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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

Østberg Stays Ahead of Nilsson for 2nd World Cup Win in Otepää Classic Sprint

For Ingvild Flugstad Østberg on Saturday, there was mostly one woman threatening her quest for the win in the 1.2-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää, Estonia: Sweden’s Stina Nilsson. Østberg topped the women’s qualifier by 0.24 seconds over Nilsson in 2:52.93. Then she won her quarterfinal ahead of Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter and fellow Norwegian Kathrine Rolstead Harsem, respectively, both of which advanced to the semifinals with a fast-enough time. Nilsson placed second in her quarterfinal to Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, and was again second to Falla in their semifinal, after strategically letting up at the finish when she nearly caught Falla on the last descent. Nilsson’s skis were fast enough, and she knew it. Østberg knew it, too, as she tried to keep her behind her in the finishing straight of the final. Østberg did so, keeping seven or so meters ahead of the Swede to clinch her second-sprint victory of the season and fourth World Cup podium by…

Thomas Northug Breaks Away for 1st World Cup Win in Otepää

Without his older brother Petter Northug toeing the line and competing for attention on Saturday, Norway’s Thomas Northug made a name for himself with his first-career World Cup win in the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää, Estonia. The 24-year-old Northug qualified seventh (4.4 seconds behind teammate Pål Golberg, the fastest qualifier in 3:17.61), and went on to place second in his quarterfinal and fourth in his semifinal, narrowly advancing to the final as a lucky loser with Golberg (who placed third). Northug avoided a dramatic late crash in the semifinal from Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, who poled between his own legs in the finishing straight and spun completely around, clipping Northug’s ski — who  was behind him — but Northug scooted around and outlunged Sweden’s Emil Jönsson for fourth. In the men’s final, two of five Norwegians opted for skate skis on a slowing and chewed-up course. Northug wasn’t one of them and broke away on the first…

Bjørgen Captures First Tour de Ski Title; Stephen Finishes in Top Five

Norway’s Marit Bjørgen locked up her first women’s Tour de Ski title on Sunday in the 2015 Tour’s final stage, a 9 k freestyle pursuit in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Bjørgen crossed the line in a time of 33:27.5. Defending champion and stage-six winner Therese Johaug of Norway was second, 1:39.2 behind Bjørgen, and also had the day’s fastest time on the notoriously difficult course (32:16.4). Norway’s Heidi Weng started the day in second but took third (+1:59.5), unable to maintain Johaug’s furious pace despite posting the second-fastest time of the day (33:15.8). American Liz Stephen – the only North American skier left in the field – started the day in sixth but managed to climb into the fourth position in front of the Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who did not finish, and Norway’s Ragnhild Haga. However, Haga would reclaim the lead over Stephen in the final kilometer. Stephen stayed just behind…

Sundby Clinches Repeat Tour de Ski Win With Gutsy Uphill Performance

Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway started the final pursuit of the Tour de Ski, a 9 k stage finishing with more than two kilometers of brutal uphill on the Alpe Cermins, 3 seconds behind teammate Petter Northug. The pair worked together on the first few kilometers in Val di Fiemme, Italy, stretching their lead over Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden and Evgeniy Belov of Russia. But once they hit the climb, Sundby left his teammate in the dust and skied to a 34-second win for the overall Tour de Ski title. It’s his second consecutive such title, but Sundby said that this one meant more. “This one was way sweeter… the competition is much better this year,” he told FIS in an on-air interview. Northug managed to hold onto second place. Belov ditched Halfvarsson, a tall Swede who struggled on the 28% grade, and raced into third place in the Tour,…

Tscharnke Wins Tight 15 k Classic; Northug Loses Time in Overall Tour Standings

Germany’s Tim Tscharnke narrowly won the dramatic sixth stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski, a 15 k classic mass start in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Saturday. Tscharnke, who began the race 30th in the Tour standings, outlunged Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan (+0.0) to finish in 46:48.8. Dario Cologna of Switzerland was in the final sprint and took third (+0.4) despite crashing 29 minutes into the race, while Stanislav Volzhentsev beat fellow Russian Alexander Bessmertnykh in a photo finish to take fourth (+0.7), Tour leader Petter Northug of Norway took 21st (+17.2). This was just barely good enough to hold the overall Tour lead over teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who finished in eighth (+4.1) after falling alongside Niklas Dyrhaug five minutes into the race. Northug is just 3.1 seconds ahead of Sundby in the overall standings going into Sunday’s final stage in Val di Fiemme, a 9 k freestyle pursuit. Sweden’s Calle…

Bjørgen Wins Toblach 15 k Pursuit, Extends Tour Lead Over Weng

Marit Bjørgen is well on her way to winning her first Tour de Ski title after cruising to victory on Thursday in the Tour’s fifth stage, a 15 k freestyle pursuit on in Toblach, Italy, completing three 5 k laps on the difficult course in 36:37.9. Bjørgen posted the fastest time of the day, which allowed her to extend her overall Tour lead over fellow Norwegian Heidi Weng. Weng finished 1:58.8 seconds behind Bjørgen while completing the course in 37:02.4, the second fastest time of the day. She now trails Bjørgen by 2:03.8 in the Tour standings. Therese Johaug of Norway was third (+2:51.4) and posted the fourth fastest time of the day (37:12.8), while Sweden’s Emma Wiken finished fourth (+4:20.4) but lost time on the top three Norwegians after posting the 10th fastest time (37:28.1). However, she still overtook Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk – who won the 2010-2013 Tours –…

Northug Outlasts Halfvarsson, Sundby and Belov to Take Toblach Pursuit; Harvey 6th

With a 1.5-second head start in the men’s Tour de Ski 25-kilometer freestyle pursuit on Thursday, Petter Northug used both brains and brawn to edge the four men behind him: Calle Halfvarrson of Sweden, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, and Russia’s Evgeniy Belov, respectively. The Norwegian Tour leader heading into Thursday’s race, Northug hung around fourth through every checkpoint on the five-lap race. At 20.7 k, he trailed Belov in first by 2.3 seconds. Sundby sat in second, less than a second back, and Halfvarsson positioned himself in third. The fifth stage and the Tour’s longest-distance race came down to a sprint between the four, with Northug pulling out a two-second win in 53:56.9, ahead of Halfvarsson in second, then Sundby, who was third for the third-straight day (+2.2), and Belov in fourth (+2.4). “I was tired in the third and fourth lap,” Northug told FIS. “I tried to save some energy for the…

Bjørgen 4-for-4 in Tour de Ski with Toblach 5 k Classic Stage Win

Marit Bjørgen rolled to her fourth Tour de Ski victory in as many stages and fifth-straight win on Wednesday, besting the women’s 5-kilometer classic individual start by more than 10 seconds over Norwegian teammate Therese Johaug in Toblach, Italy. Before the race, Bjørgen said she considered double poling the whole thing. “I was thinking about it then I heard the Norwegian guys say it’s not so big difference,” she said in a post-race interview with FIS. “I feel I’m in perfect shape and incredible, actually.” Bjørgen started last of 52 women remaining through four stages in the Tour and posted the third-fastest 1.7 k time, 1.6 seconds behind Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who led through that point, and 0.9 seconds back from Johaug. Bjørgen topped Kowalczyk’s time at the 2.1 k mark by 0.5 seconds then continued to hammer over the final three kilometers to pull out the win in 12:48.5. Johaug was third-fastest at 2.1…

Poltoranin Edges Out Belov for 10 k Classic Tour Victory in Toblach

Russia’s Evgeniy Belov created some drama in his final push to take the first-place position from Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan, but came up just short, finishing 0.05 seconds behind Poltoranin in Wednesday’s Tour de Ski men’s 10 k classic individual start in Toblach, Italy. Poltoranin finished the hilly course in 22:51.8 to earn his first Tour victory and podium. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby took third (+4.2) for his second straight Tour podium and fourth straight top-10 finish, while Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson was fourth (+14.3). Dario Cologna of Switzerland, winner of Saturday’s 4 k freestyle prologue in Oberstdorf, took fifth (+14.3). The Tour leader coming into Wednesday, Norway’s Petter Northug, failed to reach the podium for the first time on the Tour, finishing in seventh (+22.8). On the Canadian side, Alex Harvey – fifth overall after Tuesday’s freestyle sprint, when he was knocked out in the quarterfinals – lost time on…