On the eve of the World Cup season, checking in with the U.S. women


On the eve of the World Cup season, checking in with the U.S. womenThe dress rehearsals are completed, the curtain is about to drop, and the U.S. women are ready for show-time. Soelden, Austria will be the stage for the opening act of the 2004-05 World Cup tour with the women getting their chance in the spotlight on Saturday, October 23 and the men stealing the scene on October 24.

The speed team arrived at Zermatt, Switzerland on Octopber 1 before moving on to Pitztal, Austria on the 9th. ‘We had awesome conditions in Zermatt’ reports Alex Hoedlmoser, head of the speed team. ‘We had four days of full length downhill, which was gnarly and icy.’

Pitztal received a blanket of new snow, but training was uninterrupted. ‘We still had six runs of SG’ notes Hoedlmoser.

As for who’s hot and who’s not, everyone is on fire according to Hoedlmoser. ‘Everyone’s doing really well. Jonna (Mendes) was fast in Zermatt, McCarty (Bryna) had some super fast runs, but needs consistency, Stacey Cook is doing well, Caroline (Lalive), Lindsey (Kildow) they’re all fast.’

Their cause has been abetted by solid long term relationships with the host areas. ‘There’re many training groups here, but we have our own spot. We’re totally dialed in’ says Hoedlmoser with a laugh. ‘We had our own course for only four girls the other day, but if it snows, we’ll (U.S. and other teams) work together, probably with the Canadians.

Hoedlmoser reports that all are healthy, and as for team leader Kirsten Clark, who is recovering from knee and wrist surgery, Hoedlmoser has full confidence she will be up to speed then the time comes to put it on the line. ‘She’s doing really well. She took six runs of SG today’ says Hoedlmoser. ‘She’s getting more comfortable and even has some of the fastest splits.’ As for her racing at Soelden, Hoedlmoser notes, ‘Racing GS at Soelden doesn’t make sense. We want her to be ready for the Aspen GS.’

‘Clarkie’ is as upbeat as her coach, but will bide her time before returning to action. ‘I’m getting the confidence back about going fast and getting over the fear’ says Clark. ‘It takes baby steps at first just doing sections and then keep moving up the hill, and then you link the sections together.’ But according to Clark, Soelden is still not in her best long-term interest. Says Clark, ‘My GS is going well, but I’m not quite ready mentally to race. I want to focus on quality runs in training.’

The technical team was also in Pitztal, but moved on to Soelden on October 11 for training and qualifying races for the opening World Cup. According to women’s tech coach Trevor Wagner, the focus has been on GS. ‘We have a month before our first slalom, so it’s been mostly GS’ says Wagner. ‘It’s been great training, tough terrain, break-overs, flats, and the snow has been great.’ But as is typical with glaciers, they tend to be icy. ‘It’s black, glacial ice in places, which is rough and inconsistent as you move from the snow to the ice perfect for training’ says Wagner with a ghoulish cackle.

Sarah Schleper opted to stay at home in Vail to rest her back, and Jess Kelley was with the team but also nursing a sore back. The remainder of the team was there and chomping at the bit to earn a spot on the Soelden start list. ‘Everyone is skiing well as a group, much faster than in the past’ says Wagner in regards to the two-run qualifying race. ‘Julia (Mancuso) and Resi (Stiegler) were standouts, but among the others on any day it could change. So they all had to really let it go on this hill.’

Kristina Koznick, who is skiing independently again this year, and Schleper have earned automatic status into the Soelden races, and those entered through the qualifying race will be: Mancuso, Stiegler, Caroline Lalive, Lindsey Kildow, and Libby Ludlow.

Let the games begin.

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