Bjoerndalen finishes surprising 11th


OBERSTDORF, Germany -- Pietro Piller Cottrer and Fulvio Valbusa scored a big upset Thursday in the 15-kilometer freestyle,
the first 1-2 finish for Italy's men at the Nordic world championships.

"For me, it was like a victory when I heard Pietro was ahead
during the race," Valbusa said. "It's not only that we are good
friends, we are like brothers."

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was 11th on the opening day of
the two-week event. He was bidding to win a cross-country medal
after capturing four golds in biathlon at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

In the women's 10K freestyle, Katerina Neumannova gained her
first gold medal at a major championship during a 14-year career.
She was timed in 26 minutes, 27.6 seconds, finishing 1.2 seconds
ahead of Russia's Julija Tchepalova. Norway's Marit Bjorgen, the
favorite, was third, 15.2 behind.

Neumannova had collected silver and bronze medals at the
Olympics and worlds during her 14-year career, but the gold proved
elusive. She fell on her back after the race and shook her hands in glee.

"Of course, it's a dream," she said. "I've won so many silvers."

Piller Cottrer covered a tough course, heavy with fresh snow, in
34:49.7. Valbusa, his roommate on the road, was 11.2 back. Norway's
Ruud Hofstad finished third, 14.2 behind, for his first major medal.

"I've had so much trouble this season with the skis, my back, I
couldn't even think about making the podium," Piller Cottrer said.
"Now I'm world champion -- it's great. It will be a double celebration."

He hadn't finished better than seventh in a World Cup meet all
season while the best from his 36-year-old roommate, Valbusa, was
11th. Overall World Cup leader Axel Teichmann of Germany was seventh.

Tchepalova, who won two gold medals at the 2002 Olympics, was
almost a minute ahead of Neumannova with 1.6 kilometers left before
the Czech charged.

Bjorgen has dominated the World Cup season with seven wins,
including three over 10 kilometers or longer. She had long been
known only as a sprint specialist.

Neumannova has cut back on her training because she has a
20-month-old daughter.

"She's made my life better," Neumannova said. "But it is hard to find the time."

Men: Cross country, 15k Freestyle
1. Pietro Piller Cottrer, Italy, 34 minutes 49.7 seconds.
2. Fulvio Valbusa Fulvio, Italy, 35:00.9.
3. Ruud Hofstad Tore, Norway, 35:03.9.
4. Lars Berger, Norway, 35:06.6.
5. Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, 35:08.3.
6. Vincent Vittoz, France, 35:08.7.
7. Axel Teichmann, Germany, 35:16.2.
8. Jens Filbrich, Germany, 35:25.8.
9. Teemu Kattilakoski, Finland, 35:28.3.
10. Martin Bajcicak, Slovakia, 35:29.4.
11. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Norway, 35:30.6.
12. Nikolaj Bolchakov, Russia, 35:42.3.
13. Franz Goering, Germany, 35:42.7.
14. Giorgio Di Centa, Italy, 35:42.9.
15. Anders Soedergren, Sweden, 35:47.9.
16. Remo Fischer, Switzerland, 35:48.8.
17. Cristian Zorzi, Italy, 35:54.8.
18. Jiri Magal, Czech Republic, 35:55.4.
19. Tobias Angerer, Germany, 35:55.5.
20. Emmanuel Jonnier, France, 35:59.6.
46. Andrew Johnson, United States, 36:48.9
56. Chris Jefferies, Canada, 37:35.8.
57. Lars Flora, United States, 37:39. 8.
64. Dan Roycroft, Canada, 38:05.2.
69. Gordon Jewett, Canada, 38:29.2.
70. James Southam, United States, 38:34.1.
77. Drew Goldsack, Canada, 39:21.9.

Women: 10k Freestyle
1. Katerina Neumannova, Czech Republic, 26 minutes, 27.6 seconds.
2. Julija Tchepalova, Russia, 26:28.8.
3. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 26:42.8.
4. Kristina Smigun, Estonia, 26:46.2.
5. Natalia Baranova-Masolkina, Russia, 26:59.1.
6. Olga Savialova, Russia, 27:00.3.
7. Svetlana Malahova, Kazakhstan, 27:02.1.
8. Sabina Valbusa, Italy, 27:03.6.
9. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 27:09.2.
10. Kristin Steira, Norway, 27:13.8.
11. Evgenia Medvedeva-Abruzova, Russia, 27:16.6.
12. Gabriella Paruzzi, Italy, 27:17.5.
13. Riitta Lassila, Finland, 27:35.1.
14. Beckie Scott, Canada, 27:47.2.
15. Valentian Shevchenko, Ukraine, 27:48.6.
16. Karine Philippot, France, 27:53.1.
17. Natscia Leonardi Cortesi, Switzerland, 27:55.4.
18. Evi Sachenbacher, Germany, 28:01.1.
19. Arianna Follis, Italy, 28:06.6.
20. Oxana Jatskaja, Kazakhstan, 28:11.9.
24. Sarah Konrad, United States, 28:40.9.
49. Tara Whitten, Canada, 30:22.2.
66. Kikkan Randall, United States, 32:37.8.