Despite wearing a cast on his left hand to protect a broken thumb, Juneau's Matt Beedle finished in fourth place overall during a series of four U.S. Telemark Ski Association races last weekend in Crested Butte, Colo.
Beedle, 23, took third place in the Telemark classic race on Saturday and was fourth in Sunday's sprint classic race. He took fourth in Friday's giant slalom and didn't finish Thursday's slalom event because he lost a ski on the second run.
The four national championship races were part of the 10-day-long Crested Butte Telemark Festival, which ran from Feb. 21 through Sunday.
"I'm excited," Beedle said by phone Monday from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where he was taking a layover in his flight to Norway for a series of World Cup races March 6-17. "I had some solid runs at nationals. My skis were fast, but I had some penalties. I was second in raw time in a couple of races, but the penalties were just enough to drop me to fourth place."
In Telemark ski racing there are four basic types of races where skiers are not only timed, but can have penalties assessed against them if their form breaks down.
The slalom race is a two-run event similar to the alpine slalom, except skiers have to use the trademark bent-knee Telemark turns. The giant slalom is another two-run event similar to its alpine counterpart, but there's a jump built into the middle of the course and the skiers have to land in a Telemark stance after clearing a minimum distance.
The Telemark classic race is a single-run event that can last as long as three minutes and combines the turning and jumping skills of the giant slalom, but it also features a section of nordic skate-style skiing and a 360-degree loop-of-rope turn in the middle of the course known as the "reipjlekke." The sprint classic race is a shorter, two-run version of the classic.
In Sunday's sprint classic race, Beedle posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 44.57 seconds (Chris Rice won in 1:39.98). Beedle posted a single-run time of 1:57.71 in Saturday's classic race (Rice won in 1:53.16). In Friday's giant slalom, Beedle had a two-run time of 2:23.22 (Rice won in 2:19.36).
Andrew Minier won Thursday's slalom race in a two-run time of 1:43.88, with Rice second in 1:44.90 to win the overall points title. Minier, Glenn Gustafson and Beedle were very close in the race between second through fourth places, with only fractions of a second separating the three skiers in all by the slalom race. Because of his slalom victory, Minier took second overall and Gustafson (10th in the slalom) was third, followed by Beedle.
In addition to the four USTSA national championship races, the first week of the Telemark festival featured three events that aren't part of the standard USTSA repertoire.
The highlight event was the inaugural running of the "XTC" Xtreme Telemark Classic, which is also known as the "Telecross" and took place on Feb. 26. This race, which Beedle won, is similar to the popular boardercross or skier-X races in the X Games. It featured four skiers competing head-to-head over a course with jumps and moguls, and some contact was allowed between the skiers. Beedle's winning time wasn't available, but he beat Kris Karpenter, Max Mancini and Eric Lamb in the finals.
"In the Telecross, they were shooting a promo for ESPN and it will possibly be added to the X Games," Beedle said. "I never saw our times, but I got the hole shot every time."
On Monday, Beedle headed to Salt Lake City with a couple of his U.S. Telemark Ski Team buddies to prepare for Tuesday's trip to Norway. While in Salt Lake, Beedle went to the doctor and his cast was cut off. He'd injured it in a wreck during a World Cup series of races in early February in Big Mountain-Whitefish, Mont. Beedle had surgery on the hand, but returned with a cast on his hand to compete in the final two World Cup races. He finished in the middle of the pack (18th and 21st in two GS races), within a couple of places of the spot he'd been in during the early races.
"It feels great to have the cast off," Beedle said. "It (his thumb) is still stiff, but I don't have to wear that smelly blue thing anymore."
Beedle is taking a leave from his grad student classes at the University of Colorado this year. He said he plans to train and race fulltime through next year's World Championship races at Big Mountain-Whitefish, which is where Beedle's based this season. After that he'll decide how much longer he wants to compete in the sport.
Beedle is the youngest member of the U.S. Telemark Ski Team, and Telemark has been guaranteed a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics, he said. The skiers are hoping Telemark might even be included in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Beedle will be 31 in 2010, which is about the age of most of the current U.S. team members.
In the meantime, he's hoping for strong results in the final World Cup races of the season March 6-17 in the towns of Tyin and Aurdal, Norway. He's hoping for better results than when he was in Slovenia and France for World Cup races in December and January. After he gets back from Norway, Beedle said he'll probably return to Juneau in May to work for the U.S. Forest Service at the Mendenhall Glacier visitor's center.
"I've been working on a few things," Beedle said. "I've been skiing fast, but I have to clean up a few little things with my technique so I'm not falling as much as I did when I went to Europe before. I'm looking for a positive springboard into the summer."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.