Author of Story: Tom Kelly, photo: US Ski Team
American Kris Freeman was 29th Sunday in a final tune-up before his premier event this Tue. at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo. A packed crowd of well over 50,000 went crazy as Norway won its third cross country gold with Petter Northug taking the 30k pursuit race at Holmenkollen.
“It went OK but I had no idea what to expect,” said Freeman, who has an added burden as an athlete managing his diabetes. “This was the race that just killed me at the Olympics last year. It’s a little weird going into a race at 30 years old with no expectation at all. I felt good and controlled but any time I had to punch into a redline, it just wasn’t there. This was the race to get the body primed for the 15k classic.”
“I was with the lead pack until three quarters through,” added Freeman. “I tried to get back on and just realized it wasn’t there. Overall I’m satisfied with the day but I’m really hoping for better things with the 15k.”
The mass start pursuit event includes a 15k classic technique race before athletes change skis in an infield “pit” area to finish with a 15k freestyle or skating technique finale. Freeman, whose 15k classic specialty event is Tuesday, used it as a preparation race staying close to leaders through much of the classic race before dropping back a bit in the skate segment.
Northug took command of the race on the final lap after a valiant effort by Canada’s Alex Harvey who led much of the skate leg. The Norwegian won in one hour, 14 minutes, 10.4 seconds – less than a second ahead of Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin who was followed by countryman Ilia Chernousov.
Freeman was just over two minutes back of the leaders.
Freeman stayed in the 20s most of the way, hanging generally around 8-12 seconds back and skiing for some time with Northug, who didn’t make his move until the skating laps. At the halfway mark, Freeman came into the stadium just over five seconds behind the leaders. But he lost time on the ski change and, as expected, he did drop back further in the skate portion.
The classic portion of the pursuit featured three laps with a powerful climb from the Holmenkollen stadium up to nearby Frognerseteren, where tens of thousands of fans lined nearly every meter of the track.
The race was also a test for a pair of rookies to international events, Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) and Tad Elliot (Durango, CO).
“Noah Hoffman had a great race,” said Grover. “He was in contact with the leaders for such a long time. And then to be able to come in and have a good exchange and go out fighting hard in the skate race was really impressive.”
“Maybe I should have backed off of the lead pack during the classic leg a little more, but I really wanted to ski with those guys and I felt like I could sustain that,” said Hoffman. “I was hoping to make it the whole classic leg with them but didn’t do that. Still a good experience and I hope to be able to stay with those guys longer soon.
“It was fun,” he added. “The crows were awesome and it was quite the experience.”
Like Hoffman, Elliot was also skiing in his first major international event.
“That was a cool experience out there,” said Elliot, whose father was an Olympic cross country ski racer. “The crowd was so loud – I think that was the biggest surprise. You can tell where the leaders are based on the roar of the crowd. It’s hard to warm up slow and ski slow because the crowd is cheering you on always and yelling your name and they know who you are. It’s pretty sweet.
“These are some good skiers,” he added. “It’s a really deep field, but it felt good and our skis were good thanks to the wax crew. I moved up well in the skate.”
Action at the Nordic World Championships continues Monday with the women’s 10k classic with the men’s 15k classic set for Tuesday. Also on tap Monday is the normal hill team nordic combined competition.
Gold: Petter Northug, Norway, 1:14:10.4
Silver: Maxim Vylegzhanin, Russia, 1:14:11.1
Bronze: Ilia Chernousov, Russia, 1:14:11.6
29. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 1:16:20.3
37. Noah Hoffman, Aspen, CO, 1:17:14.1
53. Lars Flora, Anchorage, 1:20:06.3
55. Tad Elliot, Durango, CO, 1:20:08.8
For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=CC&raceid=17535