HAYWARD, Wis. (Feb. 21, 2015) – Holly Brooks (APU/Salomon) and Sergio Bonaldi (Scame-Ski Trab Marathon Team) captured the women’s and men’s freestyle titles at the 42nd American Birkebeiner. For both, this was their second Birkie win.
Brooks attacked with two kilometers to go into a headwind on Hayward Lake in the 51-kilometer race, dropping Aurelie Dabudyk (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team), the only skier to stay with Brooks in the late stages of the race. Brooks, a two-time U.S. Olympian, crossed the line in 2:34:51 and put 28 seconds on Dabudyk. Tatjana Mannima (Estonia) trailed Brooks by two minutes to nail down third place. With the win, Brooks regained the lead over Mannima in the FIS Marathon Cup (FMC) standings.
According to Brooks, she had one goal – “to get the red bib (FMC leader) back, on American soil. I’m tired, but this is fantastic.” Brooks skipped the Tartu Marathon on Feb. 15 and spent the two weeks before the Birkie back in the states. “I’ve been in Hayward training, anticipating this,” said Brooks.
With 10 kilometers to go, Brooks attacked up a Bitch Hill, and only Dabudyk and Mannima responded, but the Estonian quickly faded. “I looked back and (Dabudyk) was still there,” Brooks said. “I knew she had some speed in her legs because she won the OO sprint.” Brooks didn’t gamble on a sprint finish in the final, dropped Dabudyk and won with a comfortable lead in front of a boisterous Main Street crowd.
“I tried to go with her,” said Dabudyk, “but it was impossible to follow her.” Mannima, who will ski with the Estonian relay team at the World Championships in Falun, Sweden, on Feb. 26, admitted that she was tired from the Tartu Marathon. “I knew that (Brooks) and (Dabudyk) were stronger,” said Mannima through a translator. “I am happy with my position.”
In the men’s race, Bonaldi outsprinted French skiers Christophe Perrillat-Collomb (Haute-Savoie Nordic Team) and Benoit Chauvet (Team Rossignol Gel Interim) in a four-up sprint down Main Street that also included Mathias Wibault (Haute-Savoie).
Chauvet topped the International Bridge first with 350 meters to go, but he couldn’t hold the lead in such a long sprint. “I know I’m pretty good in the sprint,” said Chauvet, “so I tried to make it from the bridge.” Perrillat-Collomb and Bonaldi overtook Chauvet with 100 meters to go as Bonaldi nipped Perrillat-Collomb at the line to win in 2:12:21.1.
“I am very happy to win today,” said Bonaldi through a translator. “With 15 kilometers to go, it was very hard for me. I tried to conserve for the sprint.”
Bonaldi, who sat at the back of the lead group for most of the race, thought his skis were a bit slower than the Haute-Savoie skis. “He seemed to be tired, but I don’t think he was,” said Chauvet.
Perrillat-Collomb skied an excellent race, taking the sprint prime up OO Hill. “I was thinking, win the sprint first,” said Perrillat-Collomb through a translator. He kept the pace high for a couple of kilometers, but he had decimated the lead group.
According to Alex Treinen (APU), the pace really started to pick up with 12 kilometers to go as Perrillat-Collomb and Chauvet animated the action. “I and Christophe made the move,” said Chauvet, who with his compatriot whittled the lead group down to four skiers.
Unfortunately for them, they did not get rid of Bonaldi, who had just a little bit of extra speed in his legs in the final 100 meters.
Brooks won the American Birkebeiner in 2012. Bonaldi won the American Birkebeiner in 2013 and placed second last year.
Petr Novak (Team Novak) finished 11th but retained his overall FMC lead.
Natalia Naryshkina captured the women’s Birkie classic race in 3:19:20.2. Josie Nelson outdueled former Birkie champ Kelly Skillicorn for second place.
Ole Christian Mork bested Torin Koos by eight seconds to win the men’s Birkie classic title in 2:54:22.1. Thomas Seidel placed third.
Daniel Pederson won the men’s Korteloppet skate race in 1:10:10.1, while Hannah Bettendorf won the women’s Korteloppet in 1:21:19.4.
Diane Meinholz and Mackinley Fitzpatrick won the women’s and men’s Korteloppet classic titles.
Click HERE for full results.