Alexander Legkov (RUS) and Claudia Nystad (GER) completed the FIS weekend in Muonio, Finland with victories in the 10/15km freestyle. American Kris Freman got his season under way with a 31st place finish.
Legkov, whose best finish last season was a 6th place in the 30km freestyle in Rybinsk, Russia, has to be pleased with his victory over a stacked field of 216 men, including top Italians, Pietro Piller-Cottrer and Giorgio DiCenta, fellow Russian Vasili Rotchev, and many other World Cup skiers.
Legkov finished the 15km course in a time of 30:16.47, 6.16 seconds ahead of Matti Heikkinen (FIN). After failing to place a skier in the top 10 in either the men's or women's races yesterday, the host nation turned in a significantly stronger performance, with four top-10's and two podium spots. Heikkinen, a sporadic entry on the World Cup for Finland until last year when he started 11 events has one top 10 finish in his World Cup career – an 8th in Lahti last season.
Italian stalwart, Piller-Cottrer, always a strong skater, claimed third, 6 seconds in back of the Finn, and teammate DiCenta finished fourth after a significant 18 second gap. Rotchev, who finished second on Friday's sprint, rounded out the top five.
The US entered two skiers in the event, Kris Freeman and Andy Newell. Freeman, by far and away the top distance skier in the US finished 31st, +1:18.15. Before the event, Freeman told FasterSkier that he was looking at the race as preparation for next weekend's World Cup opener. “This is definitely a warm-up race. I would not plan to compete in a World Cup only five days after traveling to Scandinavia (from the US). It usually takes me at least ten days to be firing on all cylinders. That being said I plan to give it everything I have tomorrow.”
Newell, whose international success has come exclusively in sprinting, looked to pick up some distance points. Skiers must maintain a certain point threshold to start a World Cup race. Sprint and distance points are calculated separately, so FIS races with such a strong field are good opportunities to get the needed points. Newell finished Friday's sprint in 12th after winning the qualification round, but falling in the semifinals. He placed 93rd in today's 15k, +2:22.95.
Claudia Nystad (GER), posted a 6 second victory over Riita-Liisa Roponen (FIN) in the women's 10km event. Nystad, the wife of former US Head Coach Trond Nystad appears to be picking up where she left off at the end of last season, where she posted 4 consecutive top-5 finishes, including a victory at in Bormio. Roponen, a consistent World Cup skier who placed 13th in the overall standings last season bested Petra Majdic (SLO) by just under 16 seconds. Majdic won Friday's sprints, and just edged out Alena Sodko (RUS) by .04 seconds. Arianna Follis (ITA) rounded out the top five.
Defending World Cup Champion Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) fished 6th, +27.58.
The World Cup season kicks off next weekend in Gaellivare, Sweden, with a 10/15km freestyle and a relay.
10/15km Freestyle Results – Muonio FIS Race – scroll down and click the “Result / Tulos 16.11.08” link.Â