Steamboat Springs The snow was good, the temperatures were good, and the visibility was good Tuesday morning on the slopes of the Vagabond ski run at Steamboat Ski Area.
It was the perfect setting for the first of four World Cup Telemark races in Steamboat Springs this week, and it proved to be a perfect day for Switzerland’s Amelie Reymond, who won the women’s race, and Germany’s Tobias Mueller, who took the top spot for the men.
The field was filled with local favorites, but at the end of the day, none of them could match the world’s best Telemark skiers to grab a place on the podium.
Steamboat’s Madi McKinstry was the top American to finish in the women’s race, placing seventh, and Jeffrey Gay led the men with a 12th-place showing.
“The conditions were great to the skiers who won, but not so much for me,” McKinstry said. “It was a long race, and things just didn’t go my way.”
McKinstry had hoped to make a run at the podium in her hometown race. But current World Cup leader Amelie Reymond, of Switzerland, ended up winning the race in a time of 3 minutes, 11.44 seconds.
France’s Laura Grenier Soliget was second at 3:20.78, and Norway’s Mathilde Ilebrekke was third in 3:20.95. McKinstry finished with a time of 3:41.25.
The finishes were not unexpected; Reymond has won five of the six World Cup races this season and was second to Ilebrekke in the other race. McKinstry, a sophomore at Montana State University, only has competed in a couple of World Cups this year, with her best finish, a sixth, coming in Les Contamines Montjoie, France, in December.
“I think we are all shooting for Amelie right now,” McKinstry said. “It’s possible to beat her, but it’s going to take a really solid run.”
McKinstry admits her main focus right now is school. She will race in Steamboat, but after that she plans to turn her attention to classes until the U.S. Nationals, which will take place in Bromley and Haystack mountains in Vermont at the end of this month.
Mueller, who was strong from top to bottom in Tuesday’s race, highlighted the men’s race. The German racer finished the classic course in a time of 2:52.63. His teammate Jonas Schmid was second at 3:01.13, and Switzerland’s Bastien Dayer was third with a time of 3:01.14.
The men’s and women’s races took part on a demanding course that included gates, pro-style jumps, a mid-course reipelokke (a 360-degree banked turn), more gates, a flat turn and a couple of cross-county sections.
“It was so long,” Gay said. “It was double any Alpine race I’ve ever done.”
Gay said the difference between the top skiers and those who slid back into the pack Tuesday was decided at the bottom of the course, where fatigue and exhaustion started to take its toll. He said a flat 360 turn at the bottom of the course was a challenge for him as well as for his teammate Tanner Visnick, who placed 14th.
“It was a good race for me,” Gay said. “It was challenging, but it was a lot of fun.”
Visnick also was happy with his showing but will be looking for improvement in the second race of the week, which begins with the women at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday on Vagabond.
“This was my first World Cup of the season,” Visnick said.
The Steamboat Springs High School junior said he likes the classic race best and is looking for another shot.
“Overall, the race went pretty well,” Visnick said. “If I can clean up some of the mistakes at the bottom of the course, I’m hoping that I can get into the top 10.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966