Switzerland – Sweden Double at 2015 Kangaroo Hoppet

The 2015 Kangaroo Hoppet was held on Saturday August 22 at Falls Creek in north-east Victoria. Strong winds and early morning fog caused the main 42km event to be reduced to 34km, however the winds eased and fog lifted for a great day of racing and participation. Over 1000 competitors from 24 nations entered in the three race distances of 34km, 17km, and 7km. Valerio Leccardi from Switzerland claimed his third Hoppet victory in six years while the first woman Maria Graefnings from Sweden added a second Hoppet title to her win from 2012. The Hoppet is part of the Worldloppet series of international ski marathons, which features 20 races in 20 countries and has annual participation of over 135,000 skiers.

The men’s 34km podium was rounded out by 2014 Australian Winter Olympians Callum Watson from Sydney and Phillip Bellingham from Mt Beauty. On the women’s side Slovenian Winter Olympian Barbara Jezersek was the runner-up for the second year in a row, ahead of the first Australian Casey Wright from Launching Place. Both Bellingham and Wright live and work at the YMCA Howmans Gap Alpine Centre at Falls Creek during the winter, training at the Ski & Snowboard Australia National Team Training Centre.

Leccardi went to the lead of the main pack early on and pushed the pace. By the 5km mark only Watson was able to follow, with the rest of the pack spread out in ones and twos behind. Sensing that Watson was also on his limit Leccardi continued to put the hammer down and by the 12km mark had broken away as the solo leader. Bellingham worked together with Australian U23 Team member Nick Montgomery but unable to bridge the gap to Watson switched off the pace and a pack of 7-8 skiers reformed, including the first women Graefnings. With Leccardi and Watson off the front the lead of the main pack changed frequently, until finally in the closing kilometres Bellingham managed to kick away to take third place. Just three seconds separated fourth from seventh, with Montgomery edging out three-time Winter Olympian Anthony Evans, Andy Pohl from New Zealand and Graefnings.

The top women barely saw each other during the race, being spread out amongst the men’s field soon after the start. Graefnings had a mishap midrace, snapping off the tip off her pole, however quickly received a replacement pole from 4-time Hoppet winner Ben Derrick, who in turn received a pole from the crowd to ski on for 10th overall. After Jezersek and Wright on the podium Lauren Fritz from the USA was fourth for the second year in a row, and 2015 Australian Junior XC Skier of the Year Xanthea Dewez from Wangaratta was fifth.

In the 14km Australian Birkebeiner it was neck and neck all the way between Kat Paul from Taggerty and Gabi Hawkins from Vaucluse. As the 2015 Australian Sprint Champion, Paul may well have held on for a sprint victory anyway, unfortunately this wasn’t put to the test as Hawkins fell with 100m to go. Third place went to Ellie Phillips, who also works with Bellingham and Wright at Howmans Gap. In the men’s race Damon Morton from Marlo made it three wins in a row after a close race with Liam Burton from Jindabyne, with Seve de Campo from South Yarra third. In the 7km Joey Hoppet the winners were Darcie Morton from Marlo and Jarrah Forrer from Mt Beauty. Full results are available via: www.hoppet.com.au

The Kangaroo Hoppet was also the fifth event in the 2015 FIS Australia New Zealand Continental Cup (ANC). With three races in the series remaining Jezersek is well ahead in the women’s standings, 130 points ahead of Wright. The men’s ANC is much closer with Bellingham now just 16 points ahead of Watson. The ANC continues next Friday at the Snow Farm in New Zealand.

Top Results

34km Freestyle Kangaroo Hoppet
1 Valerio LECCARDI 1:31:10.9 SUI
2 Callum WATSON 1:37:05.2 AUS
3 Phillip BELLINGHAM 1:38:51.1 AUS
4 Nick MONTGOMERY 1:39:02.6 AUS
5 Anthony EVANS 1:39:03.8 AUS
6 Andy POHL 1:39:05.4 NZL
7 Kein EINASTE 1:39:46.7 EST
8 Riccardo MICH 1:39:53.7 ITA
9 Ben DERRICK 1:40:08.4 AUS
10 Jackson BURSILL 1:41:00.6 AUS
1 Maria GRAEFNINGS 1:39:05.6 SWE
2 Barbara JEZERSEK 1:49:06.1 SLO
3 Casey WRIGHT 1:54:50.7 AUS
4 Lauren FRITZ 2:01:25.8 USA
5 Xanthea DEWEZ 2:01:40.7 AUS
6 Aimee WATSON 2:07:56.7 AUS
7 Eline GREGOIRE 2:13:03.8 FRA
8 Alice HAMILTON 2:13:25.5 AUS
9 Tess NOBLE 2:15:56.6 AUS
10 Michelle FORRER 2:16:17.6 AUS

17km Freestyle Australian Birkebeiner
1 Damon MORTON 46:29.1 AUS
2 Liam BURTON 46:49.3 AUS
3 Seve DE CAMPO 49:29.2 AUS
4 Abe WRIGHT 49:32.6 AUS
5 Finlay CLARKE 50:23.5 AUS
1 Katerina PAUL 52:59.6 AUS
2 Gabrielle HAWKINS 53:12.5 AUS
3 Ellie PHILLIPS 53:43.0 AUS
4 Ella JACKSON 55:48.4 AUS
5 Aislinn KILDEA 57:14.6 AUS

7km Freestyle Australian Birkebeiner
1 Jarrah FORRER 18:32.7 AUS
2 Matthew WRIGHT 18:54.6 AUS
3 Anthony EVANS 19:12.8 AUS
4 Campbell WRIGHT 19:13.4 NZL
5 William MIDDLEMISS 19:29.7 AUS
1 Darcie MORTON 18:51.8 AUS
2 Lilly BOLAND 19:24.6 AUS
4 Maysen DUFFY 21:45.4 AUS
5 Lara HAMILTON 21:47.6 AUS

Full results are available via www.hoppet.com.au


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