Press release September 8 2017
A clear, cold night pulled moisture out of the snow to set up fast tracks for the speed stars of cross-country skiing in the Classic Sprints at Wanaka’s Snow Farm today.
With a forecast front threatening the second day of cross-country competition in the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, start intervals for qualifying for the FIS Australia New Zealand Cup event were shortened to beat the oncoming snowstorm.
Time trials whittled down a strong field of 21 men to the required 16 for the heats, which saw four sets of four skiers sprinting against each other with the first two qualifying for the next heat.
Late scratches took the women’s field below the required 16, their times determining their groupings in the following heats.
On the men’s 1.4 kilometre course the final came down to an exciting international tussle between the USA, Japan and Australia rather than the whitewash the strong American team had threatened.
Benjamin Saxton took the win with Japan’s Kaichi Naruse looking set for second until the last 30 metres, when the previous day’s Freestyle winner Benjamin Lustgarten dug deep to pole past him almost on the line, giving the Americans the top two honours.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” said Lustgarten. “But I was wearing skate skis and just got myself in front.”
Saxton was stoked to win after missing the Freestyle race. I might have been a bit more rested but everyone certainly brought their A game today. Luckily I tend to do a little better in the shorter races.
“Snow Farm and the Winter Games volunteers did a great job. This was a world class event and I was lucky to get to race it.”
In the women’s 1.1 kilometre race America swept the field, with sprint specialist Sophie Caldwell building on her third place at yesterday’s Freestyle to win today, pushed hard by Ida Sargent in second and then Caitlin Patterson.
“It’s always great to be in first rather than third,” said Caldwell. “Conditions were great with a nice fast track, and although it was hard work to herringbone up the hills, it was a great course”.
Race technical director Sally Jones was pleased to see a good clean race for the first Classic event. “Classic takes a lot of technical control so we were glad to see great conditions early today and to get finished just before the storm came through. Everything went extremely well.”
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ at the Snow Farm is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow with the Classic Mass Start, with women racing 10 kilometres and men 15.