Swiss, Slovenian and Australian skiers win at Perisher

The 2014 FIS Australia / New Zealand Cup (ANC) for Cross Country Skiing kicked off on August 2-3 at Perisher in NSW. This is the International Ski Federation’s 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 races also count as Australian Open Championship events.

Full FIS results are available at the FIS site. Australian Results and U20 Results are linked below in PDF format.

The Classic Sprint consisted of head to head heats and finals after an individual time trial, which Bottomley and Bellingham also won. In the women’s A-final Bottomley took the early lead then held on to win ahead of Jessica Yeaton and 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 2.5 km near the top of the major climb. Bottomley fought hard and only lost another 10 seconds from there to the finish, with Yeaton taking third place another 12 seconds back. The third placed Australian was Trnka once again.

It was a close battle in the men’s 10 km Freestyle, with Leccardi and Bellingham neck and neck on the time splits after 2.5 km and Watson just 10 seconds behind. Early on the second lap Bellingham forged ahead to a 10 second lead, but Leccardi finished strongly to clinch the victory by the smallest possible margin, just 0.1 of a second. Watson took third place 30 seconds off the pace, with Kovacs the third Australian.

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.

Racing action continues at Perisher this week as part of NSW Cross Country Week, which features races and events for all levels of participants on every day from August 2-10. The highlights for the week are the KAC Classic from Perisher to Charlotte Pass on Wednesday, and the Snowy Mountains Classic on Saturday. For more action and results head to the PXC website. Meanwhile, the FIS ANC heads over to New Zealand for three days of racing at the Snow Farm from August 7-10.

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