Aspen’s Hoffman leads U.S. nordic team |

Aspen’s Hoffman leads U.S. nordic team

Aspen’s Noah Hoffman set the pace for the U.S. Cross Country Team in the 50-kilometer classic race Sunday at the close of the 2013 FIS World Nordic Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Hoffman, coming off a sterling 15th-place finish in the 15K freestyle earlier in the week, skied to a 27th place in Sunday’s 50K. He was the top American.

Swede Johan Olsson won the gold medal in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 41 seconds.

Hoffman and his teammates wrapped up the most successful world championships ever for the U.S. team. The Americans ranked fourth in the medals count with two golds and one bronze.

“I wanted to take it out patiently. I maybe didn’t do that,” Hoffman said in a release from the U.S. Ski Team.

He skied among the race leaders as a group of five skiers worked out to a short lead.

“I was tempted to try to keep that going,” Hoffman said. “But that move ended up not really sticking, and I was back in the fold feeling pretty relaxed.”

He held his position until the end of the 50-kilometer test.

“Then, I kind of faded at the end. I started dealing with some cramping, trying to stop my stomach from cramping. My energy stayed pretty good,” he said.

Overall, he said, it was a good experience but a disappointing result.

“I’m looking forward to another (race),” Hoffman said.

U.S. teammates Kris Freeman, of Andover, N.H., and Tad Elliott, of Durango, finished 37th and 40th, respectively.

Eric Bjornsen, of Winthrop, Wash., skied across the finish line in 52nd place.

The 50K classic race used six laps on an 8.3-kilometer course, featuring multiple climbs and tricky descents.

Warm temperatures and sunny skies produced tough snow conditions, according to U.S. Ski Team officials.

Skiers were allowed to change skis three times during the race.

“It was hot,” said Elliott, Hoffman’s teammate. “As it gets warmer, it’s harder to kick.”

He said conditions like those Sunday are difficult for coaches and staff.

“We have skis in every exchange, and we exchange three times. There’s a bunch of repeats going on,” said Elliott, the son of three-time Olympic nordic racer Mike Elliott.

The U.S. medal collection from the worlds included Jessie Diggins, of Afton, Minn., and Kikkan Randall, of Anchorage, winning gold in the women’s team sprint.

Sarah Hendrickson, of Park City, won gold in the individual jump.

And the U.S. team of Billy Demong, Todd Lodwick, Taylor Fletcher and Bryan Fletcher, all of Steamboat Springs, won a bronze in the nordic combined team event.

The U.S. skiers will return to World Cup racing next weekend in Lahti, Finland.

Earlier, Hoffman used a strong kick to skate home in 15th place in the 15K freestyle.

Petter Northug, of Norway, won the race for his eighth career world championship gold medal.

Northug led from the start.

Hoffman’s late surge produced his best career finish in the event. The Aspen ski racer has two career top-30 finishes in the 15K classic.

Hoffman skied with Lukas Bauer, a star from the Czech Republic, passing five skiers on the final lap.

“Late in the race, I got on (Lukas) Bauer. I was struggling to stay with him, but he was a good ride for me,” Hoffman said.

Elliott finished 34th; Bjornsen was 48th.

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