Men's 4 x 10 km relay, Soldier Hollow, 17 February, 2002
The Soldier Hollow venue
was packed to capacity when a dramatic sporting competition unfolded in the
men's nordic relay on a slightly gray but gorgeous day. The format
of the race was 4 legs of 10 km each. The first two legs were skiied
in the classic technique and the last two were freestyle. Each leg was
2 laps of a hilly course; the classic and freestyle loops were slightly different,
with a bit less climbing in the classic legs. We chose a viewing spot
not far from the top of the last major climb on the loop; the climb is also
the longest on the course. From our spot you could see nearly the entire
course, and could easily keep track of the racers' moves throughout the race.
We had a good view of the stadium loop. Below are some shots
from the event.
Lap 1. A lead group is beginning to form under pressure from the
Norwegian Anders Aukland, with John Bauer making the selection for the USA
(in fourth position). In third is Fabio Maj (ITA), followed by Andrei
Golovko (Kazakstan), US, and Jens Filbricht of Germany.
By lap two (below) a clear selection had been forced by Anders Aukland.
John Bauer, under pressure, follows at a few ski lengths. Behind
him is Golovko, Maj and Filbricht. That damn Yankee made the break!
What was in those Wheaties?
Auckland opened an 8 second gap over Maj (ITA) by the end of his leg,
to which Frode Estil added as he blazed around the course. The shot
below shows him in full stride up a steep hill during his last lap.
He passed along an 11 second lead over second - placed Germany to
Kristen Skjeldal. Andrus Veerpalu put in a fantastic second leg
for Estonia and pulled them from 9th place at 45 seconds to 3rd in a virtual
dead heat with Germany. Italy trailed by 24 seconds in fourth position.
Kris Freeman held the U.S. in 5th place at 25.5 seconds - he must
have eaten the same Wheaties as Bauer!
Italy's third skiier, Pietro Piller-Cottrer, rapidly closed the gap on
Germany's Angerer Tobias and Jak Mae of Estonia after he began his leg. Below
he puts them into difficulty on the big climb near then end of their first
Justin Wadsworth skiied a great third leg for the U.S. to keep the team
in 5th position, just under a minute behind the boys from Norway. He
lost about 30 seconds to Skejldal (NOR). Below he V1s up the climb.
More magical Wheaties?
Peitro Piller-Cottrer dropped the rest of his chase group and caught Skjeldal
early on their second lap. He lead Skjeldal up the final climb on their
last lap in a power-packed V2.
Skjeldal handed-off to Thomas Alsgaard and Cristian Zorzi took over for
Italy. Zorzi is known for having a winning turn of speed in a finale,
and he 'sucked ski' behind Alsgaard for their entire 10 km leg. Alsgaard
tried to convince him to pull through without success. Below Alsgaard
can be seen leading Zorzi up the final hill on their first lap. Further
down the hill is Rene Sommerfeldt of Germany. Meelis Aasmae was unable
to get the job done for Estonia and quickly fell out of the third position
that Jak Mae had put them in.
Alsgaard and Zorzi in phase in V1 on their first lap.
Below is a nice 4-shot sequence of Meelis Aasmae working the V1 up the
climb on his first lap.
The bell lap saw Zorzi continue to draft Alsgaard. Until 2/3 of
the way up the final big hill.
Zorzi attacks: directly in front of us, Zorzi suddenly moved tot he left
and went into a V1-hop! He managed to get alongside Alsgaard but no
more. Then over the top of the hill he refused to pull through even
when Alsgaard completely sat up. Afterwards Alsgaard said he very much
wanted to follow Zorzi into the stadium, but felt enough was enough when
Zorzi wouldn't come by.
Alsgaard did lead into the stadium. Zorzi got a nice draft on the
decent to the far end of the stadium loop, jumped out of the lanes and skated
like a madman past Alsgaard. He actually opened a bit of a gap as
they rounded the 180o sweeper that brought them into the ~150 m , slightly
uphill finishing straight. But once Alsgaard got up to speed in his
V2 there was no stopping him and he convincingly came around Zorzi to give
Norway a beautiful victory. Sommerfeldt brought Germany home in an
equally well-deserved 3rd. Meanwhile Austria's Cristian Hoffman - who
took the silver in the 30 km freestyle race a week earlier - had come from
6th position and caught and passed Carl Swenson of the U.S. As the
crowd cheered madly, Hoffman lead Swenson by a few lengths up the final climb
and it looked like Austria had fourth place in the bag. But as they
sprinted up the finishing straight Swenson really put the wood to it and
nearly - but not quite - came by Hoffman. Swenson ended up with the
5th fastest leg of the day. Damn it, I want some of those red blood
cell - fortified Wheaties! The final result was Norge, Italia, Deutschland,