Looking ahead to a race schedule riddled with “ifs” and unknowns, Ryan Cochran-Siegle is planning to “let it all hang out” this season. One of few World Cup racers to regularly compete in downhill, super G, giant slalom and combined, the 28-year-old notched his career-best results last season – a sixth place in the Beaver Creek downhill followed by fifth in the Bormio alpine combined race. This season, he’s aiming to streamline those results.
“My goals this year are to let it all hang out a little bit looser than I have in the past, try to be more natural, less calculated with my approach,” Cochran-Siegle said from Copper Mountain, where he and the majority of the U.S. Ski Team had been training since early November. “I want to be a top-five contender every time I step into the starting gate. This is obviously a big step to take from where I am currently, but I believe I am capable of doing so, and to attempt anything less than this would be an insult to the sport of ski racing.”
While the majority of World Cup racers specialize in either speed or tech, the Vermont native’s view of the sport has always incorporated mastering multiple disciplines.
“When I was growing up watching World Cup skiing, I was idolizing Bode, Svindal, Hermann Maier – all these skiers who are competitive in different events. I’ve held onto that belief that I can be competitive in multiple events. When I’m racing GS, I want to be competitive that day. When I’m racing downhill, I want to be competitive that day. It’s a big driving force. I enjoy skiing a variety of events. Finding the things that work for you in each is kind of addicting. I want to excel as much as I can. You look at a skier like Mikaela. If she wanted to focus on one event, she’d absolutely dominate in that event. She’s able to be competitive in every event. I want to continue to work on these events while I can. As you age as a ski racer, certain events become more difficult.”
It’s all in the approach
In the 2020-21 season-opening giant slalom race in Sölden, Cochran-Siegle skied off-course in the first run and took a DNF. He chalks it up to bad luck. Overall, he felt like his approach was right where he wanted it to be.
“I felt like I was skiing well,” he said. “Right out of the gate, I had an understanding of being there, being present, skiing like I was present. I had a minor error that caused me to ski out, but I’d rather hang onto the good skiing. On that day, I felt I was where I needed to be. I’ll try to access that and be prepared going forward.”
The formula required to move from a consistent top-15 finisher to a consistent top-five finisher – positions that are often only separated by mere tenths of a second – is as much a matter of the right mindset as it is anything technical or physical, as far as he sees it. And the right mindset, he says, is a clear mind.
“It’s easy to start over-thinking things,” he said. “You start thinking, is this going to be faster? Or, is this the way to do it? Come race day, there’s certain risk you allow for and you are just recognizing that speed comes with it. Looking back at a lot of races over the years, I have an understanding of where I ski and when I want results to happen. So I’m trying to get back to telling myself, ‘it’s skiing. Just let things happen.’ It’s a matter of trusting the approach, letting the start gate approach happen. That’s enough.”
The U.S. Ski Team is taking extra precautions to keep its athletes safe and healthy this season. While three or four racers would typically share a condo during a Copper training period in years past, each now has a maximum of one housemate. Rather than eating dinners as a team in the dining hall, they often eat alone.
“We’re all fine with it, but it’s not the most fun eating your box takeout food with your roommate,” he said. “But we get enough interactions here. It’s not like we’re totally secluded all the time.”
Being adaptable is key … especially this season
Cochran-Siegle usually comes home to Vermont once or twice throughout the course of a World Cup season. However, with travel especially challenging, with COVID-19 testing requirements, rules changing from country to country and his busy race schedule crossing between speed and tech events, this year, Cochran-Siegle will head to Europe in a few weeks and won’t come back until March.
“Once I’m in Europe, I’ll be over there for the rest of the season. It’s kind of hard to plan for it. All we can control is right now,” he said. “It’s been easier at training camp, being back in our element and having something to work for ahead of us. I’m going to focus on the things I can control and let be everything that is outside of that realm. My plan is to race every DH, SG, GS, and combined this season and to take it one day at a time. Obviously, there will be a lot of hand-washing and mask-wearing along with many unforeseen challenges thrown our way, but as ski racers we are used to being adaptable and going with the flow.”