Alexander Legkov wins Kangaroo Hoppet
In the 42km FT Kangaroo Hoppet, which was held for the 23rd time this year, Russia got a double victory with 2012 Hoppet winner and World Cup distance champion Alexander Legkov winning the men’s race in front of his team mates Ilya and Alexey Chernousov, and 2012 runner-up Marina Chernousova winning the women’s race.
The Russian team had been training at Falls Creek for the past three weeks as part of their preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (RUS). Lauren Fritz from the USA and Chisa Obayashi from Japan became second and third woman and the first Australians were Callum Watson and Esther Bottomley, both who finished fifth.
After snow, rain and wind in the week leading into the event the skies cleared up for a perfect race day. The sun was out when the skiers started in the morning at around 0°C. As nice as the sun was, it softened the track so that for the slower skiers, the race got pretty tough in the end. But after the poor weather the week before the race, everyone enjoyed the otherwise great conditions of this year's Kangaroo Hoppet!
The two favourites in the men’s race Legkov and Ilya Chernousov attacked early on, splitting up the main pack. Valerio Leccardi from Switzerland and Alexey Chernousov also broke away on the “Paralyser” climb, but then were caught by Australians Watson and Alex Almoukov. This chase pack of four skied much of the race together with the top two Russians slowly extending their lead out in front. Watson attacked near the last drink station, taking Leccardi with him, then A.Chernousov bridged across as Almoukov was dropped. Up front Legkov left his team-mate behind and skied away for a comfortable win. With a couple of kilometres to go A.Chernousov attacked and Watson was unable to follow. Leccardi skied around but couldn’t bridge the gap, taking fourth at the finish behind the Russian podium trifecta. Watson was fifth and Almoukov sixth.
In the women’s race Obayashi and Chernousova went out hard, leaving the rest of the women scattered amongst the men’s field. At the half-way point Obayashi held a slender lead ahead of the Russian, with Lauren Fritz and Jessica Yeaton from the USA holding third and fourth. Kamila Borutova from Czech, winner of this year’s Gatineau Loppet, Canadian Worldloppet race, held 5th ahead of Bottomley. There was plenty of action left for the second lap, as Chernousova took over the lead and Obayashi started to struggle with slower skis as the snow softened in the sun. Fritz and Yeaton began to close in on Obayashi, while Bottomley moved up into fifth past Borutova. Chernousova went on to win by over three minutes, Fritz came through for second place, and Obayashi managed to hold on to third ahead of Yeaton. Bottomley skied in for a clear fifth ahead of Borutova.