Welcome to “Fantasy Ski Racer” and my blog that will cover all 70+ World Cup races for the 2015-16 season.
To pass along insider info to you. Each week I spend hours and hours talking, emailing and skyping with National and International Ski Team coaches, World Cup athletes, ski racing veterans, Olympians, techs and trainers. Plus, I’ll be sure to throw in my 2 cents worth of unsolicited and totally biased advice based on my own years racing the World Cup circuit, along with gut instinct, rumors, innuendos and ski racing passion. With all of this info in hand, you can then use it (or lose it) in order to pick your top athletes. #Whosinyourtopten
Each week I’ll throw down my top 10 picks. I challenge you to crush me and all the other fanatic fantasy leaguers out there vying to win the FSR Title.
Next Thursday I’ll post my picks and insider scoop for Soelden. In the meantime, go to Fantasyskiracer.com and create an account (or update your account) so you’ll be ready for action next week. Below are some preliminary thoughts on Soelden to get your early season ski racing brain warmed up.
Soelden October 24/25, 2015:
World Cup #1:
For the National Programs and head coaches it’s Validation Day. Will they be heroes who made all the right decisions and spent huge amounts of money in the right places, OR will they be heels who chased weather, chose the wrong athletes, and then overworked or underworked the athletes. It is unfortunate for them, but how their athletes do in this race could determine jobs and futures.
In reality, smart coaches know what this race is – an early pop-quiz, not the final exam. Do well and it validates your decisions. Struggle and realize you still have another month to makes some changes and keep working. But the Press and Fans don’t see it that way. They will look at it as a canary in a coal mine. They demand results, and the complaining will begin.
For the athletes, the race can’t come soon enough. They’ve been traveling, sweating, training and hammering for 6 months straight and they want to get into the gate for real to see where they stand. Right now they’re wondering, “Did I work hard enough?” “Were those fast training runs in Chile and NZ legit?” “Did I finally figure out my GS set-up?” For some, a good result will confirm all the hard work and be a stepping stone forward. For others, however, the ones who slacked off early on, time has run out and they’ll have to “run what you brung”. Time’s up. Time to perform. More than a few will get a tough wake up call.
As Bode put it a few years ago about Soelden, “I love the feeling of pressure and not knowing what’s going to happen… nobody really can project so you have to wait and see. It’s just a matter of preparing and then execution.”
Soelden – The Mountain:
- It is a glacier – no matter how much natural or manmade snow, no matter the injection job, it’s still a giant mound of ICE. It’s different than any other surface they’ll be on throughout the year.
- At it’s best, it’s hard and slick and unforgiving. At it’s worst, it feels like broken concrete under your skis which are chattering so bad your spine feels like it will implode.
- It tires you out faster than other conditions, which is troublesome as many racers are not in race shape yet.
- It favors the balanced and controlled skier who can handle the rough ride. It favors the physically stronger skier as legs are toast with jelly by the bottom of the pitch and lungs bleeding. It favors the veteran, as no one in the last 17 years has won Soelden sooner than on their third try.
Soelden – The Course:
- This course is the toughest GS hill for the women, and maybe third toughest for the men behind Alta Badia and Adelboden.
- It lulls you into a false sense of security as the top is flat. Then there is the first roll onto to a relatively steep pitch, but you can still arc clean and feel like a hero. Next, you get a sucker punch to the gut when it rolls over to a nasty, steep and long pitch that rarely sees any kind of light, especially in the 2nd run.
- If you make it through the 12 nasty turns of the steep, it’s critical to carry as much speed onto the final flat as possible, because it’s pancake flat. One mistake on the bottom flat kills your speed and you better bring out the V2 Nordic technique to get to the finish.
Soelden – To Win:
- Victory comes on the top and bottom flats. That is where you race and push and work it. On the steeps, the goal is to survive and accomplish one thing… stay on a high enough line to carry speed onto the long bottom flats. This is exactly how victory came to Bode, Ligety, and Shiffrin.
- Mentally, poise and confidence is a must. That is why it’s the veterans who do well here. There are so many factors trying to blow you up physically and mentally, that you need a calmness and deep confidence to handle it.
The elements below combine to put doubt and stress in the minds of the racers at the start.
- Nerves of first race
- Energy of a crazy Austrian crowd
- Your unproven equipment setup
- The steepness of the pitch
- The pancake flatness of the bottom
- Nasty, changing snow conditions
- Trying to ride that fine line between skiing with aggression and skiing to finish.
Good luck racers! And good luck to my fellow Fantasy Ski Racer Competitors!