Kuusamo Mini-Tour: Freeman Seventh, Sets Up For Strike at Sunday Podium

Chelsea LittleNovember 27, 2010
Kris Freeman racing in Muonio, Finland, earlier in November.

Kris Freeman wasn’t quite able to match his teammate Andy Newell’s result from yesterday – but he came pretty close.

Freeman, of the U.S. Ski Team (USST), finished seventh in the 10 k classic in Kuusamo, Finland on Saturday, just 0.3 seconds out of sixth. Newell, who had finished sixth in the sprint yesterday, finished 89th, slipping to 42nd place overall in the mini-tour standings.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Alex Harvey finished 17th, moving up to fourth place in the overall standings. His teammate Devon Kershaw finished 22nd and is sitting in 16th overall.

Freeman trailed the winner on the day, Dario Cologna (SUI) by 24 seconds. Cologna’s performance moved him up to third place in the overall mini-tour standings, behind Emil Joensson of Sweden and Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan. After a strong start, Joenssen, a strong sprinter, held the fastest time at 5 k, but lost almost 25 seconds to Cologna on the second lap.

“I’m very satisfied winning a classical race,” Cologna told FIS. “I’m definitely hunting Emil tomorrow being 9 seconds behind, it’s going to be exciting in the last 5 kilometers. It seems like these mini tours fit me, as I like to have the chance to compete in different races and the fact that I still have the chance to win the triple tour tomorrow.”

Alexander Legkov of Russia was second, 6.7 seconds back, followed by Daniel Rickardsson of Sweden. Rickardsson is having a great start to his season – he finished third in the 15 k skate race in Gallivare last weekend.

For the North Americans, Freeman was the story of the day, establishing a quick time early on, due to his lackluster sprint result on Friday. The U.S. Ski Team’s Continental Cup duo of Noah Hoffman and Simi Hamilton finished 66th and 73rd respectively. For the Canadians, Brent McMurtry and Stefan Kuhn finished 69th and 71st, followed by George Grey in 79th and Ivan Babikov in 83rd. Continental Cup leader Chris Cook finished 104th, while Canada’s Lenny Valjas didn’t start.

Freeman told FasterSkier that he had a slow start, but ended up with a negative split by twenty seconds on a great second lap.

“I still need to practice pacing the 10 k a little bit,” he said.

Because start position for today’s race was based off of yesterday’s sprint results, Freeman was starting in an unusual place in the order. But he said that it actually worked well.

“These tours are a little funny – I had a great start position in the sprint race that I hadn’t earned, and then I got a kind of crappy position today that I hadn’t earned either. But it was all right, because I had both Tobias Angerer [GER] and Lukas Bauer [CZE] as a gauge who had started in front of me, so I was getting some okay splits.”

Freeman will be the thirteenth starter in tomorrow’s pursuit race. Joensson will have a fifty-second head start on him, but many other contenders are closer – he is part of a group of eleven skiers who will start within ten seconds of each other.

“I’m right around a bunch of really great guys,” he said. “There’s a couple of weaker guys in front of us who hopefully we will ski down, and I’m just going to go out and try to ski my own race. The course is so hard that I don’t really see there being that much advantage coming from a draft – it’s either straight up or straight down. So I’m going to take it the way I like to.”

As for the Canadian team, tomorrow is shaping up to be an exciting day. Both Harvey and Kershaw have the opportunity to create excellent results in based on their current overall standings. Head Coach Justin Wadsworth said that they knew coming in that the two men would ski strongly, but that they are in some ways exceeding expectations.

“We knew that if they just had solid races, which they did today, [they would do well] – I mean, it was a good race for Alex. I think it was an okay race for Devon. But they both had solid results which combined with the sprint race put them in the hunt.”

For Harvey, Wadsworth said that the key to success tomorrow would be not getting excited and going out too hard.

“It’s a little gap up to Dario,” he said. “It’s better to wait for Daniel Rickardsson and maybe Legkov to catch him. I’ve given him the advice to start fast and smooth and to wait for the guys to catch up, and then go with them. I think both of those guys are going to be willing to do a lot of the work, for sure Legkov will, so it’s a good opportunity for Alex to not panic out of the start and just hop in and ski behind those guys nice and smooth, and kind of see where the race unfolds from there.”

Kershaw will face a very different race scenario. He will be starting at the back of Kris Freeman’s group of skiers, and Wadworth said he wouldn’t have time to relax out of the start.

“He’s got to start kind of fast to make sure… with two seconds up to Kris Freeman, he can start out pretty fast out of the stadium and go down the first downhill and hopefully group up with everyone. You can’t go out too conservative, because there is a little bit of a gap behind him, and you just want to protect that a little bit.

“Those skiers, they won’t work together as a group I don’t think,” he continued. “Not to catch people. But there might be someone out of those ten people who is having a really good day, and might do a lot of the work and drag some guys up. That’s going to be just really interesting to watch.”

Chelsea Little

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