Boulder Nordic Sports Nathan Schultz was in Liberec waxing with the US Ski Team. He posted several reports, including the following on yesterday’s final event. Nathan provides an excellent behind-the-scenes look at ski preparation, and the races in general.
Early reports from Nathan can be found here:
Northug Takes Another Gold in Fast Finish
by Nathan Schultz
Petter Northug won a tough 50km freestyle today in Liberec, completing a sweep of the three mass-start races that ended skating (30km Pursuit, Relay, 50km skate). This was the second day in a row where the organizers allowed service pit stops where athletes could exchange skis. This made for a bit more work for us service guys, but it also added excitement to the race as new tactics played into the race.
The extra distance of today’s race had Northug more tired than his previous two wins and so he actually had to ski hard all the way to the finish, unlike his previous two wins where he could prance around a bit before finishing.
James Southam and Garrott Kuzzy started solidly, but lost ground toward the finish. James was happy with his race as he was able to stick with the lead pack through about 35km before he dropped off.
The pit stops added a little bit of tactics to the race as it did in yesterday’s women’s 30km event. The Italian women decided to skip the ski exchange while almost everyone else stopped and exchanged skis for freshly waxed (and cleaned!) skis. The Italians gained a little ground each time they skipped the pit, but by the end of the race, it was obvious that their skis were slower and that they were tired out from pushing harder than everyone else who had exchanged skis roughly every 7.5km.
We had two guys in the pit taking athletes skis, running to the wax cabin, re-waxing them, and then running them back out so the athletes could have them on the next trip through the stadium on the 7.5km laps. We once again had great skis, though, so all of the work was well worth it.
Once the race finished, we packed up the wax cabins and loaded up the vans to go to Lahti. The athletes fly out Monday (some home, some to Lahti). All of the European teams have completely disappeared to take a few days at home before traveling to Lahti. The Americans, Canadians, Australians, Japanese, Kiwis and other non-continental teams are left in what is an eerie vacuum in a place that has been teeming with activity and excitement for two weeks. It’s a painful reminder of the extra toll that European racing and travel has on the non-continental teams.
Well, it has been a very successful championship, with the US bringing home 6 medals. The Nordic Combined team was super all week, taking gold in all three individual events and a bronze, Kikkan Randall brought home an historic silver for the cross-country team, and Lindsay Van took gold in the first-ever women’s jumping world championship. Kris Freeman narrowly missed a bronze medal by 1.3 seconds in the 15km Classic, and showed his form again in the opening leg of the relay. Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola showed that they belong among the best in the world with breakthrough races that certainly will give them confidence to continue building their results. All in all, a great week for the US and a sign that the future of US XC-skiing looks brighter. Maybe not quite bright yet, but definitely brighter.