World Cup Report: Lillehammer Recap, Davos Preview

by Chris Hecker
December 10, 2019

Another race weekend in the books and another set of podiums for the US women’s team! The story of the weekend was Jessica Diggins and Team USA. The women’s USST is starting to pick up some steam and are becoming podium favorites week in and week out.  On the men’s side APU’s David Norris led the men with another strong race in the skiathlon on Saturday morning. Norris has put together two very consistent weekends and looks to make the jump into the World Cup points next weekend in Davos.


  • Dec 7 15km/30km Skiathlon
  • Dec 8 4x5km/4x7.5km Team Relay


The skiathlon was comprised of 3.75km loops.  The women had to do two skate loops and two classic loops and the men had to do twice as many laps.  This course is one of the most fun, yet challenging, courses on the ski tour calendar. There is little rest for athletes as it’s either climbing or descending until the stadium.  This course favors the climbers and the athletes who recover the most efficiently. In the men’s race, it was a tight battle for the classic portion of the race with most of the group staying together.  Shortly after the men came into change skis, Norwiegian skiers Hans Holund and Emil Iversen, along with Russian Alexander Bolshunov attacked and went off the front of the group. These three were able to stay away from the rest of the field and developed a three-way battle for the podium.  For the next three laps these three played a lot of cat and mouse trying to break one another. It wasn’t until the final time up the last climb that Holund and Bolshunov were able to create some separation between themselves and Iversen. The men’s race ended with a sprint to the finish where Bolshunov took care of business and brought home his first World Cup win of the season.  Norris had another solid performance finishing just shy of the top 30 in 34th.  Erik Bjornsen of the USA was not to far behind finishing 39th overall.  Norris and Bjornsen skied most of the race together and Norris was able to create some separation on the last lap to be the first finisher for the USA.  Twin Cities local Kyle Bratrud completed the top three American, finishing in 47th.  

On the women’s side it was Thersea Johaug who was not challenged for a second straight weekend in the distance race, bringing in her third win of the season.  The fight for the rest of the podium spots far more competitive. Coming into the equipment exchange, a group of six skiers who fought for the final two podium spots.  Diggins and Norway’s Heidi Weng attacked right off the bat on the first uphill after the ski exchange. Like the men’s race they too were able to stay away and have a two-way battle for the remaining podium spots.  Diggins on the final climb was able to put a large gap into Weng and ultimately come home with a very strong second place finish. Diggins would finish the day +1:08 behind Johaug and Weng would finish third, +1:19 back.  Sadie Maubet-Bjornsen was able to hang on for an excellent 8th place finish.  Maubet-Bjornsen spent most of the day just off the back of the group and could never make the surge to close the gap, finishing +:24 off the podium.  Rosie Brennan capped off the top three for the US women racing to a 16th place finish.

Sunrise at Lillehammer

Team Relay

It was all about the relay socks Sunday when the USA women raced to second place and reached there first podium in several years.  The team was comprised of Sophie Caldwell, Maubet-Bjornsen, Brennan, and anchor leg was Diggins. Caldwell got off to a strong start but lost contact with the leaders in her last 1.5km and would come around to tag off to teammate Maubet-Bjornsen +:26 from the lead group.  In the second leg it was Finland's Kerttu Niskanen who would attack the group and tag off in the lead +:07 ahead of the chasing pack. Maubet-Bjornsen was able to get a few precious seconds back and tag off in 5th but it was up to Brennan and Diggins to make the climb onto the podium.  Johaug owned the third leg and put almost a minute into every other team, nearly sealing the win (barring a major catastrophe).  Brennan had one of the strongest performances of the day for Team USA and carried them into 3rd position only +:09 back from Sweden in second.  It was then all up to Diggins on the last leg and she did not disappoint.  Diggins would catch Sweden’s young star Moa Lundgren and kept skiing right on by her.  Diggin’s split time was actually 7 seconds faster than Johaug had one leg earlier (and the fastest on the day).  Diggins capped off a come from behind race for the USST and brought back a podium finish for the women.  

On the men’s side it was all Russia.  The men’s relay would stay as a group of 6 or 7 for most of the race which included: Norway’s team 1 and 2, Russia’s team 1 and 2, German team 1, Sweden team 1, and Finland team 1.  It wasn’t until the last lap of the last leg that Russia’s team 1 and 2 broke away from the group with Russia team 2 anchored by Sergey Ustigov surging to victory on the final climb.  Team USA men would hang on the group for the first two legs but the pace was too tough to handle and they would fall to 9th place on the day. 

Full weekend results



Davos is a skate only weekend this year and we will get our first freestyle sprint.  It will be another weekend for Johannes Klæbo of Norway to make a name for himself and get back to the top step of the podium. And look for Stina Nilsson of Sweden, who sat out this past weekend to recover, to get back to her sprint form again.  Nilsson lacked the speed and the burst in Ruka and it will be interesting to see if she has gotten enough rest and is ready to strike. Hopefully Simi Hamiliton of the USA can get back to action after not participating in Lillehammer because of a hamstring injury that occurred this summer.  It should be a fun weekend and USA will look to strike a podium again next weekend!

About the author...

Chris Hecker is a Rex Wax representative and wax technician working on the World Cup this season for both cross-country and biathlon events. Hecker hails from Ham Lake, Minnesota, racing for Anoka high school and St. Scholastica College. Hecker will be providing regular updates on the World Cup racing scene this season. Chris can be reached at:

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