Scott Patterson leads the pack in the 50k freestyle to wrap up the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships in Fairbanks. (Lance Parrish)
FAIRBANKS, AK (Apr. 2, 2017) - Scott Patterson (Anchorage) of APU Nordic and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) of Stratton Mountain School skied to long distance wins in the final event of the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships Sunday at Birch Hill in Fairbanks. Patterson and APU Nordic teammate Chelsea Holmes (Anchorage) left with season long overall and distance titles in the USSA SuperTour.
Patterson took the overall title with a 276-243 margin over Paddy Caldwell (Lyme Center, NH) of Stratton. Brian Gregg (Minneapolis) of Loppet Nordic Racing was third. Holmes won with a 288-252 edge ahead of Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Common, VT) of Craftsbury Nordic. Kaitlyn Miller (Craftsbury Common, VT) of Craftsbury Nordic was third.
In the early stages of the 50k, Patterson shared the lead with Craftsbury's Ben Lustgarten (Burlington, VT), Tad Elliott (Durango, CO) of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Caldwell. He moved into the lead on the second of seven laps, battling head to head with Gregg before making a move on the fourth lap and never looking back, eventually taking a three minute, 19 second victory over Gregg with Eric Packer (Anchorage) of APU Nordic third.
“The race tactics were pretty simple for me,” said Patterson, who led out of the start and most of the first 5k before settling back. “I was feeling very comfortable up front but figured I didn't need to lead the whole race. I was sitting in about fourth and quickly getting frustrated. I passed back as soon as I was able and ramped thing up again.”
When he broke, Gregg and Canada’s Michael Somppi joined him. Somppi dropped around 15k with Patterson making his own move into the lead at the midway mark.
“I was able to surge through the sprint hill and quickly build a significant lead,” he said. “I didn't mean to solo 25k in the morning, but by then I was confident. This confidence only increased as I continued to built time and feel quite good throughout the rest of the race.”
Women's podium celebrates after the 30k including SuperTour champion Chelsea Holmes, race winner Jessie Diggins and second place Kikkan Randall. (Lance Parrish)
Diggins led from the start but had company with Holmes, Randall and Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) of Loppet Nordic Racing forming a lead pack on the first lap. On the second, Diggins made her move to extend a 16 second lead and building from there each lap. Randall took silver, Holmes bronze and Gregg fourth.
Patterson’s win wrapped up a strong season that saw him score his first World Cup points, including a top-10 in the pre-olympic skiathlon in PyeongChang, and claim the season title.
“I am quite pleased with how things turned out toward the end,” he said. “I had a good start also but sickness through U.S. nationals in January derailed any chance I had for World Championship selection. However with some other World Cup opportunites, I was able to get into the points serval times and cap out the season with an awesome week in Fairbanks.”
Holmes, who had also had a strong season making her first World Championships team and finishing 13th in the 30k at Lahti, took the women's SuperTour title with her bronze in the U.S. Championships 30k.
"I am really happy to be the SuperTour title, and especially to be starting period one World Cup next fallt - though I am also incredibly intimidated knowing it will be very tough racing," she said. "Right now I am really looking forward to taking some time to recharge, knowing that I will have my work cut out for me with training coming soon."
The race wrapped up a strong season for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team with the weeklong Championships in Fairbanks. The event featured outstanding courses, good snow preparation with live streaming to bring the Birch Hill races to fans around America and the world.