September 24, 1999 - Park City, UT
The dreams of local standout skier Megan Beck came crashing to the ground here on Friday, the only question is whether she knew (or cared). Beck, who had been leading the women's overall in the I.R.S. standings based on her win in the first race, was knocked out of the driver's seat today by a formidable competitor: Canada's Beckie Scott. Since the first race, we have not had a single female competitor in the series, meaning that Beck and Whitney Thompson were well on their way to claiming first and second, respectively, in the series. But Scott, who is in town in conjunction with a U.S. Ski Team training camp, put in an appearance today. She was alerted before the race that all she had to do was finish the 10K course in order to move into a tie for first in the overall. And finish she did, posting a blistering time of 30:31, not far off the men's field. A jury meeting was then quickly held to decide that ties would be broken based on career World Cup points (the second most prestigious series in xc racing). Scott wins the tiebreaker by a score of "quite a few" to "none at all." Unless Beck, Thompson, or Bente Martinsen show up for the final race, it appears that Scott has sewn up the Overall Title.
Speaking of sewing up the Overall, the same was done on the men's side, as Cory Smith won his third race in a row. Smith had taken quite a bit of abuse recently. Many critics pointed to the watered-down race fields and the fact that he was monopolizing the magic poles as reasons for his victories. But with the magic poles now broken and today's small, but strong, field, Smith used this race to make a statement. The start order was Erik Stange, Andrew Johnson, Cory Smith, Scott Loomis, in 30 second intervals. Stange went out hard, trying to catch Beckie as quickly as possible. Johnson, Smith and Loomis also started fast, trying to keep pace with Stange. At the four K check point, Stange had passed Beckie, but was beginning to slow a bit. Johnson had closed the gap and was right behind him. Smith, who had lost a few seconds to Johnson right out of the start, had turned it up a notch and whittle the gap with Johnson to 19 seconds, while Loomis was came through with a split that was 8 seconds behind Johnson. At the 6K point, Johnson and Smith had both passed Stange, but Smith had only closed an additional 4 seconds on Johnson since the 4K point. The final kilometer to the finish was a steep uphill with a short downhill at the top before a gradual uphill 100 meters to the finish line. By the top of the climb, Smith was right on Johnson's heels and stayed in his draft on the downhill. As the finish approached, Smith pulled out to pass. Johnson had the inside line around the corner, but Smith had momentum from the draft, it was a photo finish, but since no one had a camera the naked eye said that Smith crossed first by shooting his right foot forward. Stnage came in shortly with Loomis close behind him. Johnson's time held up for second place, a result he was happy with. Loomis took third, which while not a bad result at all, was not up to Loomis's usually high standards. It was his lowest finish in the series so far. This begs the question, "Has the rock star status of being flown to Argentina to shoot commercials gone to his head?" "Did he actually train in South America or did he just hang out with attractive female models?" Only he knows for sure. As for Johnson, was his result hindered by the throngs of gawking female motorists who pulled over to yell, "I love you, Brad Pitt!" And Stange, who has appeared to be on quite an upswing recently, took his first step back in the results. Is this the end of his meteoric rise or merely a bump in the road? Only time will tell. But perhaps the most compelling question has to do with our victor. It is more than slightly suspicious that Smith has provided Chipwiches only at races which Loomis did not attend. It is widely acknowledged that Loomis was his main competition for the overall title. Loomis's love for chipwiches is also well-known. Was Smith deliberately trying to ruin Loomis's motivation or was it, as Smith claimed, simply that there was no time to make chipwiches after the race was scheduled late on Thursday? The I.R.S. Jury is looking into this matter, and has threatened a stiff points penalty if there are no chipwiches at the final race.
Check out the new points standings.
US Ski Team - Development
Nordic Equipment / LL Bean
Canadian National Team