How is the team looking with the long training season
almost behind them?
Things are going great. Everyone’s made big improvements in
the off-season, be it in technical gains or in physical fitness, and
it’s hard to imagine them all not racing really fast this winter. But
when you look back at preparation season, it’s easy to forget
everyone else in the world is training hard, too.
New cross country coach Chris Grover
shares his outlook for the season
By Tim Reynolds
that their best athletes need more exposure to higher European-level racing. We are building the infrastructure this year. Our goal
is to provide coaching, waxing, logistical support, etc., in Europe.
We are supporting three trips this season: November races in
Finland, an early February tour to tie in with the U23/WJC trips,
and a couple weeks at Europa Cup Finals in March. What we’re
working on now is figuring out how to team up with the clubs to
make that all work.
Chris Grover aids an athlete in Lake Placid.
How are this year’s USST Staff changes working out?
Pete Vordenberg is now heading our development programs and
we’ve pulled in Bryan Fish [formerly of CXC] to join Pete and
head the Continental Cup team. Matt [Whitcomb] is running the
World Cup team. It’s been a seamless transition for Pete [the
former head coach] and me — he’s been there already and is
someone I can always rely on for sage advice. The nicest thing
about our staff is that everyone is an expert. It’s a staff where I
feel 100 percent confident in every member and their abilities.
To be honest, sometimes I feel like the weakest link of the group,
but as a head coach, that is a position you want to be in.
This camp is also the second year of the National Elite
Group Camp. How is the new program going?
The ultimate goal of the NEG is to raise the standard of junior
cross country ski racing in the United States. The NEG process
has become really competitive just in the last year; athletes understand what is at stake, and what the selection process is. Athletes are responding by raising their competitive level — people
care about who gets named and who doesn’t, and all this is helping raise the standard of preparation and performance across
How will athletes be selected by the USST for this pro-
These are all open FIS races in Europe and we have no formal
selection process. The reason is that the vast majority of athletes
are heading to Europe on their own dime. The USST doesn’t
have the resources to bring a bunch of skiers over to Europe and
support Continental Cup racing. Instead, we are trying to pay for
coaches, vans, hotels, wax — pay for the logistics and build that
essential infrastructure in every way we can to allow top U.S.
athletes to come over. While there are no formal selection criteria, at the same time it’s important that athletes are racing at the
right level. If an athlete can’t be successful at a SuperTour, why
spend the money to go race in Europe and have a bad experience? The decision to go to Europe to race at this level has to
be made with the club coach and athlete. It’s not necessarily a
decision the USST needs to make for individual athletes around
LAKE PLACID — At the final national team dryland
camp of the year, new cross country head coach
Chris Grover brought Ski Racing up to speed on some
changes within the USST this year, including new staff,
changes to USSA’s Athlete Development Pipeline, and
the rapidly approaching World Cup season.
TIM RE YNOLDS
You’ve cut domestic race support and committed to financing more racing in Europe for developing athletes
this year, namely on the Europa Cup circuit. Tell us how
this seven weeks of racing in Europe will work and how
it fits in with the “Athlete Development Pipeline?”
What’s been really interesting for me talking to coaches throughout the regions last spring about how to improve our performance
as a nation was that time after time, in every region, coaches feel
What’s next? Where will the National Team kick off the
On Nov. 7, the team goes to Muonio, Finland, to train and race
for a week. There are some high-level FIS races at the end of the
week — a sprint and a distance race. We’ve traditionally used
this one week in Scandinavia to prepare for the opening weekend of the World Cup, which is in Gallivare this season. This
week is a chance for the athletes to get back on snow — it’s
been a couple months since our New Zealand camp now — and
to get a lower level race under their belts before the World Cup
season kicks off in Gallivare. At the end of this camp, that will be
less than a month away!