With heavy snow falling on the second day of Norway’s season-opening FIS races in Beitostølen came another opportunity for the Norwegian women’s team to find their race rhythm.
Therese Johaug is already primed. In a repeat performance — she won Friday’s 7.5-kilometer classic opener — Johaug never relented the lead. Starting last in a field of 76 women in Saturday’s 7.5 k freestyle, her lead on her fellow national-team members widened as the race progressed; Johaug was fastest at every split. She finished in 19:29.9, 39.6 seconds ahead of second-place skier Kari Øyre Slind, an upstart Norwegian National Development Team member.
“The snow made for tough conditions,” Johaug said in a post-race TV interview with NRK. “I had to dig deep the whole way, but these conditions are my advantage. For me, this was another good race under my belt. I felt like my technique was solid, that I nailed each pushoff and the timing was right.”
She passed teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, who started 30 seconds ahead of her, by the 5.4 k mark. Jacobsen went on to place third, 41.5 seconds behind Johaug, and about two seconds back from Slind. It was the second-straight podium for Slind, 24, who placed third in Friday’s 7.5 k classic race behind Johaug and Heidi Weng.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Slind said in a TV interview. “Two podium finishes here is way beyond what I expected. My plan was to get a few good workouts here at Beitostølen, but this is totally unreal. I sort of feel like somehow I must have cheated. But that’s totally impossible here. There are cameras and course marshals all over the place.
“I guess this is a sign that I do well in both classic and skate,” she added with a smile.
“I sort of feel like somehow I must have cheated. But that’s totally impossible here. There are cameras and course marshals all over the place.” — Kari Øyre Slind, 24-year-old Norwegian Development Team skier from Oppdal, Norway, on placing second in Saturday’s 7.5 k freestyle in Beitostølen
Her two podiums so far this weekend make for a good bid for a ticket to the World Cup opener in two weeks in Kuusamo, Finland. But Slind takes nothing for granted.
“They [the national team coaches] have their own schedules for when they announce the World Cup team. I will make plans when and if I hear from them,” she said, adding that she is terrible about carrying her cellphone. “I am a bit of a scatterbrain. But I guess I need to start keeping track of the phone now. There are a lot of people around me, so hopefully they will remind me to bring it when I go places.”
Norway’s women occupied the top 10 on Saturday, with Germany’s Stefanie Böhler being the top non-Norwegian in 11th.
Ingvild Flugstad Østberg finished fourth (+58.5), and Weng was just over a minute back from Johaug in fifth (+1:00.9).
“She wins far too easily,” Weng said of Johaug. “But it was really fun to see Kari step up to second place today. She’s made huge steps this fall.
“It doesn’t matter who beats me. It was really hard,” Weng added. “I felt like I started out fine, but after the first lap, it was just really hard. My body felt heavy and I felt like I couldn’t get up to speed. But it’s good to compete. I need to get a few races under my belt, but I can’t be too disappointed. There were a lot of girls behind me, too.”
After two hand injuries this summer, Johaug had to make several changes to her training, but she said the modifications worked out well for her.
“I have had more variation in my training program. I have done a lot of combination workouts where we have mixed both rollerskiing and running to make the sessions longer, and I have done a lot of rollerski workouts on the treadmill this fall,” she said. “I have had to be more creative with alternative training methods, but it looks like it has worked out well.”