It took him four tries, but the U.S. Ski Team’s Kris Freeman can add a victory at the Whiteface Climb to the Castle to his list of accomplishments.
“I finally won the Climb to the Castle!” Freeman said.
Stymied in three previous attempts by inferior competition with superior rollerskis, Freeman left his teammate Noah Hoffman behind at halfway mark of this year’s edition of the five-mile race, skiing unchallenged to a 39-second victory. Ben Sim, the aspiring Australian nordic combined skier, rounded out the podium another minute back.
It was only Freeman’s second race effort against a quality field since a disappointing performance at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, where bad skis and complications from diabetes kept him from cracking the top 40 in three competitions. But he showed Friday that he hasn’t lost much ground, topping Hoffman by roughly the same margin he did last year.
The two broke away quickly from a deep group of men, including Sim, nordic combined World Championship medalists Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick, U.S. 50 k national champion Tad Elliott, and the U.S. Ski Team’s Andy Newell.
The pace was relaxed at the start, but Freeman said that he had no desire to fight a stiff breeze alone all the way to the top.
“I knew I didn’t want to lead the whole way into a headwind, so I said, ‘hey, Hoff, you want to work together and break this thing open?’” Freeman said afterwards.
Hoffman, one of the country’s best climbers, traded pulls with Freeman for roughly a mile before he was felled by an acceleration.
“I was hoping to be able to stick with [Freeman] a little longer…but he’s obviously a world-class skier,” Hoffman said.
The gap between the two athletes didn’t grow after the three-mile mark, but Freeman’s steady pace kept Hoffman from clawing back much of the deficit. The wind was relentless, refusing to let the athletes relax.
“It was rough windy coming into [the] finish—just about a standstill,” Freeman said. “Any time you tried to glide, you just stopped, so I was just going as high-tempo as I could muster.”
Behind Freeman and Hoffman, the final spot on the podium came down to a battle between Sim and CXC’s Tad Elliott.
Sim was in Lake Placid for a camp with the American nordic combined team, and he had topped that group in an uphill time trial earlier in the week. After competing in the 2010 Olympics as a cross-country skier for Australia, he’s now trying to make the jump to nordic combined.
Coming off a season of racing in the Australian winter, Sim had just enough gas to catch and pass Elliott, who is making his own transition to dryland training after racing mountain bikes professionally through the summer.
Aiden Lennie, a Canadian U-23 who trains with the Nakkertok Nordic club in Ottawa, took fifth place, aided by a blazing fast pair of Ski Skett Shark rollerskis. After breaking a pole tip at the start and making more than one switch to find a replacement, U.S. Ski Team sprinter Andy Newell nearly caught.Lennie at the finish, but ran out of road.
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.
October 9, 2010 at 12:31 am
Curiously, from the photos it looks as though Freeman has on racing rollerskis while Hoffman has on training Marwes. If this is the case then Hoffman had a very good effort and result.
October 9, 2010 at 4:31 am
Freeman was on Marwes as well.
October 9, 2010 at 8:26 am
Why all the broken pole tips—these NT guys have pole suppliers whom I’m sure, all get, all the roller ski ferrules they need–I’m thinking, how about a new set for the race, if the race is that important. Or at least check the carbide tips to see that they are still locked in and not loose, as they get near the end of their useful poling life?
I saw a chalk message on the road telling the Sun Valley skiers to stop at mile 2 at the feed station—was that the truth or a prank?
Nat, I was at mile 4, and Hoffman and Freeman were still together—I’m sure.
October 9, 2010 at 10:38 am
I like how all the USST skiers used swenors, “the official rollerski” of the team.
October 9, 2010 at 11:09 am
Marty, I think you are confusing a female competitor I was overtaking for Noah. I skied away from the Hoff at about the 2 mile mark and we never skied together again. Nat’s race report was correct.
I train on Swenor’s 100% of the time. I used my old Marwe’s for the race so that I could compare my time and splits with data from the 4 previous years.
October 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm
Are those cuffless Alpina boots Kris Freeman is using in the pic. If so perhaps it relieves pressure the area of his post operative compartment syndrome. In regard to his roller skis his wheels are certainly the neon green Marwe’s. The shafts don’t appear to have articulated forks like on the 610 Marwe’s. Maybe they were aluminum shafts Marwe’s. Either way he clearly didn’t use “doped” wheels like previous winners of the “Climb To The Castle”.
October 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm
I was in the race and everyone else had completely bogus skis except for me. They are the skis for the future of Nordic skiing, they are anything and everything anyone anywhere will ever need: SKIKES (www.skies.com). Check em or wreck em baby.
October 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm
Hey Chris—those helmets sure help to confuse us spectators, as I was with a friend and we were sure that 2nd person was a guy–hey you were there—so, we’ll trust what you have to say. He’ll be as surprised as I was!
We’ll learn all those other guys about what this race is really all about—comparisons not podiums—they, the podiums come later.
Have a great year.
Good job yesterday.
October 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm
Roller skiing is tough to use as a benchmark.
October 10, 2010 at 9:28 am
Congrats to all who braved the ‘Face. One opinion-saying Kris Freeman previously lost to “inferior competition with superior rollerskis” is an insult to the previous competitors. There was nothing “inferior” about the competition. No skier has ever won this race that didn’t deserve it by being the best that day.
Bringing your best form and also your fastest skis is all part of the sport.
October 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm
Host to 40+MPH winds Whiteface continues to excel at providing a superb and challenging venue! Kudos to Margaret, the volunteers and the NYSEF team to put this together. Hopefully the course secretary recorded the road pizza and a broken binding in addition to the broken pole. Congrats to the winners! – Jim
October 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm
Nah, not such an insult Kelly. I’ve a pair of Jenex rollerskis that are as fast as in-line racing roller skates. In fact, they use in-line roller skate wheels.
They are absolute bullets compared to my Marwe’s and effortless to roll at ridiculous speeds on. There’s no comparing them on glide speed basis.
October 12, 2010 at 6:45 am
didnt mean any ill will. good job everybody, that looks like it was brutal.
October 13, 2010 at 7:11 am
way to go new york pickers of the podium nice showing! great job all!