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2003 World Championships: Mens Pursuit, Relay

By Paul Belknap
February 25, 2003

 Mama Mia! The last few days have been quite the rollercoaster for fans of the United States here at the Nordic World Championships. With Sunday came the men's pursuit. Hopes were running high after Kris Freeman's stunning performance in the 15 km classic. The race stayed tight with lots of attacks and lots of lead changes happening the whole race. A couple of attacks went away but all got pulled in, and best of all both Kris and Carl Swenson managed to stick with the lead pack though it all. The format was three 3.3 km laps for each of the races in the pursuit. At the beginning of the last lap, Carl Swenson led the field up the first climb and into the woods. During the lap some changing around took place and push Carl and Kris back a little bit in the field. Per Elofsson outsprinted the field for the win over Tore Ruun Hofstad (in a field that conspicuously lacked Thomas Alsgaard). Elofsson was joined on the podium by his teammate Joergen Brink who just edged out Liechtenstein's Markus Hasler for third place. Axel Teichman of Germany rounded out the top five. Swenson sprinted in for a great 11th place just ahead of Frode Estil of Norway. Freeman followed in 14th only 8.2 seconds from Elofsson! The other Americans in the race were Andrew Johnson (38th, +1:37) and Justin Wadsworth (48th, +2:02). The Canadians were Chris Jefferies (51st) +2:36, Devon Kershaw (55th) +2:45, George Grey (62nd) +4:58, Gordon Jewett (63rd) +5:42.

Monday will be short and sweet. Neither Canada nor the US chose to enter a team, so well just sum things up real quick. Germany won, with Finland taking second and Norway (without a sick Bente Skari) took 3rd. The victory was great for Finland, which is still struggling to maintain interest after the doping scandal that desimated their male team at the 2001 world championships. In the afternoon we hung around to watch the United States Nordic Combined Team take a strong fifth. They were extremely happy to get 5th since only half of the squad competes on the 'A' world cup. They were pulled back up to fifth by their strongest skier Todd Lodwick.

Tuesday was a rollercoaster in itself. This was the Men's relay, and both the Canadians and the United States would be competing. The format was two 5km laps for every leg of the relay. Things got started out on the right foot as Kris Freeman moved up into the lead pack very quickly after a slow start in the stadium. As the field began the second lap of the first leg Freeman was leading the field in pursuit of Switzerlands Reto Burgemeister. When they came back into the stadium Freeman was in the lead 3.1 seconds up on Switzerland and 20 seconds up on the rest of the field! He tagged off to Andrew Johnson fought gallantly, and managed to maintain reasonable contact through the first 5 km, but seemed to hit a wall on the second lap and ended up losing over a minute. He tagged off to Justin Wadsworth, who struggled and lost more time ending up three minutes off of the lead in 15th (out of 16 teams to finish) when he tagged off to Carl Swenson. Swenson managed to bring back three teams (including ousprinting Austria) to finish in 12th place for the race. He had the fifth fastest final lap, only 18 seconds off of the pace. Up front Norway looked out of it after the classic legs for the first time in recent memory (probably all of my young life). After Per Elofsson turned in a great third lap, Sweden looked to have wrapped things up with Norway 22 seconds off the pace. But Thomas Alsgaard (Norway) and Axel Teichman of Germany went on the attack and chewed up Sweden and spit them out the back. In the final sprint, Alsgaard confirmed that when it really counts, he's still the best. Teichman got second followed by Sweden. Another story for the day. Italy, which was counting on a medal for the day ended up being a non-factor after an attrocious first leg by Fabio Maj and lackluster laps by the rest of their skiers. A shout out to the Canadian team. They got dead last (Denmark got lapped), but they were skiing their hearts out the whole race (by themselves for the most part). I think they deserve a huge pat on the back for the effort they put in.

Tomorrow is the sprints for both men and women.

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