World Champs Wrap up With 50k Classic; Three in the Top 30
The 2023 FIS Cross Country Ski World Championships has come to a close, ending the two-week race series with one of the most grueling races, the 50km classic. Four U.S. men lined up to the mass start: Scott Patterson, Gus Schumacher, Hunter Wonders and David Norris. Patterson led the team with a 16th place, only two minutes behind the Norwegian leader, with the rest of the U.S. team only seconds behind.
It was another hot day in Planica. The temperatures climbed throughout the late morning into the afternoon making it a klister day for the kick wax. Same with the women's race, the men had pairs of skis lined up in the stadium area to switch mid-race to have a new pair of sticks to power them through the endless amount of kilometers they were racing.
With over 31 miles to race and 4,000+ feet of elevation gain, the course played to the strength of those who could charge the uphills, actively recover on the short downhills and maintain a consistent pace. On the first of seven laps, Patterson was in the lead pack, sitting in third place right behind Norway and Finland. A ski length away were teammates Wonders, Norris and Schumacher. Through the next couple of laps, the field began to naturally spread out. With each athlete taking advantage of the feed zones and fueling up with mixtures of electrolytes, energy chews and dumping water on their head, the hours ticked by and the end was close.
On the last of seven laps, at the high point of the course, Patterson and Norris were neck and neck, working together as teammates on the long uphills. Norris, who is a ski coach and accountant back in the States, traveled over to Slovenia last Tuesday after winning the American Birkebiener in Hayward, Wisconsin. He and Patterson, good friends, have skied and raced together for years, which played to their advantage today as they were able to push each other when they needed it most. At the finish, Patterson was 16th, Norris was 22nd, Schumacher was 28th and Wonders 31st.
On the last downhill, all four U.S. men charged and skied into the roaring stadium with three in the top 30, and Hunters just seconds away. With the entire team waiting in the finish zone, the U.S. has many things to celebrate at this World Championships, on and off the snow.