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Olympic Classic Sprint Goes Off Tuesday

Jessie Diggins was frank about the historic stakes involved coming into these Olympics.

“We’ve never had a Women’s XC medal at the Olympics,” she wrote in her final pre-Olympic blog post. “You know that. I know that. Your second-cousin-once-removed knows that.”

Diggins’s post goes on to outline five process goals that she has going into the Olympics, while leaving the results goals to others but making it clear that she is not afraid to strive for difficult things. U.S. Ski & Snowboard was happy to make those results goals explicit, writing in a video preview of the course, “The cross country team is READY for the Olympic sprint tonight. And they’re hungry for their first medal in 42 years. Let’s do this.”

So who’s doing this? Mostly a collection of familiar names, plus one Olympic newcomer. And, in a generational shift, one very familiar name will be cheering from the sideline.

The U.S. women currently boast one of the strongest sprinting teams in the world. Five athletes are ranked in the top 50 in the current Sprint World Cup rankings: Sophie Caldwell (3rd), Sadie Bjornsen (7th), Diggins (9th), Ida Sargent (19th), and Kikkan Randall (21st).

Qualification for the women’s 1.25-kilometer sprint starts Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Korea time. Bjorsen will be on the course at 5:31 p.m. in bib 4. Diggins (bib 15), Caldwell (bib 18), and Sargent (bib 21) follow within the next four-plus minutes.

Five serious sprint contenders (all five athletes have World Cup sprint podiums to their names) plus four Olympic start spots per nation equals one well-credentialed athlete cheering from the sideline. In this case, it will be Randall, who has finished 36th and 42nd in her two classic sprint qualifiers this year.

Sprints were added to the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City in 2002. Randall raced there, finishing 44th in qualifying as a 19 year old. She also raced in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Tuesday will mark the first ever women’s individual Olympic sprint event contested without Randall.

The Canadian team has entered three women: Dahria Beatty (bib 33), Emily Nishikawa (bib 44), and Cendrine Browne (bib 48). On the men’s side, it’ll be Alex Harvey (bib 15), Len Valjas (bib 39), Russell Kennedy (bib 46), and Jess Cockney (bib 52).

Harvey is a 2015 World Championships silver medalist in the classic sprint and also earned bronze in the classic sprint at 2013 Worlds. In the two World Cup classic sprints he’s raced this season, Harvey’s best result is 21st. He currently ranks 18th in the Sprint World Cup rankings.

On that same Sprint World Cup rankings list, the U.S. has Simi Hamilton in 14th, Andy Newell in 36th, and Erik Bjornsen in 56th.

Hamilton will be the first American and second athlete on the men’s 1.4 k course Tuesday night, pushing through the start wand for qualifying at 6:15:15 p.m. wearing bib 2. He will be followed by Newell (bib 21), Bjornsen (bib 34), and Logan Hanneman (bib 44).

Hamilton, Newell, and Bjornsen are all U.S. Ski Team members, longtime World Cup starters, and multiple-time Olympians. Hanneman earned his first World Cup starts earlier this season, after narrowly edging out older brother Reese Hanneman as the best qualifier at U.S. nationals. In his only prior World Cup classic sprint, the Fairbanks native and Alaska Pacific University skier finished 35th in qualifying last month in Planica, Slovenia, less than two seconds out of making the heats.

Qualification starts at 11:30 p.m. tonight Alaska time (3:30 a.m. Eastern), with the heats starting at 2 a.m. Alaska time Tuesday (6 a.m. Eastern), and the finals at 3:25 a.m. (7:25 a.m. Eastern). 

Start lists: women | men

Viewing guide

— Gavin Kentch

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Canada Nominates Preliminary World Cup Finals Team

(Note: This post has been updated to include Len Valjas, Knute Johngaard, Jess Cockney, and Graeme Killick as team nominees. They were mistakenly omitted from Cross Country Canada’s original press release.) 

Earlier this week, Cross Country Canada (CCC) announced its preliminary selections for World Cup Finals, which will be held March 17-19 in Quebec City, Quebec.

According to the press release: “This preliminary selection is based on 7.5.a-e of the Amendment to the Selection Criteria for Competitions (23-Jan.-2017): http://www.cccski.com/National-Ski-Team/Selection-Criteria/Amendment–2—2016-17-Selection-Criteria-for-Comp.aspx#.WKNIE7YrJhE. The remainder of the selection process (7.5.f-g) will be completed after March 5 to allow consideration of all the international race results in February and early March.”

The preliminary selections (nine men and seven women) are outlined below. Canada’s Nation’s Cup quota for World Cup Finals is 15 women and 15 men.

2017 World Championship Team

  • Alex Harvey                           NST – CNEPH – Club Nordique Mont Ste Ann
  • Devon Kershaw                      NST – Onaping Falls
  • Len Valjas
  • Knute Johngaard
  • Jess Cockney
  • Graeme Killick
  • Emily Nishikawa                    NST – Whitehorse
  • Dahria Beatty                          NST – AWCA – Whitehorse
  • Cendrine Browne                    NST – CNEPH – Fondeurs
  • Katherine Stewart Jones          NST – TBay NTDC – Nakkertok
  • Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt           NST – AWCA – Fondeurs-Laurentides

FIS Continental Cup Leaders at end of Period 3

  • Maya MacIsaac-Jones             NST – AWCA – Rocky Mountain Racers
  • Russell Kennedy                     Canmore Nordic

World Junior Championships (top 12 result)

  • Gareth Williams                      NST Jr – Telemark

NorAm Ranking: Top ranked athletes based on best 4 races (this excludes athletes selected above):

  • Andy Shields (1st)                  Lappe
  • Sophie Carrier-Laforte (6th)   CNEPH – Skinouk

COC Points – Best 4 Cdn Results for WC Selection – Women
COC Points – Best 4 Cdn Results for WC Selection – Men

*PyeongChang World Cup results between 20 and 30 were not considered in this preliminary selection based on an analysis of the depth of field at this event. These results may be considered in the final selection process 7.5.f.

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Québec City to Host 2017 World Cup Finals

Quebec City's own Alex Harvey greeting the crowd at the Ski Tour Canada last year in Quebec City, Quebec. (Photo: Gestev)

Quebec City’s own Alex Harvey (12) greeting the crowd at the Ski Tour Canada last year in Quebec City, Quebec. (Photo: Gestev)

On Sunday, the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced that 2017 Cross-Country World Cup Finals have been officially moved to Québec City, Quebec. The season-ending event was originally scheduled for Tyumen, Russia, but when Tyumen relinquished its hosting responsibilities last month, FIS approached Québec City, according to a press release from the Québec organizers, Gestev.

The three-day World Cup Finals will take place Friday through Sunday, March 17-19, and include a sprint day and two days of distance racing on the Plains of Abraham.

“The exact formats and starting times will be communicated later after further discussion with all the key stakeholders,” a FIS press release stated.

“We’re excited to announce this great news for Canadian athletes and the people of Quebec City, and it’s all taking place thanks to teamwork and dialogue between numerous stakeholders,” said Gestev President Patrice Drouin said, according to a press release. “An event like this reiterates our support for cross-country skiing and these remarkable athletes as well as strengthening existing ties between the FIS, the City of Quebec, the National Battlefields Commission and many more public and private event partners.”

More details will be posted as they become available.

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Kasper Opposed to Blanket Sanction: ‘That’s Wrong Both Humanly and Legally’ (Updated)

According to the International Ski Federation (FIS) in an email to FasterSkier on Thursday, FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper “has always maintained that he is opposed to a blanket sanction against all Russian athletes — this has nothing to do specifically with Cross Country or the six provisionally suspended athletes, but rather with the situation around the McLaren report as a whole.”

FasterSkier previously reported that Kasper spoke out against the decision of FIS’s Doping Panel to provisionally suspend six Russian cross-country skiers, which was originally reported by the Russian News Agency, TASS. In its email to FasterSkier, FIS wrote that this was not the case.

“We should not suspend those who are innocent,” Kasper previously told the German public broadcasting radio station, Deutschlandfunk, according to TASS. “We should punish only whose who are guilty, we cannot do that indiscriminately just because they have Russian passports. That’s wrong both humanly and legally.

“I understand that many athletes are concerned in this situation,” Kasper continued. “However, just two hours after the IOC gave us an opportunity to make a decision, we suspended all six Russian cross country skiers placed on the list of WADA’s Independent Commission head, Richard McLaren. Now let’s see what our investigation will show.”

He emphasized that FIS is not considering banning Russian skiers from the 2018 Olympics.

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Falla Holds Supreme; Pellegrino Wins First-Ever Classic Sprint in Canmore

The men's 1.5 k classic sprint podium on Tuesday at Stage 5 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta: with Italy's Federico Pellegrino (c) in first, Norway's Eirik Brandsdal (l) in second, and France's Maurice Manificat (r) in third.

The men’s 1.5 k classic sprint podium on Tuesday at Stage 5 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta: with Italy’s Federico Pellegrino (c) in first, Norway’s Eirik Brandsdal (l) in second, and France’s Maurice Manificat (r) in third.

Maiken Caspersen Falla hasn’t lost a classic sprint all season and she continued the streak on Tuesday in the final sprint of the 2015/2016 World Cup, the fifth stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta.

The Norwegian gave all she had on Canmore’s grueling 1.5-kilometer course to drop her competitors in the final on the second of two steep herringbone hills. With a gap over the top, she had the distance she needed to secure her fourth classic-sprint victory the season in 4:09.26 minutes, beating teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen by 7.07 seconds at the line. Norway swept the podium with Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in third (+8.66).

Behind them, two Finnish skiers bested American Jessie Diggins in the last few hundred meters, with Krista Parmakoski placing fourth (+18.03) and Anne Kyllönen taking fifth (+19.07) ahead of Diggins in sixth (+21.96). For Diggins, it was her first time reaching the final in a classic sprint, and thus, a career best in that discipline.

Another U.S. Ski Team member, Sophie Caldwell raced in the same semifinal as Diggins, where Caldwell placed sixth and did not advance to the final. Overall, Caldwell finished the day in 11th.

A day after turning 22, Canada’s Dahria Beatty qualified in 29th and went on to place 15th overall for her first individual World Cup top 30 in her 13th World Cup start. Beatty finished third in her quarterfinal, behind Jacobsen (as the winner of that heat) and Germany’s Sandra Ringwald.

Two more American women reached the heats, with Sadie Bjornsen finishing in the top 20 in 18th, after taking fourth in her quarterfinal. Ida Sargent finished fifth in her quarterfinal for 22nd overall.

In the men’s 1.5 k classic sprint, Canada’s Lenny Valjas was the lone North American to advance to the heats.

After securing his first Sprint World Cup title in Quebec City (despite placing 21st in the Quebec freestyle sprint), Federico Pellegrino reached Tuesday’s final and edged Norway’s Eirik Brandsdal by 0.54 seconds of his first-ever classic sprint win in 3:46.33.

In his first sprint final, France’s Maurice Manificat placed third, 1 second behind Pellegrino. Manificat’s previous best in a World Cup sprint was eighth (in both a 2010 skate sprint and 2011 classic sprint).

Valjas reached the semifinals after qualifying in 18th and advancing as a lucky loser in third out of his quarterfinal. In his semi, he fought to keep pace with the group and skied near the back for most of the race, ultimately finishing sixth, 7.46 seconds behind Manificat as the winner of that heat. Overall, Valjas ended up 11th on the day for his second-best result of the season (he finished 10th in the classic sprint at the Tour de Ski stage in Oberstdorf, Germany).

Final results: WomenMen

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Who’s in Nove Mesto? Not Newell, Hanneman, Northug…

– Newell and Hanneman in the Dolomitenlauf? If you’re looking for American sprint specialists Andy Newell and Reese Hanneman at this weekend’s World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, you won’t find them there; they’re signed up for Saturday’s Dolomitenlauf 42-kilometer classic marathon in Lienz, Austria. While the main event happens on Sunday — the 60 k freestyle Dolomitenlauf (part of the Worldloppet series) — Newell and Hanneman already raced the Dolomitenlauf sprint on Friday night, where Newell reached the final and placed fourth overall while Hanneman missed advancing past the quarterfinals. The sprint was one of the main reasons they were there, U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover explained in an email.

“Andy will also race the 42 km C tomorrow.  Reese may or may not start (that’s up to him),” Grover added. “With a distance skate race here in Nove Mesto, the format wasn’t the best for either of them.  Reese most likely would not have been able to race at all. “We have 4 men already here for the relay,” Grover continued, listing Simi Hamilton, Erik Bjornsen, Noah Hoffman, and SuperTour leader Scott Patterson. “It would have been good to have Andy here for a possible classic relay leg but the Dolomitenlauf weekend offered him two confirmed starts (including sprint) so it was a better fit.”

The U.S. Ski Team’s starters for Saturday’s 10/15 k freestyle races include those four aforementioned men, plus five women: Jessie Diggins, Liz Stephen, Rosie Brennan, Sadie Bjornsen, and Period 1 SuperTour leader Chelsea Holmes.  

 

– While Emily Nishikawa was a one-woman show representing Canada for all of Period 1 on the World Cup, she is now joined by four others in Nove Mesto: Dahria Beaty, Cendrine Browne, Katherine Stewart-Jones, and Maya MacIsaac-Jones, all of which raced last weekend in the Planica World Cup in Slovenia as well. On the men’s side, Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Graeme Killick, and Lenny Valjas return to the World Cup, joining U23+ Development Team skier Knute Johnsgaard. Valjas also raced the sprint in Lienz on Friday, but did not advance to the semifinals after placing fourth in his quarterfinal.

 

Croatian roller ski camp. I think I’m ready for tonight’s city sprint in Lienz. 🌴☕️

 

A video posted by Lenny Valjas (@lennyvaljas) on

 

– What’s the point? That’s the message Petter Northug is sending in conceding the overall World Cup title to Norwegian teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby (more than 600 points ahead of him in the standings) and skipping this weekend’s Nove Mesto World Cup. Instead, Northug will try to win a tour and turn his attention to the season-ending Ski Tour Canada. Without a final hill climb, he thinks the Canadian race series is suited for him.

“I think it sounds like a good plan. It’s great to get into a long period of training now,” Norwegian national team coach Trond Nystad told Adresseavisen.

“Petter has said that the gap to Martin’s too big. I think it will instead be more of a duel for second place,” Northug’s personal coach Stig Rune Kveen said. Finn Hågen Krogh is currently second in the World Cup standings, 550 points behind Sundby and 71 ahead of Northug in third.

 

– If Krogh wins Saturday’s 15 k freestyle, he will be the first to do so in consecutive 15 k freestyle World Cups (after he won the last one in Östersund, Sweden, in February 2015) in more than 10 years. Retired French skier Vincent Vittoz was the last to win consecutive 15 k skate races: in Ruka in November 2004 and in Nove Mesto in January 2005. (Note: a 15 k freestyle was held after Östersund at 2015 World Championships on Feb. 22 in Falun, Sweden: Johan Olsson of Sweden won; Krogh placed fifth.)

 

– In other World Cup swaps-and-starts news: Norway’s Hans Christer Holund is skipping Nove Mesto, replaced by Per Kristian Nygård. Sweden’s resting Stina Nilsson and Ida Ingemarsdotter after Nilsson led a sweep of the women’s sprints (teaming up with Ingemarsdotter to win the team sprint) last weekend in Planica. Italy reportedly plans to start sprint star Federico Pellegrino in the relay, after he indicated he wants to improve in distance races.

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Falla Drops Tour After Winning Opening Stage; 14 Others Out As Well

Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway celebrates at the finish line after winning the 1.5 k skate sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, the opening stage of the 2016 FIS Tour de Ski. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway celebrates at the finish line after winning the 1.5 k skate sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, the opening stage of the 2016 FIS Tour de Ski. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland—After just one stage of the Tour de Ski, a few names are already off the start list.

Perhaps the biggest? Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway, who won the women’s sprint in the opening stage.

Falla’s goal this year is the World Cup sprint title, and she doesn’t see the point in going through a grueling 15 k classic on Saturday or a 5 k skate pursuit on Sunday before getting to the next sprint. Sprints which are part of tours and mini-tours are only worth half the normal amount of points – 50 instead of 100 – compared to a regular-season sprint anyway.

After Friday’s win, Falla has a 40-point lead in the Sprint Cup standings over Stina Nilsson of Sweden. Even if Nilsson wins the second of two Tour de Ski sprints, she would only be ahead of Falla by ten points.

“Skipping it was planned,” Falla told Norwegian broadcaster NRK about her Tour de Ski decision, according to a translation. “I know myself better and better…. it’s boring to go home, but the Sprint Cup is my goal this winter, and the body has to be ready. So I must deal with the consequences. And focus on the core races. Now I’ll lay on my couch in Lillehammer and watch the other girls.”

Also out already are Swiss skiers Laurien Van Der Graaf and Heidi Widmer, the latter being a former Canadian racer. Italian sprinters Greta Laurent and Gaia Vuerich are also out. The final drop from the women’s field is Lisa Unterweger of Austria.

From the men’s field a number of sprinters have dropped as well, perhaps not surprising considering that the 30 k classic mass start is the longest classic race to be included in the Tour de Ski since 2007.

The sprinters skipping that challenge include Renaud Jay and Baptiste Gros of France, Sondre Turvoll Fossli of Norway, Teodor Peterson of Sweden, and Roman Schaad, Joeri Kindschi, and Jovian Hediger of Switzerland. Italy’s Simone Urbani is also out, as well as Marko Kilp of Estonia and Yordan Chuchuganov of Bulgaria.

Start lists for the classic mass starts:

women’s 15 k

men’s 30 k

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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

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Bjørgen Crushes Tour Prologue, Norway Sweeps; Bjornsen & Stephen 7-8

Marit Bjørgen said that she wanted to win the Tour de Ski, and she has certainly gotten off on the right foot. The Norwegian superstar, the best female skier in history, has never won the Tour but she decimated today’s 3.2 k prologue in Oberstdorf, Germany, winning by 10.7 seconds over teammate Heidi Weng. Factoring in the bonus seconds awarded to the podium finishers at each stage of the seven-stage competition, Bjørgen has a 15-second lead in the standings going into tomorrow’s 10 k classic pursuit.

I probably could not have had a better start,” Bjørgen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.I tried to hold back a bit for the second lap and had good with power towards the end. It was a perfect day.”

Ragnhild Haga, a 23-year-old Norwegian who is a former U23 World Champion, snagged her first World Cup or stage World Cup podium by finishing third. Teammate Therese Johaug placed fourth and Nicole Fessel of Germany fifth.

It was also a good day for the U.S. team, with Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen sitting 1-2 until late in the morning. The pair ended up seventh and eighth, 19.0 and 19.9 seconds behind Bjørgen and just seven seconds off the podium. Jessie Diggins placed 14th, 22 seconds behind Bjørgen.

No Canadian women are competing in the Tour.

Stay tuned for in-depth reports.

Results

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La Clusaz World Cup Canceled, Search For Replacement Ongoing

The FIS Cross Country World Cup competitions scheduled for December 20th and 21st in La Clusaz, France, have been canceled due to lack of snow. FIS released a statement saying that they are searching for another venue to host the weekend of racing, and will issue a decision by the end of the workday on Saturday, December 13th.

Like most of central Europe, French ski resorts are generally struggling to hold snow and open trails. The Southern Alps have the most snow.

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Norway Sweeps Podium in Lillehammer 10 k freestyle

Martin Sundby demonstrated that he’s in the hunt for his second World Cup overall title with a win in Saturday’s 10 k freestyle individual start in Lillehammer, Norway.

With a time of 22:55.8 Sundby finished ahead of teammates Finn Krogh (+2.2) and Sjur Rothe (+6.4) to make it a Norwegian sweep on the podium.

Alex Harvey was the first North American in 33rd and finished 54.6 seconds back from Sundby. Teammates Ivan Babikov, Len Valjas, and Devon Kershaw followed in 43rd, 57th and 58th positions. Other Canadians who raced Saturday were Jessie Cockney in 77th and Graeme Killick in 94th.

Erik Bornsen was the top US men’s finisher, placing 51st and finishing 1:13.2 back from the lead. Simi Hamilton, Andy Newell, and Reese Hanneman trailed their teammate, placing 74th, 103rd, and 108th.

Saturday’s race marks the second of three races in the Lillehammer World Cup mini tour. After yesterday’s sprint and today’s 10 k, Krough sits atop the standings with a time of 25:50.3. He’s followed by Sundby (+20.3) and Paal Golberg (+26.6). Harvey is currently sitting in 11th position overall.

10 k results | standings

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Norway Gets Back-to-Back Lillehammer Sprint Wins with Bjørgen, Golberg

At least Pål Golberg‘s victory in the men’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint on Friday was a little bit of a nail biter. The 24-year-old Norwegian sat tight and timed his attack perfectly to overtake and outsprint Russia’s Alexey Petukhov and Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh before the finish of the World Cup final in Lillehammer, Norway.

Skiing in the back three until the final massive climb up toward the stadium, Golberg and the chase group caught the leaders by the base, where Golberg rode his momentum and attacked through the top to move to second behind Krogh. He ended up holding off Petukhov and nipping Krogh for the win in 3:20.51. Petukhov was second, 0.24 seconds back, and Krogh settled for third, just five-hundredths of a second behind the Russian.

Finland’s Juho Mikkonen charged hard late for fourth (+0.56), and Canada’s Alex Harvey slipped from third on the last climb to fifth at the finish (+1.13). Norway’s Emil Iversen finished last in the men’s final in sixth (+4.15).

Marit Bjørgen came out on all cylinders in front of a Norwegian-strong crowd, leaving no question as to who would win each of her 1.3 k quarterfinals and semifinals: a leader from start to finish — it was going to be her. In the final, Bjørgen jolted off the line with the same tactic, leading a train of three other Norwegians throughout the race.

Heidi Weng trailed her initially, then Celine Brun-Lie and Maiken Caspersen Falla, respectively. Germany’s Denise Herrmann and Slovenia’s Katja Visnar were finalists, too, but the two women didn’t see any action near the front.

Bjørgen led her teammates into the stadium, where Brun-Lie won the race for second, edging Weng by 0.04 seconds. Bjørgen capped the day with a 0.76-second victory in 2:55.71 for her second-straight sprint win in as many World Cup sprints this season.

After Weng in third (+0.8), Falla finished fourth (+1.43), Visnar was fifth (+4.43), and Herrmann sixth (+7.57).

Two North Americans qualified for the heats: Sadie Bjornsen of the U.S. and Harvey for Canada.

In the women’s race, Bjornsen qualified in 16th and went on to finish fifth in her quarterfinal behind Norway’s Heidi Weng in first, Herrmann in second, Norway’s Silje Øyre Slind in third, and Norway’s Kathrine Rolsted Harsem in fourth. Bjornsen placed 21st overall.

Results: Men | Women

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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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Johaug Holds onto World Cup Overall with Gritty Skiathlon Win; Bjørgen 33 Seconds Back in 2nd

Not today Marit! That’s what Marit Bjørgen‘s Norwegian teammate, Therese Johaug, might very well have been thinking Saturday as she sped away to a sizable victory in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon — the penultimate race of World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden.

After Bjørgen came within three seconds of her at the top of the overall World Cup standings, Johaug had to do one thing on Sunday: win. The bigger the gap, the better. Bjørgen, who won Friday’s classic sprint but finished second to Johaug by 33.6 seconds on Saturday, will have to make up that time gap on her teammate to take the overall World Cup crown.

Johaug continued to gap her competition in the skate portion of the skiathlon, leading Bjørgen by 15 seconds at 9 k, then 23 seconds just over 2 k later. With fewer than three kilometers remaining, Johaug had at least 30 seconds separating her from Bjørgen, and she cruised to the victory in 41:08.9.

Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen placed third, 56.6 seconds behind Johaug, and Norway’s Heidi Weng beat out Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla and another Norwegian Kristin Størmer-Steira to the finish in fourth through sixth, respectively. Sweden’s Emma Wiken was seventh, Russia’s Yulia Tchekaleva and Eva Vrabcova-Nyvltova eighth and ninth, and Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg 10th.

Johaug now leads the overall World Cup by seven points, and 15th in the World Cup Finals mini tour.

Kikkan Randall is the top non-Norwegian in the standings in fifth, behind Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in third and Weng in fourth. The American placed 20th behind teammate Liz Stephen in 15th.

Sadie Bjornsen finished 21st for the U.S., along with Jessie Diggins in 36th, Ida Sargent in 37th, Caitlin Gregg in 40th, and Sophie Caldwell in 41st.

The lone Canadian at World Cup Finals, Andrea Dupont was 45th.

Results

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Daniel Richardsson Victorious in Holmenkollen 50 k

 

Daniel Richardsson of Sweden carefully paced himself throughout the grueling 50 kilometers to win in Saturday’s classic mass start World Cup at Holmenkollen in Oslo, Norway.

The race started fast, with skiers hungry for the bonus points at the end of each loop. Five skiers broke off the main pack early on: Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, Alexander Legkov of Russia, Finland’s Livo Niskanen, Sweden’s Richardsson, and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic.

After the second lap all of the leading skiers pulled into the ski exchange except for Bauer, who looked to make a breakaway on the other four men. Bauer gained a twenty-second advantage by opting not to change skis. Sundby and Legkov led the chase, and by the time they reached the 22 k mark they had caught Bauer.

Sundby did the majority of the work at the front of the race, cheered on by the raucous crowd at Holmenkollen. 33 k into the race Sundby took the lead pack into the exchange for the second change of skis. Legkov, Richardsson, and Niskanen followed close behind him. Bauer had been dropped by over 30 seconds.

Shortly after the exchange it was Niskanen who was unable to stay with the pace, and by 36 k he was 18 seconds behind Sundby in the lead.

With three men left in contention for the race, it was Sundby and Legkov who traded leads, with Richardsson skiing behind the two. At 47 k Sundby made an attack up a climb. Richardsson managed to stay with the Norwegian, but Legkov lost contact by a couple of seconds. The Russian fought to catch up and nearly did, but soon fell back again.

Sundby led over the last hill, and as soon as the Holmenkollen stadium came into view with 800 meters left, Richardsson took off with a burst of speed that an exhausted Sundby couldn’t match.

Richardsson carried his lead into the finish line to win with a time of 2:07:29. Sundby was second, a result that was good enough to secure him the overall World Cup title this season, and Legkov was third.

 

Results:

1. Daniel Richardsson (SWE) 2:07:29.5

2. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) +8.2

3. Alexander Legkov (RUS) +14.5

4. Livo Niskanen (FIN)+1:22.3

5. Lars Nelson (SWE) +1:55.3

 

North American Results:

14. Alex Harvey

29. Noah Hoffman

51. Erik Bjornsen

54. Simi Hamilton

56. Reese Hanneman

 

Full Results

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Norway Reigns Supreme in Toblach Skate Sprints: Bjørgen, Hattestad Win

Team Norge couldn’t have given itself a better Olympic sendoff, with Marit Bjørgen capturing her second win of the weekend at the Toblach World Cup, then Ola Vigen Hattestad capping it off with a victory in the men’s freestyle sprint — the last race before the 2014 Winter Games start Saturday in Sochi, Russia.

In the women’s 1.3-kilometer final on Sunday, Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla and American Kikkan Randall led most of it, while Bjørgen sat contently in the pack — until the final descent into the stadium. There she out-glided and outlasted the field, holding off Germany’s Denise Herrmann, who also came from behind to take second. Bjørgen won it by 0.42 seconds in 2:59.8, leading three Norwegians in the top four with Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in third (+1.45) and Falla in fourth (+2.12). Randall slipped toward the back of the pack after the last downhill to place fifth (+2.65). Slovenia’s Katja Visnar finished sixth (+3.00).

Hattestad won the men’s 1.3 k final by 0.69 seconds in 2:44.89, leading three Norwegians in the top four. Eirik Brandsdal placed second and Pal Golberg finished fourth after Germany’s Josef Wenzl in third. Golberg edged Sweden’s Teodor Peterson in a photo finish, and Switzerland’s Jovian Hediger took sixth after crashing early in the final.

Randall was the lone North American to make the finals, after qualifying in fourth. Three of her teammates also qualified in the top 30, with Sophie Caldwell in 19th, Jessie Diggins in 21st and Holly Brooks in 27th. They did not advance past the quarters, finishing 19th, 28th, and 29th, respectively.

Also for the U.S., Ida Sargent was just outside qualifying in 33rd, Sadie Bjornsen place 37th and Caitlin Gregg was 41st.

For Canada, Perianne Jones qualified 28th and Dasha Gaiazova advanced in 30th. Both did not advance to the semifinals, with Gaiazova finishing 25th overall and Jones placing 30th. Chandra Crawford narrowly missed the top 30 in 34th and Heidi Widmer was 38th in the qualifier.

In the men’s race, Americans Andy Newell qualified in eighth and Simi Hamilton made the heats in ninth. Hamilton ended up third in his quarterfinal and Newell was fourth in his heat in a photo finish; neither advanced and placed 14th and 17th, respectively. Alex Harvey was Canada’s lone man in the heats, placing fourth behind Hamilton in the quarterfinal for 20th overall.

Outside of qualifying, American Torin Koos was 35th and Canada’s Jesse Cockney placed 47th, Devon Kershaw was 60th and Lenny Valjas 64th in his first World Cup race since leaving the Tour de Ski in late December to rehab his knee at home.

Results: Men | Women

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Babikov Powers Through Fatigue to Earn 4th Fastest Time in Tour Hill Climb

Canadian Ivan Babikov knows which side his bread is buttered on. He worked hard throughout the Tour de Ski, but was struggling to turn in the same quality results that his teammates Alex Harvey and, at least initially, Devon Kershaw, were turning in.

But Babikov consistently climbed in the standings, making significant moves beginning Wednesday in the 15-kilometer classic mass start. Babikov finished 19th, moving from 75th place in the Tour to 32nd, improving by over a place per minute.

Friday brought the 35 k pursuit, in which brought Babikov had some bad luck – he broke a pole only a kilometer into the race, and then skied 4 k without one.  He still managed to move up from 32nd in the Tour to 28th.

Then came Saturday’s 10 k individual classic in Val-di-Fiemme, where Babikov finished 27th, moving into 21st place overall. Babikov is known as a ferocious hill climber, and the final race of the tour is a ferocious 9 k hill climb. If the steep climb was not hard enough, all competitors are battling extreme fatigue by this stage in the 7-stage Tour.

With all the other North Americans, apart from American Noah Hoffman, withdrawing to focus on the upcoming Olympic Games, Babikov had Canada’s full focus.

But once again, Babikov broke a pole within a kilometer of the start. He was able to get a ready replacement this time, however. Babikov is an excellent technical skier on steep climbs, and with a 28 percent grade, the course serves Babikov’s strengths – indeed, he posted the fastest time in this leg in 2009 and the second-fastest time last year.

The fastest time of the day this year was to be owned by Johannes Dürr of Austria, finishing in 31:54.7, while Babikov took the fourth fastest time of the day in 32:14.1, which moved him into 16th place in the final Tour standings with a final time of 36:52.8.

“Ivan was really good today. He is just so tough and good technically going up that mountain,” Justin Wadsworth, the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team Head Coach, said in a press release. “You can be extremely fit, but that climb takes a special person because you need to be fit but you also have to be really good technically. Ivan is a perfect mix and he has such good technique.”

Norway’s Martin Sundby was the first to the top and the overall Tour winner, with a time of 32:49.6. Fellow Norwegian Chris Jespersen was second (+36.0), and Austria’s Johannes Dürr finished third (+1:05.9).

Complete results

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Sundby Extends Tour Lead With Win in 35 k Pursuit; Harvey Third; Hoffman Posts Second-Fastest Stage Time

Norwegian Martin Sundby extended his lead in the Tour de Ski today with a commanding victory in today’s 35-kilometer freestyle pursuit in Toblach, Italy, finishing in 1:20:18.7, nearly a minute ahead of fellow Norwegian Petter Northug Jr. (+58.2). In third place, only a half-second behind Northug, was Canadian Alex Harvey (+58.7). Harvey is also in third place overall in the Tour.

Calle Halfvarrson of Sweden was fourth (+59.0) followed by Russia’s Alexander Legkov (+59.7).

Other North American finishers include 23rd place Canadian Devon Kershaw (+3:05.3) and American Noah Hoffman in 27th (+3:06.2).  Hoffman had the second-fastest time of the day in 1:19:58.1, only 50.7 seconds slower than sixth-place Johannes Dürr of Austria. Canada’s Ivan Babikov was 28th (+3:06.3)

Results

Men 35 km free pursuit
1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) 1:20:18.7
2. Petter Northug Jr. (NOR) +58.2
3. Alex Harvey (CAN) +58.7
FIS Tour de Ski overall standing men – total time
1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) 2:08:17.3
2. Petter Northug Jr. (NOR) +1:03.2
3. Alex Harvey (CAN) +1:08.7
FIS Tour de Ski sprint standing men – total bonus seconds
1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) 1:33
2. Alex Harvey (CAN) 1:02
3. Calle Halfvarsson (SWE) 0:59
Fastest time men 35 km free pursuit
1. Johannes Dürr (AUT) 1:19:07.4
2. Noah Hoffman (USA) +50.7
3. Tord Asle Gjerdalen (NOR) +56.9

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Jacobsen Wins Stage 5 Pursuit, Increases Tour Lead

Norway’s Astrid Jacobsen skied a dominating race in Friday’s 15 k freestyle pursuit race to win stage 5 of the Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy.

Jacobsen skied alone on the difficult course, and finished with a time of 37:30.3 ahead of her teammate and Tour de Ski favorite, Theresa Johaug by 38.7 seconds, and Finland’s Anne Kyllönen by 1:12.2.

This was Jacobsen’s first stage win in this edition of the Tour de Ski, and with it she has increased her lead in the Tour to 43.7 seconds ahead of Theresa Johaug.

The fastest time of the day overall was recorded by Sweden’s Sara Lindborg with a time of  37:16.6.  Lindborg moved from 24th to 10th place in the overall Tour standings.

Jacobsen, speaking to FIS after the race said, “It was a tough competition. I was little bit tired after the first lap, the course is quite hard in Toblach. I was happy there was a feeding station. I felt better in second half of the race. I am happy that my shape has been so good. It is a good sign for the Games, which are the biggest goal for me. I still think that Therese (Johaug) is the biggest favorite for the overall victory in the Tour de Ski. She has been always very strong on the Final Climb.”

Full Results

15 km free pursuit:

1. Astrid Uhtrenholdt Jacobsen (NOR) 37:30.3

2. Therese Johaug (NOR) 37:24.3

3. Anne Kyllönen (FIN) 37:46.8

4. Kerttu Niskanen (FIN) 38:16.0

5. Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) 37:18.3

6. Eva Vrabcova-Nyltova (CZE) 37:22.1

7. Aurore Jean (FRA) 37:20.9

8. Heidi Weng (NOR) 37:53.2

9. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN) 38:55.5

10. Sara Lindborg (SWE) 37:16.6

 

North American Results:

12. Liz Stephen 37:23.3

13. Jessie Diggins 37:28.4

39. Holly Brooks 39:03.2

 

FIS Tour de Ski overall standing ladies – total time

1. Astrid Uhtrenholdt Jacobsen (NOR) 1:15:29.5

2. Therese Johaug (NOR) +43.7

3. Anne Kyllönen (FIN) +1:22.2

 

Fastest time in Women’s 15 km free pursuit:

1. Sara Lindborg (SWE) 37:16.6

2. Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) +1.7

3. Aurore Jean (FRA) +4.3

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Østberg Wins Lenzerheide Sprint to Take Tour Lead, Caldwell Earns Career-Best 6th

Norwegian women raced to the top two spots in today’s freestyle sprint in the 3rd race of the Tour de Ski in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. After winning the qualifierIngvild Østberg took command of her final as well to win in 2:58, followed by fellow Norwegian Astrid Jacobsen 0.14 seconds back in second. Germany’s Denise Herrmann took third (+0.82).

Laurien Van Der Graaff of Switzerland (+2.6) was fourth, followed by Germany’s Hanna Kolb (+4.15) in fifth.

U.S. Ski Team member Sophie Caldwell made her first-ever final, finishing a World Cup career-best sixth overall, 6.81 seconds after Østberg. Teammate Jessie Diggins was the only other North American woman to qualify, placing 21st overall after advancing to the quarterfinals, where she finished fifth.

results

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