WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont (Nov. 24) - Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT), healthy after illness a year ago, out-skied Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) to win a USSA Cross Country SuperTour 16K classic technique race Saturday.
The 2006 Olympic teammates started at the back of the pack and churned through the field throughout the four-lap race at the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Zimmermann finished in 38:31.7 with Johnson runner-up (38:40.4) in the first distance event of the new SuperTour season. The third-place skier was ex-Dartmouth star Ben True (Hanover, NH).
Swede Kristina Strandberg won the women's two-lap, 8K race with a time of 22:01.3. Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) of the U.S. Ski Team, who won Friday's season-opening sprint, finished second in 22:52.0. Polina Ermoshina of Russia, a student at the University of New Mexico, was third (22:52.2).
Zimmermann is enthused about his healthy comeback and hopes to use the victory as a springboard toward qualifying for World Cup races next month in Canada. "That's my No. 1 goal, being in those races, so this is a good start," he said.
"You can gain some time on the hills, but you really can lose time on the flats and since there isn't a lot of climb here, I focused on skiing well on the flats," he explained. Zimmermann also was boosted by a strong show of support from his family and friends in Bozeman, which is about an hour away. He also trained and skied the Rendezvous Trails system for many years, "so I feel comfortable here...and they've done a great job with preparing the course."
U.S. Continental Cup Coach Pat Casey said in addition to simply being healthy this winter, Zimmermann "added maybe 100 hours to his training program. He's fit, maybe the most fit we've seen him, and obviously he skied well. There were five or six guys swapping the lead...and Leif took it.
"You always get a little anxious going into the first race of the season because you want to know where you stack up. Leif skied a smart race and this is an outstanding start for him," he said.
Pointing to West Yellowstone's elevation at about 6,600 feet, said, Casey added, "Strandberg really likes this course. She won here last year and she's good at altitude, so for Laura to ski that well in a distance race, at altitude and this early in the season is a good sign.
"Her endurance is excellent and that's a positive sign for her in getting through the rounds of sprints. We're really excited to see Laura skiing so well."
The U.S. Ski Team delegation will compete next weekend in Silver Star, BC, and then go to Bozeman, MT, for the next round of SuperTour events Dec. 8-9. 2008 USSA CROSS COUNTRY SUPERTOUR
Yellowstone Ski Festival
West Yellowstone, MT - Nov. 25, 2007
Men's 16K CL
1. Leif Zimmermann, Bozeman, MT, 38:31.7
2. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, VT, 38:40.4
3. Ben True, Hanover, NH, 38:45.7
4. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI, 38:49.9
5. Mike Sinnott, Sun Valley, ID, 38:50.6
Women's 8K CL
1. Kristina Strandberg, Sweden, 22:01.3
2. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA, 22:52.0
3. Polina Ermoshina, Russia, 22:52.2
4. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN, 22:53.1
5. Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT, 23:00.1 Click here for complete results: