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Jan. 16 Roundup: Eliassen Out; Weng’s Biggest Cheerleader; Herrmann Returns to XC

— There was a familiar face missing from the start line this past weekend at the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, part of the Ski Classics series, in Seefeld, Austria. According to LangrennPetter Eliassen of Team Leaseplan did not race to a persistent illness that he’s had since Christmas. He won the Kaiser Maximilian last year, which helped him win the overall 2016 Ski Classics title. Eliassen told Langrenn that he has been sick for a few weeks and didn’t feel ready to race. In his absence, Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard rolled to his second-straight Ski Classics victory on Saturday, after winning the Vasaloppet China. Nygaard leads the overall Ski Classics standings by 34 points over his teammate Tord Asle Gjerdalen, while Eliassen dropped from fifth to eighth overall.

 

— Heidi Weng has a lot of fans, especially in Norway, but perhaps none bigger and more energetic/ enthusiastic than her mom Mary Bente Weng. As Weng raced to her first overall Tour de Ski victory in the final climb just over a week ago, her mom ran alongside her, all the way up the hill, which was caught on video and posted on Petter Northug’s Facebook page. She won by more than a minute and a half.

 

— After making the switch to biathlonDenise Herrmann went back to her roots this past weekend to race in the Cross-Country World Cup sprints in Toblach, Italy, where she placed 13th in the individual freestyle sprint (as the second-best German woman) and notched fourth in the team sprint with teammate Sandra Ringwald. According to Sportal.de, Herrmann is aiming to qualify for the upcoming 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, next month. She explained that while she wants to be a top biathlon World Cup competitor, she’s also hoping to race in Lahti and represent Germany in the women’s relay. She earned bronze with the relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and started competing in biathlon in December. As of now, it does not look like she will qualify for the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Feb. 9-19.

 

— From Jan. 13-20, Ukraine is hosting its first-ever International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup, leading up to the upcoming 2017 Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany (Feb. 10-19). “This is the first time our country will have hosted such a high-profile event and we are really proud to welcome the other nations,” said Ukrainian four-time Paralympic champion Oleksandra Kononova, according to a Paralympic.org press release. “We feel even more responsibility to perform well. We hope that each victory will show our country’s sporting strength and power. We are ready.”

 

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Hendrickson Again Top American as China TDS Comes to a Close

It’s a long ways from Norway to China, but that wasn’t slowing down Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) who will be taking home an additional 20,000 yuan for first place overall in the men’s division as the 10th annual China Tour de Ski wrapped up at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, outside Beijing, earlier Monday. Meng Hongliang of China took the women’s overall title. (The references are to something or someone who loves snow, particularly plants that have grown through a snow cover, and someone fond of Chinese people and customs, respectively. And 20,000 yuan is slightly under $3,000.) The six-stage tour was heavy on the freestyle sprints, with four of the stages featuring short skate sprints. Monday’s Stage 6 was no exception, as racers once more competed in a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint. This one was not easy, as racers faced a climb of at least 40 meters before…

Fritz, Hendrickson 14th in Stage 5 of China TDS

Lauren Fritz (APU) and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) each reached the quarterfinals to finish 14th overall in Stage 5 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint held in Xiwuqi, in the Inner Mongolia region of China, earlier Saturday. The two-lap race was held beneath sunny skies and cold temperatures, with race-time temps a barely FIS-legal –17 C, or 1.4° F. It was the third skate sprint in five stages, following 1.5 k skate sprints in Stages 1 and 2 in Changbaishan and Changchun. First place in the women’s race went to Li Xin of China, who also won the sprint in Stage 1 and the prologue-distance mass start in Stage 4. Chinese and Swedish skiers made up the rest of the four-person final. Fritz made it as far as the quarterfinals on the day after qualifying in 13th. In the men’s…

Caldwell, Hamilton Win OPA Cup Sprints in Planica

Fun day to stand on the podium at the beautiful Planica OPA sprint. Really fun day to watch my teammates @jessiediggins and @sbjornsen get a double podium in the #tourdeski #proudfriend #burnthosebuns A photo posted by Sophie Caldwell (@sophiecaldwell) on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:09pm PST U.S. Ski Team (USST) skiers raced well throughout the weekend in a three-race series of OPA Cup races in Planica, Slovenia, including an American podium sweep in the opening sprint races. On Friday the first couple of American sprinting, Sophie Caldwell (USST and SMST2) and Simi Hamilton (USST and SMST2), ruled the day, with each skier winning their final in a 1.25-kilometer freestyle sprint. On the women’s side, Caldwell was eighth in qualifying in the 44-racer field, 4.45 back from the leading qualifying time set by Italian Greta Laurent. Fellow USST sprinter Ida Sargent (USST and Craftsbury Green Racing Project) was roughly a second…

Bjornsen Out of Tour de Ski, Battling Cold

One day after earning the first World Cup podium of her career, Sadie Bjornsen was forced to call it quits on the 2017 Tour de Ski. “I woke up battling a little something yesterday, but was hoping I would kick it out of the house with a night of sleep,” Bjornsen wrote in an email on Saturday morning. “But that wasn’t quite possible. It’s just a little cold, but there is a lot of racing left this season and I don’t need to miss another block of training trying to find health… so I’m playing the smart card. Health first.” Bjornsen was in ninth position in the overall Tour de Ski standings going into the final two stages, but will end up watching from the sidelines. “So sad to not be finishing this amazingly fun tour, but I am still soaking in some good moments to motivate my immune system back…

Novak Reaches Podium in Stage 4 of China TDS

Jack Novak (APU) recorded the first American podium finish in this year’s China Tour de Ski, coming out of a group sprint to place third in a 5.7-kilometer freestyle mass start race in Stage 4 of the Tour in Xiwuqi, China, earlier Friday. Following Wednesday’s Stage 3 in Changchun, the Tour moved close to 1,000 kilometers northwest, to the Inner Mongolia region of China, for Friday and Saturday’s races. Friday, athletes competed on a 1.9 k loop with minimal elevation change. Men raced three laps for a 5.7 k mass start skate race. Women raced two laps for a 3.8 k mass start skate race. Samuel Rege Gianasso of France won the men’s race, finishing in 13:06.9. The top four finishers all crossed the line within 0.9 seconds of each other. Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) was second (+0.3). Novak was third (+0.6). Another Norwegian, Erlend Moian Nydal, was…

Jan. 5 Roundup: Cheating in Worldloppets; Ustiugov on Public Perception; Sundby Defends Russians

– According to the International Association of Worldloppet Skiers (IAWLS) in a Dec. 29 post on its website, cheating has infiltrated the highest level of master’s cross-country ski racing, with a system that’s existed for “many years” and was carried out by multiple participants. The scheme was a bit elaborate, so bear with us: One racer would carry the timing chip of another skier who didn’t race, nor was anywhere near the race, in their pocket during the Worldloppet marathon. The racer also had their own timing chip, which registered at the start, finish and throughout checkpoints on the course — as did the chip in their pocket. After the race, two Worldloppet passports were stamped, and two Master Diplomas were later granted — one for the person that raced and one for the one that didn’t. This has created problems with results across the circuit, spanning for several years. “This means there are many invalid…

Hendrickson Repeats as Top American in 6th in China TDS Stage 2

It was déjà vu all over again in Stage 2 of the China Tour de Ski, as Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) led four American skiers with a sixth place finish in the semifinals of a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint for the second stage in a row. Stage 2 brought the racers, 40 men and 36 women, to Changchun, in China’s Jilin region, closer to Vladivostok than to Beijing. Race-time temperatures were -11 Celsius, or 12° F, for the one-lap, 1.5 k skate sprint. Hendrickson was consistent throughout the day, qualifying in sixth and ultimately advancing to the semifinal for a final position of sixth. Jack Novak (APU) qualified in 10th, and ended his day in the quarterfinals in 14th. Skyler Kenna (APU) finished 25th today, out of the 16-person heats, after qualifying in 16th in Sunday’s Stage 1. The sole American woman, Lauren Fritz (APU),…

Hendrickson Leads Americans in 6th in China TDS Stage 1

All four Americans made the heats, with a final finishing position as high as sixth, in Stage 1 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint, in Changbaishan on Sunday, Jan 1. On the men’s side, the top 20 qualifying times in a 40-racer field moved on to the heats. Jack Novak (APU) led the Americans in qualifying in 10th, Skyler Kenna (APU) was 16th, and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was 17th. Their positions were largely reversed by the end of the day: Hendrickson finished second in the four-person semifinal for sixth overall, while Novak (16th) and Kenna (20th) ended their days in the quarterfinals. For the women, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 10th. (The women’s field was more selective than the men’s, with less than half of the field – 16 racers out of 36 – moving on.) Fritz ended her day in the quarterfinals in 14th overall. Finishing times were not…

Dec. 26 Roundup: Ski to Sea Decides to Keep XC; Northug Skips Tour; Fischer and Rossi Team Up

– A week ago on Monday, Dec. 19, the Ski to Sea team relay race announced that it was eliminating the cross-country ski leg in the upcoming edition of the race on May 28, 2017, according to The Bellingham Herald. Organizers cited a recruitment problem for teams when it came to finding cross-country skiers and considered swapping out the nordic leg for something else. But ultimately, they simply cut it, making the relay consist of six legs: downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross, and kayaking. “When we looked through our registration records and saw that we had so many teams that were full except for a cross-country skier, we knew this was the right choice. It’s something we have been hearing from races for years,” race director Anna Rankin said. Less than 24 hours after the Ski to Sea board decided to nix XC, it reversed its decision, The Bellingham Herald reported. Organizers stated that they take public concern very seriously,…