Mount Beauty Olympians on song for Hoppet

Phil Bellingham sits on the tail of Valerio Leccardi with Paul Kovacs and Alasdair Tutt hot on their heels in the freestyle sprint final at Falls Creek.

Phil Bellingham sits on the tail of Valerio Leccardi with Paul Kovacs and Alasdair Tutt hot on their heels in the freestyle sprint final at Falls Creek.

MOUNT Beauty skiers Esther Bottomley and Phil Bellingham will head into the final round of the trans-Tasman cross country challenge as frontrunners.

The winter Olympians head into the 42-kilometre Kangaroo Hoppet on Sunday on top of the table — Bellingham tied with Swiss skier Valerio Leccardi and three-time Olympian Bottomley 60 points clear of her nearest rival.

Both won their freestyle sprints when the Australia-New Zealand Cup for cross country moved to Falls Creek last weekend.

But race favourite Callum Watson won’t be in the Hoppet after puncturing a lung in a fall at the weekend.

Watson was flown to Melbourne after a crash in the semi-final of the sprint with Switzerland’s Simon Hammer.

National Cross Country Ski Team spokesman Finn Marsland said Bellingham and Leccardi put on a show in both the sprint and the men’s 15-kilometre events.

“After a delay for the injury to Callum the finals resumed, and in the A-final the race soon turned into a head-to-head battle between Bellingham and Leccardi,” he said.

“Leccardi led for most of the race before Bellingham made a decisive move with 300 metres to go and held on for victory, with Paul Kovacs, from Porepunkah, third.”

The events were held using an interval start time trial format on a five-kilometre loop.

The tables were turned in the 15-kilometre event, where Bellingham took a small lead over Leccardi after the first lap in what quickly became a race in two.

Leccardi turned the deficit around on the second lap and was never headed, winning by 1:47 from Bellingham, with Swiss Reto Hammer third.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop