Italian skiers sweep men's and women's divisions in American Birkebeiner

Italian skiers sweep men’s and women’s divisions in American BirkebeinerIn a head-to-head sprint down Main Street in Hayward on Saturday, Italian Gianantonio Zanetel proved himself grand champion of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race for a second year in a row. He finished the 51-kilometer race in 2:11:09.8.

Just one second behind was Stanislav Rezac, Czech Republic, with a second-place finish in 2:11:10.3. Roberto DeZolt, Italy, finished third in 2:11:10.7.

The top seven male finishers, including American Marc Gilbertson, crossed the finish line within 10 seconds.

In the women’s field, Italian Lara Peyrot claimed the title of Birkie champ for the second year in a row with a time of 2:23:31. She was trailed by Christina Paluselli, Italy, who took second with a time of 2:23:46. Annick Vaxelaire, France, finished third with a time of 2:27:44.

Today’s race results move Rezac into first place in the FIS Marathon Cup Series, Zanatel into second, and DeZolt into third. Paluselli remains in first place in the FIS Marathon Cup series, Peyrot remains in second, and Sofia Lind, Sweden, moves into third place.

Through interpreter and team coach Marco Selle, Zanetel said this was a much more difficult race than last year because the level of participants was higher than other years. He said Rezac was very fast today and that he was very tired after the sprint down Main Street.

Peyrot said her strategy was to wait til the end to sprint ahead to claim the Birkie title and that this year’s race was more difficult because of the snow.

Earlier in the day, under gray skies and 25-degree temps, Martha Fullmer sent 6,043 skiers on their way for the 2004 American Birkebeiner. Martha was the honorary starter for the 31st annual event which was dedicated to her husband, long-time Birkie supporter and skier Greg Marr. Greg, the editor and founder of Silent Sports Magazine, died on December 19, 2003, while cross-country skiing. He was 52 years old. Marr’s brother-in-law, Greg Groeschel, carried Marr’s bib in today’s race, and a new Middle of the Pack Award was established in his honor.

Skiers from 19 foreign nations and 45 United States, including Hawaii, Texas and California, participated in Birkie 2004.

Norwegian skier Erik Eidsvig traveled from Flekkefjord, Norway, to ski the 51km race and did so in spite of the fact that his skis were damaged en route. He lost eight inches from the back of one ski while the other was left flapping. The 5’9 Eidsvig, not wanting to inconvenience anyone, decided to use his own skis in spite of the damage.

Visually-impaired skier Brian McKeever, Calgary, finished 35th with a time of 2:47.

In the 23 kilometer Kortelopet, Andy Liebner, Anchorage, Alaska, finished first in 1:03:06; Garrett Heath, Winona, Minnesota, finished second in 1:03:46; and Joe Sem, Plymouth, Minnesota, finished third in 1:04:13.

In the women’s division, Sonne Nordgren, Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, finished first in 1:09:04; Hilary Patzer, Park City, Utah, finished second in 1:10:35; and Tami Kochen, Marquette, Michigan, finished third in 1:12:04.

Subaru American Birkebeiner
Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin — 50.25km
February 21, 2004
Women’s results

1. Lara Peyrot (I) 2:23:31
2. Christina Paluselli (I) 2:23:46.9
3. Annick Vaxelaire (F) 2:27:44.9
4. Unni Odegard (N) 2:28:18.2
5. Sarah Konrad (Laramie WY) 2:32:03.4

Notes: Lara Peyrot was last year’s winner and currently sits second overall to Christina Paluselli in the overall FIS Marathon standings for woman. The women’s field caught the back of the large men’s elite wave within 2 km, forcing the top woman to navigate through the men’s field the entire race. Peyrot’s time would have put her 39th in the men’s race.

Men’s results
1. Gianantonio Zanetel (I) 2:11:09.8
2. Stanislav Rezac (CZ) 2:11:10.3
3. Roberto De Zolt (I) 2:11:10.7
4. Silvio Fauner (I) 2:11:12.3
5. Marco Cattaneo (I) 2:11;13.5
7. Marc Gilbertson (Team Rossignol — USA) 2:11:19.7

Notes: The men’s race was completely dominated by a group of Italian elite skiers, numbering among others Silvio Fauner, Lillehammer gold medalist in the team relay. The race came down to a sprint finish, with the Italians taking four of the race’s first five places.

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