaska before departing for my first race in Munio, Finland! One of the advantages of being near the COE is that we have in-house trainers & physical therapists. I am seeing them daily and think that I should be 100% healed in no time!

Aside from using the COE and testing, my trip to Utah has given me a much-needed change of scenery, pace, and WEATHER. While the weather at home in Alaska had been quite “challenging” the weather in Utah has been gorgeous. It’s motivating to get out the door and in fact, sometimes you have to keep an eye on your watch because it’s tempting to stay outside all day!

Last week I got to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now and that is climb Timpanogos, an 11,700 foot peak just an hours drive from Park City. Lucky for me I got to climb it with a huge group of friends as it was part of my dear friend, Katie Ronsse’s pre-wedding activities!

Another thing I’ve been able to take advantage of here in Utah is the FOOD. I love ethnic food, particularly Mexican food. There is plenty to be had here – you can see by the site of this salsa bar…. last week I also went to a farmer’s market and just about died of happiness as there were fresh local fruits and veggies for REALLY affordable prices!

Another huge highlight of the past week and a half was attending Katie and Justin’s wedding. Rob was able to join me for the wedding and a small respite from the Alaskan rain. He was “happy as a clam” biking 8 hours a day on the extensive Park City mountain bike trails!

I have another four days here in Utah and its action packed with training sessions, physical therapy appointments, meetings with our new team sports psychologist & travel agent, getting outfitted with gear for the new season & an National Nordic Foundation fundraising meet & greet. (More on that and the Drive for 25 later!)

In the meantime, for all you folks up in Alaska – we’re having a fun(d) run for Mary this upcoming Sunday! I hope to see some of you there! Please help spread the word:

That’s it for now from Utah! Smiles & thanks for reading,

– Holly :)

Brooks Blog – Back at it!

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May 07, 2012 – Like everyone else, I had huge intentions of writing a huge blog post (almost a month ago now) reviewing my season, talking about the highs and lows in detail – and covering everything in between.

However, in reality, I needed time to rest – both my body and my mind and that included taking a short hiatus from blogging and telling the world about my exploits :)

Now that I’ve had that time to rest, here is how it went, in a nutshell:

– A delayed departure for Europe due to no snow…. got my first taste of tunnel skiing in Torsby
– An awesome streak of World Cup performances – better than I had ever imagined… scoring WC points in 6 of 9 individual start races. I almost made the distance red group after one period alone! This was certainly a break through for me mentally, physically & emotionally. It also gave me the green light to extend my season in Europe and join the Tour de Ski USA crew! This meant spending Christmas in Europe.
– Christmas night: fell on icy road and broke my wrist four days before Tour de Ski. (Nice timing, right?)
– Proceeded to race the Tour de Ski with my wrist – didn’t find out it was broken until half way through the Tour when I got x-rays and an MRI en route to Italy.

– Stubbornly finished the Tour with the help of pain killers and tape jobs (thanks Steph!) Was ecstatic to reach the top of the Alps Cermis, even if my performance took a huge tumble.
– Proceeded to take some much needed rest in Italy at the home of Bill and Kathy Estes – thanks Guys!
– Continued onto Ramsau, Austria, SOLO for a one-pole ski camp… often in a blizzard.
– Got back into World Cup racing in time to come down with the weird stomach bug that took almost everyone out at one point or another. Dropped out of a race in Czech (Heck, I didn’t even drop out of races when I had a broken wrist!) and then the next day summoned all my courage and energy to help the USA ladies to our best 4x5k relay result ever. Certainly a HIGHLIGHT of the season!

– Just the day before I had purchased a ticket home for a 2-week recovery trip. My wrist episode combined with the stomach bug took a bigger toll on me than I’d thought. I traveled back to the States, 30 pairs of skis and all; knowing that I wanted to come back but not knowing if I could come back.
– Raced the American Birkebeiner and WON! That one had been on my list for a while ever since loosing my an inch in 2009!

– Returned to Europe for the Lahti World Cups but skied poorly. Perhaps 20,000 + miles in an airplane, a 50k and jumping 4 time zones doesn’t work….
– Skied and WON OPA cup finals in Toblach, Italy! It wasn’t WC Finals but it certainly felt good to stand on TOP of a podium. I won countless pounds of cheese and meat for my efforts.
– From Italy I continued onto Craftsbury Vermont where I met my APU teammates. It was close to 80 degrees so we had to get tanks and shorts at thrift stores…. I continued to have what I felt were mediocre races at spring series.

In all, the season was a huge breakthrough for me. Going into it, I had no idea that I would be spending almost five straight months overseas. I didn’t anticipate a 13th place in Davos, just missing the distance red group at the end of December, or even starting the Tour de Ski. Injuring myself was a huge bummer, especially with the momentum that I had created….. but on the bright side, it wasn’t an Olympic year, right? I raced in 26 different World Cup races in countries and venues all over Europe. In all, I raced 51 times last year, summer events included. I learned a lot, as you’d hope I would in that period of time. But perhaps the most important lessons when it comes to International performances are that 1 – I can do it; we can do it. We have the tools to succeed, let alone WIN against the Europeans. 2 – Next season I will need a planned break to come home to AK 3 – Diversify racing venues and level of competition – I didn’t race my first non-World Cup race until the American Birkie in February! As hard as it is to miss World Cups, standing on a podium and being in the hunt for the win is important and not to be under estimated.

All in all, I’m excited to train really hard this summer and take another stab at it next winter. I’m crossing my fingers to stay injury free and be able to pick up where I left off!

WHEW….. That wasn’t supposed to be long winded but it was, sorry. Here are some pictures of my spring to make up for it:

Following the ski season I did what so happy skiers do after 5 months of traveling on the road, chasing snow; go to the beach! This trip was actually planned as a college reunion some 8 months prior to going. There was lots to celebrate and lots to catch up on including BIG birthdays…. (and some anxiety on my part for those that know me well!) Time with my college girlfriends was awesome. We cooked amazing meals and talked for HOURS about all kinds of non-ski related things. My friends are all amazingly accomplished and it was fun to hear about mobile butchers for Sarah’s meat CSA, Al’s trips on the Grand Canyon, Jayne’s PhD in geophysics & Laura’s teaching exploits from Oahu!

It was a tight turn around to get to Hawaii. I came into Alaska on a red eye and had less than 24 hours in AK to give my husband a hug, vote, pack, un-pack, lead a clinic & attend to all kinds of business and months of mail. Then, I departed on another red eye for the islands….. arriving 10 hours later; exhausted to say the least. (I’m NOT complaining though!)

The girls also put up with my need to exercise – at least a bit. I’ve always wanted to bike on the islands and this time I was finally able too. Here I am at the 9,000 ft. lookout for Mauna Kea.

The other super fun thing I did this spring was attend my good friend, Chrissy’s bachlorette party. Instead of a night on the town we took a water taxi across K-Bay in Homer to her family cabin. We brought skis, running shoes, and blow-up paddle boards – and used them all!

The spring is also a great time to participate in some awesome community programs. ARISE is a new program co-lead by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures. It stands for Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel. Basically, it brings local runners and health advocates into Title I schools in Anchorage to run with elementary school kids at recess. The goal is to show that being active can be fun! This spring Tyson Elementary in Mountain View is the pilot program.

The grades, K-5 are having a competition to see which class can run the most. Mid-week last week, the Tyson kids had run 584 miles total! Last Thursday we had a “speed gun” where kids did a full on sprint. The school is going to take our mileage and overlay it across the state of Alaska. The goal is run from Anchorage to the North Slope – at least!

In other news, training for 2012-2013 has started and we’re hitting it hard with APU. Lucky for us, we can still ski in Anchorage so we’re mixing some on-snow training in with running, lifting, etc. Should be fun (and sometimes sore) times!

More real soon…..

Cheers!

Holly :)

American Birkie Comments from Elliott, Brooks, Liebsch and Gregg + PHOTOS

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February 29, 2012 – SkiTrax caught up with the top men’s and women’s finishers after the biggest XC ski marathon in the U.S. – the American Birkebeiner in Cable, WI. Read race recaps from 50k FR winners Tad Elliott and Holly Brooks, as well as comments from runners-up Matt Liebsch and Caitlin Gregg.

Full results HERE.

Tad Elliott – 50km FR Men’s Winner
I was looking for a marathon to participate in on the weekend when the World Cup took a break and noticed that the American Birkie was the same weekend. It has been a dream of mine to win the Birkie but I was a little nervous about the travel back and forth from Europe. I asked my Dad what he thought and he was nervous about the travel as well saying it might be best to stay in Europe.

I asked my Mom what she thought about the travel and the Birkie. She got really excited and said that I should do it and make it happen. She raced the Kortelopet a few years ago and loved the atmosphere and racing in Wisconsin. Right then I knew I would be making the travel to WI.

I emailed Salomon asking if they could help me out getting to the Birkie and taking care of me while I was there. They booked my ticket, hotel room, entrance, and made sure I had transportation. The Salomon staff are my friends and also my support staff. Without the help of Bill Sterling, Josh Korn, Andy Gerlach, and Pete Zeller, I would not have been able to do as well as I did.

Zach Caldwell even came out to wax my skis for the race. He chooses all of my skis with Salomon and puts race grinds on them. The amount of testing and work he put into my skis for the Birkie was amazing. Without Zach, my results would not have been what they were. The overall support was absolutely incredible. I felt like it was a team effort for me to win, a lot of people worked very hard so I could have this opportunity. My dream came true.

The race itself was awesome. Huge thanks to the groomers who made the course a blast to ski on after all of the new snow. At the start, my track came together with another track and Morten Petterson and I were going to get pretty well acquainted – he slowed and let me in – classy guy. We laughed and the race was on.

My skis felt a little slow at first in the new cold snow. Once I hit “OO” [about the 1/2 way point] where Zach had tested my skis at 5 a.m. they sped up significantly. I could tell that had the best skis in the field – right when I needed them. A French skier and Nish [Graham Nishikawa] were off the front with a 1:07 lead at one point. I was stressed that we would not be able to bring it back. Matt Liebsch kept me in line and said that together we could bring it back, but not before 33km. True to his word, at 33km Matt and I worked together to bring them back.

After that, the paced slowed a little and I attacked with 11km to go and was able to get a gap alone. From then on I was committed to the finish. Across the lake, I kept looking back thinking that I would be caught with only 500 meters left in the race. Once I hit the wiskers in the finishing lanes and looked back, I knew I had won.

I celebrated pretty hard and was extremely happy. It was the perfect day for me. I was so pumped and I’m still stoked. At the finish I borrowed a stranger’s phone to call my parents. I don’t think I’ve heard my mom that excited in a while. She was really pleased.

The best moment of the day for me though was sharing the podium with two other Americans who are also my friends. I have stayed at both of their houses in the last month while training and racing. Just a rad experience all around.

——

Holly Brooks – 50km FR Women’s Winner
Today was awesome – I really couldn’t have wished for a better day. Just last week I remember hearing the race was “on the rocks” and amazingly, the conditions today were PERFECT. The temperature, the snow, the grooming. Heck, the sunshine even came out for the race finish – and of course the great spectators!

As for the race itself, there was a large group of women that skied together until “OO” – myself, Caitlin [Gregg], Nicole Deyong, Rebecca Dussault, and a Russian skier were taking turns at the front. Shortly thereafter I was taking a feed and Caitlin made a decisive move, weaving through skiers from the men’s elite wave.

I wanted to finish my GU so she lost me for a bit and I had to work to reel her back in. In the process, we gapped the rest of the girls. When I realized that we had a lead on the others, I told her and said that we should work together to make sure they didn’t catch us.  So we traded leads, pulling each other towards Hayward. It was a blast skiing the race with Caitlin – she’s a good friend and a great skater. Now we’ve each won the Birkie once!

I was leading off the lake and made the 90 degree corner onto Main Street… I had been in this situation before in 2009, only to be caught by Rebecca D at the line (2nd by an inch!). This year, I definitely had a flashback to the race three years ago, and I was determined to NOT lose the sprint!

I took the sprint by a hair but made sure to not “pull a Morilov” and celebrate before fully crossing the finish line!  Funny thing was that both my husband Rob, and Caitlin’s husband Brian, were waiting at the finish line to see who’s wife would win! Brian had a great race as well, landing third on the podium – a good day for the Gregg family!

All in all, I’m really glad that I made the trip out here to race the Birkie and I’m ecstatic that I can “check this off the list” after three years of jokes about my boot being too small or the fact that I shouldn’t have clipped my toenails that day!

Check out the Anchorage Daily News for a great story on the race.

——

Matt Liebsch – 50km FR Second
This was an amazing Birkie and I was so happy that I got to be on the podium with two of my best training partners and friends. There was great depth and it was a very competitive field this year at the Birkie.

I broke a pole this time at a very in-opportune time in the race. I knew we were getting to the point where moves were going to be made. Tad [Elliott] went off the front followed by Brian Gregg. I tried to get into the 3rd spot and put my pole between Lars [Flora] and myself and we both fell. Santiago Ocariz saw what happened and took his pole off and gave it to me. With that I was able to get back into the race.

The Birkie course was wonderful and it’s always a race where I strive to have one of my best results in. I want to thank all the volunteers, board members and people who work so hard to make this an amazing event. This year’s Birkie will be one of my most memorable!

——

Caitlin Gregg – 50km FR Second (defending champ)
The Birkie race was fantastic! It was a great way for me to test my fitness. The pace in the women’s race was very very slow for the first 30km. I was feeling great and only a few of the ladies were taking turns at the front so I decided to make a run for it. Holly [Brooks] was the only skier that followed and soon we were a few minutes off the front.

Holly and I worked together and maintained our gap until Main Street. The final sprint was awesome and we both skied our heart’s out. In the end Holly got me by 0.4 of a second. It was very close but also a ton of fun! Holly has been racing very well on the World Cup circuit and it was great to be able to ski with her so much during the race.

After the race I realized I had four bridesmaids in the Birkie this year and two were on the podium! The whole weekend of events was incredible and I am so happy that I get to share the Birkie experience with so many family members and close friends!

The Way I See It – US and Canadian Women’s Relay Teams

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February 14, 2012 – US Best – Sunday’s relay effort by the US women has to be one of the top racing days in the history of Women’s Cross Country skiing in the US – if not the top day. It opened a huge gateway into the future. There were many reasons for this relay to be a bomb of the year rather than an effort that would have everyone over here cheering in their offices, breakfast nooks, cars, and where ever they were watching this effort on their computers.

For starters Kikkan Randall, the team’s best skier, sat out another race. On top of that the four ladies on the team had skied a very hard 15km CL WC the day before, Holly Brooks (the starter) is still wearing her wrist splint (now and then) and doesn’t have a bunch of races under her belt the last few weeks and didn’t finish the classic race the day before. Ida, the 4th lady in the pecking order, was replacing Kikkan the leader – BUT – on race day they came to the start line dressed in their striped USA red, white and blue socks over their uniforms and painted red and blue USA’s on their faces to lay down four of the best performances in their careers landing the best-ever USA relay result – 5th place.

Not only missing 4th place by a second, but being less then a minute behind Norway who won – that is something to talk about. QUESTION: What does the future hold – it’s exciting for everyone – and kudos to the coaches and the skiers for their dedication to having such an aggressive approach to building the relay team’s going forward – here we come Sochi! They now have quality and depth in taking this direction that they decided on in the summer months. Sounds like a plan!

Now North of The Border – You have just the opposite direction being taken by the Ladies program in Canada. As I wrote last week the women never made it to Rybinsk and now moving forward (or backward) from there only Perianne [Jones] was in Nove Mesto, while Chandra had to go home for a family emergency and Dasha, the lone member of the newly formed “senior team”, was in Seefeld with her boyfriend for training and an Austrian Alps holiday. It’s been two weeks and only one of the three ladies has raced once in that period – not an international scope in focus that I can see.

Here are some of the numbers that will show you the disparity between the US and the Candian women’s program when it comes to racing starts from the beginning of the season in Sjusjoen, Norway to Nove Mesto, CZE.

Canadian Ladies:
– Dasha – 15 races
– Perianne – 17
– Chandra – 17 (emergency trip home)

US Ladies:
– Jessie – 24
– Kikkan – 35
– Holly – 34 (broken wrist)
– Liz – 33
– Ida – 25
– Sadie – 19 (off the circuit a couple of weeks ago)

I don’t place the blame on the Canadian girls, but on the coaching staff, mainly [Justin] Wadsworth and [Eric] DeNys as they work with the ladies and chart the course for the year. But mainly it’s the coaches direction and expertise that is counted on here for going in the right direction. You say I’m not being fair, what about the Men’s program? They’ve been pounding the circuit since Sjusjoen in mid-November, so why not the Ladies? It’s a program that is not building towards Sochi.

I can remember watching Devon [Kershaw] fighting his way through season’s 5-6 years ago and getting beaten down but going back for more the next year… and look at him now.

The Canadian Ladies are racing about 1.4 races per week (mostly sprints) which is not enough to be in racing shape. This plan has way too many breaks – the training should have been done in the summer. I think this was the way of the 90s, the old North American way, not the new dedicated “we will be in Europe all winter way” adopted supposedly by both team this year. Sorry Canadian Ladies – you got the short straw this year.

Can any of the Canadian Ladies make it to Falun for the WCup finals…? Not likely – Chandra has a chance, but it is slipping away fast. Time for this program to change gears – real fast.

Talk To You Next Time,
Marty

The Sasseville Report – Milan Sprints and Other Things

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January 16, 2012 – I’ve got to hand it to Juerg Capol and Vegard Ulvang from FIS. They truly have made an effort to bring cross-country skiing to the people of the world. The Tour de Ski with it’s various interesting stages concluding with a climb up a downhill slope is a great example of how they have turned what was once a boring sport to watch into something that is exciting for every kind of fan.

Another example of this is the city sprints like the ones in Milan, Italy, this past weekend. Milan rarely has snow and the Milanese usually have to travel a long way to ski. To bring the best sprinters in the world to this city is brilliant.

What is also brilliant is how well skiers from North American are doing on the World Cup this year. Kikkan Randall, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, and Chandra Crawford have all consistently been at the top of the results list and it has become a pleasure to report on their success this season.

As well, Len Valjas, Ivan Babikov, Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova from Canada as well as Simi Hamilton, Andy Newell, Sadie Bjoernson, Holly Brooks and now Jessie Diggins have also had good races and have scored World Cup points and in some cases have been on the podium.

Every week it seems that someone different from Canada or the US is standing on a podium. The most consistent has been Kikkan Randall who finished 2nd twice in Milan, once on her own in the individual sprint and a second time with young sensation Jessie Diggins in the team sprints.

Diggins had dominated the domestic racing scene in December after a stellar junior career. She is a legitimate talent who has the speed and endurance to be a star on the World Cup.

Chandra Crawford, after a 7th place in the individual sprints, hit the podium again this time with Perianne Jones in the team sprints where they finished right behind the Americans in 3rd. Chandra has been consistently in the top 10 over the past few races and is now a contender in every sprint race.

Len Valjas was the best of the North Americans in the individual sprints finishing in 14th. Simi Hamilton continues to improve finishing in 19th while Andy Newell continued to struggle in heats finishing in 26th after qualifying 8th.

Randall is showing incredible endurance by continuing to race in every World Cup. She has said that she wants to race every one and, barring illness, she will. She continues to lead the Sprint World Cup and sits 4th in the overall World Cup. I have stopped thinking of her as a sprinter. She is now a great overall skier who can succeed in any race.

Kershaw, Harvey and Babikov have taken a much needed rest this week before returning to the World Cup circuit next week in Otepaa, Estonia. There will be classic sprints on Saturday followed by classic individual start distance races on Sunday. The course in Otepaa is one of the hardest in the world and it is one where the best classic skiers and climbers in the world can shine.

This race is another example of how the FIS has created a World Cup circuit for everyone. It appeals to the traditional fan who likes to see an individual start and classic technique race like the old days – 15 years ago!

One last question that I would like to ask all of you – do you think that the Tour de Ski with 8 races over 11 days is as hard as a professional cycling tour that would be the same number of races? Do you think that it is as hard as the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia? And finally what makes it harder or easier?

Brooks Blog: The Penultimate Race of the Tour de Ski

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January 11, 2012 (Toblach, Italy) – Oh Italy….. I am finally back in connectivity after no Internet for days. There is a theory that Internet is especially sparse in Italy due to some Mafia thing but that has yet to be confirmed. Alas, my apologies for those of you that have checked back only to find my blog without recent updates. It’s been out of my control, for sure! (This also creates a huge back log in correspondence so if I haven’t written you back yet, this is why!)

This afternoon we have our second to last race of the Tour, a 10k classic mass start race at Val di Fiemme. I will make this post brief because I need to get ready but I really want to get something up to let you all know what has been going on.

As I’m sure some of you have seen or read in other publications, I took a slip on the ice Christmas day while running in Ramsau, Austria. It’s taken a while to get a proper diagnosis…. this has included lots of fitful reading on wikipedia, Web MD, and all of those other scary Internet sources where you diagnose yourself and then continue to have nightmares…. However, I was finally able to get both an x-ray and MRI, mid-tour in Oberstdorf, Germany. We were able to deal with an Orthopedic specialist but lots of the medical lingo was lost in translation and there was a fair amount of uncertainty- plus, we were literally trying to get on the road to arrive at the next stage of the Tour. It was quite a debacle of a day but more on that later.

The conclusion from the MRI is/was that I have a non-dislocated fracture of the distal radius bone. They were initially worried about the scaphoid-lunate ligament as well but that appears to be okay which is terrific news.

The second I fell on the ice I knew that something was terribly wrong. My hand was extremely swollen and my range of motion was poor. Christmas was literally 4 days before the beginning of the Tour and it was hard to know what to do. Since then, I have been racing every day, doing my best to compete. While my results have been extremely sub-par, I feel the need to complete the Tour. I’ve worked so hard to get here – and there are so many people who have helped me out along the way. I know there are a handful of other skiers from the US who would have loved to have the start opportunity and I feel the need to represent the US. I often wonder if the decision to keep racing is tough or just plain stupid. I was concerned about the potential of permanent damage to my arm but have been told since that it’s probably just pro-longing my recovery period.

Coming into the Tour my goals included fighting for a top ten stage results and finishing in the top 20 overall. While those goals are completely out of the question now, I continue to race because each time I put a bib on, I learn something valuable. With each stage of the Tour has come another World Cup start, another experience at a new venue, and some pointers and direction towards my results here (hopefully) next year, not to mention later this season.

Also, Val di Fiemme, (where we are now) is the site of the 2013 World Championships so while I’m racing today, I will literally be trying out the course for next year’s Championships. After yesterday’s “inspection ski” I was really psyched – I think the courses suit me well and it gives me a ton of direction for summer and fall training.

I promise a more complete update with tons of pictures soon. In the meantime, THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED MY JOURNEY!!!! YOU ALL MEAN THE WORLD TO ME AND I WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL! This injury has been especially difficult in that part of me feels like I’ve let some of you down but I’ve been told that I cannot think that way… and I know I can’t. Nonetheless, THANK YOU and I will continue to do my best to represent you all and get some stories and photos as soon as I possibly can!

Cheers!
Holly:)

The Theme of the Tour de Ski is Recovery

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January 05, 2012 (Oberhof, Germany) – Holly Brooks, who racing at her first Tour de Ski, injured her wrist while on a run just before the Tour started. She’s been hanging in and doing exceptionally well considering her injury and posted this blog after Day 1 [which we missed] that provides some insight into how she prepared for the biggest event on the ski calendar this season.

I figure that a short post is better than none at all…. so here it is: The Tour de Ski started today. While I had a poor result – by far, my worst “distance race” since being in Europe, I have to be happy in that I felt as if I could ski.

Yesterday, in the training day, my wrist was incredibly painful and I have to admit; I was worried to say the least. Today I had a top-notch tape job done by Steph, our massage therapist and a double dose of pain meds. The duo seemed to do the trick!

Conditions today were icy, squirrely and fast – not my favorite. But, it’s snowing outside right now which makes me happy. Klister covered conditions are some of my favorite and I have an awesome pair of skis if the waxing goes that way. I’ll have plenty of girls to chase tomorrow in the pursuit start so it should be fun to “hunt some down” and try and improve my overall placing, not to mention, aim for a solid “day of” result.

Other than that, one of the big themes of the Tour is RECOVERY. With nine races in eleven days, proactive recovery becomes imperative.

Here is the plan: after the race, reach for my Boost – yep, the “old folks drink.” I may be the only person on the US team that likes the stuff. Me and maybe my grandma :) Change clothes afterwards… get a good, short cool down, ice my hand, change into dry clothes, hustle back to the hotel for a shower, put my feet up. I’m sure we’ll start using the mobile ice bath as fatigue builds up. Also, Kikkan and Bird did a bit of personal fundraiser to bring Steph Caverhill, a massage therapist over for the team.

Most teams travel with a massage therapist everywhere. While we normally do not have one, we’re excited to have Steph here to help us out over the next week and a half. As I said above, she did an awesome job of taping my hand.

It’s cool to have a female on staff…. I can tell with the little things like the fact that she used pre-rap on my tape job so I don’t have to pull off half of my arm hair when de-taping. Thanks for that Steph!

Thanks for everyone’s encouragement! Go team USA!

Kowalczyk and Northug Claim Prologue Victories at Tour de Ski – Harvey 6th and Randall 10th

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December 29, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) – Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland staked her claim to the women’s Tour de Ski overall crown with a win in today’s opening 3.1km Prologue stage in Oberhof, Germany. Kowalczyk bested World Cup overall leader, Marit Bjoergen (NOR) by 0.4 seconds over the 2.5km course. Sweden’s Hannah Brodin was third.

Among the American women, Kikkan Randall finished a solid 10th, with teammates Liz Stephen and Holly Brooks (who is suffering with an injured wrist – read more HERE) coming in 37th and 53rd respectively.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Petter Northug backed up his intentions to win the Tour this year with a win in the men’s 4.0km Prologue, beating Tour arch rival Dario Cologna of Switzerland by .7 seconds. France’s Maurice Magnificat finished third.

The Canadian men had an excellent day, with Alex Harvey finishing 6th and Devon Kershaw 12th. Ivan Babikov was further back in 38th position while Andy Newell had the top result for the US squad in 29th place, followed by Simi Hamilton and Kris Freeman in 63rd and 64th respectively.

Full women’s results HERE.
Full men’s results HERE.

The Eve of the Tour de Ski

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December 29, 2011 (Oberhof, Germany) – So…. I haven’t said much on my blog yet about the Tour de Ski but here it is – starting TOMORROW!  As there is no World Champs or Olympics this year, the Tour is kind of the pinnacle of the race year. Many of the top athletes have been aiming to perform well here all year. I was a last minute addition to the US Tour roster after having performances during period one of the World Cup this fall.

I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to race this event. As a distance skier and high volume trainer, I absolutely LOVE the thought of racing day in and day out, challenging myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have no idea how I’ll do or what will happen to by body as the days of fatigue add up but this is a great time to try it and I couldn’t be more excited for the challenge.

There are a ton of friends, family, and even people I don’t know that have helped make it possible for me to be here. As many of you know, I’m responsible for providing my own funding and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the generous support and enthusiasm of many of YOU. I hesitate to name anyone personally because there are so many of you and I don’t want to leave anyone out but you know who you are.

The experience of needing support and needing it fast has really been really moving. I only hope that I can repay many of you back with the generosity someday be it in the form of a ski lesson, athletic inspiration, a smile, or perhaps one day, dollars to a cause important to you. I know that on Thursday, when I put a bib on, I will feel like I’m racing with the support of people from Washington and Alaska; Kongsberger Ski Club, Alaska Pacific University, and Snoqualmie Nordic Team. THANK YOU so much to ALL of you!

As far as challenges go, I feel the need to share something that’s been on the fore front of my mind lately…. Christmas Day I decided to go for a short run before dinner. It was dark out and icy in places. Just as I was about to turn around and head back to the Kobaldhof, I slipped on the ice, falling back, and caught myself with my left hand. I knew instantly that it was not good…. but I wasn’t sure how bad. And I still don’t know. The plan for tomorrow, and each day afterwards is to ice, tape, take some anti-immflatatory medication and go for it.

The US team doesn’t have a doctor here at the moment so this morning I went and saw the Norwegian Team’s Doctor and “Physio.” (The Euro name for PT). They were incredibly generous to see me and were encouraging in that they do not think my wrist has a scaphoid fracture – my greatest worry via a couple hours on email and web MD. (Always a bad idea and also guaranteed to give you nightmares). If Petra Madjic can win a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games with broken ribs and a punctured lung, perhaps I can race the Tour, and excel in it with whatever injury my wrist may have sustained. It’s not ideal but I’m certainly not the first athlete who has gotten a bit beat up.

Time for bed as often rest provides one with the best healing and rejuvenation powers! Thank you everyone for everything and I’ll do my best to keep you posted through this incredible journey!

Sincerely,

Holly :)

Celebrating the Success of Teammates and Thoughts on a Coach

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December 07, 2011 (Davos, Switzerland) – I just returned to “home away from home” Hotel Kulm from an exciting, high-paced World Cup weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany. While the weekend’s racing format didn’t explicitly compliment my skill set it was a great experience and more importantly, I was there to witness my teammates stand on a World Cup podium.

If you’ve been living under a rock (or perhaps you aren’t a ski news junkie and that’s perfectly okay)  Kikkan and Sadie won a silver medal in the team sprint yesterday on the city streets of Dusseldorf, Germany.  Ida Sargent and I teamed up for the sprint as well and unfortunately we were 2 seconds from making it through to the finals as “lucky losers.”  Although I was disappointed, it provided us with great viewing and cheering opportunities for the other girls.  Funny thing was, amongst the crowds, Sadie and Kikkan both said they could hear us screaming for them on course!!!!

Yesterday was an incredible day for my teammates and for all of US Skiing.  Once again, we have shown the Euros that WE can be in there.  That we are competitors, and even though we live out of a suitcase for months on end to do it, they should not discount our fitness, courage or tenacity.

I have to admit, when it comes to taking pictures, I have no problem pushing to the front of crowds and getting my canon “powershot SD1300” out there amongst the 3-foot long lenses.  Also, perhaps I’m a horrible person for doing this but I may or may not have stepped in front of a small child to get some great shots! I couldn’t help it – how often do the girls you roller ski in the rain with (while everyone else is still sleeping off hangovers) stand on World Cup podiums? I mean, really?! Can you say Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center ROCKS?! I can!

While it’s easy to give all the congratulations to Kikkan and Sadie – and of course they deserve every ounce of it….. I’d like to acknowledge the coaches and particularly one person, Erik Flora for helping make this happen.  As a competitor that’s also been a coach and a wax tech, my perspective stems from all angles.  While there were only two people standing on the podium yesterday in D-dorf, Erik Flora has  gone above and beyond to make that silver medal possible, not to mention, my success over here too….

I don’t know anyone else in the world that loves skiing more than Erik does. The guy could literally inspire a rock to get up off the ground and do some burpees. (A really hard exercise that combines a push up and a jump.)  He is a student of the sport spending his night-time hours watching the latest video, corresponding with other coaches from around the world on theories, testing our skis by headlamp once everyone else has gone home….. some may say he’s crazy but isn’t there some kind of saying that says something like, “Great things happen when people break the norm” or something to that effect?

In 2006, the APU program was in transition.  Erik saw the opportunity to create a World-class ski team in a setting where the time was right.  He seized the opportunity.  Since then, everyday for the last five years he’s been working 12-23 hours a day to make us fast.  To make us competitive. To give us every advantage he possibly can.

Erik turns any hardship into an opportunity (it may be white-out fog and blowing wind but THIS could be CHAMPIONSHIP conditions one day!) and exudes the excitement of a 6-year old on Christmas morning on a DAILY basis.  His work ethic and his dedication to the betterment of the sport and to the athletes he coaches is impressive and admirable. When times are tough and confidence is low he has a special ability to find the bright side of any situation. He never underestimates anyone or tells them they can’t or they won’t or they shouldn’t.

Yesterday, when I was standing in the crowd looking up at my teammates on the podium I was envisioning three people up there: leg one and two of the team sprint relay along with their coach who had the biggest grin from ear to ear that you’ve ever seen.

Thanks to Erik Flora for his dedication and to all the coaches and support stuff out there that help athletes realize their dreams and inspire others to do so as well.

Oh – and here are a couple of other shots from D-Dorf…. the Germany Christmas bazaar was amazing! I wish I had more than 1/2 hour to check it out.

Thanks for reading and thanks again for the words of support and encouragement!

Holly :)

Sjusjoen World Cup Opener Photos by Holly Brooks

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November 23, 2011 (Sjusjoen, Norway) – Check out the gallery of photos below from this past weekend’s World Cup opening races in Sjusjoen, Norway, courtesy of  the USST’s Holly Brooks. The women of the USST had a historic weekend, with personal best results in individual distances races by Kikkan Randall (8th) and Liz Stephen (18th), and a historic ninth place in the women’s 4x5km relay (anchored by Brooks), equaling their performance in the World Championships in Oslo last year. While the US men couldn’t match the success of the women’s team, they put in some good hard efforts, including finishing 11th in the men’s 4x10km relay, and will be looking to move up the results in Kuusamo, Finland this weekend.

For Women’s Relay coverage, click HERE.
For Women’s 10km Free coverage, click HERE.

The Sasseville Report – First World Cup is in the Can

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November 21, 2011 (Sjusjoen, Norway) – Without a doubt, one of the most stressful weekends for a cross-country ski racer is the first meaningful race weekend of the year. All of the skiers have trained for six or more months and it is not until you race these first races that you know even a little bit about where you stand in relation to your competitors.

This is the nature of cross-country ski racing. There are no personal best times or world record times in this sport. You can do all the testing you want, and compete in roller ski racers or early season time trials, but the only way that you can really measure yourself is racing against your peers.

This is true at every level right up to the World Cup and if you read the quotes from the skiers from Saturday (link to this article) you will see that a common theme is that they didn’t know how they would do before the start and that made them nervous.

Here are some of my thoughts after the first weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway:

– I think that the Norwegian women are going to dominate all year long. They had seven of the top nine on Saturday and their relay teams finished 1st and 2nd in the relay on Sunday. Only Charlotte Kalla of Sweden and Kikkan Randall of the US were able to break into the top 9 – it looked like a Norwegian championship race.

– Marit Bjoergen has lost nothing since last year. She won by almost 30 seconds in a 24-minute race. If they had been racing a track and field event she would have almost lapped the whole field. Last year Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) won the overall World Cup because Bjoergen was concentrating on winning at the World Championships in Oslo. This year is going to be different.

– it’s clear that the USA’s Kikkan Randall is better than last year – 8th in a distance race is a fantastic result. Watch out!

– I also think that the US women’s team is really improving. With Liz Stephen placing 18th on Saturday and then having a decent relay on Sunday – and Randall’s and Brooks’ strong legs – the team is now showing just how much they have improved.

– Johan Olsson is one of the best technical skaters in the world and when he’s healthy he’s certainly one of the best. He had a tough year last year after two bronze medals in Vancouver but it looks like he is back now.

– I think that NO ONE – and I mean no one seems to be able to beat Petter Northug (NOR) in a sprint. It was sad watching the last leg of the relay on Sunday. None of the lead skiers was willing to put it on the line and go for the win except for another Norwegian Sjur Roethe. The lead group was going SO slow that he was able to come from 45 seconds back to pass all of them and take the lead in only 5km. It looked like Northug was just playing with those guys. He has an almost unbeatable formula now for distance races. All he has to do is hang around the leaders, never leading and then in the last km he moves to the front and wins the sprint.

– but Northug IS beatable in the individual start races, despite the fact that he’s getting better in these events as well. He was second on Saturday and is having a much better start to his season than last year when he over-trained and did not have any good results until after Xmas at the Tour de Ski. I also think that he is pretty well a lock to win the World Cup this year unless someone can figure out how to beat him in a sprint.

– that being said Canada’s Alex Harvey may be the one to beat Northug. His 5th place showed that he is in great shape and his sprint win in Oslo over Ole Vigen Hattestad to win the Team Sprint gold at the Nordic Worlds have shown that he has the fitness and the sprint speed to win. He has beaten Northug in a sprint in the past and even Petter has acknowledged that Harvey can beat him. I think that if Canada wants to do anything in relays they have to have Alex on the team as the anchor skier. This is the second relay in a row including the relay in Olso that Harvey did not race.

Next weekend the World Cup moves to Kuusamo, Finland for a three day mini-tour de ski. The skiers will likely have to race on icy, man-made snow again, but it will be colder and darker and the hills will be bigger and steeper. It will be the first chance for the sprinters to come out and play as well as the classic skiers. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

Holly Brooks on APU – It’s Rad!

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November 09, 2011 – We’re excited to announce that US xc ski star, Holly Brooks, from Alaska, 2011 SuperTour overall winner, is joining SkiTrax’s team of bloggers this season. Her section on the site will be ready soon, but check out her great overview of APUs (Alaska Pacific University) stellar program that has produced top skiers like herself, Kikkan Randall, Lars Flora, James Southam, Kate Fitzerald, Morgan Smyth…

People often ask: What is APU? How does it work? You’re a University team that isn’t NCAA – What does that mean? These are all good questions and yes, the format (if you will) of APU can tend to be confusing to people looking in on us from the outside. However, here it is in a nutshell: We are community ski club based within a University such that skiers of collegiate age can attend school (undergrad or graduate) while pursuing ski racing at a high level. Our community program is then built both below and above the University-based team in age. We have APU skiers as young as 11 and as “senior” (!) as their mid-eighties! In all, our total program membership involves over 200+ people directly on a regular basis. It’s RAD.

Here we are, a small club in Anchorage, AK that has duel goals of winning Olympic medals and teaching 11 year old how to huck jumps! Or, making it possible for University students to attend online classes while at training camp on Eagle Glacier and teaching a mother of four to V2 alternate.

Erik Flora, the APU elite team head coach and APUNSC Director wrote a great update to our programs at 3am this morning – I thought it was worth sharing. It explains what each group has been up to the past couple of weeks!

APU Program Members
Winter is off to a great start! We have already had groups skiing at Glenn Alps, Hillside, Hatcher Pass, and Russian Jack. Glenn Alps and Hatcher Pass have mid-winter conditions. With snow in the air, it is a good time for program update. Of course there are 100 more items, here are a few.

Junior Program has had a strong off-season of training. We have had full programs with lots of new faces and athletes reaching a new level of fitness. Part of the group participated in last weeks camp in Fairbanks. Next up is an early season snow camp in Hatcher Pass where they will focus on volume and technique (plus a whole lot of fun!). High School skiing started this week. Impressive as two junior team members were named to US National Training Groups Tarynn Hunt-Smith and Thomas O’Harra.

Devo’s have been ripping up with coach Charlie, Erin, and Dylan. This group keeps on getting faster and faster. It is amazing to watch this group as they continue to have fun and explore the joys of ski training. Keep an eye out, if you see a group of unusually fast moving-jumping-excited kids blasting through the woods and across the trails. It is a good chance it is the Devo’s!

Master Programs are in full-swing with Noon, Evening, and One-day Women Groups. Winter session has started off well with mix of dry-land and skiing at Hatcher Pass. The move to 2 and 5 day options has been a great way to get more people involved and enjoying ski training. We are excited to add a coach to the Master Programs this winter. Calisa Schouweiler is going to join Dylan and Sam for Evening Masters, Noon Master, and Women’s One-day. Calisa has a strong background in coaching. She will start in mid-November. More to follow.

The Elite team is getting ready to travel. We have had a good summer with most athletes setting record amounts of training and new PR’s on interval courses. APU members Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen, and Lars Flora are heading to Norway next week to compete on World Cup. The rest of the team will focus on early winter domestic race series starting in Fairbanks, racing West Yellowstone, Bozeman, SilverStar BC, ending at Kincaid at Besh cup 1 and 2. After Christmas we are competing in Maine at the US Nationals, World cups, Alaska Races, and World Junior and U23 World Championships in Turkey. APU added more athletes to US Ski Team programs: Kikkan, Sadie, Erik Bjornsen, Kinsey Loan, and Celia Haering. Plus Men and Women current Super Tour Leaders Lars and Holly. The Elite team was on tonight’s 10 o’clock news, click hereto watch. Best community outreach year to date with athletes really busy hosting Fast and Female events, helping at kids events, and working at junior camps.

Coaches have stepped up community support of nordic programs. Two of our coaches, Dylan Watts and Sam Sterling, are going to help with local high school programs. Dylan at West HS and Sam at East HS. Eric Strabel at Regional Elite Group camp at Hatcher Pass. Eric and Charlie will coach at Junior Nationals. Casey Fagerquist stepping up this fall to help World Cup waxing during fall schedule. Erik Flora coached 3 US ski team camps and First Tracks High School camp in Fairbanks. Plus we hosted a new Alaska “open” Junior Glacier Camp. This is a good year for coaches to extend their experience to help strengthen Alaska and US skiing.

Good for our programs, Anchorage skiing is really good for early season right now. Glenn Alps and Hatcher Pass are race ski ready with good coverage. Russian Jack and Hilltop are skiable, but quite a few rocks/grass. The NSAA did a great job rolling Hilltop today. Let’s help Nordic Ski Club of Anchorage set record sales of trail pins. The more support they get, the better grooming we will see! click hereto join.

This is a great club to be a part of. I look forward to seeing everyone on the trails!

Sincerely,
Erik

Erik Flora
Director, APU Nordic Ski Center

Fast and Female Visits Fairbanks, Alaska

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November 01, 2011 (Fairbanks, AK) – As a young girl, Fairbanks’ Becca Rorabaugh had the opportunity to cross paths with Beckie Scott – the first Canadian and first North American woman to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing with gold at the Salt Lake City games and silver at the 2006 Games in the team sprint with Sara Renner.

“North American elite skiers once did early season training in Fairbanks, and when I was about 10 years old I was lucky enough to meet Becky Scott,” explained Rorabaugh. “Basically the only words we exchanged were “Hi! My name is Becca too!”, but the inspiration of meeting her steered me to aim for the Olympics,” recalled the enthusiastic athlete.

Twelve years later, Rorabaugh, who is now 22 and an aspiring Olympian in cross-country skiing, took it upon herself to host a Fast and Female event in the hope of recreating this same magic for the next generation of Fairbanks racers.

On the eve of Halloween, Rorabaugh fulfilled her vision. Teaming up with APU Nordic Ski Center teammates and Olympians Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, she hosted more than 50 young female skiers ages 9 to 19 for the first ever Fast and Female Fairbanks event.

On this special occasion, the Fairbanks Nordic Ski Club saw a sea of girls in pink take part in cross-country ski drills, yoga, motivational presentations and a poster signing session – all led by Rorabaugh, Randall, and Brooks.

“Many of the girls seemed to really enjoy and absorb some great technique pointers from our experienced Ambassadors,” specified Randall, lead Fast and Female ambassador in the US and double World Cup winner on the Cross-country circuit in 2011.

“Some of the highlights for me were watching the swirl of neon colors, and especially the pink, zing around the four ski stations and then watching everyone synchronized in the warrior II pose during the yoga session,” added Randall, a full-time World Cup athlete who has already hosted three Fast and Female events in her hometown of Anchorage over the past three years.

Rorabaugh knew she accomplished her goal as girls left the event with huge smiles on their faces and a renewed sense of commitment to their own Olympic dreams.

“Kaya, Zoe and I REALLY got a lot out of it,” confirmed mom and volunteer Kim Troxel in an email following the event. “We all feel energized to go for it with skiing and running! These types of opportunities make a huge difference in girls’ (and women’s) lives so THANK YOU,” she concluded.

This activity was made possible thanks to valuable local partners such as the presenting sponsor – SBS Retirement Consultants LLC, as well as the Fairbanks Nordic Ski Club, Bettisworth North, Lulu’s Bread & Bagels, Equinox Physical Therapy, Martha Hanlon Architects, Fairbanks Cancer Treatment Center, Beaver Sports, Challenge Life Racing and Goldstream Sports.

“I can only hope that today’s event might have a similar affect for the next generation of girls, and I am proud to have helped bring it to Fairbanks,” added Rorabaugh who will soon kick off a busy season of racing. “The community response was incredible and I am very thankful that so many businesses and volunteers were so generous. Fairbanks certainly embraced the Fast and Female mission with open arms,” she concluded.

Fast and Female’s national sponsors – including Best Buy, Buff Multifunctional Headwear, LUNA Bars, and LIT Glitter – also provided key resources to making this event possible.

The next Fast and Female youth event will be the December 3 Alpine day held in conjunction with Alberta Alpine’s Legends Club in Canmore and Lake Louise, Alberta. For more information about this event, visit: www.fastandfemale.com

First-Ever Fast and Female Park City Event – October 8

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September 02, 2011 (Park City, UT / Canmore, AB) – A dynamic and inspiring group of 25 world-class female athletes is preparing to host a once-in-a-lifetime Fast and Female event in Park City on October 8, 2011 at the USSA’s Center of Excellence.

Held in partnership with the U. S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and open to girls ages 9 to 19 practicing all sports, the event will feature an afternoon of fun and non-competitive dryland training followed by a motivational presentation. The activity will conclude with a yoga segment and an autograph signing session.

The highlight of the Fast and Female Park City event will be the presence of the following 25 world-class female athletes representing the sports of Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Snowboard, and Speed Skating:

– Shannon Bahrke (Moguls)
– Erin Bartlett (Short Track Skating)
– Sadie Bjornsen (XC Skiing)
– Brittany Bowe (Long Track Skating)
– Holly Brooks (XC Skiing)
– Sarah Chen (Short Track Skating)
– Callan Chythlook-Sifsof (Snowboardcross)
– Annelies Cook (USA Biathlete)
– Emily Cook (Aerials)
– Alexa Devereaux (Aerials)
– Jessie Diggins (XC Skiing)
– Alyson Dudek (Short Track Skating)
– Kaitlyn Farrington (Halfpipe)
– Faye Gulini (Snowboardcross)
– Morgan Izykowski (Short Track Skating)
– Zina Kocher (Canadian Biathlete)
– Jana Lindsey (Aerials)
– Chelsea Marshall (Alpine)
– Andrea Mayo (Biathlete)
– Netanya Mintz (Long Track Skating)
– Kikkan Randall (XC Skiing)
– Melanie Shultz (Canadian Biathlete)
– Jessica Smith (Short Track Skating)
– Kathryn Stone (Biathlete)
– Liz Stephen (XC Skiing)

On this special occasion, more than 150 aspiring female athletes will get first-hand experience from this select group of athletes – all of which are active World Cup/Europa Cup competitors and the majority of which are Olympians.

“Sports have taught me so many important life lessons and have made me the person I am today,” said Shannon Bahrke silver medalist in moguls at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, bronze medalist at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and 2003 was the World Cup Champion.

“Setting lofty goals, working hard to achieve them, and never giving up when things get hard are just a few of those lessons that I want to instill in young female athletes. I know they can do anything because girl athletes are awesome and we rule,” concluded Bahrke who became the first US women’s freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic medals with her bronze medal in 2010.

The key objective for the afternoon will be to motivate girls to stick to sports by exposing them to inspiring and positive female role models. It is said that girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys.

“I chose to be a part of ‘Fast and Female’ because I know the difference it has made for me to live a fun and active lifestyle,” said Emily Cook, a two-time Olympian with five career World Cup podiums. “I am really excited to help pass on the lessons that I have learned through sport like teamwork, leadership, being confident and having fun to young women in our community and to have some time to play and sweat with these amazing ladies,” she added.

As a non-profit and North-America-wide program started in 2005 by Chandra Crawford – Canada’s 2006 Olympic gold medalist in cross country – Fast and Female is intensely focused on delivering effective programming to keep girls in sports. So far in 2011, Fast and Female has hosted a total of 10 events, reaching 1,030 girls. The Park City event marks the fourth event held on U.S. soil this year and also the first U.S. event ever held with ambassadors from sports other than cross country skiing. Past Fast and Female events held in the U.S. in 2011 took place in Maine, Alaska, and Sun Valley – all on snow.

“It’s been a fun journey bringing Fast and Female to the US in cross-country,” said Kikkan Randall, lead Fast and Female ambassador in the US and double World Cup winner on the Cross-country circuit in 2011. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to expand into more disciplines with this Park City event,” added the full-time athlete who has held three Fast and Female events in her hometown of Anchorage since 2009.

To complement the youth programming, parents and coaches are invited to join the “Amazing Tips Seminar”. While the girls will be taking part in the dryland stations, adults will have the opportunity to attend three insightful presentations on Sport Psychology/Mental Toughness with Dr. Lauren Loberg, NCC, CC-AASP (Director of Athlete Career and Education), on Nutrition/Fueling the Fast Female with Adam Korzun (High Performance Dietician) and on Injury Prevention and Body Maintenance with Jess Tidswell, PT. DPT, ATC (Medical Resident Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer). All three guest speakers are experts in their respective fields and employees of USSA.

The registration fee for the youth segment is $20 per participant and includes a Fast and Female t-shirt, a Buff, a snack, an autograph poster. Parents and coaches can also secure a seat by purchasing a ticket for $20 which includes access to the seminar and a Fast and Female t-shirt valued at $20.

All registrations are compiled online HERE. Please note that financial assistance is available for participants in need. Please contact info@fastandfemale.com to inquire.

The deadline to register online is October 6, 2011. On-site registrations will be at a rate of $25 per participant.

This activity is made possible thanks to valuable local partners such as USSA, US Bank, Einstein’s Bagels, and Knead a Massage. Fast and Female’s national sponsors – including Best Buy, Buff Multifunctional Headwear, Cold-FX, LUNA Bars, and LIT Glitter – are also providing key resources to make this event possible. For a complete list of Fast and Female national program supporters and sponsors, please click HERE.

Fast and Female Concludes 2011 US Tour with Idaho X-Country SkiFest

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April 05, 2011 (Ketchum, ID) – Fast and Female hosted its third and final X-Country SkiFest of the year on American snow this past Sunday in Ketchum, Idaho. Held under clear and sunny skies, the event was highlighted by the participation of 70 female ski enthusiasts between the ages of 7 to 19 years who had the opportunity to spend a morning of inspiration with 23 ambassadors – 7 of which are Olympians.

As part of the unique event, Fast and Female event participants kicked off their day with first-hand ski tips from some of the world’s best cross-country ski racers including Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Caitlin Compton, Morgan Arritola, Chandra Crawford (Canada), and Biathlete Sara Studebaker. All ambassadors volunteered their time to the event and dressed the part to ensure a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

“It was super awesome,” said 17 year-old participant Emily Williams. “We had so much fun dancing, singing and learning new technique drills. It was amazing to spend the day with these great athletes.”

After the skiing, all girls enjoyed a healthy lunch, took part in an inspirational speech, and concluded the day with a fun yoga/dance session.

“The speeches were really inspirational and not just for cross country skiers,” admitted Kailey Wilt, age 14.

In keeping with Fast and Female’s vision, each event segment served a specific purpose to motivate girls to stay involved in sports as a tremendous vehicle for reaching one’s personal and athletic best.

“The looks we saw on our athletes’ faces today showed us what an important message Fast and Female sends to young women,” added Kelley Sinnott from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Sinnott played a key role in coordinating the event along with colleague Ashley McQueen.

Throughout the 2011 winter, Fast and Female hosted three events in the USA, reaching a total of 470 girls in Maine, Alaska and now Idaho. Historically, events are not only inspiring for the young participants but even ambassadors leave the day feeling energized.

“It’s always refreshing to be reminded of kids’ energy and enjoyment of whatever they are part of,” said World Cup racer Liz Stephen. “Fast and Female is a wicked program and the local community and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation did an awesome job with all the work!”

Parent volunteer, Gretchen Wagner, also commented on the impact of the day: “What an amazing group of women! It was great to see all of the girls inspired by these fast female heroes. Smiles from ear to ear!”

All event participants left with a Fast and Female t-shirt, Buff and autographed poster.

This activity was made possible thanks to valuable local partners such as the Works of Grace Foundation, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Cheatwood Photography, and many parent volunteers. Fast and Female’s national sponsors – including Best Buy, Buff Multifunctional Headwear, lululemon athletica, and Cold-FX – are also providing resources to make this event possible. For a complete list of Fast and Female national program supporters and sponsors, please click HERE.

Fast and Female will be releasing more event information shortly. Until then, continue to visit www.fastandfemale.com.

First 30km Ever (and first successful feed)!

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March 28, 2011 – This morning, when I was busy speculating on just how much a 30km might possibly hurt, I got a text from my family wishing me and the team luck and saying “Kenzie says 35km was a blast.” Kenzie is my 14-year-old sister. And she raced 35km before I’ve even raced 30! So THAT threw all my plans of complaining out the window…and got me motivated to suck it up and get tough. And it was a beautiful day, which always helps!

I went into the race with these goals in mind:

1. DON’T break a pole. And don’t fall down.

2. If you do fall, fall where nobody can see you.

3. Don’t give yourself a gatorade facial again. Take at least one feed the RIGHT way. (In Oslo I managed to disgrace myself in front of coaches from around the world my first dropping a feed, and then slooshing the next one all over, yet still not getting a drop in my mouth. Sooooo embarrassing).

And believe it or not, I managed to accomplish all three (although I got ridiculously close to going down face first on the largest downhill a few times). And I’ve decided I need to start figuring out which feeds to take when during a distance race, because my stomach was doing some curious flip-flops in that last lap. But hey, it’s all a learning experience, right?

And wow, did I learn a lot today. It was such an honor to ski with more experienced girls who know how to pace and navigate a pack without wasting energy. After the second lap, I was in a small group with Kikkan, Maria, Morgan and Holly. During the third lap, we lost Holly and Morgan, and I tried my hardest to hang onto Kikkan and Maria but the long climb at the end of the lap was more than I could handle. So I skied the final lap alone, always within sight of Kikkan and Maria but never quite able to bridge the gap. On that final hill, I knew Morgan was putting in a huge effort to catch me and I was totally dying, but our coaches (Gus and Cork) gave the CXC girls such fantastic skis that I knew I just had to make it over the top with a tiny gap and I could stay in 3rd place. Although I’m not going to comment on my technique in the last few km of the race because if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Lap splits and results can be seen HERE.

One of these days I’ll remember to bring a camera to the race, but for now I think the words “sunny”, “picturesque mountains” and “totally enthusiastic cheering crowd” ought to do it!

Diggins Report – World Championship Pursuits

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February 28, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – Two days ago, I raced my first 15km pursuit ever… at the World Championships! Maybe not the ideal time to experiment with pacing, but it sure was fun while it lasted. It was an interesting day with heavy fog that made it hard on the spectators and racers alike; you couldn’t see the turns on the fast downhills till you hit them! I almost fell face-first a couple of times but managed to stay upright.

The crowds were fantastic; they lined the course and although 95% were totally intoxicated, the noise and enthusiasm really gave me a boost during the race. It’s impossible to give up when people are screaming “HI-YA!” at you! (it means GO! in Norwegian)

I had the best mass start I’ve ever been in, because I was situated #42, on the right outside track. I was able to hop out of the track and double pole up the outside while on the first hill out of the stadium people were going ballistic and tripping in the tracks. I snuck around the corner and caught onto the end of the big pack to be in the top 30. I was so excited because our skis were so fast – we had the perfect mix of good kick up the steep climbs and fast glide on the downhills.

However, I’d done a really poor job of hydrating and fueling up the days prior to my race, which proved to be a painful lesson to learn the hard way. I started to hit the wall at only 6km, and could taste iron in the back of my throat the rest of the race. I shouldn’t have needed a feed in a 15km, but the coaches had three stations ready, just in case.

And you know what? I missed all three! So embarrassing. I dropped the first bottle, and the second time around, I managed to grab the bottle… and gave myself a Gatorade facewash! So now every coach in the world knows that I had the worst feed in the history of world champs. What a prestigious title! To be fair, I’ve never tried to take a feed in a big race before. But now I’ve got good incentive to practice!

At the end of the day, Marit Bjoergen took the women’s title (surprise, surprise!) but the US women had a great day – Liz led the charge in 24th, Holly came in 25th, I finished 28th and Mo wrapped up our top 45 day in 43rd! Full results are linked HERE.

The next day was the men’s 30km pursuit, and Holly and I had a great time cheering them on. We got to be part of an international cheering squad as we hiked down a steep snowy hill to get right alongside the classic part of the course. It was really cool to see all the people camping in the snowbank; some had even shoveled out benches and settled down for the afternoon!

We hiked back to the stadium in time to see Alex Harvey of Canada pull the most ballsy move I’ve ever seen in a 30km pursuit – he broke the pack with like 6km to go and went off the front on his own! Sadly, his legs cramped up with about 3km to go and the pack sucked him back in. But it was super cool to see him off the front for a lap with a chase pack of 20 guys all scared to death that a U23 was going to beat them.

The men finished thus: Northug won, with Russians in 2nd and 3rd. Kris Freeman led the US guys in 29th, Noah Hoffman came in 37, Lars Flora finished in 53rd and Tad Elliott came in 55th. Full results are linked HERE.

Then we had a bit of a transportation snafu – due to the pedestrians crowding the street and the King of Norway getting back down the hill safely, they totally shut down the roads and we had to sit on a bus for an hour and a half before getting back to the hotel. It was a long day, but still worth it to see such an exciting race.

Today is the women’s 10km classic… and I’m headed out to cheer!

Bjoergen Supreme in 15km Pursuit – Stephen Leads Three US Skiers in Top 30 UPDATED

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February 26, 2011 (Oslo, Norway) – The Marit Bjoergen magic worked again in the women’s 15km Pursuit (7.5km CL + 7.5km FR) even on slow, new warm snow, along with yesterday’s fog, as all of Norway showed up to watch the Queen of Holmenkollen triumph once more.

In total she blazed the course in 38:08 and is the nemesis of Polish star, Justyna Kowalczyk, who was 3.5 seconds back at the ski transition, and 7.5 seconds back by the finish for the silver. Bjoergen commented that she could see from the first skate downhill that she had faster skis than her Polish shadow. Thus made this part of her tactic in the second half, initiating her attack with just under one kilometre to go on the climb before entering the stadium. Her teammate Therese Johaug had a stellar race taking the bronze at 8.8 seconds behind.

These three leaders broke away during one of Bjoergen’s attacks on the climb during the skate leg. Sweden’s top distance skier, Charlotte Kalla, chased but could not connect and finished on her own in 4th 53:9 seconds back. Italian Marianna Longa and Sweden’s Maria Rydqvist had a photo finish for 5th at 1:08:8 seconds behind the winner.

US skiers were the first North Americans with Elizabeth Stephen in at 2:54.9 minutes back for a solid 24th overall – her strong fast time in the skate of 18:23.2 put her 18th in that leg. Holly Brooks was next in 25th at 3:21.9 behind, while junior Jessie Diggins put in another a strong performance at her first major international event placing 28th at 3:25.2 back, followed by Morgan Arritola in 43rd at 5:00:9 behind.

The lone Canadian skier, Brooke Gosling was 51st and seven minutes behind. It was Brooks, Diggins and Gosling’s first World Championships – quite the baptism considering the competition at the front of the pack.

American xc head coach Chris Gover was more than pleased as the team coped with unexpected deep snow, and promising results for the future. “Conditions were different than anything we’d seen so far and from what was predicted but the wax team adjusted quickly and we had a great skis. Different teams found different kick wax solutions,” Grover told SkiTrax. “I was proud of the effort of our young skiers. A great race for Liz. Holly’s first Euro WC points. A second day in the top-30 result for Jessie.”

Veteran Stephen agreed. “It was a great day for our team for the most part, with Holly, Jessie and I all in the top 30. That’s real progress for us as a country. The race was really fun and the tracks were super fast – I had awesome skis today, both for the classic leg and the skate.

“My race had some really good parts to it, including the classic leg, which may well have been my best classic race all year. I was able to ski hard, but relaxed and hang on to the pack enough so I could be in the mix with the skate race and go out feeling strong with a goal to catch as many people as possible. I skied a pretty strong skate leg, and feel like today was a really good tune up for the rest of the week.”

Diggins continued to perform after being called up from the junior ranks following her seventh place result in the 5km skate at the Junior Worlds with as fast or faster times than many seniors. Not only was this her first senior worlds, but it was her first pursuit ever and she couldn’t overstate her enthusiasm for the race and the entire experience.

“Today was a really interesting day with all the fog…it was crazy racing because going down the hills you couldn’t see the corners until you came right up to them! But the fans were great and all the cheering really helped,” said Diggins in a post-race email to SkiTrax. “I had a great start, but did a poor job keeping hydrated and hit the wall pretty hard around 6km, and felt pretty sloppy in the skate portion of the race.

“I also tried to get a feed…twice…and every coach in the world now knows that I had the worst feed in the world! I dropped the bottle the first time around and gave myself a Gatorade face-wash the second. How embarrassing! But I’m super proud of the US girls and the coaches gave us super fast skis. It was a good day!”

For the USA’s Brooks it was a day for the record books. “Yes it was a great day for the US – three women in the top 28 – and my first WC points in Europe. The past weekend at the WCup in Drammen I had a rough start in my weakest disciplines after not having raced in over a month.

“We had great skis – thanks to our techs and my coach, Erik Flora. The first time up the big sprint hill before entering the stadium I looked up and saw bib 6 – Italy’s Arianna Follis was in front of me. That was extra motivation to ski fast!  It was super fun to be skiing with the skier who took the silver medal only two days before in the sprint and I hope our momentum carries through to the guys on Sunday! Despite the fog, the crowd was fantastic.”

Arritola felt the stress of competition. “I had a rough day in the pursuit but I’m happy for my teammates who skied well. I just have to figure some things out and get ready for the 30km.”

Team leader Kikkan Randall was impressed with the US women in the 15km pursuit emailing SkiTrax her observations, “I’m super psyched and impressed to see three of our women in the top 30 today. It looked like a tough race and it’s great to see the shift in performance on our team.  We used to dream of one result in the top 30 and now we got three in. I know Morgan didn’t have her best day so she could have possibly been in there too. Jessie skied an impressive race, not afraid to go up and ski with some fast girls. I am really excited for the future of this group.

“I think my fall in the sprint the other day, while it was definitely disheartening, has made us all appreciate the hard work we’ve done together as a team to prepare for these championships and we know that the most important thing is to put ourselves out there and go for it.  The door has been opened on what is possible and we want more of it!”

We caught up Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth for his take on the pursuit. “For sure it was a tough one out there for Brooke with the new (hard) courses here at Holmenkollen, and the huge crowds. This is a tough place to cut your teeth for your first high level racing in Europe. Brooke showed some guts out there on the skating leg today, so I look for better things to come from her as the championships continue.”

But not everyone was happy about that situation. Kowalczyk noted that on four different occasions Johaug blocked her from chasing Bjoergen. When asked whether she thought it was fair play, Kowalczyk replied, “It’s cross-country skiing.”

Johaug denied trying to block Kowalczyk and Bjoergen said she had no knowledge of it – as all had taken place behind her, but she was sure Johaug would not do that.

Instead, she said, her tactic to “…not do too much work in the classic part, but I was first in. Then I knew I had very good skis [in the skate leg] and Therese was in front; I wanted to be behind, because I knew I had better skis than Kowalczyk. I attacked and got a gap, and I knew I could go. I wanted Kowalczyk in front but Kowalczyk wanted Therese in front.”

Kowalczyk had little to say. It is difficult to ski against strong teams like the Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, Italians and Finns when the other members of the Polish team while good, were not there to work for her.

Bjoergen admitted Johaug played a part in her victory. “A big thank you to Therese who wore out Kowalczyk.”

Johaug, meanwhile, said the biggest “thank you” went to the “boys in the cabin” meaning the wax crew who waxed skis to perfection. “My goal was to reach an individual medal at these Games,” she said, “and now I have reached my goal. It was a big thing for me. The people in the track were great. At the last world championships I was 6th, so it is my best place at the world championships and the Olympics.

“I knew they [Bjoergen and Kowalczyk] would be strong in the end. I would fight to the last lap – all the way. When I was skating, I thought I could go hard all the time – I thought there was a chance. I did the best I could and it was a bronze today.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Norway commented, in a slight nudge to the competition and the rivalry between Norway and Sweden, “It is very typical Norwegian to perform as well as Marit Bjoergen did today.”

Full results HERE.

US XC Head Coach Grover on Beitostølen Podiums

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February 14, 2011 (Beitostølen, Norway) – SkiTrax caught up with US XC Head Coach Chris Grover to get his thoughts on the stellar US weekend in Beitostølen, Norway where Jessie Diggins topped the Junior field in the women’s 10km classic and overall was third behind 2nd-placed Morgan Arritola with Liz Stephen in fourth. Tad Elliott finished 11th in the men’s 15km classic race – read more HERE.

“We are feeling very good about our weekend here in Beito,” said Grover. “We had eight top-5 finishes over the three days, despite not having some of our WM crew here [Lars, Kris, Kikkan, Holly, and Noah]. Everyone from our WM team that was here had at least one good race. There were almost 900 athletes racing on the weekend.

“Although temperatures are quite cold all over Norway, we have managed to have good training. There is lots of snow and lots of skiing here. Our living and food situations have been optimal. The Team is healthy and we are prepared to be successful in Drammen and in Oslo.”

NCCSEF, USST Partner to Fund all Athletes to World Nordic Championships

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February 14, 2011 – The National Cross-Country Ski Education Foundation has partnered with the US Ski Team to fully fund all U. S. Cross Country athletes who represent the U.S. at the 2011 World Nordic Ski Championships.

Dave Knoop, NCCSEF director, states “The World Championships are the premier Nordic competition outside of the Olympics. We wanted to make sure each athlete who qualifies for the Championships could focus on their preparation for the games and not worry about covering the cost for this trip.”

“We will be going to Norway with a group of athletes who have all earned this honor with strong performances this season,” said Nordic Program Director John Farra. “And we are pleased that are at the championships as one united team all will be equally funded and supported. It’s a special honor for each of these athletes to be able to compete in Norway.”

NCCSEF Ski Fundraising Challenge
The NCCSEF challenges the ski community at large to help fund these athletes. Make your tax deductible contribution to NCCSEF designating World Championships and we will ensure that your contribution goes to offsetting trip expenses for all athletes. To contribute and learn about NCCSEF visit www.nccsef.org

2011 World Nordic Ski Championships U. S. Cross Country Ski Team
Men
– Tad Elliott – Central Cross Country
– Lars Flora – Alaska Pacific University
– Kris Freeman – Andover Outing Club
– Simi Hamilton – Sun Valley Ski Ed Foundation
– Noah Hoffman – Aspen Valley Ski Club
– Torin Koos – Methow Olympic Development
– Andy Newell – Stratton Mountain School

Women
– Morgan Arritola – Sun Valley Ski Ed Foundation
– Holly Brooks – Alaska Pacific University
– Sadie Bjornsen -Alaska Pacific University
– Jessie Diggins- Central Cross Country
– Kikkan Randall – Alaska Pacific University
– Ida Sargent – Craftsbury Green Racing Project
– Liz Stephen- Burke Mountain Academy

2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Cross Country Schedule – Oslo, Norway
– Feb. 24 – Freestyle sprint
– Feb. 26 – W’s 15k Pursuit
– Feb 27 – M 30k Pursuit
– Feb. 28- W 10k Classic
– Mar. 1 – M 15k Classic
– Mar. 2 – Team classic sprint
– Mar. 3 – W Relay
– Mar. 4 – M Relay
– Mar. 5 – W 30k Freestyle
– Mar. 6 – M 50k Freestyle

USSA SuperTour Standings after Michigan

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February 03, 2011 (Park City, UT) – The USSA SuperTour Standings have been updated. APU Nordic Ski Center’s Lars Flora and Holly Brooks have continued to hold onto their USSA SuperTour overall leads, so as per FIS Word Cup rules they will be granted World Cup starting rights and travel reimbursement in periods III (Drammen) & IV (Lahti). The USSA SuperTour gets a weekend off, then kicks back into gear in Aspen Feb 12-13 for a 5/10K classic and the 21K Owl Creek Chase.

Women
1. Holly Brooks (APU Nordic Ski Center) 340 points
2. Kate Fitzgerald (APU Nordic Ski Center) 235
3. Maria Stuber (CXC Team) 227
4. Morgan Smyth (APU Nordic Ski Center) 208

Men
1. Lars Flora (APU Nordic Ski Center) 297 points
2. Michael Sinnott (Sun Valley Ski Ed Foundation) 274
3. Garrott Kuzzy (CXC Team) 244
4. Brian Gregg (CXC Team) 188

Full Women’s standings HERE.
Full Men’s standings HERE.

Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks Inspire 200 Girls at the 2011 Fast and Female X-Country SkiFest

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February 01, 2011 (Chugiak, Alaska) – Three months ago, Alaska’s cross-country skiing superstar and Fast and Female ambassador – Kikkan Randall – put a pink star on her calendar for the day of Saturday January 29, 2011. No, that day didn’t stand for a special training session or a key race on the World Cup circuit. Instead, that day marked the hosting of the third annual Fast and Female X-Country SkiFest in Alaska, led by Randall and her US National teammate, Holly Brooks.

As planned, this past Saturday, 200 enthusiastic female skiers between the ages of 9 to 19 joined Randall and Brook at the Chugiak High School in Chugiak in Alaska for a unique afternoon of on-snow ski drills, inspirational presentations, dancing and yoga.

“Our ski stations were the most fun yet,” admitted Randall who is enjoying her best World Cup season ever with three podium finishes in skate sprint events including a gold medal. “We worked on all sorts of different skills and even threw in a little friendly competition to get the girls really fired up!”

Locally title sponsored by the Anchorage Women’s Clinic and supported by an additional 20 ambassadors with a broad range of x-country racing experience at the state, national and international levels, the 2011 Fast and Female X-Country SkiFest featured activities all aimed at motivating girls to stay hooked on sports and the healthy lifestyle.

“With this being our third annual Fast and Female event, I can really feel that the Fast and Female spirit is taking hold with these girls and we really are making a difference,” admitted Randall who donates hours each year to the planning and hosting of this big event.

For Randall, who is under a tight training schedule, being able to spend five hours with 200 emerging young female skiers from Alaska is a gift. Indeed, this Saturday, as she watched a field full of aspiring female x-country skiing champions, Randall rejoiced in being able to inspire and be inspired thanks to the contagious energy that emerges at all Fast and Female events.

“The smile power at Saturday’s event was unbelievable,” said Randall following the event. “I didn’t want the day to end! Being able to see the eyes of our participants light up when we talk about our experiences, and beginning to see their minds start to dream, is such an incredible and rewarding experience,” concluded the racer who is now setting her sights on competing at the 2011 World X-Country Ski Championships in Norway from February 23 to March 6.

Founded in 2005, Fast and Female is a non-profit organization based in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. The organization is intensely focused on delivering innovative non-competitive programming to increase the retention of girls in sports and offset the factors that make girls six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys.

Each year, the organization travels all over Canada and the US with Olympic and elite-level female athletes to offer sport-specific programming for female youth participants involved in Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon, Alpine Skiing, Triathlon, and Cycling. Program scope and reach grows annually with the addition of new female ambassadors.

Fast and Female’s expansion into the US was made possible in 2009 thanks to the friendship and collaboration between Randall and Canada’s Chandra Crawford. Crawford is the organization’s original founder and won a gold medalist in cross-country skiing at the 2006 Olympics.

The 2011 Fast and Female X-Country SkiFest held in Chugiak was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of many valuable volunteers as well as the financial and in-kind contributions of the Anchorage Women’s Clinic, the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, Best Buy, Buff Multifunctional Headwear, Subway, Cross-Country Alaska, Kaladi Brothers Coffee, and Cold-FX. For a complete list of Fast and Female supporters and donors, please visit click HERE.

All event participants went home with a Fast and Female t-shirt, a Buff, ski ties, and an autographed poster as souvenirs from their empowering day.

For more information concerning upcoming Fast and Female events, please visit www.fastandfemale.com

Check out photos HERE.

APU Romps at Lake Placid SuperTour 2011 – Videos and Full Results UPDATED

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January 14, 2011 (Lake Placid, NY) – It was a busy day at the Mackenzie Interval Ski Jumping Complex with over 400 skiers competing in three events, headlined by the third stop of USSA SuperTour series. Both fields raced around a challenging 2-kilometer loop with a consistent 1-kilometer climb from the base of the Olympic ski jumps almost to the take-off. The men completed five laps for 10km classic style racing and the women contested three loops for 6km. The weather wasn’t too much of a factor for this classic race, with overcast skies, calm wind, and temperatures in the mid-teens

The SuperTour points leaders in both fields – Alaska’s Lars Flora and Holly Brooks – both won their races maintaining APU’s dominance on the trails. Flora finished 11 seconds ahead of US Ski Team member, Noah Hoffman from Aspen, Colorado, his teammate for the World Championships in Oslo, Norway this coming February. Rounding out the men’s podium was Scott Patterson, a University of Vermont skier, who claimed the SLU Carnival college division victory as the race was hosted by St. Lawrence University.

Brooks led an APU podium sweep in the women’s race as her teammate Kate Fitzgerald claimed 2nd and Morgan Smyth grabbed third. Brooks is another top level skier that will be racing at Worlds in Olso. Just off the podium for the women was Caitlin Patterson, skiing for UVM, who matched her brother’s win in the college race of the season. Both Patterson’s will be racing for the USA in Oteppa, Estonia at the end of January – Scott in Junior Worlds and Caitlin in U23 Worlds.

It was a great day for skiers of all experience levels to compete with some of the best athletes in the country. College racers were  on course with the top open athletes from the SuperTour rankings, and juniors and masters skiers competing in the Harry Eldridge Memorial race also got to rub shoulders with the nation’s best. Despite all the abuse, the tracks stayed strong throughout the event.

Full women’s results HERE.
Full men’s results HERE.

USSA SuperTour 2011 Standings after US XC Ski Nationals

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January 13, 2011 – With U.S. Championships in Rumford, ME now complete, the updated USSA SuperTour standings are now in! Thanks to the Race Organizers, volunteers and officials of the Chisolm Ski Club for their hard work and dedication in dealing with some challenging weather conditions!

Women
1. Holly Brooks (APU Nordic Ski Cente) 280 points
2. Sadie Bjornsen (APU Nordic Ski Center) 200
3. Kate Fitzgerald (APU Nordic Ski Center) 185
4. Morgan Smyth (APU Nordic Ski Center) 172

Men
1. Lars Flora (APU Nordic Ski Center) 267 points
2. Michael Sinnott (Sun Valley Ski Ed Foundation) 160
3. Torin Koos (Methow Olympic Dev Prog) 150
4. Leif Zimmerman (Bridger Ski Foundation) 117

Full Men’s Standings HERE.
Full Women’s Standings HERE.

The Way I See It – Exciting Racing, Canadian Uniforms, George Grey, US Nationals, Haywood Trials, Dynamic Duo, Worlds Selections

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January 09, 2011 – What a week of racing – so exciting at all levels – the Tour de Ski (TdS), US Nationals and  the Haywood Trials to both pick the Senior Worlds, Junior Worlds and the U23 Championship teams that will all be heading to Europe in the next few weeks for their championships.

First to the TdS where the Canadian men are making all kinds of astronomical break through’s when it comes to the results and standing on the podium. It’s a very grueling series of races, and if you don’t believe that, look at how many people will be on the starting line tomorrow for the final race and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Tour. A total of 79 men started this trek along with 58 women and there will be 40 men and 36 women left to attack the Alpe Cermis – a very huge climb – to  continue to takes it’s toll right to the last second.

Canadian Team uniforms are interesting when seen from a distance – the lower legs being all white gives the appearance that the Canadians are skiing in knickers – the old fashion way.

Coverage of all of the competitions has really lifted the level of media exposure – press reporting, pictures by the 100s flying all over the place, twitter, and the video links to the TdS are all really cool. I was at a dinner party tonight and half the guests knew all about what was taking place at the TdS, and knew the skiers names. They sure slaughter Northug’s name!!! All an outcome of last year’s Olympics in Vancouver and of course the excellent results help the big time media pick up the releases in both countries.

George Grey made a very interesting quote after winning the first trial race at Thunder Bay at the Haywood NorAm Worlds Trials.

“It was awfully tight and very technical out there today,” said Grey. “I don’t really have my shape but I think my experience put me in the front in the end. The last few weeks of training have been challenging because my fitness isn’t there. But it will come around.”

It’s getting late George, half the World Cup schedule is done, you were in Europe before Xmas and had less than good results and have had the better part of a month to get things in order. The “Big 4” from Vancouver is now down to the “Big 2” as Ivan is also struggling to find his shape. Rumours have it that you made only one training camp all summer and fall and of course we all know about Ivan’s reality trip to South America and car buying trip to the US. This sport takes a full year of training effort every year – hope you guys catch fire soon.

The US Nationals were one soggy mess the first day of racing in Rumford. Use your imagination and instead of calling this Rumford, call it Oslo, as during the time that the Worlds are being hosted there it can easily be that ugly and worse. Plus the next day can be ass rattling icy. You had some good practice – be happy.

Haywood Trials one more time, and where was Canada’s sprint champion, Chandra Crawford? I know that she is headed to Liberec along with Dasha Gaiazova next week for some more international racing. I would have thought she would want to race the T-Bay races to lift her racing fitness to be ready for this tour. I know that she has had only one race since coming back from Europe over a month ago. She could have gone to Rossland with all the boys and Dasha the next weekend upon return and given those races a real lift by being there. Her counterparts in Europe are now at the 16-18 races for the year level and Chandra is only at 6-8 races. If Chandra makes it as a sprinter only, she will be the only one in the world.

The women who are the top women in the world are both sprinters and distance skiers, at all levels. I would use Kikkan Randall, a close friend of Chandra’s, as an example of the necessary steps that have to be taken. She was trying to make it as a sprinter two years ago – the light bulb went on and now she’s becoming a really good sprinter (currently ranked 3rd in the world) and is slugging her way through her first TdS quite nicely – and ranked 23rd on the WC distance list as I write this. Racing fitness comes from racing – it is the only way! There are not enough sprint races on the WC circuit to get anyone in shape.

Update on Canada’s dynamic duo, Devon and Alex, as they have been working there way through the TdS, they have also been improving the standings on the World Cup. Devon stands in 7th place overall and Alex has placed himself nicely in 11th. Too bad Alex didn’t make a better effort of being ready for the WC races before Christmas, coming late to the tour and then going home for some school exams. Who know how good he would be now?

Who makes the US Team to the World Championships in Oslo, Norway – here are my choices and I don’t have a clue about the criteria.

Women – Randall, Brooks, Arritola, Stephens, Symth – and as a PS send both Diggins and Bjornson to the World Jrs and U23s with the proviso that if they can make the top 10 in any event they come to Oslo.

Men – Freeman, Newell, Flora, Southam, Elliott and Hoffman – and have Hamilton prove himself in Drammen.

Both teams are building towards Sochi with older leadership, maturity and youth and will be on the international long road to getting ready for the big show 2014.

PS remember, no one can ski the whole schedule and you’re bound to have some sickness. Also – Oslo will be one hell of a show – close to or the equal of Sochii. Great place for the newbies to get their feet wet – no pun intended.

Talk to you soon.

Stephen Scores the Win at Women’s 20K Freestyle

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January 06, 2011 (Rumford, ME) – Liz Stephen, East Montpellier, VT, took charge in the women’s 20km freestyle event winning by just under a minute over APU’s Holly Brooks who landed on the podium for the second time at the US XC Ski Championship in Rumford. Stephen’s USST team mate, Morgan Arritola, from Fairfield, ID, who raced out of the Sun Valley Education Foundation before being named to the U.S. Ski Team, placed third.

Stephen was encouraged by her result. “I felt great out there and the course held up well,” said the winner. “I tried to put myself in a world cup race and make it even a bigger deal to get all that I wanted out of myself. I got some splits along the way but mostly was just going off the body. A big thanks to all the volunteers for making a great course.”

Full results HERE.

Results (brief)

1. Liz Stephen (Burke Mountain Academy/U.S. Ski Team), 50:03.5
2. Holly Brooks (Alaska Pacific University), 51:01.3
3. Morgan Arritola(Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation/U.S. Ski Team), 51:19.1
4. Caitlin Compton (Central Cross Country Skiing), 51:27.2
5. Kate Fitzgerald (Alaska Pacific University), 52:01.2
6. Evelyn Dong (Cross Country Oregon), 52:29.5
7. Chelsea Holmes (Sugar Bowl Academy), 52:43.5
8. Morgan Smyth (Alaska Pacific University), 52:44.7
9. Nicole Deyong (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation), 52:47.9
10. Jennie Bender (Central Cross Country Skiing), 53:07.9

Swix US XC Ski Nationals Day 1 Report and Photos – Managing Dirt

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January 04, 2011 (Rumford, ME) – The USSA National Championship classic sprint race in Rumford, Maine lived up to expectations as an exciting and challenging event. The organizing committee did an amazing job given the prevailing weather conditions over the past week and Sunday’s race was fair for all the racers competing.

The weather forecasts were as predicted for Sunday with warm air temperatures and wet corn snow crystals. Track conditions were extremely dirty and keeping ski bases as clean as possible was one important aspect to having fast skis. Structure also played an important role in the ski preparation process, as the snow was very wet due to temperatures not dropping below freezing for the prior 48 hours before the race. Glide wax selection was straight forward, as the weather and snow conditions did not drastically change prior to or during the race.

Swix racing service was present at the event and ran a number of on snow tests to determine the optimum combination of glide wax, base structure and kick wax that was used by many top competitors in the classic sprint.

Starting with glide testing, we tested base and mid layer paraffin waxes. MB77- Moly Fluor Wax was an ideal base paraffin for these dirty snow conditions. On top of the MB77, testing found HF8BW to run the fastest, with the BW additive aiding in repelling the considerable amount of dirt on the race course.

Once we had our base paraffin and layer paraffin waxes identified and applied to our skis, the next step was to find the ideal Cera F top coat. Testing found that FC8X was the fastest Cera powder. The combination of MB77, HF8BW and FC8X is a widely used in World Cup racing with a history of providing excellent race results.

The morning of the race, Swix RS tested final layer Cera F liquids and base structure. We found FC8L to be the best liquid to use over the top of FC8X. The structure test revealed that the T401 Swix Super riller with the 1.0mm coarse bar combined with the 1.0mm Broken V structure roller over the top greatly reduced the wet friction created by the moisture in the snow. Also, this structure combination did not collect dirt, keeping the skis as clean as possible in these extremely dirty snow conditions.

Kick waxing was very straight forward, given the snow crystals present. A thin klister base of KR20, covered with a thin layer KR35 provided a strong binder layer for the top, race wax layer of KR70 with just a few dots of K22n mixed into the KR70. The KR70 provided great kick and the K22n added toughness to the KR70, reducing wear and icing. It was important to make sure the race wax layer was not too thick, as this would collect dirt and slow the skis down.

Weather conditions look to improve as the temperatures will be dropping below freezing for the next week. The snow guns are running and we are looking forward to testing in the new conditions. Look for updates at www.SwixRacing.us and SwixNordic on Facebook.

Only Swix’s Cera Nova wax matrix takes the guesswork out of waxing by creating a perfect wax for each snow condition.

U.S. XC Ski Nationals Interview with Holly Brooks

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January 03, 2011 (Rumford, ME) – Alaska’s Holly Brooks lead an APU podium sweep at the 1.4km Classic Sprints on Sunday winning her first career National title along the way. It was a dream come true for the talented skier who came to Rumford really motivated to win and she was happy to share the podium with “…a bunch of my APU teammates.” SkiTrax caught up with the new US women’s classic sprint champ after the race for her thoughts on her performance and the conditions.

Koos and Brooks Win CL Sprints at 2011 U.S. XC Ski Championships UPDATED

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January 02, 2011 (Rumford, Maine) – A sudden warming trend made for challenging conditions that forced organizers to scramble working well into the evening to prepare for today’s 1.4km classic sprint event, the opening round of the 2011 US XC Ski Championships at Black Mountain just outside Rumford, Maine.

Temperatures in the 40s reeked havoc with the trails but the experienced Chisholm Ski Club crew pulled it off as pair of US Olympians from the Vancouver 2010 Games set the pace in the men’s and women’s sprint competitions. Torin Koos of the Methow Valley Olympic Development Program and Holly Brooks of APU took the top step on the podiums.

Brooks opened the day topping the women’s qualification round over teammate Sadie Bjornsen with Sophie Caldwell (Dartmouth) third, Morgan Smyth (APU) fourth and Ida Sargent (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in fifth. The Alaska skier could not be stopped as she added another victory to her resume and following the event a beaming Brooks was thrilled with her first National title.

“You know the hills are my strength and I pushed it hard, as the finish was a downhill. I just hoped I could hold on in the double poling,” said Brooks.

“I was really motivated to win a national title today. I’ve been thinking about it for months – even longer than that. It’s kind of a dream come true, so I am just happy to share the podium with a bunch of my APU teammates.” Four out of the top six represented the program at APU.

Eliska Hajkova (Colorado) finished second in the final today with APU’s Smyth taking third but Hajkova, from the Czech Republic, is not eligible for a US title moving Smyth into second on the Nationals podium, and team mate Sadie Bjornsen into third – making it an APU sweep.

In fact APU’s Lars Flora was also the fastest in the men’s qualification this morning with Koos second, Mike Sinnott (SVSEF) third, Reese Hanneman (APU) 4th, and Jericho, VT’s Skyler Davis (Stratton)  in 5th.

In the end the veteran Methow Valley sprinter prevailed and was also pleased with his race – and winning the men’s title. He was not surprised by his fitness when he spoke with SkiTrax post-race. “I had great training this fall, went to Europe and had some good races over there. It should keep get better and better,” said Koos.

Second place went to Sinnott, a former Dartmouth captain, skiing out of Sun Valley, while third went to Vermont’s Davis from Stratton Mountain. Koos expects to ski the men’s 15 classic on Tuesday (now postponed to Wednesday), and next Saturday’s free technique sprint. He plans on skipping the 30km event.

Colder temperatures are expected this evening, which might well enable additional snowmaking at the famed Black Mountain venue.

Men’s Final Results and Qualifications HERE.
Men’s Heats HERE.

Women’s Final Results and Qualifications HERE.
Women’s Heats HERE.

Fast and Female Regional XC Ski Fest in Alaska with Kikkan Randall – Jan. 29

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December 24, 2010 (Canmore, AB) – Fresh off two World Cup sprint medals so far this season, Alaska-born Cross-Country skier and Fast and Female Ambassador Kikkan Randall now has her sights on spreading the love – the Fast and Female way! On Saturday, January 29, 2011, Randall and her teammate, Holly Brooks, will be hosting 250 young female skiers between the ages of nine to 19 years old at the Chugiak High School in Chugiak (Alaska) for a unique afternoon of inspiration, skiing, healthy eating and yoga.

Title sponsored by the Anchorage Women’s Clinic, this year’s event marks the third consecutive year that Randall is hosting a Fast and Female event in her home state of Alaska. The highly anticipated event will offer aspiring female ski champions the opportunity to be in direct contact with two of the World’s and Nation’s top cross-country ski racers.

“We’ve had so much fun with our previous events in Alaska and I’m really looking forward to testing out a new venue this year,” said Randall. “I hope to see participants from all over the state and celebrate together the Fast and Female motto of: Spread the Love and Dominate the World!”

Founded in 2005, Fast and Female is a non-profit organization based in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. The organization is intensely focused on delivering innovative non-competitive programming to increase the retention of girls in sports and offset the factors that make girls six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys.

Each year, the organization travels all over Canada and the US with Olympic and elite-level female athletes to offer sport-specific programming for female youth participants involved in Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon, Alpine Skiing, Triathlon, and Cycling. Program scope and reach grows annually with the addition of new female ambassadors.

Fast and Female’s expansion into the US was made possible in 2009 thanks to the friendship and collaboration between Randall and Canada’s Chandra Crawford. Crawford is the organization’s original founder and won a gold medalist in cross-country skiing at the 2006 Olympics.

Since 2009, Randall has hosted two Annual US X-Country Ski Festivals in her hometown of Anchorage in Alaska, reaching a total of more than 300 girls. In 2011, the Annual US X-Country Ski Festival is moving to the State of Maine in early January – in sync with the National Cross-Country Championships which are held in the same region.

The 2011 Fast and Female Regional X-Country Ski Festival held in Chugiak promises to offer participants an experience of a lifetime thanks to the generous financial and in-kind contributions of the Anchorage Women’s Clinic, Best Buy, Subway, Cross-Country Alaska, Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Buff Multifunctional Headwear, and Cold-FX.

Registration for this event is now officially open and participants can secure a spot by visiting: www.FastandFemale.com or clicking HERE. The deadline to register is January 25, 2011.

The registration fee for the event is only $25 and includes a Fast and Female t-shirt, a Fast and Female ski tie, snacks, and access to the activities held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Financial assistance is available for participants in need. Please contact info@fastandfemale.com to inquire.

Rossland NorAm Mini Tour Stages 1, 3 – More Photos

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December 22, 2010 (Rossland, BC) – Here are some more great photos from Stages 1 and 3 of the Rossland NorAm Mini Tour taken by Julien Locke. Stefan Kuhn (CAN) took top honours in the men’s tour, while Jessica Diggins (USA) won the women’s overall. Check out the full results HERE.

View more of Julien Locke’s photos HERE.

Rossland NorAm 10/15km CL – Canada Sweeps Men’s Podium and US Women go 1-2-3

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December 19, 2010 (Sovereign Lake, BC) – It was a day of podium sweeps at the final stage of the Rossland Haywood NorAm mini-tour. The Americans owned the women’s tour podium but the Canadian men responded by taking all three top spots in the men’s. Thanks to the pursuit start, which factored yesterday’s results and time bonuses from Friday’s sprint, the first across the line today took the mini-tour title.

CXC’s Jessica Diggins won the women’s 10km pursuit with a blistering second lap to catch APU’s Holly Brooks and teammate Sadie Bjornsen, who had started 1st and 2nd respectively in today’s pursuit. By the end of the race, the start positions had reversed themselves with Diggins in 1st, Bjornsen in 2nd and Brooks in 3rd.

Bjornsen caught Brooks near the 3km mark, and the two skied the majority of the race together until Brooks started to fade on the final climb. When Diggins went by on the last few climbs, neither APU skier could hold on.

“We skied parallel for a lot of the race,” said Bjornsen. “It was probably mostly habit, just like we ski in training all the time.”

Diggins was trailing Bjornsen and Brooks by 15 seconds heading into the second lap. She was quick to give credit to her wax team for giving her the skis that helped speed her to the finish.

“The coaches did an absolutely awesome job with the wax,” said Diggins. “I’m in awe of how fast our skis were.”

As for her impressive final lap, Diggins said it just sort of happened.

“This might sound kind of weird, but I didn’t really have a race plan today,” she said. “I went into today having had a great weekend, and just waited to see what happened. My coaches have really helped with my classic technique this year, so when I had such good skis I just went for it.”

Conditions were very difficult, with unanticipated heavy snow flying all morning. Some teams struggled with wax, and those that nailed it were rewarded with podium spots.

“It was tough out there,” said Bjornsen. “You really had to pound it to make the skis work.”

“When it started snowing harder during the women’s race, the conditions started to transition,” said Canadian coach Eric de Nys. “We went with a bit more binder under the wax for the guys, mixed with a few drops of klister, and it seemed to work really well.”

The men’s results certainly reflected the Canadian team’s wax choice. Canada’s Stefan Kuhn put the perfect cap on his weekend, winning the men’s 15km pursuit after battling back from a difficult starting position and sprinting to the line with fellow Canuck, 2nd place finisher George Grey. Team mate Drew Goldsack (CAN) nipped Lars Flora (USA) for 3rd.

The race started with Goldsack, Flora and Grey forming the lead group and Kuhn, Jess Cockney (CAN) and Mike Sinnott (USA) chasing them down.

“I had to make up 19 seconds,” said Kuhn. “so I hammered from the start. Cockney and Sinnott went with me, and we caught the lead group pretty quickly, but I was pretty taxed when we did. I spent the middle part of the race yo-yoing off the back. The conditions dictated that the leaders would be working probably 20 per cent harder, so I used that. Coming into the finish I followed George. He plowed 80 meters of fresh snow; I only had to plow 20, so I was able to take him at the line.”

“It was an interesting race,” said 4th place finisher Flora (USA). “I was surprised how fast the three chasers caught us. I need to work on my classic skis a bit; I think I chose the wrong pair today.”

Women’s results  HERE.
Men’s results  HERE.
Overall Mini-Tour results HERE.

Sovereign Lake NorAm Teck Women’s 10k Skate Video

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December 16, 2010 (Sovereign Lake, BC) – Check out these great video highlights from last weekend’s NorAm Teck women’s 10k skate race at Sovereign Lake, which was won by Holly Brooks (APU). Caitlin Compton (CXC) and Brooke Gosling finished second and third, respectively.