|Hanusova, Bauer Win in Bozeman|
BOZEMAN, Mont. (Jan. 9) -- The weather created havoc Wednesday on the third day of racing at the Chevy Truck U.S. Cross Country Championships. While Czech skier Katerina Hanusova won the women's race, unheralded Tara Hamilton (Anchorage, AK), a Denver University freshman, won her first U.S. title in the women's 5-km classic race as the top American, and John Bauer (Duluth, MN), making a determined run at his third Olympic Team, powered through a continual snowstorm and grabbed his ninth title in the men's 10-km CL.
After two days of 40-plus temperatures, cold rolled in during the night and froze the Bohart Ranch course for what would be the biggest day of racing at the U.S. championships in history -- some 400 racers (174 women starters, 220 men and two dozen J2 racers in a 5-km qualifying race). The jury postponed the start of the women's 5-km race for an hour while work crews groomed and softened a dangerous downhill section coming back into the stadium.
The wind was gusting with occasional flurries coming over the Bridger Mountain Range as the women got started. About 20 minutes into the race, the snow began to pickup, strangely reminiscent of the big temperature swing Monday as the sun came out, the thermometer shot up to 45 degrees and the snow began to drag on most racers' skis. Wednesday, the snow slowed the tracks and favored the skiers who got out early; Hamilton, 19, started 18th and took advantage of her opportunity.
Katerina Hanusova of the Czech Republic, a University of Nevada racer who will be competing next month at the Olympics for her homeland, started 37th and finished in 17:16.9. Hamilton, an older junior who was looking for a spot on the World Junior Championships squad, posted a time of 17:27.7 and Nina Kemppel (also from Anchorage), starting 48th, was third in 17:31.4.
However, since U.S. Ski Team Ski and Snowboard Association rules mandate the first U.S. skier is recognized as the national champion, Hamilton took the 5-km gold medal with Kemppel second and Lindsey Weier (St. Paul, MN), another junior who was fourth overall and has had a series of strong races since the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup Dec. 29, collecting the bronze.
"I was still with part of that early group when I went," Hanusova said, "but the snow started sticking in the tracks, so I skied outside and it was super fast. But right after me it started dumping. It was a tricky day."
In the men's 10-km, it was a full-blown snowstorm from start to nearly the finish, filling the tracks with soft powder and forcing some skiers to ski outside the prepared tracks. Bauer, a two-time Olympian who trains on his own, won in 27:32.6 to strengthen his chances for a third Olympics, with Justin Wadsworth (Bend, OR) taking the silver medal in 28:14.7. Justin Freeman (Andover, NH) completed the podium with a 28:21.5 clocking as almost four inches of snow fell in some sections.
The 2002 Olympic Team, up to eight men and eight women, will be named Jan. 20. Skifaster.net will have the team list posted as soon as it is available.
"On the downhills, I started sticking at the end, but it was still pretty good," said a grinning Hamilton, who roomed with Kemppel on the Spring Series a year ago. "I just tried to race my best."
Kemppel said, "When I got to the start, it was beginning to change and I looked around and thought, 'Oh man...' But it shows how we (the U.S. Ski Team) will have to have someone with waxing equipment at the start at the Olympics because conditions certainly can change."
"I had a little bit of trouble going up the hill. I had to kick my skis free (of ice) ...but as we climbed up, the skis got better," Bauer said. "For some reason, I'm skiing classic a little better. I felt good. It was really fun to ski."
"I'm just happy to be healthy right now. My cold didn't move into my chest after the 30 (Monday), so I'm psyched. I feel like I really skied tough today and I feel like I'm in great shape," Wadsworth said. He was reminded of the 50-km skate race at the 1995 World Championships when the weather turned warm and the snow was dirty from a nearby lumber mill, and racers were skiing over tree branches and cleaner-soaked rags to scrape ice and crud off their skis. " I think all of us stopped a couple of times today to do this number," he said.
"I can't wait for (Thursday in the 10-km freestyle) because it'll be a real challenge to try to chase after after 'Bau' - 40 seconds. ...It was changing and changing, and then during our race it really started to snow hard," he said.
Wednesday's races also were the front half of the pursuit event. Thursday, the women's race another 5-km, but in freestyle technique, while the men cover another 10-km course. The championships conclude Sunday with the distance races, the women's 30-km classic and the men's 50-km CL.
CHEVY TRUCK U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bozeman, MT - Jan. 9
Men's 10-km CL
1. John Bauer, Duluth, Minn., 27.32.6
2. Justin Wadsworth, Bend, Ore., 28:14.7
3. Justin Freeman, Andover, N.H., 28:21.5
4. Patrick Weaver, Bend, Ore., 28:23.7
5. Ola Berger, Denver, 28:33.7
6. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, Vt., 28:33.9
7. Kris Freeman, Andover, N.H., 28:38.9
8. Pietro Broggini, Italy, 28:44.2
9. David Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine, 29:06.4
10. Donald Farley, Canada, 29:07.2
Women's 5-km CL
1. Katerina Hanusova, Czech Republic, 17:16.9
2. Tara Hamilton, Anchorage, Alaska, 17:27.7
3. Nina Kemppel., Anchorage, Alaska, 17.31.4
4. Lindsey Weier, St. Paul, Minn., 17:32.4
5. Kelly Milligan, Park City, Utah, 17:42.6
6. Niina Karvonen, Finland, 17:43.3
7. Unni Odegaard, Boulder, Colo., 18:01.9
8. Aelin Peterson, Fairbanks, Alaska, 17:57.8
9. Wendy Wagner, Park City, Utah, 18:02.2
10. Kristina Joder, Landgrove, Vt., 18:04.5
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