Story by Randy Wyrick for the Vail Daily
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic skiers took three of the top six spots in last week’s Super Tour finals.
SSCV had four of the top six if you count Kris Freeman, another of the top American Nordic skiers who was competing for SCCV last week. So we’re going to count him.
Noah Hoffman (second), Tad Elliot (fifth) and Sylvan Ellefson (sixth), returned from Europe to compete, where they’d been racing in World Cup events. Freeman won the overall title, so, yeah, he gets to be one of us.
The Super Tour finals are four stages over five days with a 50K thrown in at the end because Nordic skiers do that sort of thing for fun.
They competed in a skate prologue, classic 15K, classic sprint races, and a hill climb. They handicap the sprint and there’s a pursuit start in the hill climb, but for the most part they strap it on and see who’s the fastest.
“It’s mostly straight head-to-head racing,” said Eric Pepper, Nordic coach with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
The event is a Nordic season wrapup.
“It used to be a lighthearted affair, but it’s become more serious,” Pepper said. “The points are worth double what they are in a normal tour event.”
That attracts the top American Nordic racers, and as it turns out most of them live right here.
It’s also one of the only U.S. events that attracts American Nordic World Cup racers. They compete in Europe all winter and this event rolls around after the World Cup season is over.
Hoffman, Ellefson and Elliot are all SSCV members and ski for the U.S. Ski Team.
They spend most of their season in Europe, so it was good to have them home, Pepper said.
They skied on a 1.5 kilometer loop of manmade snow surrounded by sticks and leaves.
“The manmade snow and rapidly warming temperatures made for some interesting conditions,” Pepper said. “We would go from boiler plate ice to slush on a daily basis.
The temperatures dropped into the 20s at night, so they got a little help from Ullr, the Norse god of snow.
“The crew did an awesome job,” Pepper said.
Ellefson had some of his top performances at the national level, Pepper said.
He finished second in the prologue, won the sprint qualifier, and finished fourth in the 50K national championship event.
About that 50K, Freeman won but had to fight off both Elliott and a sinus infection to do it. Freeman won by just 3.2 seconds when the 33-lap race came down to a final sprint.
Freeman took the lead with 11 laps to go when he and Elliott broke away from the lead pack.
After two hours of exhausting racing, it came down to a sprint for Ellefson and Tim Reynolds for the bronze medal. Ellefson dove for the finish line, but Reynolds was an inch or two too far ahead and finished fourth by about the length of an unfiltered cigarette.
“I think I had a better dive, but he had some distance on me,” Ellefson told Fasterskier.com. “I wouldn’t have wanted to end it any other way.”
Ellefson lost the 50K, but finished high enough on the SuperTour to guarantee him start rights for next fall’s World Cup. Five early season races in December are scheduled for Canada.
“This is a huge goal of Sylvan’s, something he was focused on for this season and has worked for many years to accomplish,” Pepper said.
“Sylvan missed the last few World Cup races with an injured ankle,” Pepper said. “It was not easy for him. When he was finished he was a hurting unit.”
Hoffman had the fastest split for the hill climb and Elliot capped a strong week with his second place finish behind Freeman in the 50K.