Sunday, January 12, 2014

US Nationals to the World Cup

Skating to my first US National Championship Podium.  2nd place to my In The Arena teammate Sylvan Ellefson
One of my focus races this Summer and Fall has been the 30km Freestyle National Championship.  My goal is to race the 50km Freestyle at the Olympics and the 30km is really the only long distance skate race this year that will be used to qualify for the Olympics.  My plan was to ski a defensive race and attack in the final 5km.  Many other skiers must have had a similar game plan as the pace over the first 20km of the race was real relaxed.  The main pack contained over 20 skiers With just under 10km to go Sylvan picked up the pace and built up a ten second lead.  I thought for sure that he was going to get sucked back in, but he kept building his lead.  As we entered our last lap and 5km to go I was able to bridge up to the chase group of Kris Freeman and Matt Liebsch.  It took more out of me to catch those guys that I thought and as soon as I caught up to Kris he started to pull away on his own.  I was able to respond but couldn't get in his draft and followed about 10 meters behind.  Over the top I was able to catch up with Kris when he slowed to take a final feed.  At this point Sylvan had over 20 seconds on us.  I decided to catch my breath briefly and go on Hermods Hill one of the largest climbs on the course.  I skied the hill well and closed to within 8 seconds of Sylvan.  I put it all out there but my final sprint was spent going up the hill.   I am happy for Sylvan to take his first National Championship.  He made a bold move going off the front and certainly earned the win.  I am also pleased with my own race.  This is my first ever US National podium and more importantly was my second best FIS point race ever.  World ranking by FIS points are an important criteria in the Olympic Team selection.

My sister turned our Team Gregg jackets into Monster Jackets.  Having fun and smiling goes a long way towards racing fast.
My sister, mom, and dad made the trip down to Midway, UT to support us in the race.  I am not sure what we would have done without them.  The final two days leading up to the race were packed with various logistics and preparation.  Both Caitlin and I flew from Salt Lake City to Prague, Czech Republic directly after the race. It took all 5 of Team Gregg to get us to the airport for the 5pm flight.  

We raced the 1.3 and 1.6km Freestyle sprint on Saturday.  I felt pretty good in the race but when I crossed the line the racer behind me had almost caught me.  We went from feeling like winners to feeling like losers quite quickly.  The World Cup is the best skiers from around the world.  We are remaining positive as we now have burned the travel out of us.  We are looking forward to next weekends 10/15km Classic mass start race in Poland.  Ideally we would prefer to race distance skate races, but we need to capitalize on the World Cup start opportunities we are presented with.

15 hours after the race we did our 'cool-down' jog in Nove Mesto no Morajve, Czech Republic
After cooling down we were able to cheer Andy, Simi, Sophie and Kikkan on in the rounds.  Before the heats I told Kikkan I had never seen an American win a World Cup live and asked if she could help with that.  She didn't disappoint and it was fun to cheer her on to her 12th World Cup win.  The USA is now ranked 4th in the Nations Cup which is real exciting.

The Olympic Team will be named on or before January 22nd.  We have done everything we can.  We have no regrets and are excited to hear the official word.

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