From the Editors Blog Banner

Archive for November, 2011

So Much Ski Racing

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

It is a beautiful morning in West Yellowstone, with somewhat more seasonal temperatures in the single digits – perfect for classic skiing.

It is quite a weekend in the North American ski racing world with the opening continental cup races in West, and the Kuusamo Mini-Tour in Finland, including NOrdic Combined races. Add to that a stacked field in the last pre-World cup biathlon events in featuring a stacked field. These races will determine the final selection for the US biathlon team for the World Cup opener.

ANd there is plenty of excitement with Kikkan Randall (USA) and Lenny Valjas (CAN) both cracking the finals in the classic sprint on Friday, and Randall sitting in 5th in the overall mini-tour standings.

While it has been a mixed bag overall for the North Americans, it is very exciting that every race features skiers who could stand on the podium on any given day.

The performance of the American women has been especially notable over the first week of World Cup racing, with LIz Stephen turning in two top-30s in her first two distance races, and Holly Brooks placing 17th in the Kuusamo 5k. And that doesn’t include strong performance from some of the younger skiers who are out mainly for experience at this point.

We also know that the Canadian men will turn things around.

Here in West, there is the usual festive atmosphere and great skiing. Bringing thousands of people together to celebrate skiing is pretty cool.

Likes

Kikkan Randall – She is so good and still keeps improving. Enjoy this because we are in the presence of greatness

Watching Leif Zimmermann V1 – When he is on, Leif floats up the climbs. Pretty sweet that he always gets it done in West.

Ditto for Morgan Arritola – Skis so smooth. Most of the top finishers in Friday’s skate appeared to be working less than many others. Just an illusion, but a testimonty to efficiency, and how these courses need to be raced.

Jessie Diggins leaving it all on the course – No one goes harder. Of course other skiers bring their A-game, but with Jessie you really see it.

Minnesota highschool kids volunteering at the SuperTour races – video to follow

The End of the Expo in West – A fun time, but exhausting. Glad to participate, and glad it is done. Are stickers really that cool :)

The helpful folk running the Ski Festival and SuperTour races here - they have done a great job, and gone out of their way to help us provide the best coverage we can.

An entire collegiate ski team showing up one night in the lobby of our hotel to partake of free hot chocolate

Dislikes

People who are content with the status quo in ski racing in North America – the “its just skiing” attitude is not helpful. Perspective is important, but so is pushing the envelope.

Impending departure to a land of no snow.

Slow internet - West Yellowstone has a single pipe feeding the town, and it doesn’t have much capacity. When everyone gets in from skiing, it slows to a crawl. An upgrade is supposedly in the works.

Happy Thanksgiving from West Yellowstone

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

It has been a beautiful Thanksgiving day in West Yellowstone, with sunny skies and temperatures climbing to 40F. The skiing is excellent and the atmosphere quite festive. There is nothing like good weather and good skiing to make people very happy.

The first races went off smoothly and tomorrow’s distance races should be a more interesting spectator experience.

All participating in the races, as athletes, coaches, organizers and volunteers have to be pleased there was no repeat of last year when a blizzard postponed the sprints to Thanksgiving day, and temperatures were frigid.

We at FasterSkier will even be able to avoid a mushy pasta or PB&J Thanksgiving, thanks to the race day off and some generous invites.

Likes
Skiing – ’nuff said
Sun – see above
Friendly locals in West – everyone is welcoming and interested in the out-of-towners – even those who aren’t really into the whole XC skiing thing.
Free Heel and Wheel – One of the best ski shops in the world – mixing ski gear and a coffee shop/cafe is brilliant. Lunch every day.
Sprint Qualifiers are over
Skiing out the door and to “work”

Dislikes
Sprint qualifiers – so boring to watch (no idea what is going on) and pretty tough to write about
Not skiing - One wants to ski 2-3 times per day. But work calls.
Not getting to watch Nat Herz challenge the costumed children and parents in the annual West Yellowstone Turkey Trot

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Earlier this week several Finnish newspapers reported that Juha Lalluka, a key member of the 2011 Finnish World Championship team, tested positive for human growth hormone.

The shock and disappointment did not come close to rivaling the response to the positive test of Estonian legend Andrus Vererpalu last season, but Lalluka’s seemingly out-of-nowhere performances in Oslo piqued the interest of many.

There are several notable points to this unfortunate storyline. First, anti-doping efforts seem to be working – at least some cheaters are being caught. The anecdotal consensus seems to be that the sport is significantly cleaner now than it was five years ago.

At major events there is much less discussion about who is doping and who is clean. When someone does come up dirty, the reaction is generally one of surprise (though for many, not in the case of Veerpalu).

This is generally good. What is concerning, however, is that the results of Lalluka’s A-sampple was made public prior to the testing of the B-sample. That second sample has come back positive, so it is hard to feel much sympathy for the man.

But allowing the results from the first test to reach the public is a serious violation of the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

What if the B-sample came back clean, and the original positive test was an error?

Lalluka’s name and reputation would haev still been permanently tarnished. He would forever be remembered as another doping Finn, albeit one who beat the charges.

Regardless of the fact, that in this case, the B-sample did confirm the initial positive test, WADA, and national anti-doping agencies need to ensure that A-sample results are kept under wraps until the B-sample is tested. The court of public opinion is quick to judge, and when it comes to doping, outside of nationalistic fervor, the verdict is almost always guilty.

Lalluka is gearing up to fight the doping charges, but it is a losing battle. There is little precedent for an athlete with a positive A and B sample to get off without a suspension. At this point all evidence points to another sad chapter in the performance enhancing drug saga that has become all too common in elite sport.

But cheaters and lawbreakers have rights. The rules state that a B-sample must confirm the result of the A-sample. Until those findings are complete, all information associated with the case, even the existence of the case, must be kept completely private.