America took its second win of the weekend in Muonio, with Kris Freeman skiing to a 12-second victory over Tobias Anger of Germany in a 10 k classic race.
While Freeman was clearly the big story of the day, the morning actually started off with the women’s 5 k race. With a huge 45-meter climb partway through the course and a mostly downhill finish for the last kilometer or more, it was a fast and tough race requiring an all-out effort on the hills early in the course.
Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland didn’t have any trouble with that concept, and took the win over Petra Majdic of Slovenia by 19 seconds. Kowalczyk covered the course in just over 14 minutes. Marianna Longa of Italy rounded out the podium, 22 seconds behind Kowalczyk and just 0.5 seconds ahead of Nicole Fessel of Germany. Fellow Germans Stefi Boehler and Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle finished fifth and sixth, another twenty seconds back.
Kikkan Randall of the U.S. Ski Team (USST) had the top American performace, skiing to a solid 14th-place finish. While her time was over a minute out of the win, she was only four seconds behind tenth place.
Ida Sargent of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and Dartmouth College finished 25th, a solid result for the sprint specialist. She was 18 seconds behind Randall, and ahead of several of the women who had beaten her in the last two sprints here in Muonio.
The next Americans all finished within five seconds – Liz Stephen (USST) in 53rd, Hannah Dreissigacker (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 56th, and Morgan Arritola (USST) in 59th.
USST coach Pete Vordenberg said that his athletes had pushed hard, which was a good thing this early in the season.
“They all felt like they went out there and went really hard, and it was a good effort,” he said. “So regardless of results that is great. I don’t think anyone felt like they had their best race, but it was solid.”
In the men’s race, Freeman skied to the win, just as his teammate Randall had in the sprint the day before.
“I had planned to ski with a lot of snap, and be very light on the first lap,” he said. “Then I would use more power on the second lap if I felt good.
“I was skiing with a Kazakh [Alexey Poltoranin] who had started ahead of me for most of the second lap, but I was doing most of the work. Then he just passed me on the last downhill, so he finished in front of me.”
Angerer was second, followed by Martin Jaks of the Czech Republic, Jens Filbrich of Germany, and Sergey Shiraev of Russia. Jaks, who won the skate sprint qualifier yesterday, appears to be positioned to have a great season – although Freeman pointed out that a good finish this early in the season isn’t the best thing.
“I was kind of like, aw, f*ck, I won. I’m not intending to be in great shape right now. So I’m hoping there’s more to come.”
The next Americans were the USST duo of Andy Newell and Noah Hoffman in 55th and 64th places, just over a minute and a half behind their teammate. Simi Hamilton, the last man on the USST, isn’t racing this weekend due to a nagging ilio-tibial band issue.
Tim Reynolds was the top non-USST American, finishing 86th. He was followed by teammate Pat O’Brien in 110th and Leif Zimmerman (Bridger Ski Foundation) in 113th, just two seconds apart, then Glenn Randall, also from the Bridger Ski Foundation, in 121st place.
Vordenberg, along with the rest of the U.S. team, was excited for Freeman’s victory.
“It’s pretty cool to win. Even if he hadn’t won, it was really positive just the way he looked, the way he was skiing. Two wins in two days… it’s really fun to win.”
After two strong days of competition, will the Americans continue their winning ways tomorrow? Check back to find out: a 10 k skate race is on the schedule for both men and women.