KUUSAMO, Finland (Dec. 2) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), sidelined much of the week with a cold, got stronger as a World Cup 15K classic technique race went on Sunday and finished fifth. Skiing in 5-degree cold, it's Freeman's best result - and the U.S. Ski Team's best at distance - in four years.
"I didn't know if I was going to race," the two-time Olympian said. "I'm glad I decided to ski."
Bauer won in 37:15.8 and Freeman, 10th at the 3.K mark and ninth at 7.6 Ks, finished in 37:43.3. A week earlier, he struggled to 50th in a 15K freestyle race in Norway. Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK) was in the 50s when he and another skier collided in the last 5K loop and he lost about a dozen places to finish 67th.
Healthy again, Freeman could contend
"Kris skied a really smart race. He had his energy back, so this shows where he really is," Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "He started with the mindset that he would go at one pace, knowing he wanted to be going fast at the end. It was a well-paced race."
With the single-digit cold of the week continuing, waxing was not an issue. "It was all about the athlete today. There are two monster climbs and some full-on, really fast downhills but waxing was not a problem."
Freeman, echoing Vordenberg's assessment of the rugged course, said, "This is one of the hardest courses on the World Cup. It's in a kind of a bowl and there are monster hills on either side of the course, and you do 'em three times each."
In battling the cold, he spent much of the week in bed, "sleeping about 12 hours a night for a long time. I was going to meals and that was it. I went out for about a 40-minute ski on Wednesday and felt okay, did it again Thursday and practiced with intensity yesterday, so I decided to race."
In the last two season, the Ski Team has had three podium performances - by Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) - and several top-5s in sprint races. However, this is the top distance result since Freeman was fifth on Dec. 13, 2003 in Davos, Switzerland; a week earlier, he had been sixth in a race for the top U.S. result - sprinting or at distance - since 1984.
The women, racing later, found the same cold but had to deal with gusting winds. Marit Bjoergen of Norway won the women's 10K classic in 28:32.8. Randall, moving beyond being a sprint specialist, was 44th.
"This was one of Kikkan's best classic races at distance. When she's at home, she's been getting really good training at home with the APU [Alaska Pacific University] Nordic program," Vordenberg said.
The tour heads next to Davos and will have the same races, a men's 15K and women's 10K classic, as well as relays.
2008 VIESSMANN FIS CROSS COUNTRY WORLD CUP
Kuusamo, FIN - Dec. 2, 2007
Men's 15K Classic
1. Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, 37:15.8
2. Eldar Roenning, Norway, 37:36.2
3. Axel Teichmann, Germany, 37:37.7
4. Vassili Rotchev, Russia, 37:38.7
5. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 37:43.3
67. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK, 40:11.3
75. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI, 40:57.8
Women's 10K Classic
1. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 28:32.8
2. Astrid Jacobsen, Norway, 28:41.8
3. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 28:56.4
4. Vibeke Skofterud, Norway, 29:10.6
5. Petra Majdic, Slovenia, 29:17.9
44. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK, 31:55.5
Click here for complete results.