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Author Archive

On the road in January!

29.Jan.2015 by Ida Sargent

February is quickly approaching and I have not written a blog yet this month even though it has been an action filled January!  After a quick count I realized that I have skied in seven different countries this month!  Here’s an update from the start of 2015 on the World Cup. Happy trails and thanks for reading!

Opening ceremonies at the Tour de Ski.  We surprised the crowd by performing a quick line dance on the stage!  This was my first time starting the Tour de Ski and it was a blast!  Kikkan’s face exhibits our excitement!
Once the racing starts it’s a whirlwind of racing, recovery, and travel.  Here I am racing the 3km Prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany.
The first two races were in Germany and then as soon as we finished the second race, we hopped in the van and drove to Switzerland for the third stage.  This picture was taken at a pee stop along the way which also served as a sightseeing opportunity.
The sun came out for the third stage, a sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland.
Swiss cheerleaders
After the sprint in Switzerland, we drove to Toblach, Italy and raced a 5km classic the next day.  Along with most of my USST teammates, I ended the Tour after that race, but Liz Stephen continued and finished an impressive 5th place at the end of Tour!  Here she is racing the 15km pursuit in Toblach.
My parents traveled to Europe to watch the races and spend some family time together after the races.  I was pretty exhausted after all the races but a few relaxing days with my parents was the perfect recovery and a very nice change of pace.
We spent a few days in Ramsau, Austria after the Tour and I enjoyed my first extra blue days of the winter!  I trained in Ramsau with my GRP teammates this fall so it was fun to return in the winter and explore new trails in a familiar place!
It was a short break and then quickly back to racing in Otepaa, Estonia.  I first went to Otepaa when I was 15 for the J1 Scandinavian Championships so it was fun to return 11 years later for World Cups
I raced a classic sprint and a skate team sprint but the biggest event of the weekend was the tech sprints.  Our team’s goal was top 12 and we finished 11th which also happened to be first place on reverse podium.  It was a blast to cheer for these guys who work hard day in and day out all winter long!
Next we traveled to Rybinsk, Russia and our first real taste of winter. We were welcomed by temperatures of -25C so here are my blue faced roommates preparing for a day of skiing.  Most of the GRP has raced through a lot of cold temperatures this winter so I shouldn’t be complaining but after spending most of the winter with temperatures barely dropping below freezing, the cold Russian air was quite the shock!
The highlight of the weekend was Liz’s first World Cup podium.  It was an inspiring race showing that hard work pays off! Congrats Liz!

There are two weekends off from World Cup racing so I am currently in Sweden for a training camp with Pepa. I’m missing having the rest of the GRP over here as well for this camp but thanks for this birthday card and American goodies!  Good luck in the SuperTour races this weekend in Craftsbury! Pepa and I will be cheering from Sweden!

The 12 Days of Davos

27.Dec.2014 by Ida Sargent

Davos, Switzerland often feels like our home away from home in Europe.  It’s the first World Cup venue we go to after starting the season in dark Scandinavia.  The mountains, sunshine and snow is something we dream about through November.  This year I was planning to be here for 12 days but after a poor snow year in Europe plans were changed and I’m spending 24 days in Davos, first for races and then for the holiday break before the Tour de Ski.  But since there isn’t a Christmas song with lyrics for 24 days, I’ll stick to the 12 days of Davos.

On the first day of Davos, Switzerland gave to me….

1 leaning gingerbread house- Even on the road and away from home we’ve had no problem being festive and finding Christmas spirit.  We’ve made cookies, opened stockings, decorated with lights and candles, and yesterday afternoon we had a blast building and decorating a gingerbread house.  It’s not quite straight and has LOTS of sugary frosting holding it together but we built it totally from scratch and it’s still standing!

I think we are all expecting it to topple at any moment but it’s still standing!

The finished product!

2 Skate Sprints: After the World Cups in La Clusaz, France were canceled, Davos took on the challenge for a second weekend of racing.  This meant we had back to back skate sprints on the exact same course!  A uncommon opportunity to try something one weekend and then improve on it the next weekend.The first weekend, I qualified in 19th which was one of my strongest skate qualifiers ever.  I finished third in my quarterfinal just missing out on a lucky loser spot into the semifinals to finish 16th on the day.  The following weekend, I almost crashed on an icy corner in the qualifier and in such a tight field I figured my day was over.  But luckily I just sneaked into the heats with a 29th place finish.  In the heats I actually crashed, face planting a couple hundred meters from the finish when Norwegian Heidi Weng and I clicked skis.  So I didn’t find the improvement I was looking for on the second try but each sprint heat is such a learning opportunity and the experience of aggressive head to head racing gave me some new things to focus on in my next sprint.

Racing the qualifier with an American flag in the background.  USSA CEO Tiger Shaw, board member Liz Arky, and team supporter Levi Hensel came for the weekend and it was great to have their cheers on course! (Marcel Hilger photo)

3 Meters of Snow! Just kidding it’s more like 3 inches or maybe 3 centimeters but it is enough to cover the ground so we can count it as a white Christmas. 

4 Skis for Waxing- I spend most of the winter traveling with over 30 pairs of Fischer skis, ready for every snow condition and race course.  It takes a full time wax tech to prepare the skis and keep the fleet in good shape and I feel extremely lucky to have an awesome staff of waxers on our team.  They work extremely hard to provide us with fast skis and I must say it was really fun to tuck by a Norwegian in last week’s sprint.  For this break we are on our own for waxing so I’m keeping it simple with just a pair of skate skis and a pair of classic skis. We’ve nailed the classic wax so far, even on an icy klister cover day and a day of heavy falling snow.  But that said, I will be happily awaiting the return of our coaches and techs!

5 Kilometers of Skiing- There is a 5km manmade loop of skiing in Davos right now which was prepared for the World Cups and is in great condition.  We spend most of our time training on this loop but last week we took out our rock skis for a crust cruise up Dischma vallley or “Sunny valley” as we like to call it.  The coverage was thin in spots but it was a blast!

Sophie, Liz, and I took a selfie while Simi prepared the timer shot

Crust cruising up the valley

6 Americans in Davos- Liz Stephen and I are renting Anna Haag and Emil Joenssen’s apartment together that is sitting on the ski trails so it couldn’t be a nicer spot for the holidays.  Simi Hamilton and Sophie Caldwell have an apartment just a few minutes of skiing away.  Jessie Diggins’ family is here also staying close by and Kikkan Randall and her husband Jeff Ellis are staying in the hotel where our team stayed for the races.  It’s great to have so many teammates around to spend Christmas with away from home!

7 Hockey Goals- Jeff and Kikkan had connections in the Davos WC organizing committee and got the team tickets to a Davos professional hockey game.  We were in the second row directly behind the goal!  The play was very fast paced and exciting and Davos ended up losing 4-3 in a shoot out after regular and overtime play!

Liz, Kikkan, and Jeff watching the game

8 Pancakes for Breakfast- It has been a very nice change to have a kitchen and to cook for ourselves.  While we can’t ever complain about having meals prepared for us, cooking is fun too and it’s always nice to choose what you want to eat.  We immediately prepared spicy food with dinners of chicken curry and mexican.  We also had an incredible pancake breakfast our first morning here with stacks of pancakes topped with yogurt, maple syrup, fruit salad, and brown cheese from Norway.

9 Days to Change the Race Venue- There is a new FIS rule this year that venues have to make the call nine days prior to the first competition for whether there will be enough snow to hold the races.  And with very limited snow across Europe, this rule has been called into use.  It was uncertain whether Davos would be able to hold any races here but slightly cooler temperatures arrived and the race organizers were able to make snow on top of a pass and truck it down to the race course!  A huge thanks needs to go out for all the work that they put into making these races happen.  And then nine days before the La Clusaz, France weekend, those races were cancelled and Davos stepped up to host a second weekend in a row!  There were rumors that the Tour de Ski was also in jeopardy but now since we are less than nine days away, we’ve received official word that the Tour is on as planned!

A huge thanks to Davos Nordic for hosting back to back World Cup weekends in this stadium (FIS Cross Country Photo)

10 Tree Branches- Here’s our Charlie Brown Christmas tree that actually reminds me of a smaller version of Christmas trees I’ve had at home.

11 Extended Family Members: I miss being home with my actual family for the holidays but as Christmas orphans we have been taken in for quite a few wonderful meals and the recipients of incredible Swiss hospitality.  We had homemade pizza for lunch with Esther Bottomley and Valerio Leccardi after a long ski one morning.  For the second year in a row we had Christmas eve dinner with the Capol family who live 45 minutes from Davos.  And on the 25th the Diggins family invited us over for a delicious Christmas dinner.  Thank you to all for such wonderful hospitality and making us feel at home here in Switzerland.

Christmas Eve with the Capol family where they cooked a turkey for us so we would feel at home!
And a very merry Christmas with the Diggins family

12 Days of Training: There are exactly 12 days off between the last World Cup in Davos and the start of the Tour de Ski.  This is a pretty long break from racing for us so it’s nice to have an opportunity to train a bit and prepare for the rest of the season.  In normal race weeks we are focused on the weekend races so it’s nice to have the opportunity to do what we all love and just go out and ski!  Happy trails!

 

Ruka Classic Sprinting

2.Dec.2014 by Ida Sargent

It’s pretty common for me to lay in bed counting sheep on the nights before a big race.  Nerves always seem to settle in the night before the competition and then clear out the next day when it’s time to go.  So I wasn’t too surprised to toss and turn on the eve of this season’s first World Cup.  But this time my nerves were fine and I was just plain excited!  I was ready to get the season going and couldn’t wait to get on the start line!  Normally we have a few warm up races before the first World Cup which help get into the winter routine but this year we came over to Europe later and didn’t have that opportunity.  Go time was happening at a big time in the classic sprint in Ruka, Finland.

 

The courses in Ruka are some of my favorites with big uphills and fast downhills.  I have had good results here in the past so I was hoping for another good day.  The morning of the race dawned with unseasonably warm weather for northern Finland.  The temperature hovered around the freezing point and the techs were furiously prepping klister skis.  By the time I started testing, the firm tracks had broken down and were washed out on the sides and glazed on the bottom and over the tops of the hills they had filled with powder.  Every crazy variable was swirling together and producing my absolute least favorite classic conditions.  On the gradual parts of the hill where I normally like to stride hard it was slippery and necessary to feather the kick and then on the steeper sections where I like to put my head down and run, the skis were icing and I was ending up on stilts as I crested the top.  My normal warmup was thrown out the window and I spent every possible moment testing skis trying to find a balance between enough kick and keeping the skis gliding free.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as I ran to the start line.  Our techs did an awesome job giving us great skis and for the tricky conditions.  But it was still the type of snow that you had to work with and not against.  For the qualifier, though, I fought the snow and ended up striding furiously and frantically.  I barely squeaking into the heats in 27th place which was far from the start I was looking for.

 

But luckily I had another chance and this time I was able to put my excitement and adrenaline aside and ski the way I knew I was capable.  I started to remember how to race and as the day went on it felt better and better and I was more and more comfortable with what I was doing.  I stayed more relaxed testing skis for the heats which took a lot less energy.  As the slowest qualifier in my heat, I had the last lane choice and on the outside I had by far the worst lane and I ended up last off the first corner.  But I stayed patient and took openings when I found them and kept fighting for every tenth of a second, pushing hard over the top of the big climb and into the finish.  I was third in my quarterfinal but scored the first of two lucky loser spots advancing to the semifinal.  The same thing happened in my semifinal with the final lane choice but again I was able to pick off a few places by the finish.  So once again I was a fast heat so I got another lucky loser spot and advanced to the final.  I tried the same strategy again for the final but the pace had picked up and couldn’t put on the same moves over the top of the climb  It was incredible to be skiing with those fast ladies and to be in the fight all the way.  My 5th place finish was a personal best World Cup result and an awesome confidence boost at the start of the season

 

Before I could even get my warmups back on in the finish area, my teammates, who had been on course cheering, arrived with hugs all around!  It made me even more excited for the winter ahead of travelling and racing together.  Everyone’s strength shine on a different day and rallying around that teammate on that day propels the whole team forward.  The classic sprint was a great day for me but congrats to Sadie for a 17th place in the 10km the next day!

 

Here are a few photos from Ruka. The World Cup continues this weekend in Lillehammer, Norway.  Thanks for all the cheers and support

Striding it out in the qualifier.  Our new race suits are really easy to spot so look out for the starts and stripes this winter! (Toko US/Nordic Focus Photo)

Here’s the start of my semifinal heat.  I’m in the far lane so only a little of my black suit is visible in the back. (FIS Cross Country/Nordic Focus photo)

Here’s a shot of the big climb back into the stadium in Sadie and Kikkan’s quarterfinal heat.  The fans were awesome and the cheering on this hill was so loud!  (FIS Cross Country/Nordic Focus Photo)

Ruka is infamous for the darkness so it was a really nice surprise to have a little sun one day.  This is the alpine mountain behind town that also has moguls runs and aerials jumps.

The sunshine was brief and this sunset picture was taken from my walk home from lunch.

Arctic Training

24.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

Sunrise today was at 10:21am and a mere three hours and forty-one minutes later at 2:02pm, the sun officially set.  And between those times there was not a lot of daylight as the sun barely rises above the horizon and never shines over the mountain behind the ski area.  Muonio is over 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Finland and close to the Swedish border.  The darkness could sound depressing but it hasn’t felt that way yet.  Just as a rainy day can makes a sunny day feel extra special, the darkness enhances the light here.  Sunrises last all day, slowly morphing into a sunset which eases out over the hours of dusk.  This is my fourth trip to Muonio and I’m probably in the minority for skiers, but I really like it here.  The GRP has trained here a few times which was when I first came here and the USST also often starts their season here.  It’s simple and relaxing.  We stay in cabins on the ski trails and just a short walk from meals.  There isn’t anything to do but ski, eat and sleep so it’s the perfect place to recover from the jetlag of international travel and prepare for the upcoming ski season.  Despite the darkness it is surprisingly beautiful here, the Arctic light reflecting on the snow in a unique way.  There isn’t a lot of natural snow but there are 6km of manmade tracks which have been excellent, providing more than enough terrain for great training.  Tomorrow we are driving to Ruka, Finland and the World Cup season opens this weekend.  

Muonio on the map.  Head north and keep going!

Arctic light

Sunrise or sunset?

An ice fog settled in and we even got some new snow this morning.  This photo almost looks like it is taken in black and white but it’s full color today

Northern lights over our condos one evening.  It was incredible!  (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Kikkan is psyched to go back to school!  We visited the Muonio elementary school which was a tradition started by Clare when the GRP was in Muonio for almost a month.  We shared videos of our team training and racing and the kids were excited to meet us.  Finnish school seemed pretty similar to American except everyone takes off their shoes before coming inside.

The beginning of the season means lots of new skis to test.  Here is my fleet of Fischers as well as Matt’s coat rack.  On top of being the women’s team coach, Matt is my wax tech.  He has done an awesome job preparing skis, cleaning skis and helping me test.  It’s important to have skis for every snow condition and course profile but too many skis can be overwhelming so we have put in a lot of work testing and getting to know the different skis in the fleet.  Thanks Matt!