Edwards native River Radamus reflects on big start to his World Cup skiing season
VAIL — For a brief period — about 67 seconds, to be precise — Edwards’ River Radamus was leading a World Cup race.
The Ski & Snowboard Club Vail racer made the flip during Sunday’s men’s World Cup race in Soelden, Austria, and was the first out of the gate in the event’s second run.
Radamus completed his second trip down the glacier and led the race until Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr came down next and knocked him off the hot seat.
Perhaps, Radamus’ brief moment on top was a preview of coming attractions. He certainly hopes so. Radamus certainly got the season off to a great start by finishing 27th in the season-opener on Sunday.
“It’s phenomenal,” Radamus, 22, said after returning from Europe. “I didn’t perform the way I wanted to last season at Soelden. I wanted to set the tone right. To get some decent results is super-rewarding.”
Radamus scored four World Cup points on Sunday. That’s not going to land a ski racer endorsements, a spot on the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships team in February or any other fame and fortune, but it’s a start.
This is the classic catch-22 in World Cup racing. It’s easier to score points when one starts in the top 30, but young athletes like Radamus don’t have the World Cup experience — and the accompanying points — to qualify for the prime top 30 start positions in races.
One has to charge from the back of the first-run order over ruts and through the chatter of a chopped-up and not-as-fast course. The more you do it, the more you improve your ranking and force your national ski team to start you.
This was Radamus’ fourth time in the points during his young career and the first time since a parallel giant slalom on Dec. 23, 2019.
On the bubbleSunday was Radamus’ second start at Soelden. Last year, he finished 32nd after the first run and was 22-hundredths of a second out of 30th place, the last spot to qualify for a second run.
Radamus, unfortunately, has some experience with near-misses. Last year in Adelboden, Switzerland, he was sitting seemingly comfortable within the top 30 and ready to advance to the second run when four different racers starting with bib numbers in the 50s overtook him, knocking him to 31st.
As such, until he finishes in the top 10 during a morning run, Radamus isn’t comfortable with his position in relation to the flip until the last racer is down. Instead of staying by the finish area to watch the rest of the first run, he got out of Dodge.
“I knew, at any point, anyone could beat me,” Radamus said. “Everyone who starts is an amazing skier. I was holding my breath. I didn’t want to know. I went back to team hospitality and just got on the spin bike.”
Mercifully, there were no surprises and Radamus took 30th in the first run. Thirtieth-place comes with a privilege — being the first to race on a perfectly groomed new course set. While there is a temptation to get in a snow plow and just get down the hill to make sure to earn World Cup points, Radamus let it all hang out.
“The nature of World Cup points is that you get 100 points for first all the way down to one point for 30th,” he said. “It’s much more incentivized for you to go for the home run opportunity. If you finish 25th every race, you won’t end up in the top 30 at the end of the season, as crazy as it sounds. My mindset was not to poke my way down the hill, but take a big stab at it.”
And Radamus logged the 19th-fastest time during the second run, a performance which pushed him up from 30th to 27th.
Second training period
Soelden is a bit weird with its position in the ski calendar. Even in a non-COVID-19 year, there’s always two or three weeks between the race in Austria and the traditional slalom races in mid-November in Levi, Finland.
The coronavirus is making that gap even greater by rearranging the schedule. Radamus, who is focusing more on giant slalom this season, doesn’t have another World Cup race until the first weekend in December when there are two consecutive GS races in Val d’Isere, France.
By the way, that December weekend in normal years is the usual one for Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek. Birds of Prey is on hiatus this year with the World Cup scrubbing North American events because of COVID.
“That’s frustrating. It’s always one of the highlights of the year. I love racing in my backyard,” Radamus said.
But the rearranged schedule does allow for a block of training and Radamus is ready to go.
“I want to hone in on the mental side,” Radamus said. “I need to keep steady composure in showing up for race day. Even in Soelden, I didn’t quite execute it. It’s also just pushing the line. My form is good. I’m solid on my skis. I need to push the line and the level of skiing up.”