At the top of the results sheet for Friday’s classic sprint qualifier in Sun Valley, there weren’t any surprises: Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent, and Chandra Crawford were the top three women, and Andy Newell, Simi Hamilton, and Skyler Davis were the top three men.
But scanning down and looking through the rest of the top 30, one name was conspicuously absent: that of Kris Freeman, who was the overall leader of the SuperTour Finals mini-tour heading into Friday’s race, which was the third of four stages.
On a flat, fast course, Freeman ended up missed the heats, after suffering from escalating blood sugar just prior to the start, and then crashing on a late corner. The result will likely cost him his lead in the mini-tour, and it could cost him the entire race.
With a few minutes before setting off on the 1.4-kilometer sprint course, Freeman, a type 1 diabetic, was struggling with to keep his blood sugar from spiking too high, which causes his lactate levels to spike painfully while he’s racing—it was at 240, rather than his target of 120, according to his coach, Zach Caldwell.
Still, despite the problems, he looked to be on track to qualify in the top 30 and head into the rounds, but then, he crashed on a fast, tight corner heading into the homestretch. That cost him a handful of seconds and soaked up all his momentum, and he ended up way back in 46th place, 20 seconds off Newell’s winning time.
Based on the qualifying results, Freeman has already lost 15 seconds to Canadian Drew Goldsack, who was sitting second in the overall heading into the day, 30 seconds behind.
If Goldsack can crack the podium in the afternoon heats, he’ll get a time bonus of more than 50 seconds, which would leapfrog him into the lead over Freeman by half a minute. With just one more stage to go in the mini-tour, a hill climb on Saturday, that could be enough for to hold off Freeman—though that’s certainly not guaranteed. And Goldsack is the only man with a shot at coming past Freeman in the overall standings after Friday’s race.
Freeman wouldn’t speak with reporters immediately after the finish, but Caldwell, his coach, said that he typically struggles with controlling his blood sugar at the end of the season. Altitude, for some reason, compounds the difficulties, and indeed, Freeman had problems in Wednesday’s classic distance race, as well.
On Friday, Caldwell said that Freeman’s sugar was at 168 when he got to the race venue, and then, he dialed up his insulin and started skiing—both of which should have caused his levels to dip. Instead, they rose, no matter what he did.
“It’s an ultimate frustration when he loses control,” Caldwell said. “If he makes a mistake, okay, he can adjust. But on a day like this, he’s on top of it, he’s measuring it, he’s making the adjustments, and he’s just not responding the way he’s supposed to.”
The crash, Caldwell said, was “not necessarily” related to his blood sugar levels—instead, he came down the last hill in a tight, inside track, and ended up sitting down.
“It was a mistake. It doesn’t happen often—he’s usually good on his feet, and high sugar shouldn’t make him that way,” Caldwell said. “No excuses at all for today, it’s just—you deal with it.”
Randall’s qualifying victory was dominating–especially on the blazing-fast boilerplate surface. She was more than four seconds up on Sargent and Crawford, with no other women within 10 seconds.
Newell was almost as good, finishing 3.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and another .01 ahead of Davis.
A number of men opted to double-pole the 1.4-kilometer loop, including Freeman, Hamilton, Goldsack, and Mike Sinnott. They didn’t appear to be losing much time on the course’s big uphill, but the tracks in the morning were like ice luges, after having frozen overnight, and with temperatures predicted to climb into the 50’s this afternoon, it’s unlikely skate skis will make another appearance.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.