Lillehammer World Cups

After the opening weekend in Ruka, we drove, flew, and drove our way to Lillehammer, Norway. While Ruka was pretty sweet, it’s hard to describe the excitement of racing World Cups in Norway. It’s the mecca of xc skiing; they bleed it, and it was invented here. Racing in the Lillehammer stadium, site of the 94 Olympics, is like playing at Fenway Park; staring up at those almost unfathomably large climbs like looking at the towering Green Monster wall as you walk to the plate.

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And in the same way, you just know when youre there. Skiing dominates even the first views of town:

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I think people would be very, very surprised at how difficult these World Cup courses are. I am speaking as someone who has seen both sides of the coin; I have won races, SuperTours, US Nationals, on courses that I used to think were challenging. Hermod’s, Telemark, Switchback, Wall Street, Elliots… these hills that used to capture my awe and scare the daylights out of me would barely get you out of the stadium in Lillehammer. It’s hard to really have a realistic grasp of how big these World Cup hills are unless you have skied up them.

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Because of this, our first couple days here we headed up to Sjusjoen to do some easy skiing. Sjusjoen is a famous skiing destination, the high rolling hills speckled with cabins and buried in snow. There are hundreds of kilometers of trails that turn into thousands, going farther than you could ever possibly ski.

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Even when youre skiing easy, its hard not to get amped on Sjusjoen. Simi was stoked:

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Riding our provided coach back down to town:

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The hotel that we stayed at, along with pretty much every other team as well as the throngs of media, timers, officials, and organizers from FIS, was incredible. It had one of the largest floor plans of any hotel I have ever seen, and had an incredible feel of old grandeur.

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Just a section:

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Around every corner, down every staircase and through every hidden door, there were unexplored wings full of amazing rooms:

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Another morning bus ride up to Sjusjoen:

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Cruising through the almost otherworldly morning winter lunarscape:

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A quick video clip of the ladies kicking and gliding:

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J Diggs, stoked and smiling like always:

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While we were here, Sadie presented her senior project. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Sadie and how she manages to ski at such a high level and study at the same time, a feat that is made possible by the opportunities and flexibility at Alaska Pacific University. She presented from one of the local schools here in Lillehammer, and it was streamed live to family and friends all over the world, including her professors back in Alaska. We all gathered in one of our hotel rooms to watch and cheer her on:

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Mornings in the woods behind our hotel:

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Norway is the only place I have ever been where you can eat salmon 3 meals a day. It’s like being back home in Alaska. This, right here, is Norway on a plate:

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Lillehammer is an incredibly quaint, cute, cozy little town that gently slopes away from a lake. Candles, wreaths, and glowing stars illuminate every window of every little house. Mainstreet is a bustling little strip of holiday cheer, bright storefronts and delicious aromas:

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Liz being her usually beaming self:

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Like I mentioned last post, we were super lucky to have Pete Dickinson volunteering his time to be here as our team physical and massage therapist. He was incredibly hard working, and was a major asset to our team. Erik messed up his hand in a big crash earlier this fall, the same crash that saw Scott Patterson take a broken ski through the leg… and so Pete was working a little magic on Eriks hand:

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We had a mini tour this weekend; three days of racing in a row, each an individual event but all of the times adding up cumulatively. Skate sprint on Friday, Skate 10k on Saturday, and 15k Classic pursuit start on Sunday.

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Without going into too much detail, I had a pretty tough weekend. To be honest, I am struggling to find my form, and I’m not sure why. There are many, many factors, and I am sifting through them all with my coach Erik Flora and the rest of the US Ski Team coaches to try and find a solution.

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The thousands of fans out along the side of the trail chanting “U-S-A!! U-S-A!!” might have been the only thing getting me up these hills. Nearing the top of one of the biggest climbs I have ever seen:

World Cup Lillehammer Cl 15k - Matt Whitcomb USSA

photo – USSA/Matt Whitcomb

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In Fridays sprint, we struggled as a team. A lot of America’s top sprinters were considerably further back than normal. How far off? Andy Newel ended an absolutely unbelievable streak; Friday was the first World Cup sprint in NINE YEARS where he hasn’t qualified for the heats (top 30)!!!!! I am almost certain that this kind on consistency, in skiings most crazy event where the smallest margins are of huge importance, is completely unmatched by any other athletes. This is an incredible testament to Andy’s amazing sprint skills and speed.

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Evening jog with Andy to shake the legs out:

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I am really hoping that after two weekends of racing, my engine starts to warm up and come alive. I know there is a lot more snap and power in there somewhere. I just have to let it show itself. I need to just believe in all the training I did this summer and fall.

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Yesterday was spent traveling; bussing, flying, and bussing to Davos, Switzerland for the next weekend of racing. I am excited to see if I can do better.

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