Ben Lustgarten skied to an impressive first U.S. title in the men’s 30k classic at the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships Tuesday. (USSA)
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 10, 2017) - Ben Lustgarten (Burlington, VT) of Craftsbury Nordic skied to an impressive first U.S. title taking the men’s 30k classic at the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships. APU Nordic’s Chelsea Holmes (Girdwood, AK) won the women’s 20k. It was the first U.S. title for both.
Lustgarten covered the 30k course in one hour, 21 minutes, six seconds - a 38 second margin over silver medalist David Norris of APU Nordic. The bronze went to veteran Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
Holmes took a 49-second win over Katharine Ogden (Landgrave, VT) of Stratton Mountain School with Caitlin Patterson (Cadillac, MI) of Craftsbury Green winning bronze.
“The conditions were warm and a little messy - a little reminiscent of Eagle Glacier skiing,” Holmes said. “There were plenty of good moments and not-so-good ones, but I really, really wanted to win today, so I am very happy that it all came together!”
Lustgarten started with the lead pack and spent the first few laps gauging the competition and his skis.
“I wanted to stay behind a few guys to judge both my energy and theirs, and to see where I could make moves and respond to attacks,” said Lustgarten. “My skis felt great, I had awesome kick, and they were among the faster skis out there. I tried to ski very smooth, gentle and light - not wasting energy and getting maximum glide.”
With confidence in his skis, Lustgarten took the race lead and continued to yo-yo off the front, skiing the climbs conservatively so the pack would catch up with him and not leaving himself alone out front on what was a windy day on the trails at Soldier Hollow.
“After a while I realized with my skis I could ski off the front comfortably,” he said. “So I started to push the climbs harder.” On the final two laps, he put it in a higher gear, pushing the double pole hard and carrying a lead off the hills.
Coming into the finish, Lustgarten wanted to build a gap over second running Norris, winner of last season’s Slumberland American Birkebeiner, who also had very fast skis.
“I just felt awesome,” said Lustgarten. “I skied smooth and didn't waste any energy. My wax techs nailed the skis and the feeds were perfect. It was a great day!”
Ogden took the early lead in the women’s 20k before Holmes took control on the second of five laps and controlled the race through the finish.
“I am so grateful to the APU crew of coaches and techs for great skis and for so much awesome support,” Holmes added. “To be able to have a great race to give back to them means a lot to me!”
The U.S. Championships wrapped up with the distance races. Thursday a freestyle sprint qualification time trial only, not a Championship event, will be held as a part of selection criteria for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. Teams for the FIS USANA Nordic Junior World Ski Championships and U23 Cross Country World Championships will also be announced this week.
U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALISTS Men’s 30k Classic Mass Start Gold - Benjamin Lustgarten, Burlington, VT (Craftsbury Nordic) Silver - David Norris, Anchorage (APU Nordic) Bronze - Kris Freeman, Andover, NH (Ski and Snowboard Club Vail)
Women’s 20k Classic Mass Start Gold - Chelsea Holmes, Girdwood, AK (APU Nordic) Silver - Katharine Ogden, Landgrove, VT (Stratton Mountain School) Bronze - Caitlin Patterson, Cadillac, MI (Craftsbury Green)