FIS AUS-NZ Cup and Australian Championship at Falls Creek
The 2014 FIS Australia / New Zealand Cup (ANC) for Cross Country Skiing moved last weekend to Falls Creek in Victoria for the final races of the 2014 Australian Championship on August 16/17.
There were four different winners in the four events. Local Mt Beauty/Falls Creek skiers and 2014 Winter Olympians Esther Bottomley and Phillip Bellingham won the Freestyle Sprint on Saturday, then on Sunday Jessica Yeaton from Perth won the 10km Classic and Swiss skier Valerio Leccardi won the 15km Classic. Unfortunately the weekend events were overshadowed by a serious injury to one of the race favourites, 2014 Winter Olympian Callum Watson from Jindabyne.
The races were organised by the Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club on behalf of Ski & Snowboard Australia. The ANC is the opening FIS Continental Cup Series for the 2014-2015 season, consisting of five events in Australia and three in New Zealand throughout August.
In the women’s Sprint time trial Yeaton posted the fasted qualifying time ahead of 2014 Australian Junior XC Skier of the Year Casey Wright. Bottomley qualified in 4th place behind Lauren Fritz from the USA, and after the quarter-finals and semi-finals these fastest four skiers faced off in the A-Final. Bottomley leapt to the front right from the start and gained a small gap over the top of the course that proved unassailable. Yeaton and Fritz duelled it out for the remaining podium places, with Fritz coming through for second.
Bellingham won the men’s Sprint time trial ahead of Leccardi, Jackson Bursill and Watson, and seven of the top eight qualifiers progressed to the semi-finals. On a fast downhill corner in the first semi-final Watson and Simon Hammer from Switzerland collided heavily. Falls Creek Ski Patrol were on site within minutes, and both athletes were evacuated to the local medical centre. While Hammer’s injuries were relatively superficial, Watson was later air-lifted to Melbourne with a punctured lung. After a delay the finals resumed, and in the A-final the race soon turned into a head to head battle between Bellingham and Leccardi. Leccardi led for most of the race before Bellingham made a decisive move with 300m to go and held on for victory. Paul Kovacs from Porepunkah took third place.
Sunday’s Classic events were held using an interval start time trial format on a 5 km loop. In the women’s 10km Yeaton and Bottomley were dead level after the first lap, then Yeaton managed to draw ahead on the second lap and won by just 9 seconds. Third place went to Australian Junior Team member Xanthea Dewez from Wangaratta. This was Yeaton’s first Australian title, having switched her FIS licence to race for Australia earlier this year after racing for the USA for three years while at university there.
After the first lap in the men’s 15km Bellingham held a small lead over Leccardi, with both athletes gapping the rest of the field. However Leccardi soon turned the deficit around on the second lap and as they started the final lap there was no question who would be the winner. At the finish Leccardi won with a margin of 1:47 over Bellingham, with Reto Hammer from Switzerland taking third place.
The ANC standings see Bottomley leading with 360 points ahead of Yeaton on 300 points. Bellingham and Leccardi are tied in the men’s standings with 360 points each. The final race of the ANC is the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek next Saturday August 23. The Kangaroo Hoppet is part of the Worldloppet series of long distance ski races which sees over 135,000 participants annually in events across 20 countries on five continents.
Freestyle Sprint Races, Saturday August 16
Open Women A-Final
1 Esther Bottomley AUS
2 Lauren Fritz USA
3 Jessica Yeaton AUS
4 Casey Wright AUS
Open Men A-Final
1 Phillip Bellingham AUS
2 Valerio Leccardi SUI
3 Paul Kovacs AUS
4 Alasdair Tutt AUS
Classic Distance Races, Sunday August 17
Open Women 10.0 km Classic
1 35:16.7 Jessica Yeaton AUS
2 35:25.5 Esther Bottomley AUS
3 36:32.0 Xanthea Dewez AUS
4 37:04.6 Lauren Fritz USA
5 37:12.6 Anna Trnka AUS
Open Men 15.0 km Classic
1 43:17.7 Valerio Leccardi SUI
2 45:04.4 Phillip Bellingham AUS
3 47:25.7 Reto Hammer SUI
4 50:06.8 Jackson Bursill AUS
5 50:10.3 Mark Pollock AUS
Full FIS results are available click HERE.
Contributed by Finn Marsland