VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – Kris Freeman (USA) started off stage 8 of the 2012 Tour de Ski, a 20k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, with a bang. He was skiing at the back of the tight lead group. He looked strong and smooth. He reported that “I didn’t…feel like I was going out too fast…the first lap felt easy.”
But then something happened, and he was gone. Each lap he fell farther and farther back, and would start herring-boning earlier on each of the huge climbs. He finished the day in 55th place of 57 racers, almost 6 minutes behind the leaders.
FasterSkier caught up with Freeman after the race, and he articulately described his race in the context of his life at the moment. For him, now, it all comes down to his emotional state.
“I’ve gone through a lot in my career—a couple [of] surgeries, [and] diabetes management. I’ve never dealt with an emotional issue, and I have just been completely unpredictable to myself this year. Some days I’ve had it, some days I’ve not had it, and it’s had nothing to do with how much effort I’ve put forth.”
The emotional issue to which Freeman referred was the recent parting of ways with his girlfriend of the past 10 years.
Notably, it was his inability to recover in today’s race, rather than slick skis, that unhinged Freeman’s race.
After dropping down a hill, “I got to the bottom, and I couldn’t move. I pretty much duck-walked the rest of the race. My skis were fine. I lost all my strength out there, and when you’re racing against the best in the world, you can’t fake it.”
Starting today’s race in 29th, helped by his 10th place split in stage 7, the 35 kilometer Cortina to Toblach pursuit race, Freeman now stands in 47th place overall, with 5 others within a minute ahead of him.
Regarding the final stage of the Tour, Freeman said “I’ve got nothing left to race for tomorrow except for a good race…and I don’t know if it’s going to be any good, but I’m going to go out there an I’m going to race as hard as I can and then I’m going to get some rest. I’m 8 stages into a 9 race tour, and I’m going to finish the thing.”
Then he will go with the US team to Seiser Alm, in Sud-Tirol, and spend several days recovering, resting, and hoping that his energy and form rebuild.
Tomorrow’s race features a final 3-kilometer climb up the Alpe Cermis, gaining over 1000 feet in elevation. Freeman told FasterSkier, “I pretty much already know what’s going on. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want to have a good race tomorrow. I think at best it could be a top-10 effort, and at worst it could be last. I won’t know until I get into the hill.”
Nat Herz contributed reporting.