KUUSAMO, Finland (Nov. 23) - A full U.S. Ski Team is on hand for the third stop on the World Cup tour in weather-challenged Kuusamo. Classic technique is the order of the day for sprints Saturday with men's 15K and women's 10K races Sunday.
"It's just great, awesome conditions...and drizzle, rain, fog, ice - but this is cross country and we'll be racing," Sprint Coach Chris Grover laughed Thursday night. "But the bottom line is we've got snow, which they don't have in some other places...and we'll be racing. We're ready to go."
The sprinters will find a tricky, narrow course, Grover said. Two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who missed the season-opening race in Dusseldorf, Germany, over Halloween weekend, joins Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) in the sprints.
"It's interesting. It's about 1.2 Ks, which is about standard for the women, a little short for the guys, but it's a hard course. There's about 100 feet of vertical - they drop down one hill, then turn around a little island of trees and bomb back up to the finish," according to Grover. "But it's narrow, one of the traditional courses, which can make it tough on what's now a six-skier heat [from the old four-athlete heats]...so that just makes it more imperative that you get out in front at the start, because it's tough to pass as the race goes on."
Sunday, Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Andrew Johnson (Starksboro, VT) and 2006 SuperTour champion Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME) will race in the 15K. They arrived Thursday night after spending additional training days in snowy Gallivare, Sweden - site of last weekend's World Cup races.