Lake Placid’s Billy Demong, 30, wasn’t an Olympic gold medalist when he won the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour in 2007. He didn’t have an Olympic gold when he placed fifth in the Boulder behind Ketchum’s Mike Sinnott in 2009.
But as of last February in Vancouver, Demong is an Olympic gold medalist—America’s first ever in Nordic Combined—so his presence in the 2011 Boulder Mountain Ski Tour carries more weight, much more than Demong’s 5-9, 145-pound stature.
Demong became a father for the first time to young Liam in mid-January so he’s back out on the World Cup tour, training at Park City, Utah with others on the powerful U.S. Nordic Combined team that made such a name for itself at Vancouver.
Highlighting the Elite field for the 36th Boulder Tour Saturday, Feb. 5 are four-time Olympian and 2009 world gold medalist Demong—flag bearer at the 2010 Winter Olympic closing ceremonies—with teammates Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher.
Sons of a ski patrolman, the Fletcher brothers from Steamboat Springs, Colo. along with Demong are three members of the six-skier U.S. Nordic Combined team headed to the 2011 World Championships Feb. 26-March 4 at Oslo, Norway.
Childhood cancer survivor Bryan Fletcher, 24, has had the best World Cup season of anyone on the U.S. team this winter, said head coach Dave Jarrett. Six times, he’s been in the points. Younger brother Taylor Fletcher, 20, a 2010 Olympian, has been coming on strong including a 29th place in Austria back on Jan. 16.
They’ll face a challenge from Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team member Sinnott, 26, who grew up here and won the Boulder Tour in 2008. Sinnott is a contender for this year’s Nordic SuperTour overall title.
Boulder Tour race director Kevin Swigert expects a very competitive Elite Men’s race for Saturday’s 32-kilometer (19.8-mile) cross-country ski race from Galena Lodge to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters north of Ketchum.
Monday, Swigert said the total field reached 970 registered skiers, including over 800 for the Full Boulder and about 165 for the Half Boulder 15k (9.3-mile) race. That’s a big Full Boulder increase from the 689 and 694 finishers in 2009 and 2010. The Half Boulder had 129 finishers last year, its first as a separate event.
Part of the reason is the $12,000 prize purse going to the top Full Boulder finishers. Last year’s Boulder Tour prize purse was about $600, not including preems, Swigert said. Major source of the 2011 prize purse is a $10,000 commitment from the city of Sun Valley to support the Jan. 29-Feb. 6 Sun Valley Nordic Festival.
Swigert said Boulder prize money will be paid to the top 10 men’s and women’s places, with the winners receiving $3,000 apiece, the second-place finishers $1,000 and third-place $400. “It should be a very exciting, competitive race,” said three-time champ Swigert (1975, 1976, 1980).
Regarding the weather, it’s been cold for two days but Swigert said temperatures should warm by Saturday for “another wax race, same as we’ve had the last five years.” He said, “It’ll be cold at Galena, 35 at the finish with three distinct stages of snow and atmospheric conditions in between—a real test for waxers.”
Among the Elite women, Swigert said two-time winner and defending champion Evelyn Dong, 25, of Bend, Ore. is probably the biggest name returning. Dong should be challenged by Chelsea Holmes, 23, of Truckee, Ca., last year’s third-place finisher.
This year’s awards ceremony/raffle is Saturday from 6-7:15 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn.
Sinnott draws closer to Flora on SuperTour
Ketchum cross-country ski racer Mike Sinnott, 26, has said his goal for the 2010-11 season is to win the overall title of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) SuperTour.
Sinnott, who plans to race in Saturday’s Boulder Mountain Ski Tour, pulled a little closer to that goal by winning two of three races during the USSA Michigan Tech SuperTour stop Jan. 28-30 at Houghton, Mich.
On Friday, Sinnott won $250 in prize money and earned 30 SuperTour points by winning the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint with a 3:20.00 time, just ahead of Wisconsin native and 2010 U.S. Olympian Garrott Kuzzy, 28. There were 41 finishers on the technical course.
Maintaining his head of steam, Sinnott won Saturday’s interval start classic 10k race in 29:35, just nipping Adam Kates of Big Thunder. His winning strategy was on skiing smoothly and keeping up the tempo through double-pole sections, he told Fasterskier.com.
FormerDartmouthCollege cross-country ski team captain Sinnott admitted he felt the effects of his two victories in Sunday’s 15k mass start freestyle race. Sinnott (41:02) finished seventh of 104 racers behind winner Kuzzy (39:38).
But Sinnott’s seventh-place 14-point effort enabled the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team member to gain 74 points on leader Lars Flora (Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club). Flora now only has a 23-point lead: 297 to Sinnott’s 274.
Sinnott said he has six SuperTour races to make up the 23-point gap including the season-ending events in Sun Valley March 29-April 2. They include prologue, 15k classic, individual sprints and pursuit.
In January after the U.S. Nordic Nationals in Maine, Sinnott narrowly missed being named to the U.S. World Championship team headed for Oslo, Norway Feb. 24-March 6. So he rearranged his goals to focus on the SuperTour title.