For her final European race of the year, Holly Brooks (APU) left her mark at the top of the results list yet again, holding off Sovenia’s Barabara Jezersek and Alenka Cebasek in the 10 k freestyle pursuit for the overall OPA Cup Finals win in Toblach, Italy.
Outside the top three, the rest of the field had no chance — Debora Agreiter (ITA), the fourth-place finish, was 34.1 seconds back. All weekend, Brooks has battled with Jezersek and Cebasek, giving her a bit of a fight on the OPA Cup scene.
“I decided to ski a tactical race,” said Brooks of her strategy. “We needed to ski hard enough as a group such that the girls behind us wouldn’t catch us, but I focused on conserving energy for the second lap and final sprint.”
She broke away from the teammates on an uphill on the second and final lap, breaking apart the pack in the process.
“It was a sprint to the finish, but I had a comfortable margin at the end,” said Brooks, who beat Jezersek by 1.6 seconds.
“I was able to secure the overall title; it was awesome!”
With a full range of World Cups, marathons, and continental cups under her belt this year, Brooks has had one of the most full seasons of her career this year, “with many ups and downs.”
And It’s not over yet — like most top skiers in the U.S., she’s making her way to Craftsbury, Vermont for SuperTour finals and distance nationals, which begin on March 24.
Becca Rorabaugh, Brooks’s teammate at APU, climbed her way from the 18th starting position to 11th place in the 10 k, finishing 1:15.3 behind the winning time.
“My goal was to try and practice my ‘leech skills’ and hang on to the girls in front of me,” said Rorabaugh. “I was going to try not to let them get away, no matter what.”
She did more than not let them get away, and gradually moved her way through the pack she started with to outsprint three other women for 11th.
The course was a rollercoaster — climbing for the first few kilometers and more rolling on the second half.
“The downhills provided quite a bit of rest, and since conditions were fast it was a lot of fun,” said Rorabaugh. “I found that my strength was on the downhills, so I held on for the first part of each lap and tried to make a move on the faster sections towards the end.”
Behind Rorabaugh, Chelsea Holmes (SVSEF) moved up 10 places to finish 19th overall (+2:09.7), Rosie Brennan APU) finished 22nd (+2:15.2), Morgan Arritola (SVSEF) climbed seven places to finish 23rd (+2:16.1), Nicole DeYong (SVSEF) improved five spots for 26th (+3:09.6) and Lauren Fritz (APU) was 31st (+4:53.0).
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For the men’s 15 k pursuit, Noah Hoffman (SSCV/USST) was the first U.S. finisher in 11th, 43.8 seconds behind Ales Razym (CZE). After a 21st and 15th for the first two stages of the mini-tour, Hoffman started in 17th position, but moved up six spots and posted the 13th-fastest time of the day.
Tad Elliott (SSCV/USST) was next across the line in 27th (+1:48.0), Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST) was 31st (+2:31.9), Matt Gelso (SVSEF) finished 38th (+2:59.3), Brian Gregg (CXC) was 43rd (+3:57.4) and Peter Kling (APU) was 62nd (+9:02.8). Reese Hanneman (APU) did not start.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.