The opening rounds of the SuperTour are complete, and as the teams head into the holiday break we can review some of the highlights of the Tour. West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Sun Valley and Soldier Hollow all provided competitions that provided excellent opportunities for both elite-level and developing skiers. After bearing weeks of miserable snow conditions in Europe, both the U.S. Ski Team’s World Cup squad and the Canadian National Team returned to North America from their early season World Cup campaigns and headed straight to the SuperTour, which provided an excellent opportunity for those athletes to continue high-level training and racing while the European-based teams, by-and-large, could not. The teams arrived in Sun Valley and continued through Soldier Hollow, providing a great racing environment.
Kris Freeman, Laura Valaas, Caitlin Compton and CXC
Kris Freeman (U.S. Ski Team), Caitlin Compton and Laura Valaas (both CXC) were clearly the standouts in the early season. Valaas, who hadn’t won a SuperTour competition before this season, is undefeated after five sprint races and has worn both the golden (overall) and blue (sprint) leader jerseys. And quickly establishing itself as a top domestic team, first-year squad CXC showed dominance on the women’s side, with Caitlin Compton taking over the golden jersey from teammate Valaas when the races switched over from a sprint focus to distance racing.
Kris Freeman, who skipped the first two weekends of the SuperTour to participate in the first period of the World Cup, got into action in Sun Valley and won each of the four races he entered – including a shocking sprint victory over Andy Newell - and rocketed into the overall lead. He also pulled into third place on the list of the athletes who have won the most SuperTour races during their careers by taking his 19th win. The all-time standings are led by Beckie Scott and Carl Swenson with 21 wins each. Maybe the retired Swenson (Factory Team) - who finished a surprising fourth in the sprint in West Yellowstone and sixth in distance at Soldier Hollow – will extend his record this season when he makes an appearance in Houghton, MI, for the U.S. Cross Country Championships Jan. 3-7.
Eighty-four athletes have recorded victories in the SuperTour, including Olympic Champions Beckie Scott (CAN) and Viola Bauer (GER), World Champion Martin Koukal (CZE) and World Cup winner Lukas Bauer (CZE).
Broadcast coverage – YouTube
Fasterskier (www.fasterskier.com) provided some innovative coverage of the races in Bozeman and Sun Valley by broadcasting video footage posted to YouTube. The Sprint Finals in Bozeman were showed almost in their entirety. This follows video footage of the SuperTour in Telemark posted several seasons ago to www.skinnyski.com, and shows that Fasterskier is committed to providing a depth of coverage during the SuperTour, which is innovative and comprehensive.
Soldier Hollow, which organized the first-ever nordic combined “Hurricane Start” during the SuperTour weekend, also broadcast video footage on You Tube.
U.S. Cross Country Championships Next
Houghton, MI, (Michigan Tech University) plays host to the next stop of the SuperTour, which doubles as the U.S. Cross Country Championships (short-distance). The program in Houghton includes two distance races, a sprint and a team sprint. Since double SuperTour points are awarded for national championship races, the week in Houghton could still change the SuperTour’s leader board significantly. The overall leader after the championships will be able to start all of the World Cup races between the Tour de Ski and the World Championships.
The championships also provide a unique lead-in to the nine-race “Midwest Grand Prix”, which includes races in Madison (WI), Mount Itasca (MN), Telemark (WI) and Minneapolis on four consecutive weekends following the conclusion of the championships.
According to its director, Jamie Greene, the West Yellowstone Ski Festival, which is held concurrently with the SuperTour there, broke participation records this year, cementing West Yellowstone’s reputation as the place to open the ski season for both elite athletes and recreational skiers.
First-year organizers in Bozeman had to work overtime to get their sprint course ready, blowing and even trucking snow in to make sure the event would happen, and to demonstrate that cross country ski racing is a high-profile and important sport in the local community.
Sun Valley brought its famous high-quality racing and attractive local social activities back to the Tour, having taken an extended break from high-level race organization after launching the famous “International Spring Series.” Race Director Rick Kapala seems to like his new winter dates, providing a huge snowman as a mascot and backdrop to the winners’ podium.
Soldier Hollow took an aggressive approach to creating a unique event by hosting both the SuperTour and the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup-B on the same three-day weekend, and they succeeded on all fronts. It isn’t often that the nordic combined national teams get to cross paths with the cross country teams, and in Soldier Hollow they were able to meet each other and watch each other perform. And of course the organizers handed out their trademark bandanas, which doubled as entry tickets into Soldier Hollow’s legendary bowling party…
Bringing the Tour to the People
Both Madison and Aspen are taking initiatives to bring the SuperTour closer to their communities.
In Madison, the bustling blocks of Capitol Square will heat up with a duo of winter festivities when the organizers team up with Kessler's Diamonds Polar Jam, a music and entertainment event. So, while recreational skiers and many of the premier cross-country skiers in North America are racing around the Wisconsin Capitol in downtown Madison, their friends, families, and other festival participants can listen to both regional and national music acts and stroll through a wintertime food court offering original flavors from some of Madison's favorite restaurants.
The Capitol Square Sprints/Kessler's Diamonds Polar Jam will attract over 20,000 people to downtown Madison, and the event will provide the opportunity for first-time skiers, elite athletes, the disabled and the disadvantage to participate in cross country skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing. In addition to the SuperTour events, the Capitol Square Sprints serve as a qualifier for the Midwest Junior Olympic team and as the Wisconsin High School Relay and Sprint Championships. Other events include a winter/outdoor sports expo, ice sculptures, a community open ski with equipment rentals, Disabled Ski and Paralympics Program, Corporate Challenge Snowshoe Relay, Special Olympics Wisconsin Program, Fit City Kids, rail jam for snowboarders and skiers along with open riding/skiing and award ceremonies.
More than 100,000 cubic feet snow will be trucked into the area around the capitol to create the 1-kilometer loop course with machine-set tracks.
Aspen will take a similar event to building their community event into a real winter celebration weekend, including the Owl Creek Chase, Junior Olympic Qualifiers, a charitable and non-competitive ski tour, a free ski day pairing recreational skiers with elite athletes, and “Saturday Night Thunder,” a post-race drag race competition under the lights of Wagner Park.
Perhaps these organizers are inspired by this year’s inclusion of the American Birkebeiner in the SuperTour, which is the grand-daddy of all events that bring recreational and elite racers together.
Madison will host this year’s US100 competition. This annual competition is awarded each season to a SuperTour site, and the organizers strive to provide a field and track that will produce record times over 100m. Last year’s organizer, West Yellowstone, holds the record for the fastest track, with Kevin Hochtl (Rossignol) burning up the track in 11.94 seconds.
Keeping Winter White
Recognizing the impact of global warming and greenhouse gases on the health of winter, Aspen and the Owl Creek Chase are taking progressive measures to do their part to reduce their impact. With special cooperation between the organizers of the Owl Creek Chase, The Bappa’s Tour and the City of Aspen’s Canary Initiative, this year’s event will balance out its carbon emissions by purchasing wind and solar power. Organizers say 100 percent of Owl Creek Chase CO2 emissions from energy consumption - including participant travel, course preparation, shuttle transport and nordic center operations - will be offset (www.canaryinitiative.com).
Men’s Overall (Golden Jersey)
1. Kris Freeman (USA) – 120 points
2. Lars Flora (USA) – 117 points
3. James Southam (USA) – 113 points
Men’s Distance (Red Jersey)
1. Kris Freeman (USA) – 90 points
2. Lars Flora (USA) – 77 points
3. Dan Roycroft (CAN) – 71 points
Men’s Sprint (Blue Jersey)
1. Anders Haugen (USA) – 69 points
2. James Southam (USA) – 63 points
3. Marshall Greene (USA) – 57 points
Women’s Overall (Golden Jersey)
1. Caitlin Compton (USA) – 197 points
2. Laura Valaas (USA) – 165 points
3. Karin Camenisch (SUI) – 102 points
Women’s Distance (Red Jersey)
1. Caitlin Compton (USA) – 110 points
2. Kristina Strandberg (SWE) – 65 points
3. Amanda Ammar (CAN) – 60 points
Women’s Sprint (Blue Jersey)
1. Laura Valaas (USA) – 150 points
2. Caitlin Compton (USA) – 87 points
3. Karin Camenisch (SUI) – 86 points