Aspen’s Simi Hamilton made some serious cross-country ski-racing history on Tuesday with the first American men’s win on the World Cup tour since February of 1983.
“I had a really good feeling about everything throughout the entire day and I just decided to go for it every time I stepped up to the start line,” said Hamilton, who claimed the first win ever by an American man in the grueling Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. “It was a very cool day to say the least – maybe the coolest one I’ve ever had.”
“My tactic in the final heat changed a bit from my quarter and semifinal heats,” Hamilton said. “I knew that to have the best finish possible I’d want to conserve a bit of energy early on in the race. So I decided to settle in to a good, safe spot in second or third for the first two thirds of the race.
“At the top of the climb on the second lap, the Norwegian in front of my completely blew up and both of us lost a lot of time to the current leader, Italian Frederico Pellegrino, starting onto the downhill. But the draft that we got off of him allowed us to get a good slingshot at the bottom of the downhill.
“When I saw a small space open up between the Italian and the Norwegian, I took it with about 150 meters to go before the finish. After I made it through the space unscathed, I just focused on skiing fast but relaxed all the way across the line, and of course hoped for the best.”
Hamilton’s stage victory was the first for an American on the World Cup tour since Bill Koch won the pre-Olympic 30k in Sarajevo in February, 1983 – nearly 30 years ago.
Hamilton led qualifying and survived a photo finish in the semifinals, making it to the finals heat as a “lucky loser.”
“In the rounds, Simi executed his strategies like a pro, taking the line he wanted in each round,” said U.S. Cross Country Head Coach Chris Grover. “For the final, he decided to let others lead and conserve energy, then planned on skiing the bottom two corners of the race really well and catapulting himself into the finish stretch.
“He managed to just outsprint world champion and current Tour de Ski overall leader Alex Harvey for the win. It was really cool to see two North Americans on top of the podium.”
All four of the U.S. Ski Team’s qualifiers in the sprint came out of the Stratton Mountain SMS TD program coached by Gus Kaeding.