FIS Cross Country World Cup (Kuusamo, Finland): Classic sprints
In the first race of the 2017/2018 cross-country World Cup season, U.S. Ski Team (USST) member Sadie Bjornsen, who turned 28 on Tuesday, raced to the best result of her career, placing second to Sweden’s Stina Nilsson in Friday’s classic sprint in Kuusamo, Finland.
Last season, Bjornsen notched her first World Cup podium in third place in the 5-kilometer freestyle in Toblach, Italy, and teamed up with USST teammate Jessie Diggins to take third in the 2017World Championships classic team sprint. Friday’s 1.4-kilometer classic sprint — the first race of the Ruka Triple mini tour to kick of the 2017/2018 World Cup season — was Bjornsen’s first race of the season. She did not participate in any preseason International Ski Federation (FIS) races.
Bjornsen started out the day by clocking the fifth-fastest time in the qualifier, 1.98 seconds behind Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter, who won the qualifier in 3:11.69 minutes. Bjornsen’s USST teammate Sophie Caldwell qualified third (+0.59) after another Swede, Hanna Falk in second (+0.19), and a total of four American women finished in the top 30 to qualify for the heats. Ida Sargent finished 22nd (+8.70) and Rosie Brennan was 26th (+9.51) to reach the quarterfinals.
There, Bjornsen won her quarterfinal by 0.39 seconds over Russia’s Yulia Belorukova. Caldwell also advanced to the semifinals by placing second in her quarterfinal, 0.7 seconds behind Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in first.
Sargent finished third in her quarterfinal, 0.65 seconds behind the winner of that heat, Sweden’s Anna Haag. Brennan placed sixth in her quarterfinal, 4.3 seconds behind Sweden’s Nilsson in first. Neither Sargent nor Brennan advanced to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Bjornsen again raced to first, and once again held off Belorukova — this time by just one-hundredth of a second. Caldwell followed in fourth in that semifinal, 0.5 seconds behind Bjornsen in first and 0.11 seconds behind Russia’s Evgenia Shapovalova in third (+0.39). Neither Caldwell nor Shapovalova advanced to the final.
In the final, Nilsson took the overall win in 3:17.62 and Bjornsen captured a career best in second place, 0.24 seconds out of first. Belorukova rounded out the podium in third (+0.91), while Ingemarsdotter placed fourth (+2.72), Norway’s Kathrine Rolsted Harsem was fifth (+3.54), and Finland’s Krista Parmakoski sixth (+18.62).
Overall, Caldwell placed eighth, Sargent 15th and Brennan 29th for the U.S. Diggins and Kikkan Randall missed out on qualifying in 34th and 36th, respectively. Julia Kern placed 57th, Liz Stephen 70th, and Chelsea Holmes 86th.
None of the Canadian women qualified, with Dahria Beatty in 64th, Emily Nishikawa in 74th and Cendrine Browne in 87th.
— Chris Grover (@ChrisGroverXC) November 24, 2017
In the men’s 1.4 k classic sprint, Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won out the day after winning the qualifier, quarterfinal and semifinal en route to another dominant performance in the final.
Klæbo started off by winning the qualifying round by 2.26 seconds in 2:46.53. Finland’s Anssi Pentsinen qualified second and another Finn, Ristomatti Hakola, qualified third (+2.35), ahead of Italy’s Federico Pellegrino in fourth (+2.66).
Cross Country Canada’s Alex Harvey was the top North American man in the qualifier, finishing 13th (+6.13), while Erik Bjornsen of the USST qualified in 26th (+8.71).
Both Harvey and Bjornsen finished fifth in their quarterfinals and did not reach the semifinals. Harvey ended up 21st on the day, after finishing 2.16 behind the winner of his heat, Finland’s Lauri Vuorinen. Bjornsen was 24th overall after finishing 5.12 seconds behind Klæbo, who won the first men’s quarterfinal.
Klæbo used the extra recovery time he had from racing an early quarterfinal to prime himself for another win in the semifinals, where he beat Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson by 0.29 seconds. Another Norwegian, Pål Golberg, followed in third (+0.49), and Hakola placed fourth in that semi (+1.72). Both Golberg and Hakola had fast enough times to advance to the final, where they met Pellegrino — the winner of the second semifinal — and Norway’s Sondre Turvoll Fossli, who was second in the second semifinal (+0.1).
In the final, Klæbo once again won convincingly, this time by 1.35 seconds with a finishing time of 2:48.19. Golberg took second place and Halfvarsson reached the podium in third (+4.03), while Hakola placed fourth (+5.65), Pellegrino fifth (+8.87), and Fossli sixth (+17.31).
For the U.S., Andy Newell missed qualifying by 0.38 seconds in 34th and Simi Hamilton finished 60th. Scott Patterson was 84th, Paddy Caldwell was 103rd, and Noah Hoffman was 105th.
For Canada, Julien Locke, of the national U25 Team, finished 59th, Len Valjas was 63rd, Knute Johnsgaard 73rd, Devon Kershaw 74th, Graeme Killick 85th, and Jesse Cockney 95th. Last year’s NorAm winner Russell Kennedy did not start.