Saturday was a good day to be a favorite — and an overall World Cup leader as who have been beating out the masses all season won the final race of 2015/2016 and last stage of the Ski Tour Canada (STC), the classic pursuits in Canmore, Alberta.
Norway’s Therese Johaug raced from second to first in the women’s 10-kilometer classic pursuit, overcoming a 30-second starting deficit and beating teammate Heidi Weng by 1:07.8 minutes in 34:12.4. Weng shook her head in disappointment at the finish after being unable to hang with Johaug, both the Overall and Distance World Cup winner, after Johaug caught her around 4 k and dropped Weng shortly thereafter.
“I cannot believe that I win this Tour because it’s three sprint races …,” Johaug said in a post-race interview with FIS. “Everybody knows that I’m good in [the final climb of the Tour de Ski], but here it is normal track and not a lot of hills. For me, it was a goal to win this Tour because I never thought I could win here. .. It’s so good to finish the season with a victory here.”
Ingvild Flugstad Østberg made it an all-Norwegian STC podium in third, 2:13.3 back, and Krista Parmakoski of Finland raced from sixth for fourth (+2:56.2) with the fastest time of day in 33:41.8.
American Jessie Diggins started fifth and held her position, after being passed by Parmakoski (who started 7 seconds behind her) then overtaking Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, the fourth starter, while clinging to Parmakoski. Diggins finished fifth (+3:08.5), ahead of Jacobsen in sixth (+4:12), and Diggins posted the third-fastest time of day (after Johaug’s second fastest time).
“I don’t see myself as leading the team; I see myself as being the team cheerleader,” Diggins said after. “That’s my role and I’m really proud to be in that role. I’m really proud of our whole team this season.”
Two other Finnish skiers landed in the top 10, with Kerttu Niskanen in seventh (+5:20.5) and Anne Kyllönen in eighth (+5:34.8). Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk placed ninth (+6:55.7) and Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla — a sprint specialist who did not complete the Tour de Ski earlier in the season — took 10th (+7:07.8).
American Sadie Bjornsen started 11th and held her position for 11th overall (+7:12.4), about a second ahead of Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in 12th. A third U.S. Ski Team (USST) member, Rosie Brennan placed 24th (+12:28.5) while Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University) ended her first tour in 31st (+15:12.5). Caitlin Gregg (USST/Team Gregg) placed 33rd, Ida Sargent (Craftsbury Green Racing Project/USST) was 34th, and Katharine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School/USST) 36th.
Emily Nishikawa, a leading member of Canada’s Senior Development Team, was the top Canadian in 37th and Cendrine Browne (Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre/CNST) placed 40th.
American Kaitlynn Miller (CGRP) was 41st, Annika Taylor (Sugar Bowl Academy/Great Britain) was 42nd, Annie Hart (SMST2) 43rd, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (CNST) 44th, Jessica Yeaton (APU/Australia) 46th, Annika Hicks (Canmore Nordic) 47th, Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation), and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) 49th.
- Johaug (NOR) 2681 points
- Østberg (NOR) 2302
- Weng (NOR) 2172
(*Of note: Diggins 8th overall)
- Johaug (NOR) 1533
- Weng (NOR) 1145
- Østberg (NOR) 976
(*Diggins 9th overall)
In the men’s 15 k classic pursuit, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby wasted no time tackling a 39-second deficit and racing from third to first, leading Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov and Norway’s Petter Northug (who started second, 32 seconds after Ustiugov) early on the second of four laps at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
At 5.9 k, Sundby had built a 13.2-second lead on Ustiugov, while Northug trailed about a second farther back in third. However, the end of the lap, halfway through the race, Ustiugov and Northug had reined Sundby back in — almost. There at 7.5 k, Ustiugov was 6.7 seconds back and Northug 16.6 seconds behind. About two kilometers later, Sundby had increased his lead once again, 21 seconds ahead of Ustiugov and 48 seconds ahead of Northug.
The leader of both the overall and Distance World Cup, Sundby went on to win the race in 47:24.1, while Ustiugov took second 57.7 seconds later and Northug crossed the line, absolutely spent, nearly a minute later in third (+1:52.5).
“I had my doubts today, man, but you know, final race of the season, I just had to try,” Sundby said in a post-race interview with FIS. “I had to put it all out there today and just go for it. There was no point to go for third today.”
It marked his third-consecutive Crystal Globe (overall World Cup victory).
“I’m sick this is not healthy,” Sundby joked. “But I’m so happy and what a way to finish out the season for me. … Let’s go party now.”
France’s Maurice Manificat rose from seventh to fourth (+2:18.4) with the fastest time of day in 45:54.6, while Canada’s Alex Harvey placed fifth (+2:53.9) after starting fourth and skiing solo for the first half of the race.
Finland’s Matti Heikkinen finished the Tour in sixth, 12.9 seconds after Harvey and 3:06.8 behind Sundby, after starting ninth. Heikkinen had the second fastest time of day, 10.6 seconds behind Manificat.
“I thought there was no way I would get caught, but I got caught,” Harvey said after starting fourth, 1:19 ahead of Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh, who began the race in fifth. Manificat started another 19 seconds later, following Norway’s Emil Iversen in sixth.
“I have a lot of bad days in my career. It’s just one of them,” Harvey continued. “There’s nothing to worry about. You can’t be on top everyday.”
Norway took seventh through ninth with Iversen, Hans Christer Holund and Krogh, respectively, and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner finished 10th (+6:01.3).
Three Canadians finished in the top 20 of their home tour, with Ivan Babikov in 14th (+7:30.3) and Devon Kershaw in 16th (+8:17.1).
Graeme Killick (Canadian Senior Development Team) was the fourth Canadian in the top 30 in 27th overall (+11.44.3).
Noah Hoffman (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/U.S. Ski Team) led the Americans in 34th (+13:20.5). Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST) was 42nd, Canada’s Kevin Sandau (AWCA) was 43rd, Scott Patterson (APU) 46th, Michael Somppi (NDC Thunder Bay) 49th, Russell Kennedy (Canmore Nordic) 50th, and Tad Elliott (SSCV) 51st.
- Sundby (NOR) 2634 points
- Northug (NOR) 1602
- Krogh (NOR) 1584
(*Harvey 7th overall)
- Sundby (NOR) 1444
- Manificat (FRA) 763
- Dyrhaug (NOR) 729