Champs checker Brikebeiner fieldDefending champions Tore Martin Gundersen of Norway and Vermont native Caitlin Gregg are expected to lead the field in today’s 39th American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing marathon from Cable to Main Street in downtown Hayward.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Defending champions Tore Martin Gundersen of Norway and Vermont native Caitlin Gregg are expected to lead the field in today’s 39th American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing marathon from Cable to Main Street in downtown Hayward.
Coach Jason Cork of Hayward-based CXC Team said Gregg is getting over a cold, but even at less than 100 percent, Gregg is better than most.
“She’s still my pick to win,” Cork said.
Cork expects former CXC Team members Tad Elliott and Matt Liebsch, a former Birkie champ, to challenge what should once again be a strong foreign contingent.
Last year’s pace was fast and furious on one of the coldest days on record for the Birkie, with Gundersen covering the 50-kilometer skate in 2 hours, 32 seconds, to edge Frenchman Benoit Chauvet by three seconds. Russian Andrey Tyuterev was third, with the skiers coming in only 3½ minutes off the record pace of Fabio Santus in 2010 (1:56:58).
Gregg, meanwhile, led an American rout in a blistering 2:16:07, three seconds ahead of Morgan Smyth of Park City, Utah, and eight seconds ahead of Evelyn Dong of Bend, Ore.
Gregg, formerly Caitlin Compton, resides in Minneapolis. The 31-year-old has competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics, two Nordic World Championships and a Biathlon World Championship. She married CXC Team member Brian Gregg in May 2011, with the joke on the Birkie website being that they used her Birkie winnings to buy their house (the Birkie champions receive $7,500 each).
Depending on how today’s race unfolds, the Greggs might be looking at an addition.
39th American Birkebeiner
What: North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon
Where: Fifty kilometers from Cable to Main Street in Hayward (54 kilometers for classic skiers)
When: 8 a.m. today
Who: A record field of more than 9,400 skiers is registered for the Birkie and its support races, the 23K Kortelopet and the 12K Prince Haakon
Forecast: After an overnight low of 15 degrees, warming to 28; snow flurries in the early morning, with winds 10 to 20 mph before diminishing