Sufferfest challenges USSA athletes |

Sufferfest challenges USSA athletes

Courtney Harkins, USSA

On Sunday, athletes and staff from all five U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) teams — the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, U.S. Nordic Ski Team, U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding — left the gym and took to their bikes for the biggest USSA competition of the summer: Sufferfest.

What is Sufferfest? It’s a gnarly, 8.8-mile road bike ride put on by USSA’s Sports Science staff, led by Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Mike Bahn. Started by Bahn’s predecessor Alex Moore — now the Cleveland Cavaliers’ high performance director — the strength and conditioning coaches were looking for a way to motivate their competitive athletes off the snow. They came up with Sufferfest and it quickly became a capstone goal at the end of the athletes’ conditioning block.

"They love this kind of motivation," said Bahn. "It brings them all together in a competitive environment where everyone has a chance to win."

Starting from the mouth of Provo Canyon’s South Fork, the ride climbs up 3,000 vertical feet next to Sundance Resort before coming to rest in the shadow of Mt. Timpanogos. It’s a brutal, heart-pounding, muscle-igniting adventure, but the views are gorgeous and the winner’s bragging rights last all year.

Though Instagram shots and tweets took over feeds on Sunday, the athletes had been prepping for this event long before the weekend. Not only does it require great strength and endurance, but each racer had to be tested prior to competing to determine a handicap. Start times were assigned based on two tests — a lactate threshold test on a stationary bike and a time trial bike ride up Royal Street at Deer Valley Resort. In theory, the athletes should finish all around the same time because of the handicaps, which makes for thrilling finish-line sprints. It becomes anyone’s game.

With athletes of all sports and staff members vying for the win, competition was stiff. This year, Eliza Outtrim (freestyle — Hamden, Connecticut), a retired member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and Sochi Olympian, took the win. Following her was Alex Deibold (snowboarding — Manchester Center, Vermont) in second, Troy Tully (freestyle — Pleasantville, New York) in third, Simon Dumont (freeskiing — Bethel, Maine) in fourth and Steven Nyman (alpine — Sundance, Utah) in fifth.

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"I had a great time participating in Sufferfest this year. It’s always fun to head over to Sundance Resort and spend an early morning riding with a big U.S. Ski Team group," said Outtrim after her win. "It’s a great way to have some fun competition with not only other athletes from different sports, but also with the U.S. Ski Team staff."

Although Outtrim was the official winner of the day, this year was the first year where the organizers named King and Queen of the Mountain winners. These awards went to the fastest raw times climbing the canyon, regardless of handicap. Taylor Fletcher (Nordic — Steamboat Springs, Colorado) took home the King of the Mountain award and Liz Stephen (Nordic — East Montpelier, Vermont) was dubbed Queen.

Nyman, an original organizer of Sufferfest who hails from Sundance Resort, was stoked on the day. "It’s such a unique event where anyone can win," said Nyman. "You really get to see what’s inside you when hammering up 3,000 feet in nine miles. A big thanks to Sundance for the support once again!"

The group finished off the day with an exquisite brunch at Sundance Resort — a solid reward after a fun day of riding.

"Getting the win was only icing on the cake! The brunch was delicious," laughed Outtrim. "I look forward to more Sufferfests in years to come."