Norweigan Morten Eilifsen and Italian Giorgio DiCenta finished in a rare tie for first in the 15km individual freestyle race. The two men finished with identical times of 35:33.4, 7.5 seconds ahead of third place finisher Tord Asle Gjerdalen (NOR). This event featured a stronger international field than yesterday's sprint, with a full contingent of top Italian and Swiss skiers, as well as Austrian Olympic Medalist Christian Hoffman and Slovak Martin Bajcicak.
Eilifsen held a 20 second lead over DiCenta after only 5km. He held this advantage through the 10km mark before fading. DiCenta had the later start number and therefore knew exaclt how much ground he had to makeup over the final 5 kilometers.
American Kris Freeman finished 20th in his first international start of the season. His time of 36:37.1 was just over a minute behind the winners. Fellow American Lars Flora was another minute behind, finishing 45th. Freeman and Flora have been training in Beitostolen under the guidance of US Ski Team head coach Pete Vordenberg as they prepare for the opening distance World Cup races to be held next week. Visit TeamToday.org for an update from Pete and some beautiful photos.
In the women's 10km freestyle, Marit Bjoergen showed she is in top form with a dominating victory. Her time of 25:11.8 was 26.7 seconds faster than runner-up Arianna Folis (ITA). Vibeke Skofterud (NOR) finished third in the spread out field, 16 seconds behind Folis and nearly 20 seconds ahead of Therese Johaug (NOR) in fourth.
Hilde Pedersen showed she still has it at 43, despite supposed retirement. She finished 5th, just ahead of Norweigan National Team skiers Astrid Jacobsen and Kristin Strmer Steira. Slovenian star Petra Majdic was 9th ahead of Italian veteran Sabina Valbusa (10th), rising Swiss power Seraina Mischol (11th) and another strong Italian, Antonella Confortola (12th). Norway again demonstrated its incredible depth, placing 7 skiers in the top eight, ahead of the proven World Cup skiers mentioned above.
The Norweigan men, while a bit less dominating, were still able to place nine skiers ahead of the top American, Kris Freeman.
A 5/10km classic race is scheduled for tomorrow, completing a full weekend of racing. In addition to the Cross-country races, a full slate of Biathlon races are also underway. Norweigan star Ole-Einar Bjorndalen won the 10km even by nearly 30 seconds. National Team mainstays Halvard Hanevold, Frode Andersen, and Lars Berger took places 2, 4, and 5 respectively.
Contributing Source: FIS