DAVOS, Switzerland (Dec. 13) - Sweden's Johan Olsson won his first World Cup, taking the men's 15K classic in Davos while Finland's Virpi Kuitunen picked up her first victory of the season in a 10K classic. Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) was the lone U.S. entrant, finishing 29th.
Kuitunen's teammate Aino Kaisa Saarinen was second, 18 seconds back, but retained the women's World Cup lead. Olsson's victory also gave him the top spot on the men's tour.
Freeman started out extremely well, pacing himself in the early stages of the individual start race. He was 19th at the 5K mark and continued to climb in the standings on the three-lap course, climbing into 10th at 6.8Ks.
"It started pretty well for Kris. He had a conservative start, paced himself and was in 10th midway through the race," said U.S. Ski Team Coach Justin Wadsworth. "So it was going pretty well and we were excited. It looked pretty solid."
Freeman ultimately succumbed to the hills, falling back to 18th then losing a bit more on the downhill into the stadium.
"I know Kris is pretty disappointed,” said Wadsworth. "Everything was working well. This was a really good track for him and his skis seemed fast."
Freeman has been poised for a breakthrough, after finishing 16th in another 15K classic in Kuusamo, Finland last month. “The good thing is that to ski half the race in 10th place, we know he has the speed and fitness," added Wadsworth. "We just need to figure out why he's dropping back."
The three lap Davos course is essentially uphill for 2.5K then back downhill into the stadium. Freeman is well familiar with Davos, having set a career best result with a fifth in 2003.
Freeman will head back home this week and will be in action again at the ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Championships in Anchorage in early January.
The U.S. Ski Team will be out in full force for Sunday's sprint, the first freestyle sprint since last March when Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) was second and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) fifth in Lahti. Also running for the USA will be Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI).
"Everyone's really excited about the first skate sprint," added Wadsworth. "Everyone's feeling good and is healthy. This is the time of year when Kikkan won last year. We're really hopeful for tomorrow."
VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Davos, Switzerland - Dec. 13, 2008
Men's 15k Classic
1. Johan Olsson, Sweden, 40:10.0
2. Axel Teichmann, Germany, 40:20.5
3. Sami Jauhojaervi, Finland, 40:38.5
4. Eldar Roenning, Norway, 40:52.9
5. John Kristian Dahl, Norway, 41:06.4
29. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 42:07.7
Women's 10K Classic
1. Virpi Kuitunen, FInland, 29:51.0
2. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland, 30:09.0
3. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 30:37.7
4. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 30:40.7
5. Kristin Stoemer Steira, Norway, 30:41.2