Boerre Naess (NOR) was victorious on his 26th birthday, leading a contingent of Norweigans to the podium. It was all Norway right from the start, with 5 men in the top 6 qualifying spots. By the end it was only a question of which Norweigan would end up on top of the podium.
Following Naess were Ola Vigen Hattestad, Eldar Roenning, Anders Gloersen, and Tor Arne Hetland. Russian Nikita Kriukov made a valiant stand, finishing sixth. Kiriukov was in the hunt for the podium as the group approached the hard 180 degree turn toward the finish stretch. The crowd seemed to be rooting for a crash, and for a moment they were disappointed as it appeared that all six skiers were thorugh. But Kiriukov suddenly went down, and the race to the finish was a sea of red suits.
All six men in the A final raced on skate equipment, double poling the entire course. Naess remarked on the challenges of cresting the biggest climb, and saving enough for the long finish stretch. Roenning raced the qualifying round and quarterfinals on kick wax in order “to save some strength for later,” a luxury that most cannot afford to take.
The Americans qualified three – Torin Koos led the way with a strong 7th place, followed by Andy Newell in 16th, and Chris Cook in 30th. Newell looked sluggish from the start. After the race he confirmed this, commenting that he hoped that he could garner some more energy for the heats. But he remained flat and never appeared in the running to advance despite battling to the end. In hindsight, Newell felt that it might have been better to go the double poling route, a thought seconded by several USST personnel. He went on to say that his neck and back were tight during warmups, a fact that influenced the decision to go with kick wax.
Koos on the other hand looked extremely strong in his qualifying round and out of the start in the quarterfinal. Heading into the first tight corner at the top of the stadium climb, however, he broke a pole. Head Coach Pete Vordenberg was right there with a replacement, but Torin couldn't get the broken shaft undone and a potentially great day was suddenly over.
The most positive US race of the day belonged to Chris Cook, who looked strong while being eliminated in the quarterfinal. Cook was battling in third heading into the 180 degree turn for the homestretch, before falling back. Cook ended up with an excellent 20th place. Koos was 26th and Newell 17th.
Canadians Sean Crooks and Phil Widmer finished 21st and 24th respectively, both looking solid in their quarterfinal heats.
Emil Joensson of Sweden finished 7th. Matched against four Norweigans in the semis, Joensson opted for kick wax. He was at the back of the pack heading into the big climb and appeared out of the race. When the racers crested the top, however, he was at the front. But there are no prizes given at the half-way mark and the ensuing downhills dropped the Swede far behind.
At the post race press conference, the three Norweigans confirmed that they raced on skate skis, classic poles, and pursuit boots.
Reid Pletcher of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation had an excellent race, finishing 35th as one of the youngest racers on the course. Pletcher is headed to Europe for the World Junior Championships and made the most of his World Cup start. He was 1.5 second out of qualifying for the heats.
46. Colin Rodgers
50. Anders Haugen
53. Lars Flora
57. Marshall Greene
60. Brian Gregg
31. Stefan Kuhn
36. Devon Kershaw
45. Drew Goldsack
47. Graham Nishikawa
48. Chris Werrell
49. Ian Murray
52. Brent McMurtry
54. Mike Argue
59. Skeets Morell
61. Jesse Winter
62. Pate Neumann
Emil Joensson leads the B Final to the line