Freeman, Scott win SuperTour openers

Freeman, Scott win SuperTour openers{mosimage}Kris Freeman, showing no carryover from the sickness that derailed him last winter, and Olympic champion Beckie Scott of Canada sailed to impressive victories Sunday, Nov. 6, as the cross-country SuperTour got under way a day late because of sub-zero cold in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After sprints were postponed Saturday at Birch Hill because of cold in the minus teens range, the pursuits were staged Sunday without incident. Freeman won with a time of 54:03.4, edging his brother Justin by 85 seconds in the 20-kilomter men’s pursuit (10 kilometers of classic technique and 10 kilometers of freestyle racing). Third place went to Andrew Johnson, who lost a sprint to the finish with the older Freeman by 2.1 seconds. James Southam was fourth and Canadian Drew Goldsack fifth.

In the women’s 10km (5+5) pursuit, Scott — the 2002 Olympic gold medalist in the event — won in 29:58.1. Kikkan Randall, who is primarily a sprinter, was second in 32:09.7 with Wendy Wagner completing the podium.

‘It was still plenty cold, but we got the races in’ U.S. head coach Trond Nystad said. ‘And the plan is to hold the sprints [Monday], so that’ll be good. We’ve got a lot riding on these early races — chances to compete in the World Cups next month in Canada and, of course, the Olympics in February.

‘We had a pretty good field — nearly 50 guys and more than 30 women — and I’d say the results were pretty much as we might have expected. Kris took off right from the start and there was no need for him to go 100 percent. Justin looked great; he looks more trim and he’s obviously very fit. I think this is the best skate race I’ve seen him in and he had an outstanding race, just beating Andrew at the finish.

‘And Beckie never was challenged. She’s on a different level than our women, we knew that, but we’d have hoped she wouldn’t have been so far out front. Still, the cold gave a lot of skiers problems — trouble with breathing — and it’s a tough way to start the season … but it is what it is’ Nystad said, ‘and I hope when the weather gets a little more moderate, we’ll see some improvements.’

He was especially pleased with junior Liz Stephen, a student at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy who finished fourth, just six seconds behind Wagner. Brooke (Baughmann) Hovey completed the top five.

Former SuperTour champion Rebecca Dussault, who was troubled at the 2005 World Championships with sinusitis which forced her to trim her World Cup schedule, raced but was among those having problems with the cold, Nystad said. ‘We know Rebecca will do better when she’s more healthy’ he said.

Courtesy USSA News Bureau

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