Speedy Opener: Kris Freeman Grabs US XC Ski 50 KM Classic Championship
Kris Freeman is a veteran…and it shows.
The long-time US Ski Team speedster grabbed his third national 50 KM gold medal on March 26 at the US XC Ski National Championship event in Sun Valley, Idaho – skiing the smartest race on the 7-lap course with 4,491 vertical feet of climbing on freshly fallen snow.
“I knew it was going to be a race of attrition,” Kris said, rockin’ his Oakley eyewear. “When we went up the big hill at the end of each lap (South Bench climb) we’d lose a few more skiers, and over time the group got smaller and smaller. I didn’t feel like I put a hard move in, but eventually people got tired and I was able to ski away.”
Kicking off at 9 a.m. in overcast weather conditions with lightly falling snow, at about 27F/-3C, the first three laps had the lead group carrying between 16 and 30 skiers, periodically breaking into two or three sub groups, then regrouping back into a single large pack. With powder coming down, the pack skied primarily in a single file line.
Stefan Kuhn lead the way for a good part of the race – but it wouldn’t last as the rest of the field caught up and passed him – including Glenn Randall and Noah Hoffman, who took silver and bronze respectively.
“Noah made a move at the end of the fourth lap and I chased him. I was hoping that when we got together he’d be strong enough we could join up and ski away,” continued Kris. “I train a lot with Noah and that would have been really fun. But I talked to him and he said he wasn’t feeling it and couldn’t really help at that point in the race, so I had to back off and let the group catch up.”
Lap five brought the intensity as Randall put a little extra into his surge and opened up to more than 10 seconds, stretched to 20 seconds by the time the leaders headed out the North End of the course. Hoffman, Freeman and others were hot on his tail.
“When Randall made his move, I let the other skiers cover it. You know Randall’s getting stronger each year, but I was pretty sure that we were going to close the gap back up.”
Kris eventually powered his way to front. And despite some serious challenges from Kevin Sandau and Yuma Yoshida, he held on to cruise to victory after the final set of climbs and the final, high-speed downhill section. Kris flew steadily to the finish for a 10-second margin over Sandau.
A big congrats for kicking off the 2011 Spring Series/Super Tour with a bang in Sun Valley!
1. Kris Freeman (USST) 2:37:05.2
2. Kevin Sandau (Alberta World Cup Academy) 2:37:15.1
3. Yuma Yoshida (Japan) 2:37:37.2