Independent racer Erik Arvidsson approached the 2020-21 season with sights set on making a comeback to the U.S. speed team. His goal seems one step closer after earning a Europa Cup downhill win at Orcieres Merlette, France on Tuesday.
The former Junior World downhill champion bid farewell to the national team when he joined Middlebury College in pursuit of an NCAA title. Arvidsson enjoyed success at the college level, winning university races and finishing on the NorAm podium in both GS and slalom. Yet, in the back of his mind, he knew he would pursue World Cup speed once again. A current Middlebury senior, his season was nixed when the college withdrew from the circuit due to COVID. Ready to take advantage of online classes and his relationship with current men’s speed coach, Randy Pelkey, he’s laid out a plan to return to the men’s speed team.
Step one in Arvidsson’s comeback was to re-focus on speed fundamentals to get him ready to return to the Europa Cup and World Cup speed circuit. Aerodynamics, strategic line choice, and air time were seldom the focus throughout his college racing career. After success at U.S. Nationals at Copper Mountain earlier this season, Arvidsson fully integrated with the U.S. speed team before heading to Europe.
Arvidsson’s European season was a slow start. His three World Cup starts have yet to break a top 30 — same for his Europa Cup results. Pelkey worked closely with Arvidsson throughout the season refining his technique, slowly making progress. Arvidsson wasn’t expecting quick success, rather looking ahead toward the next five years of his speed skiing career.
After a slow climb in FIS results and a breakout ninth-place finish in the Orcieres Merlette training run, Arvidsson was ready to take the next step. His hard work paid off with his first Europa Cup victory on Jan. 26, finishing on top of a field filled with World Cup athletes.
“I was really happy with how I skied,” said Arvidsson. “After getting some World Cup experience, it was fun to be back on a hill that I really felt I could push my limits.”
Arvidsson’s win paved the way for U.S. skier Sam Morse to capture his first Europa Cup downhill podium in third, just 0.07 behind World Cup skier Gilles Roulin, of Switzerland. It was a tight race with the top-16 finishers within a second of Arvidsson’s time.
“It was great to share the podium with my teammate and friend Sam Morse,” said Arvidsson. “We’ve been through a lot together and it was fun that we could put together a sweet race on the same day.”