VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Feb. 19) — Three Norwegians, led by Olympic and former World Cup champion Thomas Alsgaard, ganged up Wednesday on Estonian Andrus Veerpalu in the last two kilometers of the mass-start 30-km classic race at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, re-took the lead and went on to sweep the medals. Justin Freeman (Andover, NH) was top American in 42nd place.
With temperatures in the mid-teens — and warming throughout the race, Alsgaard won in 1:12.29.3; Anders Aukland was the silver medalist in 1:12.29.9 and Frode Estil took bronze in 1:12.30.4. Veerpalu finished fourth, another .8 back on the sunny, four-lap Lago di Tesero course..
The victory was the second straight for Norway; Bente Skari won the women's mass-start 15-km CL Tuesday as the championships returned to Val di Fiemme, scene of the 1991 Worlds.
“When I stood on the starting line, I had a small hope I could fight for a medal,” said Alsgaard, who injured his right hand when he fell off his bike during a training ride last August and was sick in December. “But I felt from the start I had good skis — very good kick, good glide, which was very important for the win today.”
Freeman, competing in his first World Championships race, was 42nd, five minutes back of the winner, with Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK), also racing in his first Worlds, was 51st in the field of 67. Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME) had been expected to start but is battling back from sickness; Coach Trond Nystad said he expected Chamberlain to be ready Friday for the 15-km classic.
“We felt if we had one in the top 30, it would be a good day for us — and that was possible with only 13 from the Red Group [top 25 men] starting,” Nystad said. “But they were a little flat in the beginning, and if you're flat in the beginning, you've got no chance in the mass start. We had great conditions and they had great skis, and the guys gave it all they had, and for that we're excited.”
The women return Thursday with the 10-km classic. Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT), Aelin Peterson (Fairbanks, AK) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) are scheduled to start.
2003 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Lago di Tesero
Val di Fiemme, ITA
Men's 30-km CL mass start
1. Thomas Alsgaard, Norway, 1:12.29.3
2. Anders Aukland, Norway, 1:12.29.9
3. Frode Estil, Norway, 1:12.30.4
4. Andrus Veerpalu, Estonia, 1:12.31.2
5. Andreas Schluetter, Germany, 1:12.32.1
42. Justin Freeman, Andover, NH, 1:17.54.8
51. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK, 1:20.16.3
<Full Men's 30K Classic Results