With the clock ticking toward Soelden, we rewind for a recap of summer and fall training
This Sunday, Oct. 25, marks the official beginning of the World Cup season for the men of the U.S. Ski Team, but it really began several weeks ago. On-snow camps in Mount Hood, New Zealand and Chile — plus summer strength training at Park City’s Center of Excellence — have already served as a proving ground for the most promising racers.
And it goes beyond World Cup starters to up-and-comers who round out the talent on the tech squad. Here’s a look at what we can expect from the stars of GS and slalom.
A Back-to-Back-Breaking Pace
There may be a longer wait than usual to see true strengths, thanks to a longer-than-usual rest period, explains Men’s Head Coach Sasha Rearick. “It was an interesting year, just in terms of the cycle,” he explains. “Typically, the year after a championship year is where we typically try to ski a lot. This year, with back-to-back championships, we had to peel back and give the guys a bit of a break.”
But there’s also a deep dynamic among coaches that should fuel athlete success all season. “Across all the groups, supporting each other, helping each other, challenging each other, it’s been a real good team effort,” says Rearick of the summer and fall preparation by the coaches. “Those guys do a lot of the work. Most of the credit should really go to them, and they don’t get much.”
Despite the lighter on-snow workload, the American men have been determined to find their form in time for the season. “Our Europa Cup team has really been putting the hammer down,” says Rearick. “I’m really pleased with how that crew has put the effort in.” That includes last season’s World Junior Championship slalom bronze medalist AJ Ginnis, who’s racing the Continental Cup circuits this winter while ultimately aiming for breakout performances on the World Cup.
Ted Talk and More for the World Cup
Last season’s multi and tech training groups have now been combined, allowing for more cohesiveness. This also gives less-experienced racers the chance to train alongside and learn from veteran Ted Ligety.
Ligety, who saw last season’s GS title go to Austrian Marcel Hirscher, has taken a slightly different approach to his preparation leading into this weekend’s World Cup Opener in Soelden, Austria. “Last year was a recalibration,” says Rearick. “Although he won a World Championship medal and did what no other person has ever done in history, he did probably have his worst season.”
Ligety’s lighter training load this past summer — which included his wedding — has allowed him to get in the habit of having full focus during every training session, and refusing to back off when conditions aren’t quite right. So it should be a showdown between Ligety and Hirscher in this season’s GS standings.
Sunday’s race will feature six Americans, with Ligety leading the way. Tim Jitloff, Tommy Ford, Nick Cohee, Hig Roberts and Kieffer Christianson are all slated to make starts. For Cohee and Roberts, it will be their World Cup debuts.
Rearick hopes Jitloff will bring his trademark speed and aggression come race day after a somewhat inconsistent summer of training. Jit fans need not worry, however, as summer training is often a time for experimentation and testing of equipment, which could easily explain his hot-then-not performances in New Zealand and Chile.
With Ford still on the comeback trail after suffering a broken femur during the 2013 season, Rearick is encouraged by his progress thus far. “He’s made a good commitment to getting stronger,” says Rearick. “He’s still got that fitness component that we need to continue to build on.”
Cohee, an independent racer with Team Geronimo out of Aspen, Colo., is seeing his World Cup dreams finally realized after years of strong skiing at the Continental Cup level. “He’s a guy that’s been fighting for a long time, and he’s got the world ranks to be able to do something,” says Rearick of the University of Utah product.
Roberts, who made the national team largely based off of his performances in slalom last season, has seen his consistency in GS improve enough to be awarded that starting spot. “I’m stoked to see a kid come in to the team later in his career and just take advantage of everything possible; he’s doing a good job,” says Rearick.
In slalom, there’s still work to be done before the first World Cup of the year in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 15. “David Chodounsky, on the slalom side, has put a huge chunk of conditioning in, has not skied a lot, but is feeling really good body-wise,” says Rearick of the top-ranked American. Rearick added how positive it is to have Michael Ankeny and Tim Kelley back in the national team fold, with both athletes having spent last season racing independently.