World Cup Report: Tour de Ski Stages 1 and 2 Recap
Period 2 of the World Cup circuit began this week in Lenzerheide, Switzerland with the first two stages of the Tour de Ski. Jessie Diggins started strong in a fierce effort to defend her 2021 title, taking her first win of the season in the freestyle sprints. The classic distance race was dominated by the Niskanen family with Iivo winning the men’s event and Kerttu taking the top spot for the women.
- December 28 Freestyle Sprints
- December 29 Classic 10/15km
The Tour de Ski kicked off with a freestyle sprint race, a very common race format so far this season. The course featured a variety of terrain and technical corners, making the transitions between sections especially important; skiers that were able to navigate the course smoothly performed well. With the undefeated Swedish sprinter Maja Dahlqvist absent from the women’s field, the winning place was up for grabs. Switzerland native Nadine Faehndrich posted the top qualifying time, with Norwegian Mathilde Myhrvold in second. Jessie Diggins skied the fastest qualifier for the American women, placing third with teammates Julia Kern and Hailey Swirbul in ninth and 27th, respectively. In their sprint quarterfinal, Faehndrich and Diggins took to the front early on, but Faehndrich was unable to advance after a fall on the first downhill corner, taking Swirbul out as well. Diggins couldn’t quite hold her lead to the line, but her second place finish was enough to advance. The second quarterfinal was much slower as no one wanted to push the pace. In the end, Johanna Haegstroem of Sweden and Mhyrvold took the top two spots. Slovenian Anamarija Lampic also performed well in the heats, as did Julia Kern, who won her heat decisively after taking the lead midway through the course.
In semifinal 1, the pack was very tight with positions changing constantly. Diggins responded to this with a new tactical approach, waiting until the second half of the race to come to the front and push the pace. This worked well for her; she kept the lead to the line with Myhrvold in second. The second semifinal was dominated by Kern and Lampic. The two traded leads throughout the race, but it was Kern who delivered the stronger final kick. Her fast pace meant that Rydzek of Germany and Dyvik of Sweden were both able to advance out of semifinal 2 as lucky losers.
Lampic led again in the final round with Kern and Diggins sticking to the middle of the pack. The two Americans soon moved to the front, with Diggins leading coming into the final stretch. Myhrvold set herself up well in the last corner, coming side by side with Lampic and Kern in the last few meters. Diggins held on to the lead to take first, with Myhrvold taking second, Lampic third, and Kern just behind in fourth.
In an interview with FIS, a beaming Diggins attributed her success to her mindset during the race: “Thanks to my family for the cheering out there!” she said. “I had a really wonderful Christmas with my family and my fiance… For me, happiness is fast.”
On the men’s side, the race was predictably dominated by Norway’s Johannes Hosflot Klæbo. He posted the fastest time in the qualifier, with Frenchmen Richard Jouve and Lucas Chanavat just behind. Three Americans made the heats as well; Ben Ogden was the top American qualifier in fifth with Kevin Bolger in ninth and Logan Hanneman in 30th. In heat 1, Hanneman fought hard to place in the top two, but his efforts weren’t enough to beat Klæbo and Chanavat. Bolger just missed a lucky loser spot, taking 16th, with Odgen behind in 21st. Klæbo’s Norwegian teammates performed well: Erik Valnes, Paal Golberg, and Even Northug all advanced to the semifinals.
Semifinal 1 was a final-worthy race, stacked with Klæbo, Chanavat, Jouve, and Pellegrino. Chanavat stuck to his usual strategy and led the field from the start, but when Klæbo came around no one had the speed to match him. Jouve took second with a strong finish, followed by Chanavat and Pellegrino who advanced as lucky losers. In the second semi, the Norwegians Valnes and Golberg delivered a solid tactical performance, letting others take the lead early and coming around to take both qualifying spots.
The Frenchmen Jouve and Chanavat took to the front early in the final, but Klæbo quickly came around. Unwilling to let him ski away, Jouve made his way to first again, but Klæbo still proved the fastest, pushing hard on the last downhill and coming into the finishing stretch with a gap. Jouve and Chanavat pushed hard to keep their podium spots, taking second and third respectively.
The interval start distance race in Lenzerheide featured a hilly 5km lap and difficult conditions amidst heavy snowfall. Waxing was challenging, and some teams did much better than others in this respect. The women skied two laps for a 10km race with results unlike anything we’ve seen this season. Frida Karlsson of Sweden landed outside the podium for the first time in a distance event this year, taking fifth overall. Others elected to skip the Tour de Ski to focus on training for the Olympics, including Norwegian star Therese Johaug. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen delivered the race of the day, taking the victory by an 18-second margin. Ebba Andersson, Sweden, also had a good race: she took second place, positioning her well for another strong Tour de Ski after placing third in the series last year. Natalia Nepryaeva of Russia claimed the final podium spot in third. Other Russian women also performed well with Yulia Stupak in seventh and Tatiana Sorina close behind in eighth. Diggins was the top American in 16th with Swirbul next in 18th.
The men also faced a slow course as snow continued to fall throughout the races. The Russians and Norwegians performed well as always, but it was classic specialist Iivo Niskanen of Finland who claimed the top spot on Wednesday. In his second classic distance victory this year, he won by a margin of 19.3 seconds. 2021 Tour winner Alexander Bolshunov finished second, setting him up well for another high place overall in 2022. Paal Golberg and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo added to their strong sprint races the day before, taking third and fourth respectively. Gus Schumacher was the top American in 38th with Ben Ogden close behind in 44th.
- December 31: Freestyle 10/15km - women 5:55 am CST, men 8:25 am CST
- January 1: Classic Sprint - heats 5:00 am CST
The Tour de Ski will move to Oberstdorf, Germany for two stages after a one-day break. The freestyle distance and classic sprint races will give athletes a chance to show their all around talent following two different formats in the first stages. Heading into stage three, Kerttu Niskanen leads the women’s field. Jessie Diggins is close behind in second place, and Natalia Nepryaeva is in third. The men’s standings are led by Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, followed by Paal Golberg and Iivo Niskanen. Although Oberstdorf will not feature spectators due to COVID concerns, expect exciting competition as racers fight for their places in the Tour standings.
About the author...
Erika Peterson is a senior at South High School in Minneapolis. She skis for Loppet Nordic Racing as well as her high school team. When she’s not out on the trails, you can find her listening to Lorde and creating oatmeal recipes.