Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sinnott is sprint king as SuperTour hits its peak

Amazing week of Nordic racing for 250 skiers

Whitman College product and APU ski coach Holly Brooks and her APU teammate Lars Flora celebrate their SuperTour season titles Saturday at Dollar Mountain. Courtesy photo by Nils Ribi

"Nordic Town USA" threw out the red carpet of events, terrific spring skiing and outstanding organization—and nearly 250 of North America's best Nordic skiers responded with a great SuperTour Finals week of racing March 29-April 2 in Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Fittingly, the U.S. Nordic Ski Team's best skiers, Kris Freeman and Kikkan Randall, capped tremendous seasons Saturday with podiums in the men's and women's SuperTour Finals 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) Hill Climb up Dollar Mountain. They won the SuperTour Finals overall titles for the week.

The host Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation had bragging rights when its Olympic Development athlete Mike Sinnott, 26, of Ketchum won Friday's 1.5-kilometer classic sprint on the Lake Creek trails and clinched the SuperTour season sprint title.

On Friday's exciting day of sprinting under a warm, spring sun, Sinnott qualified in sixth place on the morning's very fast and firm track. He continued to ski well through the bracket rounds—taking the wins in the quarterfinals and semi-finals en route to his finals victory over two-time Olympian Andy Newell, 27.

Sinnott's first SuperTour win of the season came over the world's eighth-ranked sprinter in Vermont's Newell. The Ketchum racer cemented his win with a strong attack on "Coaches Climb," the big hill that left all behind except Stratton Mountain School's Newell.

By the top of the climb, even Newell couldn't match Sinnott's pace. The Wood River High School graduate went over the top with a 10-meter lead and held it all the way to the finish line. By winning, Sinnott collected the first-place season sprint reward of $2,000.

Sinnott finished his season Saturday with a 17th place finish out of an astounding 141 male finishers (plus 76 female) in the steep and grueling Dollar Mountain Hill Climb won by Tad Elliott, 22, of Durango, Colo. Reigning U.S. national 30k distance skate champ and 2010 American Birkebeiner runner-up Elliott won by 11 seconds over Freeman.

For the SuperTour season, Sinnott finished second in the final overall standings to 33-year-old two-time Olympian Lars Flora of Alaska Pacific University (APU). Flora logged 433 points (267 in distances for 2nd place, 166 sprints for 2nd) and Sinnott had 369 (186 distances 6th, 183 sprints for 1st).

Joining Flora as SuperTour 2010-11 overall leader and like Flora earning FIS World Cup race starts for the first period of the 2011-12 season was fellow APU racer Holly Brooks, 28. Brooks (15:36) was second in Saturday's Hill Climb behind winner Randall (15:04). Whitman College product Brooks (534 points) was the sprint and distance winner for the season.

For the women, it was Kikkan Randall's week—just as the last two seasons have been Randall's time to shine on the World Cup and here in the U.S. Three-time Olympian Randall, 28, completed the first-ever Spring Series race sweep Saturday with her 32-second Hill Climb victory over Brooks.

Randall (15:04) had been so dominant in winning the first three stages of the SuperTour Finals last week that she started nearly 90 seconds ahead of her closest rival in the time-back Pursuit Start format. SVSEF ODT racer Nicole DeYong, 28, was a strong fourth, a minute back in 16:04.

The third-ranked scorer in the World Cup sprint standings, Randall didn't rely on her massive head start to claim victory. She powered up Dollar Mountain in impressive fashion. Randall said, "I wanted to lay down a good time, push it in and finish strong. It was a great way to finish the season."

Freeman, meanwhile, stylishly closed out a season that saw the 30-year-old New Hampshire native place consistently in the top third of the World Cup field. Freeman (12:57) finished second to Elliott (12:46) in the hill climb, with SVSEF ODT racer Simi Hamilton, 23, also having a solid result in seventh place at 13:11.

In SuperTour Finals Week, the men's podium had Freeman, second-place Hamilton and third-place Noah Hoffman of Aspen. Sinnott was 10th. The women's podium featured winner Randall, Brooks and third-place Jessie Diggins. DeYong was 15th, Annie Pokorny 19th and Alexa Turzian 21st.

Other SVSEF racers took part in the hill climb and competed throughout the week:

Men's Dollar Hill Climb: 16—Colin Rodgers 13:40. 20—Matt Gelso 13:46 (6-U23). 67—Daniel Sundali 14:51 (8-OJ). 71—Max Christman 14:54 (9-OJ). 85—Torin Tucker 15:17 (12-J1). 87—Andrew Pfeiffer 15:23 (13-J1). 92—Scotty Phelan 15:34 (13-OJ). 97—William Spiller 15:41 (16-OJ). 114—Brandon Wade 16:07 (24-J1). 134—Steve Pfeiffer 17:16 (7-J2). 137—Ketchum Wilt 17:38 (36-J1). 140—Zach Lindahl 18:34 (37-J1).

Women's Dollar Hill Climb: 13—Alexa Turzian 16:36 (3-U23). 24—Annie Pokorny 17:18 (2-OJ). 56—Katie Bono 19:01 (17-SR). 57—Maggie Williams 19:04 (2-J2). 58—Kelsey Dickinson 19:05 (10-J1). 62—Makayla Cappel 19:16 (12-OJ). 68—Morgan Atkinson 20:23 (13-J1). 70—Maranda Stopol 20:47 (15-J1). 74—Brooke Lawrence 22:20 (3-J2).

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