Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holmes wins icy Bozeman 10k, U.S. women third in Norway relay

SuperTour in Montana, World Cup at Lillehammer

Jessie Diggins

     Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team racer Chelsea Holmes, 26, mastered the bitter chill of Bozeman, Mt. Sunday and won the USSA SuperTour women’s 10-kilometer classic race at Bohart Ranch by 43 seconds over Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury (Vt.) Nordic Ski Club.

     One day after frigid temperatures led to the cancellation of the classic sprint event at Bohart Ranch, the starting temperatures Sunday dipped to – 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet the second set of SuperTour races took place on Sunday with the 10- and 15-kilometer classic mass starts at Bohart Ranch.

     The Bozeman and Nov. 22-23 West Yellowstone (Mt.) SuperTour events opened the cross-country ski race calendar for the 2013-14 Olympic season. They were part of the U.S. Continental Cup series—highest level of Nordic competition in the U.S.

     Holmes, a native of Girdwood, Alaska and a former University of Nevada, Reno ski racer, clocked a finish time of 34:23 ahead of Patterson (35:06) and 33-year-old Caitlin Gregg (35:31) of Madshus/Team Gregg.

     A two-time Canadian national champion in 5k and 30k freestyle, Holmes skied away from the other racers at the end of the first lap and built her lead each kilometer of the second lap. She acknowledged afterward that the classic finish was satisfying since it isn’t her best technique.

     Eighth place out of 17 female finishers went to first-year SVSEF Gold Teamer Rose Kemp at 35:56. 1:33 back. Boise native Kemp, 23, came out of the Bogus Basin Nordic Ski Team and competed for coach Abi Holt—a former SVSEF skiing star—at the University of Utah.

     In the men’s 15k, Dmitriy Ozerskiy (CXC) took first place in 44:47, followed by Miles Havlick, 23, of the SVSEF Gold Team in 44:49 and former SVSEF racer Patrick Johnson (Far West) in third place at 44:59. Havlick was a two-time NCAA collegiate champion during his four-year skiing career with the University of Utah.

     Another SVSEF Gold Teamer, 25-year-old Matt Gelso, finished ninth of 33 men in 45:33, 45 seconds back. Gelso is a former University of Colorado All-American skier from Truckee (Ca.) High School and the Auburn Ski Club.

     The Yellowstone and Bozeman events ended the first period of SuperTour racing that can be important for potential U.S. Ski Team nominations and possible starts at the World Cup level.

     They are followed by the 2014 U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Championships starting Saturday, Jan. 4 at Soldier Hollow, Utah. Events there are classic and skate sprints, 10k/15k classic individual start and 20k/30 skate mass start.

     The 2014 SuperTour Finals coupled with the 30k/50k U.S. National Distance Championships and the return of national relays are part of the Anchorage Centennial Celebration in March at Anchorage, Ak. There will be no hill climb this year since the finals aren’t a Mini Tour.

     Race dates at Kincaid Park are March 22 for the SuperTour Finals 10k/15k individual skate, March 23 for the classic sprint, March 25 for the U.S. National relay, March 27 for the U.S. National women’s 30k and March 28 for the men’s 50k.


World Cup podium at Lillehammer

     World Champion Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) anchored a strong U.S. team made up of Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) and Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) that captured third place Sunday in the 4x5k relay at Lillehammer, Norway.

     The result matched the best-ever World Cup result for any U.S. cross country relay team, according to the U.S. Nordic Ski Team. Last November at Gaellivare, Sweden, the U.S. women's team made history with a third-place finish in the team relay.

     Heavy snow hammered the 1994 Olympic course Sunday, but Randall gave the team a solid start in the podium hunt.

     Norway’s No. 1 team took the relay in 58:38. The U.S. was clocked in 1.00:15 with splits of 14:59 for Randall, 15:09 for Bjornsen, 14:55 for Stephen and 15:11 for Diggins.

     Diggins took over and built a lead over Sweden before she fell and broke a pole during a downhill section in the last lap. Then, in an inspiring act of sportsmanship, the Norwegian team support staff handed Diggins a pole, helping her hold her position and earn the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team its second-ever World Cup relay podium.

     Said Diggins, “I pushed hard over the top in the big hill and I was opening up a gap on Finland. I got in the track on the downhill because it was fastest, but then it got really sketchy and powdery pretty quickly. I just was tired and caught my tip in the powder and went down hard. I lost all my momentum, broke my pole, had to ski over a bridge that you normally glide over with one pole.

     “But on the downhill the Norwegian team actually gave me a pole, which saved me because I was able to hold our third place spot. I’m really psyched that we got a medal. I think our team skied great. I’m so proud of my teammates, both teams, all eight of us. But I was really mad at myself because I think we could have gotten silver. I think silver was mine to lose for us and I managed to fall. I’m not proud of that. I am psyched that we were able to get another medal, tying our best result ever.”

     Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT/APU Nordic) anchored the second U.S. team in 12th place of 18 teams with a time of 1.01:59. The team also included Sophie Caldwell (Peru, UT), Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) and Holly Brooks (Anchorage).

     Next weekend the World Cup moves to Davos, Switz. where the men and women will race a 30k/15k freestyle distance race and a freestyle sprint.

     Saturday at Lillehammer, men had a 15k classic individual start race and the women went for 10k classic individual start.

     For the men, Noah Hoffman was the top American in 41st place. Americans Kris Freeman placed 75th and SVSEF Gold Teamer Mike Sinnott was 81st. For the women, American Sadie Bjornsen tied her personal-best World Cup finish with a seventh place, 1:18 back. Randall was 16th, Diggins 30th, Sargent 39th, Brennan 54thand Brooks 65th.

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