Kris Freeman (USA) crashed into a fence early in the pursuit stage of the Tour de Ski in Oberhof, Germany, on Sunday, breaking his pole and causing major bruising on his shoulder. The fall happened around the 1 k mark on the first major descent right before the fabled blind downhill turn, resulting in a high-speed collision with the fence lining the course and the loss of valuable momentum.
“It was deep corn snow and some guys started snowplowing in front of me, and I started snowplowing so I wouldn’t run into them, and next thing I knew I was in the fence,” Freeman said in a phone interview on Sunday evening. “I’m in a lot of pain but I’m OK… It was a pretty crappy day.”
Freeman was positioned at or near his 35th starting position prior to falling; after it he was fairly close to the back of the 97-man field. Once he found a replacement pole he climbed back to 57th by 3.7 k and remained thereabouts for the rest of the 15 k, finishing 3:11.1 behind Maxim Vylegzhanin’s (RUS) winning time.
Freeman was unsure of how he would have raced otherwise. “It’s impossible to say how good I felt today, because after you crash into a fence things kind of change,” he said. “I tried to get back into the race — I moved up from 70th or something to 50th pretty quickly, but I ran out of gas.”
Freeman was given a replacement pole fairly quickly, but it was short and had a basket ill-suited for the sugary snow. “You needed a powder basket today and I was going down to the asphalt with my pole on every stroke,” he said, adding that he chose not to replace it again because “once you get moving it takes too much time to switch poles again.”
After finishing, Freeman was advised by the Canadian team ostepath not to cool down or ski with the bruised shoulder on Monday’s rest day in order to keep inflammation under control, but was also told he should be OK to race again on Tuesday for Stage 3 of the Tour.
Freeman’s goal prior to starting the Tour was to finish in the top ten; now he says he’s reassessed to focus on the remaining stages as individual opportunities.
“Any time you drop three minutes in a stage you kind of have to reassess — it’s a Tour, it’s a long event,” he said. “I’m pretty bummed out. Barring some incredibly good racing I’ll just be looking for some good indivudal races here.”