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Tour de Force for Bjørgen in Holmenkollen 30 k, Norway Sweeps Podium

Marit Bjørgen shadowed Norwegian teammate Therese Johaug for almost the entire 30-kilometer race at Holmenkollen on Sunday, before sprinting away from her up the last major climb and winning the famed mass start by 10 seconds in Oslo, Norway.

Around 17 k into the race, Johaug pushed hard to win sprint bonus seconds. Bjørgen went with her, but Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, who had been skiing with the pair, was popped off the back. For the next 12 kilometers, Johaug and Bjørgen traded the lead back and forth. A move or increase in the pace by one of the women was always countered by the other.

With 800 meters to go, the pair hit the Hellnerbacken hill, a punishingly steep climb which brings the race course back into the Holmenkollen stadium. Both women upped their tempo and their pace, sprinting as fast as they could up the climb — but Bjørgen’s skiing was faster and she opened a huge and insurmountable gap on Johaug, even though her more diminutive teammate is widely acknowledged to be the best skier in the world at skating up steep climbs.

With a sizable time cushion, Bjørgen enjoyed her ski down the finishing straightaway in front of a grandstand of ecstatic Norwegian fans.

After being dropped by the two leaders, Kalla slipped back, a second here and a second there. Eventually she landed in the sights of Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, who had been dropped by the lead trio early and skied almost the entire race alone in fourth place. Jacobsen worked furiously to close the gap, and caught Kalla with just a few kilometers to go. Similarly to her winning teammate, she dropped the Swede in the final few hundred meters and skied into third place all alone, rewarded for the kilometers of punishing climbs she had endured all by herself.

Norway’s Heidi Weng beat teammate Ragnhild Haga in a photo finish for fifth place, followed by another Norwegian, Martine Ek Hagen. Germany’s Nicole Fessel placed eighth at the back of that pack, and Liz Stephen of the U.S. was ninth, 16 seconds behind Fessel after skiing in and often leading the chase pack until the very last kilometers.

Also for the U.S., Jessie Diggins placed 14th (+2:44) and Caitlin Gregg 19th (+3:07). Sadie Bjornsen crossed the line in 44th, Caitlin Patterson in 53rd, and Rosie Brennan in 55th.

The lone Canadian, Emily Nishikawa, placed 50th (+8:04).

Stay tuned for full race reports.

Results

Røthe Nabs Holmenkollen 50 k in Photo Finish

Sjur Røthe of Norway won a thrilling photo finish against Switzerland’s Dario Cologna in the 50 k skate race in Oslo, Norway, to cap of the men’s World Cup cross country ski season. Many different skiers put in their time at the front as the field wound its way around and around the Holmenkollen venue’s 50 k course. Robin Duvillard of France and Anders Gløersen of Norway had the most successful breakaway, going to the front when the rest of the field swapped skis at 33 k and holding onto their break for almost six kilometers. Closer to the finish, Cologna put in a big surge to try to break away. But four skiers followed him: Røthe and Norwegian teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund, and Belarus’s 41-year-old Sergei Dolidovich. Most of the field couldn’t keep up, but Sweden’s Marcus Hellner saw the break happening and fought his…

Norway Sweeps Top 4 in Men’s, Women’s Drammen Sprints

Eirik Brandsdal and Maiken Caspersen Falla took wins for the home team at the Drammen sprints, the only city sprints to be held on the World Cup this season and the final sprint competitions of the year. Norway’s Brandsdal edged teammates Finn Hågen Krogh and Ola Vigen Hattestad – who had won qualifying – in an exciting sprint finish in the 1.2 k classic final. Sondre Turvoll Fossli finished fourth, +5.31, and Sergey Ustyugov of Russia was fifth, the first non-Norwegian. His teammate Nikita Kruikov was relegated to last place in the final. Andy Newell of the United States was the lone North American to reach the semifinals, but there finished sixth and did not make the final. Lenny Valjas of Canada qualified 19th and just missed the semis, finishing third in his quarterfinal heat. The women’s final was also a show of Norwegian dominance, as Falla outsprinted teammate Heidi…

Sadie Bjornsen Qualifies Ninth, Valjas and Newell in the Heats in Drammen

  In the final sprint of the season, Sadie Bjornsen of the U.S. Ski Team qualified ninth on Wednesday in Drammen, Norway. Her time was 5.22 seconds back from Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, the fastest woman on the 1.3-kilometer classic-sprint course in 3:01.25. Bjornsen was the lone American female to advance to heats, as Sophie Caldwell finished 1.18 seconds outside the top 30 in 35th, 11.59 seconds behind Østberg. After reaching the podium in last weekend’s freestyle sprint in Lahti, Finland, Kikkan Randall finished 45th in the classic-sprint qualifier, 18.03 seconds behind the winner. Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) was 51st (+19.73). No Canadian women competed. In the men’s 1.3 k qualifier, Lenny Valjas was the lone Canadian to advance, clocking in 4.9 seconds behind Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad, the fastest male in 2:36.48. Teammate Alex Harvey missed qualifying in 33rd, 0.7 seconds out of the top 30 and 6.53 seconds behind Hattestad. American Andy Newell qualified in 28th (+5.48). His…

Falk, Edin Lead Lahti World Cup Sprint Qualifier; Diggins Fifth

Johan Edin posted the best time in Satruday’s 1.5 k freestyle sprint qualifier in Lahti, Finland. Crossing the line at 2:41.14, the Swede topped the field of 79 skiers at the first World Cup since the end of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden. Norway’s Eirik Brandsdal placed second in the qualifier, just 0.19 seconds behind Edin. Third went to teammate Finn Hågen Krogh who was off pace by 1.44 seconds. The U.S. Ski Team’s Andy Newell was the only North American to qualify of the heats, finishing 13th and 3.02 seconds behind Edin. Teammate Simi Hamilton narrowly missed qualification in 33rd. He was 0.32 seconds from the top 30. Canada’s Len Valjas finished 48th while Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess and Erik Bjornsen finished 55th and 57th. Alex Harvey, Jesse Cockney, and Micheal Somppi placed 63rd, 68th, and 74th respectively. Another Swede topped the qualification round in the…

Injured Jönsson Will Not Compete in World Championships

Sweden’s Emil Jönsson will not compete at the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden due to a strained groin muscle. The news comes after the sprinter fell in a quarterfinal of the Östersund World Cup classic sprint, which took place the weekend before the start of Worlds. Unable to stand, he did not finish the race and was forced to be carried off course. After several days of extensive evaluation and therapy Jönsson was told that he would be unfit to compete at Worlds. According to the Swedish star, the news was especially difficult given that the year’s most anticipated races are taking place in his home country. “It has fluctuated emotionally, from hearty pain on race day to positive emotions as rehabilitation happened so fast. I feel pretty good, but there is a difference between living a normal life trying to be the best in the world in Falun,” he said,…

Krogh Completes Östersund Sweep with First 15 k Skate Win

Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh claimed his first World Cup distance win in a 15-kilometer freestyle and his second-straight win of the last weekend of World Cup racing before World Championships by 13.5 seconds on Sunday. The Sprint World Cup leader, who won Saturday’s classic sprint, Krogh posted the winning time of 32:46 in Östersund, Sweden. France’s Maurice Manificat finished 13.5 seconds back in second, and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner took third (+18.9), ahead of Norway’s Hans Christer Holund, an early leader who ended up fourth (+19.7). Sweden’s Johan Olsson took fifth (+26.1), and two more Norwegians, Diderik Tønseth and Niklas Dyrhaug placed sixth and seventh, respectively. Finishing his first World Cup of the season, American Noah Hoffman placed 38th (+1:54.2). His teammate Erik Bjornsen was 60th (+2:43.4), Matt Gelso took 71st (+3:33.8), and Northern Michigan University senior Kyle Bratrud was 84th in his first World Cup. Canada’s Ivan Babikov placed 49th (+2:11.3),…

Kalla Wins First World Cup in 5 Years; Bjørgen Secures Overall World Cup Title

Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla led from start to finish of Sunday’s 10-kilometer freestyle individual start, and for a change, not even Norwegian World Cup leader Marit Bjørgen could come close as Kalla won her first World Cup since March 2010 by 36.4 seconds in 23:26.1. “It feels great to win a World Cup again,” Kalla told FIS afterward in Östersund, Sweden. “The crowd here in Ostersund was so encouraging.  I know the courses here very well and I felt strong.  The 15th of February is a special day for me.  I won Olympic Gold in Vancouver on this day and again last year in Sochi we won the relay on this day, and now a World Cup win today.” The Swede started 50th and led at every checkpoint before claiming her spot in the leader’s chair over Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Norway took four of the top five with Bjørgen in second, Therese Johaug…

Bjørgen Wins Again, Krogh Outlasts Harvey in Östersund Sprint

Marit Bjørgen of Norway expanded her overall lead in the women’s World Cup standings by winning Saturday’s 1.2-kilometer classic sprint in Östersund, Sweden. After qualifying in seventh, Bjørgen comfortably won the final in a time of 2:46.82, 1.80 seconds ahead of teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson placed third (+2.03) in front of a roaring home crowd. A trio of Norwegians took up the other spots in the final. Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes placed fourth (+4.28) after qualifying in first to earn her best World Cup result of the season, while World Cup sprint leader Ingvild Flugstad Østberg was fifth (+6.51) and Celine Brun-Lie finished in sixth (+12.35). Americans Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell raced in the same heat after qualifying in 27th and 24th, respectively. Up against Nilsson and Bjørgen – who won the heat in 2:50.88 – Bjornsen took fourth (+4.53) and ended up 20th overall, while Caldwell…

Saxton Added to U.S. World Championships Team

  The U.S. 2015 World Championships roster grew by one Tuesday, with the addition of Stratton Mountain School T2’s Ben Saxton. The 21-year-old will join the 16 other athletes named to the team, making it the largest U.S. team in recent history. Saxton’s selection follows a sixth-place finish in the classic sprint at the U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. While Saxton did not meet any objective qualifying criteria, the U.S. Ski Team coaches used digression to pick the Minnesota native. (Read more about the U.S. selection process here.)  “Ben has had another breakout year in sprinting. His sprint result at the U23 World Championships indicates that he is ready to compete with the very best in the world,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said in a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) press release. Grover told FasterSkier in January that any additional picks from the U23 World Championships would be the result of…