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Coop Norway New Title Sponsor of FIS Cross Country World Cup

(Press release)

Coop Norway has entered into a long-term sponsorship agreement with the International Ski Federation (FIS) as title sponsor of the FIS Cross Country World Cup.

“We are both proud and happy to have reached an agreement with FIS. Coop is one of Norway’s largest sponsors of recreational sports and sports in general. Our strategy is to be well present within the largest sports in Norway. This is in order to reach the breadth of Norwegian sports and most of our customers and co-owners, “said CEO Geir Inge Stokke.

The agreement lasts for four years, with an option of four additional years. Coop will receive comprehensive visibility and will use the FIS Cross-Country World Cup with the Tour de Ski and other exciting events to engage and motivate children and youngsters to be active.

“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible and get the most children and young people into activity. In order to do so we have to be present in the sports that engage most of the Norwegians. Cross-country skiing is one of these sports in particular, and we are very pleased with the agreement we have now reached with the International Ski Federation, “said Stokke.

“We are pleased to welcome Coop Norway to the FIS sponsor family,” said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper. “Coop has long shown a deep dedication to keeping the next generation of children active in snow sports, which is at the heart of FIS and its activities. Together with Coop we look forward to the next four years working towards our common goals.”

2018/2019 FIS World Cup Calendar

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Planica, Slovenia, will be hosting 2023 Ski World Championships.

On Friday, the International Ski Federation released its calendar for the upcoming 2018/2019 Cross-Country World Cup season. The schedule, which begins Nov. 24 with two days of racing in Kuusamo (Ruka), Finland, and ends March 23 with World Cup Finals in Quebec, includes a few notable stops.

After the regular early season stops in Finland (Nov. 24-25) and Lillehammer, Norway (Nov. 30-Dec. 2), the World Cup visits Beitostølen, Norway, for distance (15/30 k freestyle) and relay races Dec. 8-9. Racers then head south to Davos, Switzerland (Dec. 15-16), to close out Period 1.

The 13th annual Tour de Ski will start and end in Italy, with the first two stages in Toblach and the last two (of seven total stages) in Val di Fiemme. In between, a skate sprint will take place in Val Müstair, Switzerland, followed by two distance races (10/15 k classic mass start + 10/15 k freestyle pursuit) in Oberstdorf, Germany.

That’s Period 2.

Period 3 of racing takes place over three weekends in January and includes the return of the World Cup to Dresden, Germany, for the second-straight year for an all skate-sprint weekend (individual followed by team sprint) Jan. 12-13. Then it’s off to Otepää, Estonia, followed by the second relays of the season in Ulricehamn, Sweden.

Racers return to a perennial staple, Lahti, Finland, for the start of Period 4, Feb. 9-10. Then they’ll head to a new World Cup stop in Cogne, Italy (Feb. 16-17), for skate sprints and 10/15 k classic races.

2019 World Championships are set to kick off just two days later Feb. 19-March 3 in Seefeld, Austria. (In related news, 2023 World Championships were recently awarded to Planica, Slovenia.)

Period 5 includes the regular stops in Oslo (Holmenkollen) and Drammen, Norway, and Falun, Sweden, in March. The season concludes in Quebec City, with the three-day World Cup Finals mini tour March 22-24.

Complete schedule

Friday Olympic Notes: Flagbearer, Athlete Rep, Men’s 50 k Starters

The women’s team-sprint medal ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, with (from left to right) Sweden’s silver medalists Charlotte Kalla and Stina Nilsson, American gold medalists Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, and Norway’s bronze medalists Marit Bjørgen and Maiken Caspersen Falla. (Photo: FlyingPointRoad)

A smattering of Friday Olympic news in advance of Saturday’s men’s 50-kilometer classic mass start race:

Diggins Named Flagbearer

Jessie Diggins will be the flagbearer for the American delegation at Sunday’s closing ceremonies, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced earlier today. Diggins will be the first cross-country skier to serve this role for America (although nordic-combined athlete Bill Demong carried the flag at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Games in 2010, and biathlete Lyle Nelson was the flagbearer for the opening ceremonies at Calgary in 1988).

Diggins won an election open to all Team USA athletes over the past two days, following her nomination by the national governing body for U.S. skiing. The other six candidates, as nominated by other American sports national governing bodies, were “snowboarder Jamie Anderson, hockey player Meghan Duggan, luge athlete Chris Mazdzer, figure skater Adam Rippon, bobsled athlete Elana Meyers Taylor and Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn,” American cross-country skier Noah Hoffman wrote earlier today.

“This is such an incredible honor for me,” said Diggins in a USOC press release. “I’m really humbled and moved that the athletes voted for me. It’s so inspiring to feel the support and cheering from everyone. The coolest thing for me about the Games has been getting to meet other athletes on Team USA, and getting to cheer them on at their events and learn about what they do. I have so much respect and admiration for everybody here and am beyond honored to be able to lead us out of these Games.”

Randall Elected to Athletes’ Commission

Peer recognition continued to pour in for the gold medal-winning duo this week, as it was announced on Thursday that Randall had been elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission for an eight-year term.

Randall was elected along with Finnish ice hockey player Emma Terho. She was narrowly ahead of Norwegian cross-country skier Astrid Jacobsen in the final vote tally, although a third athlete may be seated to the commission as well depending on what happens with internal commission logistics over the next several months.

Voting turnout among the 2,919 athletes attending the 2018 Winter Olympics was slightly less than 84 percent.

The commission is a representative body established in 1981 for the purpose of representing athletes and their concerns within the IOC context. The commission’s mission is “to ensure that the athletes’ viewpoint remains at the heart of the Olympic Movement decisions,” says its website.

Randall spoke with FasterSkier last fall about her plans to run for the athletes’ rep position, and what she hoped to achieve in that role.

Randall said at the time that she had “really enjoyed” serving as the cross-country representative to the FIS Athletes’ Commission, and that “to take that experience and expand it to the IOC level would just be really interesting.”

She added, “I think now is a great time to get involved and help strengthen the Olympic movement, get it back to a point where it’s being a good force in the world, because I want to see the Olympics still be important for my children, still be important for your children,” she said. “I don’t want to see the Olympics go away. I’m hoping I can blend my experience having been an athlete at four Olympics, hopefully number five coming up, and then also having worked on the other side, representing the athletes, being in the business side of the sport, and I just think it would be a really cool way to stay involved.”

Randall spoke with FasterSkier again on Friday, following the gold medal and the election, to give more details about what she hopes to achieve while serving on the commission.

Three U.S. Men to Start 50 k

The start list is up for Saturday’s 50 k classic mass start, the longest cross-country race at the Olympics. Switzerland’s Dario Cologna leads out the 71-racer, 32-nation field in bib number 1, followed by Canada’s Alex Harvey (2), Norwegians Hans Christer Holund (3) and Martin Sundby (4), and Alexey Poltoranin (5) of Kazahstan.

Scott Patterson (U.S. Ski Team/APU) racing to 21st in the 15 k skate at the 2018 Olympics. (Photo: FlyingPointRoad)

For the Americans, look for Scott Patterson in bib 29, Noah Hoffman in bib 42, and Tyler Kornfield in bib 57.

Yes, that’s only three racers total, against four possible U.S. start spots for this race.

On his blog, Hoffman explained why one start spot is going unused: “All of the suspense about who was going to start the 50K was for naught. Erik Bjornsen ended up declining his spot because of lingering fatigue from the team sprint and his desire to target races coming up after the Olympics. Paddy Caldwell then declined his spot as well because he is not completely healthy and ready to race after last week’s cold. Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, both primarily sprinters, also declined to race, and the Hanneman brothers have already left the Olympics. Therefore, we will only have three starters (out of a possible four) in tomorrow’s race. Though this is not the fault of any one person, it is disappointing to leave a start spot unfilled when there are so many great skiers in the US who would love to start this race.”

The 50 k starts at 2 p.m. Saturday local time, 8 p.m. Friday Alaska time, midnight East Coast time. Racers will cover six laps of the 8.4 k “redblue” course, a combination of two courses previously used in these Games. Athletes will face an average climb of slightly less than 37 meters per kilometer, and will climb a total of 1,866 meters, or over 6,000 vertical feet, over the course of the race.

— Gavin Kentch

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Women’s Olympic Relay Goes Down Saturday

The U.S. women’s relay, with Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen, hugs anchor Jessie Diggins at the finish after she secured second for the best-ever U.S. women’s relay result in a cross-country World Cup in January 2016 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

It’s relay time.

Or, as longtime American anchor leg and effervescent team cheerleader Jessie Diggins put it, “Grab your relay socks. Get your glitter. ✨ Favorite day of the whole darn year coming up tomorrow! 🙊

The women’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay goes off on Saturday. Start time is 6:30 p.m. local time, 12:30 a.m. Alaska time, 4:30 a.m. East Coast time. The symbolism is at once both obvious and profound: The strongest American team in, well, ever, working together in the ultimate team event. Longtime team leader Kikkan Randall, in perhaps her last-ever Olympic race of a brilliant five-Olympics career, skiing alongside athletes who grew up idolizing her. Lots going on here.

So who’s going to be wearing bib number 4 for the Americans? Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall, and Jessie Diggins, in that order. That’s classic – classic – skate – skate, all on the same “blue” course. And then, presumably, medal or not, a large hug at the finish line.

The coaches had some idea about potential relay lineups coming into the Games but used the first three races to finesse those picks, U.S. Head Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb told FasterSkier in a phone interview on Friday.

“The way the Olympic schedule worked out is that it gave us a chance to look at eight of our athletes in the first three days,” Whitcomb said. “So we had the knowledge coming into the Olympics as well as the knowledge of how athletes are actually skiing at the Olympics. And so there were a few items left for discussion, it took us about three hours to come up with this team. But at the end of the discussions it circled back to what we initially were leaning towards following the 10 k skate.”

(In Thursday’s freestyle interval-start race, Diggins led the way for the Americans in fifth. Bjornsen and Randall were seconds apart in 15th and 16th. Stephen was roughly 45 seconds farther back in 31st, telling FasterSkier afterwards, “I definitely didn’t have the best race I was hoping for, but I mean, our team has so much good to focus on, and that’s what I plan on doing.”)

So let’s take it leg by leg.

Here’s Whitcomb on putting Caldwell as the first leg: “We have run Sophie in three relays in the past. … And she has been on the podium, she has been a member of our best-ever relay result which was a second place where we beat Finland on laps three and four, legs three and four. … And we feel that Sophie has really taken a step forward this year, has posted a few results in or around the top 30 which she has never done with consistency before, and her sprinting has taken a huge step forward, too, where she is ranked number three in the world going into the Olympics. So that’s a really exciting first leg for us. It’s also reasonably tricky conditions for kicking, which is something Sophie excels in.”

Caldwell is “really stoked” at this opportunity, Whitcomb noted. He quoted a text she had sent him calling this a “dream come true” when he asked her if she was interested in skiing that leg. (“Before we drop the team on the athletes we make sure that we talk with each of the sort of nominated legs,” Whitcomb clarified, “to make sure that they’re feeling good, and feeling like they are the right choice for that particular leg.”)

Sophie Caldwell then hands off to Sadie Bjornsen, a skier with whom she has long been linked. (You can just call them both “Sodie.”)

“Sadie has been our go-to classic skier,” Whitcomb explained. “She is someone who can ski any leg of this relay, and we feel like you put your best distance classic skier in Leg 2, as we see on the start list Sweden is doing that in Kalla, and Norway has a very strong Leg 2 in Jacobsen, and Finland has a very strong leg in Kerttu Niskanen. And that’s to say nothing of the Russians who have been skiing great in classic all week.”

So did Whitcomb have to say much to Bjornsen to help prepare her for this opportunity? Not really.

“Sometimes the best kind of coaching in these situations is just to assess whether or not there are any problems, and if there aren’t then just kind of step back and let the professionals do their job,” Whitcomb said. “Sadie is someone who performs extremely well under pressure in a race, but she can also get a little stressed out if you talk about an upcoming race too much. So she’s got this, and has shown us time and time again through eight or ten World Cup relays that she is prepared for Leg 2.”

Bjornsen will hand off to Randall, the woman she came to Alaska Pacific University to train with earlier this decade. Randall has more often skied the classic leg for the American women than the skate leg, though that has been more out of necessity than design.

“Historically as a team we have always felt like the leg that we have been missing is one of the classic legs,” Whitcomb notes. “And Kikkan has often been prepared for both skate or classic, but it’s been the classic that we’ve needed to switch somebody in to. And she’ll admit it herself, she is a little bit of a wildcard when it comes to the 5 k classic and is much more dependable as a skate leg. But we just over the years have had ample skaters to fill that position. So she has been tossed into some really challenging situations, even at times when she is not feeling on point in her classic skiing, and has done a great job for us. So I think she is really excited to try this third leg, and we are excited to see her in it.”

Randall skied to a strong 16th on Thursday, while Liz Stephen, another longtime relay stalwart, was 31st. U.S. coaches looked both to Randall’s strong performance and the fact that “we didn’t feel like Liz skied to her potential,” Whitcomb said.

“She had been feeling great four days earlier in a piece of intensity that she did and just unfortunately wasn’t able to put together that race,” Whitcomb said of Stephen. “And it’s heartbreaking for Liz because historically she has been our third legger. But she said it straight up to me right after the race, she said, ‘I’m not ready for this relay tomorrow, kills me to say it but I’m not.’ And so Kikkan put together a solid skate race and also said she felt really good early on, was able to start a little harder than she intended, and oftentimes she is more of the cut where she has a hard time getting going, so it was really promising to hear that she was able to start hard yesterday.”

The final handoff will be from Randall to Diggins, hearkening back to a certain team sprint event at World Championships four years ago this month. (Technically, Randall was the anchor leg in that race.)

Diggins is a superb skier in any context, but has long been able to summon remarkable performances in relays specifically.

“For years, I would pull out these awesome performances on relay day and I was like, ‘Oh my God, where did that come from?’ ” Diggins told FasterSkier in a 2016 phone interview. Her individual performances have perhaps since caught up to her relay efforts. But the relay magic remains strong.

“We are relieved that we can throw Jessie right into the spot where she is most comfortable in and thrives in,” Whitcomb observes.

Speaking to Diggins’s overall Olympics, Whitcomb says, “She has had an unbelievable Olympics so far, she has been extremely close to the medals in two races. And we get a few texts here and there saying, ‘Oh you guys must be disappointed,’ and it’s quite the opposite. We are just amazed, we are elated she is skiing great. She had a recovery day today, and she is still a young woman and is recovering very quickly. So she is excited.”

So that’s a really stoked Caldwell, a rock-solid Bjornsen, a seasoned Randall, and an excited Diggins. Watch out, world.

Who will the Americans be up against? Norway (bib 1) will have Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, Astrid Jacobsen, Ragnhild Haga, and Marit Bjørgen. For Sweden (bib 2), it’s Anna Haag, Charlotte Kalla, Ebba Andersson, and Stina Nilsson. For Finland (bib 3), it will be Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Kerttu Niskanen, Riitta-Liisa Roponen, and Krista Pärmäkoski. And Olympic Athletes from Russia (bib 5) will start Natalia Nepryaeva, Yulia Belorukova, Anastasia Sedova, and Anna Nechaevskaya.

Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Canada, Czech Republic, Slovenia, France, and Belarus round out the field. One odds site lists Norway as the heavy favorite going in, with Sweden a strong pick for second, and the U.S. slightly ahead of Finland for third. But that’s why you run the race.

Start list

— Gavin Kentch (Jason Albert and Harald Zimmer contributed reporting)

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2019, 2020 World Cup Finals Tentatively Set for Québec City

Canada’s Alex Harvey (4) celebrates a win with his hometown crowd this past March at 2017 World Cup Finals in Quebec City. (Photo: Andre Lyra)

After a two-year hiatus, World Cup Finals are expected to return to Québec City in March 2019 and 2020, according to Gestev, a Québec-based event management company.

A Gestev press release stated that the International Ski Federation (FIS) Technical Committee and FIS Cross-Country Committee meetings are still underway in Zurich, Switzerland, but as of Friday, it had been confirmed that FIS Cross-Country World Cup Finals will be hosted by Canada for back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020.

“It’s a huge step forward for Québec City to cement its place on the calendar for two years in a row,” FIS Race Director Pierre Mignerey said in the release. “We should stress, though, that the entire race calendars for both years are subject to FIS Council approval this November.”

The 2019 dates are tentatively set for March 22-24.

“The format of the 2020 event is yet to be confirmed, but the 2019 competition will be the same as what we saw in March this year,” Gestev President Patrice Drouin said from his seat at the FIS meetings.

According to the release, Québec City’s 2017 World Cup Finals this past March attracted more than 60,000 people to the historic Plains of Abraham in March 2017. The event was voted the top stop on the World Cup circuit last season in an FIS survey.

Local favorite Alex Harvey, who finished third in the overall World Cup standings last year, is expected to “retire from World Cup competition on home soil” after the 2019 World Cup Finals.

“Right now, my plans are to stay on the World Cup circuit until the end of the 2018-2019 season,” he said, according to the press release. “It would truly be an honour for me to wrap up my career here in Quebec City. In fact, I could never dream of a better scenario. I’ll never forget what I achieved here back in March, and I have fond memories of the 2012 Sprint Québec and 2016 Ski Tour Canada competitions. It’s such a huge source of pride for me and the rest of the Canadian team to ski in front of a home crowd. It really is an incredible opportunity for us to race in a World Cup right in our back yard!”

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U.S. Amends Selection Criteria, Expands Quota for World Cup Finals

With the 2017 World Cup Finals being moved to Canada, both Canada and the U.S. get to enter more athletes in the last races of the 2016/2017 World Cup season. The U.S. Ski Team (USST) benefits from what USST Head Coach Chris Grover explained in an email as a “1/2 Nation’s Group” quota, granting a total of 23 starts to the U.S.

On Friday, the USST posted an amended selection criteria for World Cup Finals, which will take place in Québec City from March 17-19. (More on USSA selection criteria)

“Because these races were originally scheduled to be in Russia, we did not have a selection criteria for a Nation’s Group in place,” Grover explained. “Because we have USA athletes currently racing all over the planet, and participating in various race series, this criteria is intended to provide multiple paths to qualifying for Quebec City, including World Cup, the Lahti World Champs, the SuperTour, and the WJC/U23 World Championships.”

While the race formats for the three-day mini tour have yet to be decided and will “most likely” be decided Saturday night at the World Cup in Ulricehamn, Sweden, Grover wrote that the USA’s total quotas are as follows:

Women:

  • 6 National Quota USA
  • 1 COC Overall Leader
  • 5 Nation’s Group
    = 12 Women Total

Men:

  • 5 National Quota USA
  • 1 COC Overall Leader
  • 5 Nation’s Group
    = 11 Men Total

According to page 2 of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association’s 2016/2017 Cross Country World Cup Team selection criteria, “Individuals who meet the following criteria will be selected to the Word Cup Cross Country Team for the World Cup Finals (March 17-19, 2017).

  • Athletes ranking in the top-50 in the Distance World Cup standings or in the top-50 in the Sprint World Cup standings as of February 20, 2017 shall be selected to the team.
  • The leaders of the Overall USSA SuperTour classification (man and woman) on February 19, 2017.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-25 in an individual event at the 2017 Lahti World Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-12 in an individual event at the 2017 U23 World Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-10 in an individual event at the 2017 World Junior Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Should there be any remaining positions after the Objective and Discretionary selection has been applied, those positions may be filled by considering the athletes ranking highest on the 2016-2017 SuperTour Overall points lists for men and women on February 19, 2017.”

More information will be posted when it becomes available.

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Kari-Pekka Kyrö’s Lifetime Ban Overturned

Lifetime ban no more? The former head coach of the Finnish cross-country team Kari-Pekka Kyrö, who was at the epicenter of his team’s doping scandal at the 2001 Lahti World Championships, may be a free agent after the Finnish Ski Federation recently overturned his lifetime ban, Ski-Lines reported on Sunday.

But first, that decision must be approved by Finland’s Anti-Doping Agency and the International Ski Federation (FIS). According to FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis, in such cases, FIS trusts the national federations’ decisions.

Under Kyrö, six Finnish skiers — Janne Immonen, Jari Isometsä, Harri Kirvesniemi, Mika Myllylä, Milla Jauho, and Virpi Kuitunen — tested positive for banned substances, allegedly used to disguise their use of erythropoietin (EPO). As part of his punishment, Kyrö had to pay a fine for importing illegal drugs into his country.

“All these years, it was very hard,” Kyrö, 52, said. “This [coaching] is the only profession in which I have a degree and I know. In social and professional terms, it was a very severe punishment.”

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FIS Survey Seeks Fan Feedback

(Press release)

FIS Cross-Country would like to learn from its fans and followers, athletes, teams and the media what they like about the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in its current format and what should be changed in future.

In order to collect as much feedback as possible a survey has been prepared in multiple languages.

Click below to submit your feedback:

English

French

German

Finnish

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Østberg, Ustiugov Win Canmore Qualifier; 4 Americans + 3 Canadians Advance

CANMORE, Alberta — Let the betting begin. With five women topping the charts in Tuesday’s classic sprint qualifier, team Norway is taking no gamble as they head into the rounds.

Leading the women’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint qualifier at the fifth stage of the Ski Tour Canada was Ingvild Flugstad Østberg of Norway in a time of 3:41.61. Second went to her teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla (+4.97) while Therese Johaug finished in third (+8.79).

Four American women qualified for Tuesday’s classic sprint in Canmore, led by Sophie Caldwell in ninth (+12.42). Sadie Bjornsen qualified in 11th (+13.35) and 1.23 seconds behind her was Jessie Diggins in 13th (+14.58). Ida Sargent was the final U.S. woman to qualify in 18th (+15.51).

Canada’s Dahria Beatty made it into the rounds in 29th (+18.95), the first Canadian to finish and only one to qualify.

Americans Annie Hart and Kaitlynn Miller finished in 36th and 38th resepectively. They were followed by Rosie Brennan (USA) 41st, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbit (CAN) 42nd, Emily Nishikawa (CAN) 44th, Katherine Stewart-Jones (CAN) 46th, Caitlin Gregg (USA) 47th, Cendrine Browne (CAN) 50th, Jennie Bender (USA) 51st, Jenn Jackson (CAN) 52nd, Maya Macisaac-Jones (CAN) 53rd, Katharine Ogden (USA) 54th, Sophie Carrier-Laforte (CAN) 56th, Chelsea Holmes (USA) 57th, Annika Hicks (CAN) 59th, Alannah Maclean (CAN) 60th, and Liz Stephen (USA) 61st.

The men’s 1.5 k classic sprint qualification was led by Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov in a time of 3:21.33. Second fastest qualifier time went to Norway’s Erik Brandsdal (+1.04), and third was Norwegian teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby (+1:56). 

Two Canadians qualified, including Alex Harvey in 14th (+5.41) and Len Valjas in 18th (+7.03).

No American men qualified for the heats.

“The snow slowed dramatically,” Chris Grover, U.S. head coach said during an in-person interview. “The later athletes weren’t gliding  nearly as much as as the earlier ones.”

Leading the Americans was Erik Bjornsen in 44th. Also competing in Tuesday’s sprint was Devon Kershaw (CAN) in 33rd, Simi Hamilton (USA) 47th, Knute Johnsgaard (CAN) 48th, Andy Newell (USA) 52nd, Patrick Stewart-Jones (CAN) 54th, Jess Cockney (CAN) 54th, Bob Thompson (CAN) 58th, Graeme Killick (CAN) 59th, Russell Kennedy (CAN) 61st, Reese Hanneman (USA) 62nd, Andy Shields (CAN) 64th, Kevin Sandau (CAN) 66th, Ivan Babikov (CAN) 68th, Noah Hoffman (USA) 69th, Simone Lapointe (CAN) 70th, Scott Patterson (USA) 72nd, Eric Packer (USA) 73rd, Michael Somppi (CAN) 76th, Tad Elliott (USA) 77th, Dakota Blackhorse-vonn Jess (USA) 78th, Brian Gregg (USA) 81st, and Matt Liebsch (USA) 83rd.

Qualifying results: Women | Men

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Pre-Race in Canmore: Trail Report Before Tuesday’s STC Classic Sprint

Wax testing on the final descent into the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Wax testing on the final descent into the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

By Gerry Furseth

CANMORE, Alberta — Monday brought the first official training day at Canmore for the Ski Tour Canada.  Warm and sunny conditions greeted the athletes, bringing smiles to a lot of faces after some cold weather in the first week.

The day started sunny and -2 degrees Celsius (28 Fahrenheit), quickly warming up as the day progressed.  This is fairly typical March weather at Canmore: below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Away from the course, most of the snow has melted, but the skiing is still good, especially in the morning with fast, slightly crusty, tracks.

Skiers head out on the course and into the opening climb out of the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Skiers head out on the course and into the opening climb out of the stadium during official training on Monday at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Almost all of the snow base is manmade; locals say that is what makes the trails so consistently firm this time of year. The Tuesday classic sprint, Wednesday skiathlon, and Friday skate distance races are all scheduled early enough to hit the prime conditions, with only the final pursuit on Saturday in the late afternoon.

The new sprint course looks like a lollipop with two laps around the head, with the start and finish sections are unchanged.  It seems much more double pole friendly than the old course, especially with fast snow. Listening to the wax testing, it seemed as if people weren’t finding one perfect pair of skis for the whole sprint course. Picking the right part of the course to select skis for may turn out to be critical.  For the men, choosing between classic and skate skis may be difficult.

The distance courses had highly varied conditions by the end of the afternoon. Some exposed sections at the bottom were nearly slush. The top of the course was still crusty and fast. The mid-elevation sections varied greatly by sun exposure, with crust, wet transformed snow, and sugar all represented. The final pursuit on Saturday afternoon is expected to have similar weather; if so, there could be some significant changes in standings.

The distance courses are hard, with long climbs at 1,400 meters (nearly 4,600 feet) elevation.  Some skiers were looking tired after four races and a travel day, others were energized.

A light snowfall in Monday evening brought the first fresh snow in weeks.

The Stage 5 classic sprint begins at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time with the women’s qualifier, followed by the men’s qualifier at 11:10 a.m. Heats start at 1 p.m. MT.

Follow us on Twitter @FasterSkier for race updates.

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Weng Welcomes 10 k Pursuit Win; Diggins 5th, Bjornsen 10th in Stage 4

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After garnering the Ski Tour Canada (STC) leader’s bib from stage three’s freestyle sprint, Norwegian Heidi Weng maintained her title by winning the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit on Saturday in Québec City, Québec.

Weng completed the 10 k course in a time of 24:18.8, displacing Norwegian teammate, Therese Johaug from the front by one tenth of a second. Securing the all-Norwegian women’s podium in third (+1:05.2) was Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Behind Jacobsen in fourth was the current World Cup sprint leader, Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway (+1:37.6).

“In all the hills, I was so tired, but I still thought ‘you should go for it,’” Weng said in a post-race interview with FIS.

American Jessie Diggins led the U.S. in fifth place (+1:48.1), breaking the Norwegian run after passing Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and yesterday’s sprint winner, Stina Nilsson of Sweden.

The second non-Scandinavian in the top 10 was American Sadie Bjornsen. Bjornsen finished in 10th (+2:49.6), behind Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in ninth (+2:49.1) and Krista Parmakoski of Finland in eighth (+2:45.9).

Also scoring World Cup points for the U.S. was Liz Stephen, who finished in 29th (+5:44.7).

The next Americans to finish were Rosie Brennan in 32nd, Chelsea Holmes 39th, Ida Sargent 40th, Sophie Caldwell 42nd, and Caitlin Gregg in 44th.

Emily Nishikawa was the first to cross for Canada in 45th overall.

Kaitlynn Miller (USA) finished in 47th, Cendrine Browne (CAN) 49th, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbit (CAN) 52nd, Katharine Ogden (USA) 54th, Anne Hart (USA) 55th, Dahria Beatty (CAN) 57th, Katherine Stewart-Jones (CAN) 58th, Jennie Bender (USA) 59th, Maya Macisaac-Jones (CAN) 60th, Anna Hicks (CAN) 61st, Jennifer Jackson (CAN) 63rd, Alannah Maclean (CAN) 64th, and Sophie Carrier-Laforte (CAN) 65th.

Results

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Harvey Hammers to 2nd at Home in Québec Skate Sprint

Canadian and Quebec native Alex Harvey pushing to the finish of the men's freestyle sprint final on Friday at the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Quebec City, where he placed second to France's Baptiste Gros (not shown), while Norway's Petter Northug (behind) placed fourth. (Photo: Flyingpointroad.com/NNF)

Canadian and Quebec native Alex Harvey (12) pushing to the finish of the men’s freestyle sprint final on Friday at the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Quebec City, where he placed second to France’s Baptiste Gros (not shown), while Norway’s Petter Northug (behind) placed fourth. (Photo: Flyingpointroad.com/NNF)

Amidst the hoots and hollers of his home crowd, Québec native Alex Harvey raced to a second place in the men’s 1.7-kilometer freestyle sprint on Friday in the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Québec City.

In the final, Harvey headed up against Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, Norway’s Petter Northug, Poland’s Maciej Starega, and the two French skiers, Baptiste Gros and Richard Jouve. However, only Gros proved faster than the Canadian. Gros came from behind on the final stretch into the finish to win in 3:36.26, with Harvey crossing 0.55 hundredths of a second back. In third was Ustiugov, crossing 0.79 hundredths of a second after Gros. Northug placed fourth (+1.91), Starega was fifth (+2.12) and Jouve sixth (+2.18). With the silver medal, Harvey moved into fourth in the overall Tour standings.

Simi Hamilton led the U.S. men in eighth, after finishing fourth in his semifinal. Canadian National Development Team skier Jess Cockney placed fifth in the other semifinal for 10th overall, his best result since breaking through in ninth in 2012 at the last Canadian World Cup in Canmore, Alberta

Two other U.S. Ski Team members made the men’s heats. Erik Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) ended up 20th after finishing fourth in his quarterfinal, and Andy Newell was 29th after finishing sixth in his quarterfinal.

***

In the women’s 1.5 k sprint, Sweden’s Stina Nilsson took the win in a time of  3:37.15, besting Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla by eleven hundredths of a second. Rounding out the women’s podium was Norwegian Heidi Weng in third (+0.56).

Rounding out the women’s sprint final was Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in fourth (+1.09), Norwegian Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen fifth (+1.57), and Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter in sixth (+9.43). 

Three U.S. women finished in the top 13 (and four in the top 20), with Sadie Bjornsen, the fastest qualifier of the day, ultimately placing eighth after finishing fourth in her semifinal. Sophie Caldwell reached the semifinals as well, where she finished fifth for 10th overall, and Jessie Diggins took 13th on the day after placing third in her quarterfinal. That puts Diggins seventh overall in the Tour. The fourth U.S. Ski Team member on Friday, Ida Sargent placed 20th after finishing fourth in her quarterfinal.

Stay tuned for more details and results in our comprehensive race recaps.

Results: Men | Women

Tour standings (through Stage 3): Men | Women

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Sadie Bjornsen Wins Québec City Qualifier; Harvey Qualifies 12th

Sadie Bjornsen racing to her first-ever qualifying win in a World Cup freestyle sprint on Friday at the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Quebec City. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) racing to her first-ever qualifying win in a World Cup freestyle sprint on Friday at the third stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Quebec City. (Photo: Peggy Hung)

U.S. Ski Team member, Sadie Bjornsen set the stakes high for the women’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint rounds, after she finished first in the qualifier on Friday at stage three of the Ski Tour Canada in Québec City, Québec.

Bjornsen completed the 1.5 k women’s course in a time of 3:42.81, for her best-ever qualifier in a World Cup freestyle sprint. Finishing eight-hundredths of a second behind Bjornsen’s time in second was Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen. Another Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, finished third, eight-tenths of a second off of Bjornsen’s winning time. 

Along with Bjornsen, three other U.S. women qualified for the heats, including Jessie Diggins in fourth (+1.84), Sophie Caldwell in 22nd (+7.12), and Ida Sargent in 27th (+9.05). No Canadian women qualified, with Maya Macisaac-Jones the first female to finish for Canada in 34th (+10.51).

Also finishing outside of the top 30 in the women’s qualifier was American Rosie Brennan in 33rd (0.73 seconds out of 30th), Caitlin Gregg (USA) in 38th, Dahria Beatty (CAN) 39th, Anne Hart (USA) 47th, Liz Stephen (USA) 50th, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbit (CAN) 51st, Sophie Carrier-Laforte (CAN) 53rd, Emily Nishikawa (CAN) 54th, Jennie Bender (USA) 57th, Kaitlynn Miller (USA) 58th, Katherine Stewart-Jones (CAN) 59th, Chelsea Holmes (USA) 60th, Jennifer Jackson (CAN) 61st, Cendrine Browne (CAN) 62nd, Marie Corriveau (CAN) 63rd, Katharine Ogden (USA) 64th, Alannah Maclean (CAN) 65th, and Annika Hicks (CAN) 68th. Andrea Dupont of Canada did not start.

The men’s 1.7 k freestyle qualifier win went to Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh in a time of 3:33.14. Norwegian teammate, Emil Iversen finished in second, 0.29 seconds back from Krogh’s time. In third was Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, 1.58 seconds off of Krogh’s first place finish.

Québécois favourite, Alex Harvey of Canada was the first North American qualifier in 12th (+4.63). Simi Hamilton was the top American in 13th, three-hundredths of a second behind Harvey (+4.66). U.S. ski team member Andy Newell qualified in 23rd (+7.77) and American Erik Bjornsen in 27th (+7.97). Canadian Jesse Cockney also qualified in 29th (+8.48).

Finishing out of the top 30 in the men’s field was Len Valjas (CAN) in 38th, Reese Hanneman (USA) 45th, Eric Packer (USA) 48th, Devon Kershaw (CAN) 53rd, Knute Johnsgaard (CAN) 54th, Andy Shields (CAN) 56th, Michael Somppi (CAN) 59th, Dakota Blackhorse-vonn Jess (USA) 64th, Noah Hoffman (USA) 65th, Patrick Stewart Jones (CAN) 68th, Scott Patterson (USA) 70th, Graeme Killick (CAN) 71st, Ivan Babikov (CAN) 72nd, Russell Kennedy (CAN) 73rd, Kevin Sandau (CAN) 74th, Tad Elliott (USA) 76th, Bob Thompson (CAN) 78th, Brian Gregg (USA) 79th, Matt Liebsch (USA) 80th, and Simon Lapointe (CAN) 81st.

Results: Women’s Qualifier | Men’s Qualifier

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U.S. Women Make History, Second in Nove Mesto Relay

The U.S. women's relay, with Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen, hugs anchor Jessie Diggins at the finish after she secured second for the best-ever U.S. women's relay result in a cross-country World Cup on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

The U.S. women’s relay, with Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen (r), hugs anchor Jessie Diggins (second from l) at the finish after she secured second for the best-ever U.S. women’s relay result in a cross-country World Cup on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

The U.S. women’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay team made history on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, placing second overall for its strongest podium finish ever.

The relay team was led by Sophie Caldwell in the opening classic leg. Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østeberg took it out hard, leading all teams from the start. Caldwell kept the chase pack going and tagged off to Sadie Bjornsen for the second classic leg of the day.

In lap two, Bjornsen and Finland’s Krista Parmakoski began to gap the rest of the field, battling it out for second and third place. Coming into the exchange zone, Bjornsen was third and tagged Liz Stephen for the first freestyle leg, 25.7 seconds behind Norway in first and 1.2 seconds behind Parmakoski.

Stephen charged past Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen with 2 k to go, moving the U.S. into second place behind Norway’s Therese Johaug. Stephen trailed Johaug all the way until the exchange zone, where the hand off for the final freestyle leg went to the team anchor, Jessie Diggins, 32.5 seconds back .

Chasing down Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen of Norway, Diggins expanded Stephen’s lead over third place. Diggins crossed the line in second overall for the U.S., 42.1 seconds behind Norway’s winning time of 50:17.2 and 13.8 seconds ahead of Finland in third.

The U.S. women have been on the podium three times before (in third place), most recently at the last relay in Lillehammer, Norway, where they placed third behind Norway and Finland. 

The Canadian women, in their first-ever relay for all four (Emily Nishikawa, Dahria Beatty, Cendrine Browne, and Maya MacIsaac-Jones) placed 12th (+5:02.4).

Results

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Diggins Takes Third in Nove Mesto; Three More American Women Crack Top 30

Another World Cup podium for American Jessie Diggins today in Nove Mesto, CZE. The 24-year-old Minnesota native raced to a third place finish in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle event, only 9.3 seconds behind the race winner Therese Johaug of Norway, who complete the course in a time of 25:09.1. This marks the second time Diggins reaches the World Cup podium in the past two weeks, after she won the women’s 5 k freestyle individual start on Jan. 8 at the Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy. Three other American women cracked the top thirty, with Sadie Bjornsen in 14th (+1:11.3), Liz Stephen in 17th (1:18.4), and Rosie Brennan scoring World Cup points in 28th (1:40.1). 

For complete race results, click here.

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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 teammates in Drammen, Erik Bjornsen was 38th (+7.16), Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess was 42nd (+7.75) and Simi Hamilton finished 65th after crashing (+13.56).

“I took a hard spill on the new tight downhill corner,” Hamilton explained in a text message. “My klister just stuck in my left ski as I was stepping the turn. It’s frustrating because I felt the best that I have all year, but such is racing I guess. Looking forward to training hard and skiing fast on the World Cup in the seasons to come.”

Heats start at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Results: Women | Men

 

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After Double Hip Fracture, Steira Returns to World Cup

Kristin Størmer Steira (l) and fiancé Devon Kershaw during a day hike on one of their acclimatization days during a 22-day trek in April in Nepal’s Himalayas. (Photo: Devon Kershaw)

Kristin Størmer Steira (l) and fiancé Devon Kershaw during a day hike on one of their acclimatization days during a 22-day trek in April in Nepal’s Himalayas. (Photo: Devon Kershaw)

After suffering a double hip fracture in October, Norway’s Kristin Størmer Steira returned to the World Cup circuit on Friday, where she placed fifth in the 10-kilometer freestyle, 41.4 seconds behind her teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, who won the first of three races this weekend in Rybinsk, Russia.

Steira plans to race two of the three in Rybinsk after breaking her hip in two places when she fell during a workout on the glacier during a Norwegian national-team altitude camp. She continued training for several weeks after the injury before she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with two fractures to her pelvic bone. During the long recovery, Steira, 31, has worked systematically at returning to racing in time for the World Championships from Feb. 8 to March 1 in Falun, Sweden.

Last weekend, she competed in her first races of the season on the Scandinavian Cup in Falun and was pleasantly surprised.

Kristin Størmer Steira in 2012 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Kristin Størmer Steira in 2012 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“It went far better than I feared, and I felt pretty OK. Now I’m just missing the top gears,” Steira told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Steira has been diligent with her rehabilitation and tried to be patient, but explained that the alternative training had been tough mentally as well as physically.

“As an elite athlete, it’s always hard to sit still so much,” Steira said. “I’ve focused on finding alternative training methods and staying positive throughout the rehab period, and being patient enough to progress step by step. The hardest part is to understand and recognize how much and how hard you can train, but I think there almost always some way to stay active, even when you are injured. Of course, it’s always helpful to have a professional support staff, and I’ve had a lot of help from Olympiatoppen [the Norwegian Olympic Development Center].”

This weekend, Steira planned to race the 10 k skate event on Friday and the 15 k skiathlon on Sunday, and skip Saturday’s skate sprint. Additionally, she will race the Norwegian national championships in Røros the following week.

With strong performances at these events, along with her results from the Continental Cup in Falun last weekend, Steira might just find herself a part of the Norwegian squad to the 2015 FIS World Champioships.

“She has two opportunities prior to the World Championships: Rybinsk this weekend and the Norwegian national championships,” said Åge Skinstad, Norwegian national-team director. “And that we know what she is capable of in the past is never a disadvantage.”

Steira has competed in six World Championships and three Olympics, collecting two Olympic medals and eight World Championship medals, as well as 22 World Cup podium finishes.

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Jacobsen Wins, Stephen Second in Rybinsk Opener

In her first World Cup competition since Lillehammer in December, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen came out with a vengeance and won the interval-start 10 k freestyle race in Rybinsk, Russia. The Norwegian clocked a time of 28:12.5 over the difficult and hilly course.

That put her 14.4 seconds ahead of runner-up Liz Stephen of the United States. Stephen started one bib ahead of Jacobsen, who was able to track her along the course.

“For me today is amazing,” Stephen said in an International Ski Federation press release. “I didn’t realize right away but this is not only my first World Cup podium but also the best ever distance result for a US female. I really can’t believe it.  It’s great to be here.  I like racing in Rybinsk.  It is a hard course with long climbs, which suits me very well.”

Stephen’s previous bests in top-level competition were 5th place in this season’s Tour de Ski 10 k classic and also 5th place in the 10 k skate at 2013 World Championships.

The result is a new best for U.S. women in distance skiing, topping Kikkan Randall’s third-place finish in Gällivare, Sweden, in 2012.

Stefanie Boehler of Germany finished third, +36.4, narrowly edging Yulia Tchekaleva of Russia in fourth, +37.6. Kristin Stoermer Steira of Norway, also returning to the World Cup after an injury-induced break, placed fifth +41.4.

The two other U.S. entrants, Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan, finished 12th (+1:34.5) and 13th (+1:37.5) respectively. No Canadian women competed.

Results

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Cologna Back on Top in Tour Prologue; Harvey in 13th

Dario Cologna started his campaign for a fourth Tour de Ski win Saturday, with a victory in the 4.4 k freestyle prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany. The Swiss skier was only male in 93 starters to break the 10-minute barrier, with a time of 10:54.2. Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden finished second, five seconds back from Cologna. Petter Northug of Norway rounded out the podium just 5.5 seconds off the winning pace.

Ilia Chernousov of Russia and Marcus Hellner placed fourth and fifth.

Overall World Cup leader and 2014 Tour de Ski winner Martin Sundby placed 10th after skiing on the wrong part of the course. At the time of publication there was no official word on whether the deviance from the course would result in disqualification.

Alex Harvey was the top North American in 13th place. The Canadian won the same event last year, with teammate Devon Kershaw close behind in second. Today, Kershaw placed 45th. The USST’s Simi Hamilton was the only other North American to make the top-30 with a 26th place finish.

Results

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Davos Word Cup Set to Continue with Shorter Distances

Although there may be limited snow, the World Cup in Davos, Switzerland will still take place Dec. 13-14. The weekend’s races will begin Saturday with a 10/15 k classic, which was originally scheduled as a 15/30 k. Sunday’s sprints will continue as scheduled. Check out an FIS press release regarding the changes to the event below.

(press release)

Swiss Ski together with the International Ski Federation (FIS) has confirmed that the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Davos will take place as planned with the following changes:

  • Due to lack of snow the competition distance on Saturday, 13th December has been changed to ladies’ 10 km C and men’s 15 km C interval start
  • A 5 km loop will be prepared by the LOC
  • The starting time of the men’s 15 km C has changed to 14:30 CET
  • Start of the ladies 10 km C remains unchanged at 11:15 CET
  • Competition program and starting time for Sunday’s sprint classic remains unchanged

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