World Cup Recap: Norway, North America
The return of Sweden’s Frida Karlsson ended with a BANG! as she upsets Norwegian Therese Johaug on Johaug’s home course. Karlsson stormed from behind and inched out Johaug in the final kilometers. In the men’s competition it was another tight battle but Russian Alexander Bolshunov squeaked away with another close distance victory.
- March 04 Freestyle Sprints
- March 07 Women Classic 30km Mass Start
- March 08 Men Classic 50km Mass Start
The Drammen city sprints are the second of two downtown city sprints this season. Like Dresden, Germany, the course takes place in downtown in a small park in which snow is hauled to and groomed for one day of sprint racing for the world’s fastest skiers. Unfortunately, due to lack of snow, they were forced to relocate to the Konnerud Ski Stadium located nearby and the location of Norwegian national level races. This is the same discipline we will see in Quebec and the Twin Cities later this month. The US women were able to qualify two into the heats, Jessie Diggins and Sadie Maubet-Bjornsen. Unfortunately neither were able to advance past the quarterfinal heats and finished the day earlier than expected. Kaitlyn Miller and Becca Rorabaugh were the only other two starters and they were unable to match the pace of the top 30 and failed to qualify. Jonna Sundling of Sweden, who edged out Swiss skier Nadine Faehndrich by only a boot length, won the women’s race. Faehndrich continues her best season to date with another podium finish and she is aiming her eyes at more to finish off the season. Capping off the podium for the women was the U23 star Linn Svahn of Sweden. In the Men’s race it is no surprise but Johannes Klæbo took yet another dominant sprint win and is capping off an almost perfect sprint season by winning nearly every event this season. Haavard Taugboel was second by photo finish against teammate Erik Brandsdal accomplishing another Norway sweep of the podium this year. The only US man to join the sprint race was Simi Hamilton who qualified 24th just getting edged out in quarterfinals and failing to get out of the first round of heats.
Women Mass Start
This year’s Holmenkollen race was one for the history books as Karlsson bridged a minute gap to Johaug, with the help of teammate Ebba Andersson, and steals the distance win away from Johaug. From the beginning of the race it looked as if it was going to be Johaug going for a dominant win from the sound of the gun. Johaug built up a 50 second gap to the other competitors by the 22km mark; however, it was Andersson and Karlsson who decided to bridge the gap in the final 10km. Being down by almost a minute was going to be a tough task but they switched skis, put their heads down, and went for it. Andersson wasn’t able to hold on and bridge the gap but pulled far enough away from the group to comfortably take the bronze medal. Karlsson kept pushing and was able to close the gap completely with only a couple km left in the race. Johaug and Karlsson came into the finish together where Karlsson completely took over and out sprinted Johaug for her first win of the season. For the US women, Maubet-Bjornsen was a DNS because of illness and Diggins was on her way home to prepare for the tour in North America. Caitlin Patterson led the women to 47th overall with Miller in 48th and Rorabaugh in 49th.
Men Mass Start
Last year’s race was a complete sweep by Russia and this year Norway was going to do everything they could to make sure this didn’t happen again. Like most men’s 50km races it started slow and with a large group pack. It wasn’t until inside 10km that the pack started to break up and ultimately it was a group of 9 guys in the breakaway. Into the last few km it was only Bolshunov and Norwegian Simen Krueger who would be in the final sprint to the finish. Bolshunov used his strength and power to overcome the surging Krueger and took another distance victory. Krueger was second with teammate Emil Iversen taking third. The US men had four starters but unfortunately only two finishers. David Norris and Ian Torchia both were unable to finish because of illness. The lead finisher was Ben Lustgarten in 47th and followed closely by Adam Martin in 49th.
- March 14 Sprint Classic - Finals start @ 12:20 CST
- March 15 Sprint Skate - Finals start @ 12:15 CST
- March 17 Sprint Skate - Finals start @ 4:45 CST
- March 20 10/15km Freestyle Mass Start - Women start @ 12:10, Men start @ 1:15
- March 21 10/15km Classic Pursuit - Women start @ 11:30, Men start @ 12:45
- March 22 Mixed Relay - Start @ 11:00
The Tour de North America will consist of three different venues: Quebec City, Minneapolis, and Canmore. The first two venues will only be hosting sprint races and Canmore will be holding the distance races. As I am sure many of you know but this will be the first World Cup in the USA in nearly 20 years. The course at Theodore Wirth is shaping up nicely and the world’s best athletes are getting prepared for the finals races of the season. The Sprint title will come down to the wire for the women’s race and the overall trophy will be presented in Minneapolis. As for the men’s race Klæbo has that all but locked up this year as he has been extremely dominant in the sprint format this year. Sprint racing can see anything happen so it’s anyone’s guess who will come away with the win here in MN.
[ Editor's note: As of Tuesday evening, the North American World Cup events are still on (Minneapolis update). The Norwegian team has elected to not travel due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many of the World Cup teams are in Canada already. Stay tuned to the evolving picture. ]
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: