Late-season surge leaves Hochtl hungry
VAIL For a guy who is one of the fastest on Nordic skis, Kevin Hochtl sure is patient.Hochtl, who nearly beat his former world record in the 100-meter sprint earlier this year, knows that the path to the top of the Nordic world is more of a 30K race.Its a sport where you have to have patience, said Vails Hochtl who is 27. Theres so much that goes into it technique, endurance, strength, and you need to keep working at it. Your body doesnt pick up small technique and endurance stuff until later, and finally everything clicks.This season, despite a slower start, Hochtl kicked it into high gear in the final three months.It was a great season Im very happy with it, Hochtl said. Unfortunately in some of the larger races I was looking to do better and I had bad luck, but thats what happens in sprint racing.Hochtl landed on the podium in five NORAM sprint races, winning the event in Hayward, Wisc. in late February.One of my goals was to be consistently in the finals for sprint races, and that happened, Hochtl said.At U.S. Nationals, where Hochtl was shooting for a top-three finish, he ran into some early trouble in the 1,200-meter sprint race.I got taken out by some kid, Hochtl said. He was a lot bigger than me and decided he was going to take someone out. He stepped all over me, and in a sprint race, where its two minutes long, you dont have time to recover.
Hochtl, who trains at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail with his brother Karl and Dan Weiland, puts in about 700 hours a year, the bulk of them from May to October. Additionally, Hochtl attends U.S. Team camps.Its exciting because the U.S. Team has Andrew Newell, one of the top ranked skiers in the world, Hochtl said. And during the season I travel and train with Team Rossignol.Early in the season, Hochtl competed in races that would qualify him for the World Cup, although he wasnt quite peaking then.We peaked a different time than planned, he said. Sometimes the peak works and sometimes it doesnt.It worked for the remainder of the season, and surprisingly for Hochtl, in some longer-distance events.For some reason the longer distance, like 30K races, are better than 10 and 15 K, Hochtl said. For some reason my body likes long or short (distance) but not the middle.On January 12 in Houghton, Mich., Hochtl looked to break his own world record in the 100 sprint, which he set the previous year, by finishing in 11.94 seconds.This year, Hochtl clocked in at 12.01 seconds, under tough conditions.They brought in man-made snow 30 minutes before 100-meter attempt, so the snow was soft, Hochtl said. It was very close, and I think if the snow conditions would have been better suited for fast skiing, I would have broken it again.On March 16 this year, Germanys Johannes Bredl set the new unofficial record with a time of 11.46 seconds during the Euroloppet Sprint in Germany.
While at Battle Mountain high school, Hochtl won the Skimesiter title, which combines both Nordic and alpine skiing, three out his four years.I was disqualified my junior year because I missed a gate, Hochtl said. It was a good run. I won it my freshman year and there were some really good skiers. I ended up by senior year doing very well in Nordic … and foresaw it would be a better opportunity continuing (Nordic) and making it to an elite level there rather than alpine.Hochtl went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and senior year he qualified for the Division I NCAA Championships.It was one more step to show me I that I could get to the next level, Hochtl said.Making it to the highest level can be difficult, as racers have to balance training and working.This is the time Im able to make money, and stash away a bit of cash so I can make it through the season, Hochtl said last week. This year, I had a title sponsor, Axels of Vail, and that helped me out.Hochtl also got some help from Vail Mountain, as well as the Vail Valley Foundation, which sent him to Germany for some World Cup B races. After Germany, Hochtl went to and picked up the big win at the Birkiebeiner Sprints.Everything clicked, the confidence was there, my body was there, Hochtl said. To come away knowing you get on the start line and can win a race and doing it is such a confidence builder for the upcoming season.But Hochtl, who has his eyes set on the 2010 Games in Vancouver, knows better than to look at things on a yearly basis.This is not for someone who wants to give it a one- or two-year try, he said. If they arent willing to sacrifice everything for it, they dont have a chance.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.