Beitostolen, Norway – Kris Freeman skied to a 5th place finish in the men’s 15km freestyle FIS race in Beitostolen, Norway. Freeman finished just 32 seconds behind winner Petter Northug (NOR). Many top World Cup skiers participated, making for a deep and challenging field. Italian Giorgio DiCenta and Russian Alexander Legkov were 11 and 17 seconds back of Northug to round out the podium.
Today’s race was a good test for Freeman, who required surgery for compartment syndrome last spring. Prior to surgery, he was unable to skate, only racing in classic events. To put today’s 5th place finish in to perspective, 32 seconds behind the winner in last year’s World Cup opener in Sweden (also a 15km free) would have been good for 13th place – a very good result in a full World Cup field. This comparison is rough to say the least, but at the least, it demonstrates that Freeman had a good race today. He has also historically had his best races in classic, so that is another positive sign.
The top American distance skier, was consistent, ranking 5th at the 5km mark, and 7th at 10km. He finished just .3 seconds ahead of Italian Pietro Piller Cottrer.
Lars Flora also raced for the US, finishing 46th, +2:54.
Two American women raced, with Liz Stephen placing 16 and Morgan Arritola 24th. Marit Bjoergen dominated the field, cruising to a 52 second victory over Kristin Stoermer Steira. Italian Arianna Follis was third, and Theres Johaug (NOR) took 4th. Using a similar comparison as above, Stephen would have been just outside the top 40 in last year’s World Cup opener. But Bjoergen’s large margin of victory skews things, and Stephen was only one minute out of 4th place – a performance that would have put her inside the top 30 last year in Sweden. Again, the conclusion that can be drawn is that Stephen and Arritola, both relative newcomers to the World Cup circuit, skied well, and appear to be in good form.
Bjoergen, who has struggled to stay healthy and regain the form that led her to consecutive overall World Cup titles in 2005 and 2006, clearly is in top condition. She also raced well in the early season last year, before hitting a wall in the last stage of the Tour de Ski, and limping through the rest of the season.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.