Much like the peloton when it rolls past at 60kph, 16 athletes, coaches, VIP’s and support staff of the US Nordic Combined Team could have been easily mistaken for a Tour de France (TDF) team as we ascended and descended some of the famous TDF climbs during the annual training camp.
The Savoie Region of the French Alps located in and around Albertville, the host city of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, provided a beautiful backdrop to the 615kms of roadways travelled by Olympic gold medalist, Bill Demong, his teammates and our VIP clients. Rookie Nordic combined athletes, Adam Loomis, Erik Lynch and Michael Ward road the Col du La Madeleine, along with the group of 16 to cheer on their favorite TDF riders as they battled during stage 12. Thanks to Pillar Project funding through the National Nordic Foundation, these three rookies were able to join the veteran squad of World Champions, Demong, Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane in a camp mixing ski jump training on the Olympic jumps with some great mountain rides. Watch a fun video of the trip here.
Surrounded by great climbs in Park City where the team is based, athletes, VIP’s and staff checked off some great TDF climbs including Col du la Galibier, Col du la Croix du Fere and, of course, L’Alpe d’Huez where Bill Demong created a handicapped time trial which he managed to win crossing the sign post L’Alpe d’Huez Arriver first. Though Demong was first to the top, rising star, Taylor Fletcher notched the fastest time up the famous climb. VIP supporter, Eric Oberg of Park City hammered his way around the French Alps was noted in one of his emails: “Funny looking at the hills in Park City now in comparison to the Alps…they look like speed bumps”. Only one morning of rain dampened the USA peloton of riders flanked in their Cole Sport kits (thanks Jon Schafer, Gary Cole and Bill Demong for making us look fast) compared to last year’s camp that never saw sun and often passed the summits during snowstorms! In a thank you note from VIP guest Walter McCormack, of New York City, he quotes; “Ranks higher than a perfect powder Blue Sky heli-ski week because I walked away with a big sense of accomplishment”. Accomplishment indeed as most riders logged 45,000 feet of elevation gain during the 6 day Alp excursion.
Following the cycling half of the camp, athletes and coaching staff (Jarrett, Gilbertson & Poirier) headed to Oberstdorf, Germany for some additional ski jump training prior to the group of Demong, Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Lodwick & Spillane flying to Sochi for a summer FIS Grand Prix Nordic Combined competition. Lodwick landed 2nd and 1st in the first-ever test competitions held on the 2014 Olympic venue with other members notching top ten finishes over the weekend events just up the mountains off the Black Sea.
The National Nordic Foundation makes it possible for non-supported athletes to receive funding through established ‘pillar projects’. The athletes and staff, along with their families wish to thank our Tour de France VIP team of Walter McCormack, Eric Oberg and Jon Schafer for their generous contribution to the NNF’s inaugural VIP tour.
Thanks to some heavy recruiting from Olympic Champion, Bill Demong, three VIP’s (Walter McCormack, Eric Oberg & Jon Schafer) touched down in Geneva and were greeted by former US Nordic Combined Team athletes; Carl Van Loan and Jed Hinkley who now operate Olympian Tours. Carl and Jed provided ‘Gold Medal’ service to the clients as well as phenomenal support to the current squad of USA Nordic combined athletes. Regarding the trip, Oberg stated, “I have 7 friends who were very jealous and want to be informed of the details for next year’s trip”. “The 3 VIP clients proved to be great climbers often reaching the summit before the USA peloton rolled up”, according to assistant coach, Greg Poirier.
The next NNF Nordic Combined VIP trip is scheduled for Oslo, Norway (FIS World Cup) – March 2013. Contact the NNF for more details. We were very lucky to have Olympian Tours running this trip for us and they did an incredible job. Our VIP clients were awesome and couldn’t have asked for more supportive and enthusiastic guys. We are looking forward to expanding and improving this concept as a means to help our next generation of NC skiers.