|This interview is with National 50km Champion, Tad Elliott. Yesterday Tad held his own against the likes of Ivan Babikov, Lars Flora, James Southam, and a strong field to win his first National Title. Tad was a member of the U23 World Championship Team in skiing and Mt. Biking, and was second place at the 2010 American Birkiebeiner. |
Tad represents CXC Vertical Limit Marathon Team. SkiPost Editor, Justin Easter, caught up with Tad on the phone today, and asked Tad the following questions:
How does it feel to be National Champion?
Kind of surreal. When it was just Lars (Flora), Ivan (Babikov), and me racing, I had thoughts of staying with Ivan. Then as the race went on I started thinking of beating Lars to be National Champion, but Lars was skiing so strong that I just wanted to hang onto that group.
Lars put a pole between his legs before the final 3km climb. It was one of those moments when he was obviously cramping a little, and he went down really hard. I skied over his pole to get around him, and when he finally got his rhythm back he closed a little before the finish. Lars ended up about 12 seconds behind me in the end, but I was nervous he was going to catch me.
With 20k to go the race broke up, and it was just the three of us. It was just awesome to ski with two of my idols! Both of these guys were on the Factory Team, and Lars was like a brother to me all year last year. It was great to ski with both of these guys.
Can you describe the course for us?
It was a 5 9km laps with a few little laps at the start and finish. There were a few big climbs right away in that 9km loop. There were some pretty treacherous downhills in there, where Lars and I just tried to stay on our feet. You could tell that Ivan was feeling strong, because he was super smooth through those downs.
There was a pretty open section that was super windy, and we all had to work together to get through that. Otherwise, it was a really good course.
What were the conditions like for the race?
It was really sheltered for most of the race, and only windy during the open section. It was just below freezing, but snowing. So, if you got out of the packed ribbon of snow it was so soft! It made it really hard to pass, but everyone was really respectful of passing, so there weren't any real problems for us.
They had just received 8" of snow before the race started, and it snowed lightly during the whole race. Everyone seemed to have really fast skis with only a few exceptions.
How did the race unfold for you?
Ivan did a lot of work early in the race, but was coming off of a pretty long season, so Lars and I did a lot of work over the last 15km. About 30km into the race I made a hard pull, and then Lars continued it. That really seemed to break up the pack.
Even when I wasn't pulling at the front I knew the pace was going to be super hard. I was really just surviving with that group. I hoped I could make it through the last 10km and wanted to hang on to Lars and Ivan. When Lars went down I thought he might come up and pass me before the finish, but I managed to hold him off.
Kuzzy, Elliot, Greg, Sinnott, Babikov
Did you go into this race with your sights set on winning?
Not at all. I have had such a surprising season! Coming off the Birkie (2nd place) I just wanted to get more experience in 50km races. I had a lot of travel leading up to the race, and ended up not skiing at all the two days before this 50km. I came down with a little cold before the race, and Bryan Fish (CXC Elite Team Coach) was amazing and tested all of my skis for me.
I had a bike race just out of Los Angles, CA prior to this race series, so the travel was a bit of an issue. But I went home to Colorado for a few days to recover. I ended up flying to Quebec City with Bryan Gregg who was just back from racing in the final World Cups in Europe.
Did the two days off before this race concern you?
I ended up taking a few days off before the Birkie, so I wasn't too worried about having to rest two days before this race. I guess that's just what works for me in 50km races.
How are you feeling for the rest of the racing in Northern Maine?
I'll do all of the races up here. There's a classic 10km mass start tomorrow, and then a classic sprint. We'll be seeded based on those two races combined for the skate hill climb.
This is just an exciting way to finish the season. It's a pretty new format for a lot of us up here. The organizers here are calling this whole series a mini-Tour de Ski. It will really identify the best all-round skier at the end of the week. I would like to do well in the overall, but most of my time gains will probably come from the last race. But who knows how much time I will have to make up by then. (The next two races will combine to give a time penalty leading into the hill climb)
Now that the season is almost done, what can you tell us about your plans for the coming year?
All I know what's going to happen by the end of summer. I'm already looking forward to the next season. I've really had a blast this year! Last year was a great way to get introduced to the Super Tour. I'm excited for next year, and this season isn't even over yet.
Through the summer I will be on my bike again, but it will be less travel than years past. When the biking is over in early September I will get going with ski training. I don't really have plans to get on snow before West Yellowstone.
Thanks for your time, Tad and good luck with the rest of the week in Fort Kent, Maine!