FALUN, Sweden (March 19) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) led the U.S. Ski Team in 19th in what he called "a very challenging wax day" in a men’s 20k mixed technique pursuit World Cup Saturday in Falun. Norway's Petter Northug topped the men's race while teammate Marit Bjoergen tookthe women's 10k pursuit.
"We had a bit of everything," said Freeman describing the unfolding day "It was powder snow yesterday, it got very cold overnight, and we had this mix of slush on the sunny parts of the course and the need for dry-snow hard wax in the shaded areas of the course. Everybody had difficulties, but I would say we had good skis overall. It was tricky."
Norwegian phenom Northug took the win, with Italian Giorgio Di Centa about two seconds back. Sweden’s Daniel Rickardsson finished third.
"You know, I am happy to be in the top 20, but I’d rather be in the top 10," said Freeman after the race. "I just couldn’t hold the pace on my skate leg. My skate wheels have just seemed to have come off lately, and I don’t know why."
In the women’s 10k pursuit Bjoergen again proved to be the dominant athlete of the day, with Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk taking second followed by Norway’s Therese Johaug. Norway took three of the top four places, including the victory.
American Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was off to a strong start but suffered a massive tangle that caused her, Johaug and Sweden’s Ida Ingermarsdotter to fall, nearly breaking Randall’s pole in the melee.
"I got up and just kept fighting and had a pretty strong skate leg," said Randall. "I guess I’d call the race an OK one."
Randall finished in 21st with Holly Brooks (Anchorage) 37th.
Sunday will not only be the final World Cup of the season, but it will also mark the conclusion of the four race "mini tour" in Sweden. Saturday Northug built his lead to 1:27.6 in the mini-tour, ahead of Sweden’s Emil Joensson. Freeman is ranked 24th 3:52.6 back.
In the women’s tour, Bjoergen increased her lead to 1:13.9 over Kowalczyk, with Johaug moving into third Saturday. Randall is 17th going into Sunday’s finale, 4:10.7 behind Bjoergen.
Randall also announced that members of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team were joining forces with U.S. Alpine Ski Team to support the relief effort in Japan.
"We are encouraging all athletes to donate, and write notes of support and encouragement—or donate some of their prize money to our fellow athletes from Japan," explained Randall.
Those interested should visit www.skiershelpingjapan.com for more information.
World Cup Finals conclude Sunday with the men's and women's 15/10k freestyle technique pursuit with a handicapped start based on tour standings.
FIS World Cup
Falun, Sweden - March 19, 2001
20/10k Mixed Technique Pursuit
1. Petter Northug, Norway, 57:32.2
2. Giorgio Di Centa, Italy, 57:34.8
3. Daniel Rickardsson, Sweden, 57:42.4
19. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 58:50.6
45. Lars Flora, Anchorage, 1:03:22.6
49. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT, 1:06:07.2
1. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 31:14.4
2. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 31:39.5
3. Therese Johaug, Norway, 31:48.3
21. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, 33:17.7
37. Holly Brooks, Anchorage, 34:14.8
For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=28391