Italians Take Birkie Titles

FasterSkierFebruary 22, 2003

The following is from Look for a first-hand account of the race from FasterSkier coming soon.

HAYWARD, Wis. — Victory at the Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner is becoming a habit for the Italians. 2001 Birkie champion Gianantonio Zanetel recaptured the championship title for the 51 kilometer cross-country ski marathon in the men's division while his teammate Lara Peyrot claimed the winner's podium in the women's division.

Zanetel ensured that an Italian skier would win the United States' premier nordic ski race for the third consecutive year by completing the 51 kilometer course from Cable's Union Airport to Hayward's Main Street in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 57.6 seconds. With today's victory he moved up to first place in the FIS Marathon Cup standings.

Trailing Zanetel, 33, were teammates Norman Kostner (2:10:59.1) and Faustino Bordiga (2:11:09.7), in second and third, respectively. Fourth place Italian Marco Cattaneo (2:11:10.8) worked with the Italian team throughout the race.

The women's elite field crossed the finish line not far behind the top three male finishers. Lara Peyrot, who remains in first place in the FIS Marathon Cup standings after her victory at today's race, captured the Birkie 2003 title with a time of 2:24:21.8. She was followed by second-place finisher Katerina Hanusova from Truckee, CA, in 2:25:12.4 and third-place finisher Brooke Baughman from Ketchum, ID, with a time of 2:25:17.9.

American John Bauer was disqualified for not complying with FIS Marathon Cup commercial marking rules.

Visually-impaired skier Brian McKeever, a 23-year-old from Canmore, Alberta, Canada, finished in 30th place with a time of 2:17:16.

In the 23K Kortelopet race, which began at Cable's Union Airport and finished at Cable's Telemark Resort, Garret Heath of Winona, MN, won the men's division with a time of 1:03:57.6 followed by Tim Woodbury of Sullivan, NH, in second place (1:04:09.7) and Nigel Kinney of Chanhassen, MN, in third place (1:06:17.6).

The first woman to cross the Kortelopet finish line was Sonne Nordgren of Marine on St. Croix, MN, with a time of 1:14:09.2. She was trailed by Kristina Joder of Hailey, ID, (1:14:51.0) in second place and Kelly Skillicorn of Winona, MN, (1:14:58.8) in third place.

Cold temperatures and light overnight snow fall improved race course conditions for the 5,623 elite and citizen skiers who braved the elements to participate in the 30th anniversary races. Minimal snowfall throughout the Midwest made it difficult for skiers to train for this grueling event, but skiers took on the challenge anyway.

Birkie champion Gianantonio Zanetel said thorugh interpreter Marco Selle that the course was in very good condition. That sentiment was echoed by Brooke Baughman, third place finisher, who said organizers did an amazing job for how little snow there was.

Shirley Riedmann, new executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said she was very pleased with her first race day experience at the helm of the largest cross country ski race in North America.

“The race went off beautifully,” she said. “We had a little snow last night and had blue skies and sunshine for today's race. We are very pleased.”

As part of the Birkie's 30th anniversary celebration, American Bill Pierce and Norwegian Johnny Ingdal depicted the historic roots of the race by dressing in full Birkebeiner regalia including birch bark leggings, helmets and wooden skis and carrying shields, spears, and axes. Pierce and Ingdal began the re-creation of the 55K rescue of “Baby Hakon,” the infant prince rescued during the Norwegian Civil War in 1305, by starting with the elite skiers in Cable and finishing with citizen skiers 51 kilometers later in Hayward, Wisconsin. On Main Street in Hayward they added 9-month-old Jackson Morgan, son of former Birkie executive director Cherie Morgan and her husband Brett, to represent Baby Hakon and round out their depiction of the American Birkebeiner's race roots.

Hot air balloons, Native American and Norwegian programs and dancers, opening ceremonies, and races for all ages and fitness levels were among the many activities that took place during the three days of Birkie 30th anniversary festivities.

Skiers and spectators will wrap up race day at Telemark Resort in Cable with closing ceremonies, a candlelight portrayal of the escape of the two Birkebeiners, and post-race music by Big Top Chautauqua's Blue Canvas Orchestra, sponsored by Leinenkugel's Brewing Company.

For full race results, photos and more information about the 2003 Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet, Salomon Elite Sprints, Hayward Chamber of Commerce Citizen Sprints, Century Tel Junior Birkie, Telemark Lodge Over the Hill race, Cheqtel Communications 10K, or the Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie, log on to

Birkie 2003 is sponsored by Johnson Bank, Subaru, Murphy
McGinnis Media and other businesses throughout the region and country.

<Full Birkie Results at


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