All four Americans made the heats, with a final finishing position as high as sixth, in Stage 1 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint, in Changbaishan on Sunday, Jan 1.
On the men’s side, the top 20 qualifying times in a 40-racer field moved on to the heats. Jack Novak (APU) led the Americans in qualifying in 10th, Skyler Kenna (APU) was 16th, and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was 17th. Their positions were largely reversed by the end of the day: Hendrickson finished second in the four-person semifinal for sixth overall, while Novak (16th) and Kenna (20th) ended their days in the quarterfinals.
For the women, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 10th. (The women’s field was more selective than the men’s, with less than half of the field – 16 racers out of 36 – moving on.) Fritz ended her day in the quarterfinals in 14th overall.
Finishing times were not available for the heats. Both genders featured four-person heats throughout the day.
Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen and China’s Li Xin took the Stage 1 victories and overall Tour lead.
Racers left Changbaishan at 8 a.m. local time Monday morning on an approximately 350-kilometer bus ride to Changchun, the site of Stages 2 and 3. Another skate sprint is Tuesday, followed by a classic marathon, 50 k for full Vasaloppet China racers but of unknown length for Tour racers, on Wednesday.
— Gavin Kentch