This race season began with my first trip to Period One Super Tours which were held in Duluth, Minnesota and Cable, Wisconsin. Super Tour is North America's highest level of racing and therefore a great place to test the fitness and get a peek at what is ahead in the rest of the season.
The weekend of racing in Duluth consisted of a skate sprint on Saturday and a skate 10k on Sunday. I had low expectations for the sprint as the course did not fit my strengths but I was pleasantly surprised to come away with 13th, just missing out on the semifinal, and second for the u20 division. On Sunday the conditions were difficult as the temperature was warm but some freezing rain and wind still managed to make it feel cold. Despite these conditions I felt strong and powered to 14th and the u20 victory by nearly 30 seconds. Although I wanted to place in the top ten, I was happy with this result, specifically the age group win.
The next weekend of racing in Cable was just a 90-minute drive away and featured three races. The first race on Friday was a mass start skate 15k. The second race was a classic sprint held on Saturday, and the third and final race was an individual start classic 15k on Sunday. This was a difficult schedule considering the Duluth weekend meant five races in two weeks. Two 15ks with a sprint sandwiched in-between is no easy feat either.
Going into the mass start I was nervous considering I had only competed in one mass start in the last year due to Covid-19. Fortunately, things turned out well. I never felt great during the race and struggled to stay with the lead group but sometimes your best races happen without feeling your best. In the end I was able to grab ninth place and the u20 victory, securing both my goal of a top ten overall and winning my age group. However, this was not the end of that day's success as I stayed close enough to the winner to earn 42 FIS points, meaning I had secured a trip to Lygna, Norway to represent the U.S. at the Junior World Championships.
The classic sprint was another day of mixed feelings as I started out slow in the qualifier, achieving 16th. However, I felt confident going into the heats and was able to ski my way into 8th, missing out on making the final by just around one second. Again, I had accomplished my two goals of top ten overall and winning my age group.
As soon as I woke up on Sunday morning for the last race of the trip I knew it was not going to be easy. I could feel the fatigue of the last two races but tried to stay positive as most other competitors were dealing with the same feelings. Unfortunately positivity can only get you so far and I ended up fading during the second half of the race and finished in a disappointing 15th overall and distant 2nd in the age group.
The following weekend were the premier local races, Besh Cups one and two. Although I wanted to rest after Super Tour, Besh Cups are always fun and an important part of being a member of the Anchorage ski community. Besh consisted of a classic sprint and a skate mass start 15k.
In the classic sprint I finished second to my buddy and now world cup skier, Zanden McMullen. Although I always want to win, I am okay with losing to a big name like him. The 15k mass start was more of the same as I once again came second to Zanden, only a slightly larger margin behind than in the sprint.
Overall these first three weekends were a great start to the season for me and I am looking forward to the rest of the season. Up next is nationals, in Soldier Hollow Utah. How I perform in these races will determine what starts I get at Junior Worlds.
After nationals I will return home to Anchorage for a couple weeks where I can get in some quality training. After this training block things will start to get busy. My first stop mid February will be Norway for Junior Worlds. After worlds I will most likely be competing in the OPA cup finals in Italy. For those unfamiliar, OPA cup is a racing circuit in central Europe with a similar competition level to World Juniors that Americans often compete in before earning World Cup starts. The final stop for me will be in Whistler for Super Tour finals. However, all of this is tentative as things like Covid-19 could easily alter or end plans.
I will be writing blogs about all of these competitions and more throughout the season to keep everyone updated. I plan on posting regularly so I don't have to condense as much content and can give more details and insight into what my race experience is like.