Mid-Pack Performances U.S. Cross-Country

Mid-Pack Performances U.S. Cross-Country{mosimage} The 2005 World Nordic Ski Championships opened Thursday with sunshine and then an overcast sky and light snow. Top U.S. result in the two freestyle technique races was Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) in 24th place in the women’s 10K race.

Czech Katerina Neumannova, calling it “the greatest day of my life as an athlete,” won the women’s race in 26:27.6. Russian Julia Tchepalova was silver medalist, just .1.2 seconds back, and third place went to World Cup leader Marit Bjoergen of Norway in 26:42.8. Konrad, who will compete in the biathlon World Championships after racing in Oberstdorf, finished in 28:40.9 with Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), the only other U.S. starter, was 66th.

In the men’s 15K, Italians went 1-2 with Pietro Piller Cottrer gold medalist in 34:49.7 and Fulvio Valbusa second at 35:00.9. The bronze medal went to Norwegian Tore Ruud Hofstad (35:03.9). Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) led the three U.S. skiers, finishing 46th in the field of 122.

“It was an awesome race for Sarah. We’ve known she was fast for a long time, but it’s nice she came over here and showed it right away,” said Coach Pete Vordenberg. “She’s such a good climber – that’s where she makes up some time – and this course with its hills was right for her.

“And for Andrew, it was definitely a step in the right direction. It’s not where he’s capable of skiing – he’s shown he can be a top-30 skier – but he had a plan, and he wanted to ski it even, and this was very positive for him.”

Vordenberg said the changing weather didn’t affect the hilly trails, which were covered by more than two feet of snow this week in three days of storms. “Conditions were perfect and the courses were in great shape,” he said. “We had great wax.”

The next cross country races will be on the weekend when the women run their 15k pursuit – a 7.5K classic race leading right into a 7.5K free technique race – on Saturday and the men have their 30K (15K CL+15K FR) Sunday.

Friday, the nordic combiners have their first competition, the individual event with two rounds of normal hill (HS100) jumping and a 15K race. U.S. starters will be Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane (both Steamboat Springs, CO), Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) and Carl Van Loan (Webster, NH).

Sickness remains a major issue for all nations. Three U.S. skiers were sidelined Thursday as Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Carl Swenson (Park City, UT) and Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO) along with German star Claudia Kuenzel and Austrian Christian Hoffmann among other top skiers who didn’t race because of illness.

Oberstdorf, GER – Feb. 17, 2005
Men’s 15K Freestyle
1. Pietro piller Cottrer, Italy, 34:49.7
2. Fulvio Valbusa, Italy, 35:00.9
3. Tore Ruud Hofstad, Norway, 35:03.9
4. Lars Berger, Norway, 35:06.6
5. Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, 35:08.3
46. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, Vt., 36:48.9
57. Lars Flora, Anchorage, Alaska, 37:39.8
70. James Southam, Anchorage Alaska, 38:34.1
Women’s 10K FR
1. Katerina Neumannova, Czech Republic, 26:27.6
2. Julia Tchepalova, Russia, 26:28.8
3. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 26:42.8
4. Kristina Smigun, Estonia, 26:46.2
5. Natalia Baranova-Masolkina, Russia, 26:59.1
24. Sarah Konrad, Laramie, Wyo., 28:40.9
66. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska, 32:37.8

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