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Eric Packer Scores Career-Best Victory at USSA SuperTour CL Sprints

by Graham Longford

March 27, 2012 (Craftsbury, Vermont) – Dartmouth Ski Team’s Eric Packer overcame a strong field of competitors, and a pacing error in the qualification run, to take the victory in the men’s 1.6km classic sprint at the USSA SuperTour Finals at the Craftsbury Outdoor Centre today. Reese Hanneman (APU/USST) took the silver, followed by CXC’s Karl Nygren for the bronze.

Packer shook off a poorly paced qualifier, in which he placed 16th, to come back strong in the heats. “The morning qualifier wasn’t great,” Packer confided to SkiTrax, “I started too hard and blew up. The first half of the course is gradual downhill, followed by a big steep climb and then 500m of gradual climbing to the finish.  I skied the big hill really hard, and then blew up on the gradual climb to the finish.”

The Dartmouth skier learned from the pacing mistake, however, and came up with a better strategy for the heats. “My experience in the qualifier helped shape my strategy for the heats,” Packer explained, “I wanted to ski the finish strong.  I tried my best to sit back and conserve as much as possible up and over the big hill, and then make my moves on the gradual climbs to the finish.”

Packer repeated the strategy in today’s final. “I had a clean start and sat around 4th for the first half of the race. Reese made a strong move up over the big hill, creating a small gap. I reeled him in, and then with 200m to go, made my move and never looked back.”

Today’s victory marks a personal best for Packer at this level of competition, topping his two 3rd place finishes at the US National Championships in Rumford, Maine back in January. “The final was awesome,” he said, “definitely a personal best.”

Second place finisher, Reese Hanneman, had problems of his own in this morning’s qualifier, but was able to overcome them for the heats. “My qualifier actually didn’t feel very good at all,” he told SkiTrax. “The first thing I noticed when I started working on the big climb was that my arms were burning, which is not normal… I think that was because of the running warm up, and that maybe I forgot to warm up my arms. Oops!”

Hanneman credited his strategy of attacking on the big climb for his success in the heats. “My strategy was to turn up the throttle on the top half of the big climb,” he explained, “and then try to pull away from there on. Striding is definitely one of my strengths, so I wanted to be able to throw down on that big climb, and then try to hold everyone off on the rolling flat section before the last little climb. My skis were running very well today, and that gave me the confidence to attack off the front of the heats.”

His strategy paid off for the most part, but Hanneman didn’t quite have enough to hold off Packer in the final. “In the end, Eric Packer was able to stay with me over the climb, and then came by me on the last rise to the line. He is a very good skier, physically and tactically, and so I am really stoked to finish right behind him!”

Hanneman was also really enthusiastic about the course at Craftsbury, calling it “one of the best sprint courses I have skied in the US. Its really well balanced, with good amounts of double poling and striding, and with the climb into the finish, makes it so that its not just a waxing competition.”

US Sprint star, Andy Newell, who was in Oslo, Norway, recently for a Red Bull Nordix competition, did not start today’s race, as he is recovering from a cold picked up while traveling home.

Racing continues tomorrow with a 6km hill climb at Jay Peak.

Qualifications HERE.
Sprint result brackets HERE.





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