Caitlin Gregg crushes competition in 20K |

Caitlin Gregg crushes competition in 20K

Caitlin Gregg (102), Kate Fitzgerald (103) and Becca Rorabaugh (105) lead a pack of women across the starting line at the women s 20K freestyle race at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

Caitlin Gregg is always more nervous watching her husband, Brian Gregg, race than she is for her own races.

After winning Wednesday’s 20-kilometer mass-start freestyle race at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country National Championships at Soldier Hollow by more than three and a half minutes, it’s easy to see why.

Shortly after watching Brian cruise to a second-place finish in the men’s 30K race, Gregg said she felt very relaxed out on the course.

"I get so nervous and stressed out about [Brian]," she said. "All the anxiety and nerves are right there, so they kind of leave by the time my race comes around. Then it’s just like, ‘OK, I’ve got to go ski around a couple laps."

Gregg hung with the pack for a few minutes, but then, she said, she decided to kick it into overdrive.

"It’s so hard to predict your skis from one point to another, so I’ve kind of learned to chill that first kilometer," she said. "I wanted to get a sense of my skis, and it only took two hills before I was like, ‘Oh, my skis are awesome.’"

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From there, she was simply in the zone.

"At the top of maybe the second big climb, I took the lead," she said. "Once I started going, I finally got to get in my groove. It was amazing I couldn’t stop smiling. My skis were so awesome."

With the race solidly in hand heading into the final lap around the 5K course, Gregg decided she wasn’t just going to cruise to the finish line.

"I never let off because I really wanted to see what I could do," she said. "And I just felt so good."

By turning in a time of 55 minutes, 33.7 seconds, Gregg said she wants to try to emulate the feeling she had on Wednesday when she joins the World Cup tour.

"It was really fun I definitely skied relaxed," she said. "There’s almost that point where skiing relaxed is faster."

The 2010 Olympian hopes this solid result solidifies her spot at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

"If you’re on that bubble, the best place to be is not on that bubble," she said. "If you’re not going to be on the bubble, you’ve got to make that pretty apparent. Make it easy for them, don’t leave any doubt in their minds."

With the Olympics right around the corner, Gregg believes everything is starting to come together for Team Gregg.

And, as Brian said, having each other makes racing a lot more enjoyable and manageable.

"We’re very lucky that we can support each other," he said. "I forgot my tights at the hotel this morning. Caitlin could find them and my mom and dad could come and grab them. Working together like that is great."

Immediately after Caitlin’s race concluded on Wednesday afternoon, the Greggs raced off to the airport, where they caught a flight to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where they’ll join the U.S. World Cup teams for racing this weekend.