FIS Cross Country World Cup (Dresden, Germany): Freestyle sprints
For her second-straight World Cup sprint, Sophie Caldwell of the U.S. Ski Team reached the podium in the women’s 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint on Saturday in Dresden, Germany.
Caldwell placed third in the final behind Sweden’s Hanna Falk, who won it in 2:11.02 minutes, and Maja Dahlqvist, also of Sweden, who placed second (+0.23). Caldwell and Dahlqvist both lunged in a photo finish for second, which Dahlqvist took by 0.07 seconds.
Also in the final, which included four Swedes, Switzerland’s Laurien van der Graaff finished fourth (+0.58), and Sweden’s Anna Dyvik followed in fifth (+0.68) and Stina Nilsson sixth (+7.56) after tripping.
Falk started the day by winning the women’s qualifier in 2:06.34, by just 0.02 seconds over Nilsson in second. Caldwell qualified 11th (+2.02). and another American Ida Sargent made it into the heats in 14th (+2.44). Kikkan Randall missed the top 30 by 0.6 seconds in 34th (+6.57), Julia Kern placed 38th (+7.78), and Caitlin Patterson, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), was 40th (+8.56) out of 49 women in the qualifying round.
Sargent finished fourth in her quarterfinal, 043 seconds behind Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter in first, to finish the day in 17th overall.
For Caldwell, who went on to advance in second in her quarterfinal and third in her semifinal, the podium came after she finished second in the last World Cup skate sprint (the first stage of the Tour de Ski) on Dec. 31 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Her boyfriend and fellow U.S. Ski Team member Simi Hamilton came close to reaching the men’s 1.2 k sprint final on Saturday after qualifying in 15th then placing second in his quarterfinal and fifth in the second semifinal, 0.38 seconds behind Sweden’s Emil Jönsson in first.
France’s Lucas Chanavat won the qualifier in 1:50.42, 0.15 seconds ahead of Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo in second. Hamilton was 4.32 seconds back in the qualifier, and his U.S. teammate Andy Newell also qualified in 18th (+4.91). Erik Bjornsen missed qualifying by 0.23 seconds in 32nd (+6.15) and Ben Lustgarten (CGRP) finished 49th (+8.64) out of 67 men.
While Hamilton’s day ended in the semifinals, putting him 10th overall (and Newell finished sixth in his quarterfinal to place 27th overall), Italy’s Federico Pellegrino timed his attack perfectly in the final, challenging Klæbo for the win down the finishing stretch. The Italian took it by 0.18 seconds in 1:52.77, Klæbo placed second and Chanavat third (+0.98).
France and Norway had two men in the final, with France’s Richard Jouve placing fourth (+1.23), Sweden’s Jönsson taking fifth (+2.36) for his best individual World Cup result since December 2016. Norway’s Even Northug finished sixth (+12.04) after breaking his pole out of the start.
Canada’s Julien Locke of the National U25 Team and Black Jack Ski Club had a career-best day, finishing 15th overall. He qualified 16th (+4.61) then placed third in his quarterfinal, crossing the line just 1 second behind Norway’s Fredrik Riseth, who won that heat. Hamilton was second in that quarterfinal, 0.67 seconds back.
Also for Canada, Bob Thompson (NTDC Thunder Bay) finished 50th in the qualifier (+8.67), Dominique Moncion-Groulx (Alberta World Cup Academy) was 59th (+9.99) and Antoine Briand (Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre) 60th (+10.12).
IBU World Cup (Ruhpolding, Germany): Women’s relay
The teams from Germany and Italy dueled for the top position all race in Saturday’s 4 x 6-kilometer women’s relay at the IBU World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany. Cheered on by some 20,000 home-crowd fans, Germany’s anchor Laura Dahlmeier stayed on the ski tails of Italy’s Federica Sanfilippo after the last shooting stage, then passed her before the last major climb and held a narrow lead around the rest of the course to cross the finish line first in a time of 1:08:47.0 hours, with Italy 2.9 seconds behind. German had a team total of zero penalties and nine spares.
“It’s incredibly fun to win in front of this audience here today,” Dahlmeier told German broadcaster ZDF in an interview right after the race, according to a translation. “I think this will boost our whole team morale. We showed today that we are a team to be reckoned with in relays. It was just a nice race.”
Germany with Franziska Preuss, Denise Herrmann, Franziska Hildebrand, and Dahlmeier was never more than 30 seconds behind the pace, even though Hildebrand temporarily fell back from leading the field to tagging off to Dahlmeier in fourth position.
“My race held all kinds of surprises today,” Hildebrand told ZDF with a laugh. “It started with a fall on an icy patch 100 meters after it began… Then I dropped my pole, also had to exchange the replacement one, and then three spares [in prone] to avoid the penalty. Today everything conspired in my race.”
Italy with Lisa Vittozzi, Dorothea Wierer (coming off a victory in the individual race on Thursday), Nicole Gontier and Sanfilippo had the best shooting performance of the day, with no penalty and just three spares.
“That last loop with Laura was really tough,” Sanfilippo said in the press conference. “I gave my best, I tried all for my team. I knew that I can be strong on the last loop. I tried to attack, but Laura was a little bit stronger. But I am also really happy that we finished in second place, I think that was really important for our team.”
Sweden with Linn Persson, Mona Brorsson, Anna Magnusson and anchor Jenny Öberg was third, 17.2 seconds back, with no penalty and five spares. Brorsson and Öberg managed to move the team up to the podium positions, for the second one in a row following a third place from Oberhof, Germany, a week ago. Before that, the Swedish women’s team had been on a six-year hiatus from those lofty positions.
“It’s cool to be on the podium again,” Persson said in the press conference.
“This is like our second home and there were a lot of Swedes here, so we had big support during the race on the tracks,” Brorsson added.” That was an advantage for us.”
Just a few seconds off the podium, Norway with Synnøve Solemdal, Tiril Eckhoff, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold and Marte Olsbu was fourth (+23.1, with no penalty and nine spares), with Olsbu outsprinting Poland’s anchor Weronika Nowakowska on the finish stretch (+24.5, with no penalty and five spares). For both teams it was their best relay result of the season so far.
Switzerland with the three sisters Elisa, Selina and Aita Gasparin reinforced by Lena Häcki surprisingly led the race at the third exchange after Selina had moved them in front, but her youngest sister Aita could not hold that position, falling back with a penalty lap in the last standing stage to finish eighth (+1:37.1, with one penalty and 11 spares).
Biathlon Canada’s team of Emma Lunder, Julia Ransom, Sarah Beaudry, and Rosanna Crawford started the race with a setback after Lunder incurred a penalty in her prone stage, leaving the range in 23rd position at the end of the field and already almost a minute behind the leader. She managed to limit the gap with a clean standing stage to exchange still in 23rd position and 1:47 back.
Taking over Ransom then remained clean in both stages to move the team up to 17th, tagging off 2:14 behind. Beaudry only required one spare in her prone stage (0+1, 0+0) to improve to the 12th position even making up 3 seconds to the leaders.
Then Crawford, fresh off her first career podium in the individual race on Thursday, managed to also shoot clean in both stages and overtook the teams from Slovakia and Ukraine while further decreasing the gap to finish the race in 10th position, 1:56.7 back, with one penalty and just four spares.
“Things were a bit softer and slushy today compared to the individual, but nothing too bad,” Crawford commented on the conditions in an email to FasterSkier. “There was quite a bit of wind on the range, which I think was tricking people, the wind flags weren’t showing much but I had to make 6 left correction during zero [target practice].”
“Today was a solid showing from our team,” she added regarding their result. “Everyone cleaned standing, I think we can be really happy of this race, and take some real confidence going into the Olympic relay.”
Previously this season Canada had finished the relay in Oberhof, also Germany, in 14th position, and the first one in Hochfilzen, Austria, in ninth.
For US Biathlon with Susan Dunklee, Clare Egan, Emily Dreissigacker, and Joanne Reid, it was the first women’s relay of the year after missing out on the first two races of the season in this discipline.
Thus starting at the very end of the field, veteran Dunklee moved up through the pack and got through the prone stage with one spare. But then she had to fight against a penalty lap in her standing stage requiring all three spare rounds, leaving the range in 12th position. With the fastest course time on the opening leg, she managed to slightly decrease the gap to 21.6 seconds and made up three positions to exchange in ninth place.
Egan missed the first two shots in her prone stage, but hit the targets with her spares leaving the range over a minute back. She followed that up by cleaning her standing stage and left the range 1:29.5 back, then only lost five more seconds on the last loop to exchange in 14th.
Dreissigacker also needed just one spare in her prone shooting, but then incurred two penalties in her standing stage, doubling the gap and falling back to 19th position at the exchange and 3:51 back.
Anchor Reid needed three spares on her leg (0+2, 0+1) and managed to still overtake the teams from China and Finland to finish 17th, 4:57.7 behind Germany, with two penalties and 13 spares overall.
“Finally we had a full team and raced a relay!” Dunklee wrote on Instagram. “Competing on a foreign continent has its challenges.”
Ski Classics (Seefeld, Austria): 60 k Kaiser Maximilian Lauf
At the third Ski Classics event of the 2017/2018 season, the 60-kilometer Kaiser Maximilian Lauf on Saturday in Seefeld, Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team) and Norway’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) took the women’s and men’s victories, respectively.
Johansson Norgren and Japan’s Masako Ishida (Team Koteng) broke away shortly after the start. The two went back and forth for a while until Johannson Norgren gapped Ishida in the Leutasch valley. While Ishida was caught by a chase pack with Sara Lindborg (Team Serneke), Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes (Santander) and Lina Korsgren (Åre Ski Team), she reined Johansson Norgren back in on the long climbs after the valley. Ultimately, Johansson Norgren took the win in 2:49:16.0 hours, while Lindborg claimed second, 37.5 seconds back. Ishida finished third (+58.9), Gjeitnes placed fourth (+1:40.7) after injuring her ankle about 2 k before the finish, and Korsgren fifth (+2:05.1).
“It was my plan to go full speed from the beginning,” Johansson Norgren said, according to a Ski Classics press release. “I knew Ishida will go fast in the climbs, but I felt strong from the beginning. It was really hard skiing alone in the valley, and when Ishida caught me up, I wasn’t sure if I could win the race. But the last part of the course was perfect for me and I had no problems securing the victory today.”
The Leutasch valley was the turning point of the men’s race as well, where Vinjar Skogsholm (Team Parkettpartner) and Andreas Holmberg (Team Serneke) broke away from the pack and had built a 90-second gap on the chase group as they left the valley. There on the first climb out of the valley, Holmberg pushed the pace and dropped Skogsholm, while Gjerdalen and Ilya Chernousov (Bauer Ski Team) worked to catch Holmberg up front. They caught him 3 k before the finish and Gjerdalen was first across the finish line in 2:27:49 hours, 14.8 seconds ahead of Holmberg in second.
Chernousov finished third (+32.0), Ermil Vokuev (Russian Marathon Team) was fourth (+1:07.6), and Anton Karlsson (Lager 157) fifth (+1:08.2).
“I didn’t like the fact that we gave too much leeway for Holmberg and Skogsholm,” Gjerdalen said, according to the press release. “I’m happy that Ilya helped me in our attempt to catch up with Holmberg, but I wasn’t really sure if we were going to make it. You never know how the other person is feeling in the front, what kind of skis he has and what goes on in his mind. But I managed to win today and it feels great to be back on the top.”
In the overall “Champion” standings, Nordgren leads with 450 points, 110 ahead of Lindborg in second. Gjerdalen is first in the men’s champion standings with 330 points, 50 points ahead of Morten Eide Pedersen in second.
The Ski Classics tour moves to Zuoz, Switzerland, next weekend for the 65 k La Diagonela.