BEND, OR (May 20) - Following a season of incredible success, including Kikkan Randall's (Anchorage, AK) World Championship silver medal, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team reunited this week in Oregon to begin its training season in the lead up to the 2010 Olympics.
"It's an early camp, so we're really trying to lay down base fitness. We're also working on technique with each individual working on their weaknesses at the moment," Cross Country Head coach Pete Vordenberg said.
Andy Newell pumps his way uphill in Bend, OR in May (USSA)
According to Vordenberg, the athletes are already at a level of athletic and technical preparedness beyond what they have been in the past.
"The way we were working on this six years ago is so different from how we're doing it now," Vordenberg said. "We're taking on smaller things with most of these guys and it's been a really encouraging process. Everyone is coming along. Compared to previous springs, we're way ahead of where we have been."
The roster of athletes at the camp includes Randall, World Cup podium performer Andy Newell (Shaftsburry, VT) and U23 medalist Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT).
"It's hard to believe it's been a month-and-a-half since the beginning of the season. It's fun to see what everyone did with their time off during the season," Randall said. "Everyone just hops in line and we ski together. We just fit so well as a team it's like meeting up with your long lost brother or sister. It's a good dynamic."
The plan for the first camp of the summer, as far as Vordenberg is concerned, is to get athletes to refine small things as well as pace themselves in workouts for an overall better level of fitness.
"They train all year round, but what we are doing is refining how we approach the fitness. Last year we did a good job of having our best races at World Championships, but some of the athletes never had as good of races as they could have even though their fitness was really high," Vordenberg said. "To attack that we're trying to make sure everyone is doing the workouts at the right pace and nobody burns out over time. We're paying a great deal of attention to make sure everything is exactly right."
For Newell, pacing and fine tuning is a perfect way to set out for the 2010 season.
"To be able to be with the team so early in the season is a major bonus. This time of year we are taking it easy, but it's good to be with the coaches so we can dial in a lot of stuff," Newell said.
The camp wraps up at the end of May, but not before the Team has a chance to head to the coast of Oregon for a little surf.
"We try to put a little bit of a team bonding experience in the first camps of the year, so that's part of the reason we try to head out to the coast - to have some fun, do some surfing and play around in the sand and the water," Vordenberg said.
Newell, in particular, is excited to spend some time oceanside.
"This is a good time of year to do different things for training, like surfing. We'll get the whole Team out in the water and have some fun," Newell said.