2014 FIS Australia - New Zealand Continental Cup got underway
The 2014 FIS Australia / New Zealand Cup (ANC) for Cross Country Skiing kicked off on August 2-3 at Perisher Valley in Australia.
The ANC is the opening Continental Cup Series for the 2014-2015 season, consisting of five events in Australia and three in New Zealand throughout August. Three nationalities topped the podium in the opening four races. Australian Winter Olympians Esther Bottomley and Phillip Bellingham won the Classic Sprint events on Saturday, then on Sunday Barbara Jezersek from Slovenia won the 5 km Freestyle and Valerio Leccardi won the 10 km Freestyle.
The ANC competitions at Perisher Valley were organised by Snowsports ACT and the NSW Snowsports Association on behalf of Ski & Snowboard Australia. Snow conditions in Australia have been excellent so far this season, with well over a metre of snow falling at the major ski resorts during July and plenty of successful club competitions already held.
Bottomley and Bellingham also won the Classic Sprint time trial, which was held on a new 1.2km course for women and 1.3 km for men. In the women’s A-final Bottomley took the early lead then held on to win ahead of Jessica Yeaton and Australian junior Anna Trnka. Yeaton recently switched her FIS licence to race for Australia after racing for the USA for three years while at university there.
The men’s A final saw Bellingham and fellow Sochi Olympian Callum Watson double pole the course on skating skis, while the other two finalists Leccardi and Paul Kovacs used classic skis and grip wax to climb the hills. Bellingham and Leccardi were close together over the top of the course but Bellingham was too fast on the downhill and finish and won by a couple of seconds, Watson taking third place.
Sunday’s Freestyle events were held using an interval start time trial format on a 5 km loop. In the women’s 5km Freestyle Jezersek the #1 seed started last, 30 seconds behind Bottomley, and caught her at around the 2.5 km mark. Bottomley fought hard and only lost another 10 seconds from there to the finish, with Yeaton taking third place another 12 seconds back.
It was a close race in the men’s 10 km Freestyle, with Leccardi and Bellingham neck and neck on time splits after 2.5 km and Watson just 10 seconds behind. On the second lap Bellingham forged ahead to a 10 second lead, but Leccardi finished strongly to clinch victory by the smallest possible margin, just 0.1 of a second. Watson took third place 30 seconds off the pace.
In the ANC series standings Bottomley leads with 180 points ahead of Yeaton on 140 points, while Bellingham and Leccardi are tied in the men’s ranking with 180 points each. Both Bottomley and Bellingham are resident during the Australian winter at Falls Creek, the official National Team Training Centre.
The FIS ANC heads over to New Zealand for three days of racing at the Snow Farm from August 7-10. The events there begin with Mass Start Classic races on Thursday, continue with a Freestyle Sprint on Saturday, and conclude with Interval Start Freestyle races on Sunday. The ANC concludes with the Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek on August 23.
Follow Australian Cross Country Skiing via www.ausxc.com and @ausxc on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Full FIS results are available at: www.fisski.com