March 31, 2012 (Craftsbury, Vermont) – Kris Freeman (SSCV/USST) can still lay claim to being the US’s top distance skier after winning today’s 50km freestyle race, the final event of the season at the US National Distance Championships, which were held this morning at the Craftsbury Outdoor Centre.
“I felt strong today. I was guessing that I would be duking it out with the Hoff and Tad today,” Freeman told SkiTrax. “I knew I could out-sprint both of them so I hung back and conserved energy most of the race. The snow held up amazingly well. There were a few occasions where the leaders were impeded.”
Spectators at Craftsbury were treated to a mad dash for third between Tim Reynolds (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Sylvan Ellefson (SSCV), with Reynolds the local favourite edging out Ellefson.
“Honestly I was a little unsure of my form,” Reynolds confided post-race. “I’d had a tough week of racing and I was hoping to hang with the leaders as long as I could and leave it all out there in the last race of the season.
“I went to the front with three laps to go and went for it. Sylvan and I think Russell followed but otherwise things broke up. Sylvan pulled the last lap and we were able to keep that gap. A sprint finish with one of my best friends – it was a great way to end the season.”
This morning’s race began with a large group of skiers working together, with Noah Hoffman (SSCV/USST), Simi Hamilton (SVSEF/USST), Ellefson, and Dylan McGuffin (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) taking turns at the front.
Freeman had a game plan and executed it with precision. “With about 10km to go I moved to the front and picked up the pace. A lap later Tad was the only guy with me.”
By the 29th lap Freeman and Elliott’s lead had stretched to almost a minute and the chase group had been pared down to a group of seven that included Hamilton, Ellefson, and Reynolds, along with Russell Currier (MWSC/US Biathlon), David Norris (Alaska Winter Stars), Patrick O’Brien (Craftsbury GRP), and Eric Parker (Dartmouth).
When the two leaders attacked Reynolds knew he couldn’t keep pace with them. “I knew I was feeling strong but I didn’t think I could ski with them for 15km at that pace. I don’t think there was much home advantage as we all knew the course pretty well after this week. But it’s always a great feeling to perform at home in front of all the people that support you.”
By lap 31 Freeman and Elliott were still increasing their lead on the chasers, which had grown to 1:07. The chase group soon splintered, with Reynolds and Ellefson able to get away from the other five.
“We traded leads for several km and then things got tactical,” explained Freeman. “I followed him until there was three hundred meters left and then made a move.”
Freeman repeated the long distance title he won a year ago in Sun Valley but despite winning the SuperTour Final mini tour and the 15km CL, and the Championship 5okm skate he was looking for more this year.
“My season was terrible. I will revamp many parts of my life ahead of next year,” shared Freeman not one to mince words. “Next week I go to the Coe in Park City to test some new theories that Jim Stray Gunderson has on insulin and glucose control. I will be on the treadmill April 5th to the 9th.”
The championships closed out a week of Spring Series racing and everyone was quick to praise the Craftsbury organizers for their amazing job in preparing the courses each day, despite warm and challenging conditions, for a successful series of races.
Full men’s 50km F results HERE.