HOUGHTON, Mich. (Jan. 7) - Two-time Olympian Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK)
and Chad Giese (St. Paul, MN) upset Olympians Andy Newell (Shaftsbury,
VT) and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) in Sunday's freestyle technique
1.3K team sprint, which ended the U.S. Cross country Championships at
Koos had a binding malfunction just before tagging Newell in his third and final 1K lap, forcing Newell to re-start his last lap, which gave Flora a chance to stay with him from the start as they stalked Tyson Flaharty (Anchorage, AK), who took an early lead, and then pulled past him.
In the women's team event, Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) and Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis), teammates on the Midwest's regional club, CXC, won comfortably with two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall and training mate Taz Mannix (both Anchorage, AK) taking the silver medal, 18 seconds off the winning pace. Valaas is the sprint leader in the winter-long SuperTour while Compton is the women's overall leader.
Team selections for the nordic World Championships, Junior World Championships and Under-23 Championships, plus a Continental Cup trip to Europe will be announced by early next week, according to U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner. All championship races also were SuperTour events with double points.
"It was our intent," Valaas explained, "to take it a little easy in the morning, doing what it took to move forward and this afternoon we had our strategy [for finals heats]. Caitlin would take the first lap and stay near the front, out of trouble...and then ski off. Second lap, she'd put some gap on the field because we knew Kikkan could probably out-sprint me on the last lap.
"She did it superbly and I was able to hold that final gap. She increased it and I was able to maintain it," Valaas said.
Flora said he and Giese were confident, despite the prowess from Newell and Koos "because the last time we had a skate [technique] team sprint Chad and I won it. Our question was if Chad could hang in there because he hasn't been training fulltime. I was confident if Chad was there, we were okay. My game plan was just to hang with Newell, and I pretty much hung on him, skiing right behind him every lap. We were head to head all through the final round.
"In the early rounds [of qualifying and finals heats], I kept making breaks up the hill, but I learned that was too early," Flora said. "In the final [against Newell], I saved myself for the last 150 meters...and it worked perfectly."
U.S. Head Coach Pete Vordenberg echoed athletes and club or college coaches who were lavish in their praise of the tireless effort by the organizing team and its volunteers. "They did an amazing job. It takes a lot of work, not just a couple of people driving a Pisten Bully [wide-track grooming machinery]. It takes a whole bunch of people shoveling all night, which is what they did.
"It was an incredible effort and without that effort, these championships don't happen...and we need these championships. It's so important to making what goes into being world-class skiers."
The team sprint attracted 57 men's twosomes and 44 women's pairings.
U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Michigan Tech Trails
Houghton, MI - Jan. 7, 2007
Team Freestyle 1K Sprint (6 laps, 2x3 laps each)
1. Chad Giese, St. Paul, MN/Subaru Factory Team, and Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK/Subaru Factory Team, 15:14.0
2. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA/U.S. Ski Team, and Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT/U.S. Ski Team, 15:14.5
3. Anders Haugen and James Southam, both Anchorage, AK/Team Rossignol, 15:15.2
4. Tyson Flaharty and Eric Strabel, both Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific U. Nordic, 15:21.0
5. Colin Rodgers and Zach Simons, both Sun Valley, ID/FSx, 15:21.4
1. Caitlin Compton, Minneapolis/CXC, and Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA/CXC, 17:16.7
2. Taz Mannix and Kikkan Randall, both Anchorage, AK/U.S. Ski Team, 17:34.7
3. Kate Pearson, Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific U. Nordic, and Karen Camenisch, Switzerland/Team Rossignol, 17:59.1
4. Lindsey Weier, Mahtomedi, MN/Northern Michigan U., and Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN/Northern Michigan U., 18:01.1
5. Anna Berglund, Marquette, MI/Northern Michigan U., and Maria Stuber, Waukesha, WI/Northern Michigan U., 18:10.3
For complete results from the championships: