TOP-class European skiers have again dominated the Kangaroo Hoppet.
Last year Olympic Gold medallist Alexander Legkov dominated the event and on Saturday Switzerland’s Valerio Leccardi, a winner in 2010, proved too strong for Mount Beauty and Australian winter Olympian Phillip Bellingham in the elite men’s 42- kilometre marathon on softening snow.
In the women’s event, five-time winter Olympian and Ukraine flagbearer at the Sochi Games, Valentina Shevchenko, had a battle with Slovenia’s Barbara Jezersek before pulling away to also win convincingly.
Falls Creek’s Esther Bottomly, looking for her third win in the race, finished third.
Hoppet organiser Alan Marsland said it wasn’t a day for close finishes.
“The main pack in the men’s race broke up early on, with Leccardi and Bellingham sharing the lead and skiing away,” he said.
“As they started up the Paralyser climb Leccardi turned up the screws and dropped Bellingham as well.
“With the first two already done and dusted by the end of the first loop, the battle was on for third.
“Porepunkah’s Paul Kovacs, Vahur Teppan from Estonia and US skier Thomas Smith traded places until the second time through the Sun Valley loop, when Kovacs managed to ski clear.”
Marsland said it was an instant replay in the women’s marathon.
“Shevchenko and Jezersek similarly skied away from the rest of the women then were split up on the Paralyser,” he said.
“Shevchenko built up a lead over the top of the course then held it throughout the second lap to win comfortably.
“Bottomley and Jessica Yeaton, from the US, were battling for third until another American skier, Lauren Fritz, caught the two climbing over the Heathy Spur loop, then Bottomley made a short break and skied away into a clear third place.”
The Kangaroo Hoppet was the final event in the 2014 Australia New Zealand Continental Cup.
Leccardi’s Hopper victory also secured the ANC win, just 20 points ahead of Bellingham, while Bottomley topped the women’s tally by 75 points from Jessica Yeaton.