U.S. SuperTour (Truckee, Calif.): Classic sprints
[UPDATED] Less than a week after being named to the U.S. team for 2017 World Championships, Ben Lustgarten — the men’s 30 k classic mass start champion at this year’s U.S. nationals — won Saturday’s SuperTour classic sprint as well.
Lustgarten, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, raced to a 1.58-second victory in the men’s A-final at the Auburn Ski Club in Soda Springs, Calif., finishing in 3:03.4. Ben Saxton, of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team, placed second, and Reese Hanneman, of Alaska Pacific University (APU), was third (+2.77).
Hannenman’s younger brother Logan also reached the final and placed fourth (+4.5), Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy) was fifth (+5.86), and the third APU skier in the final, Tyler Kornfield sixth (+18.69).
Blackhorse-von Jess started the day off as the fastest qualifier in 2:58.8. Saxton qualified second, 4.1 seconds back, Logan Hanneman qualified third (+4.2), and Lustgarten fourth (+6.5). Blackhorse-von Jess went on to win his quarterfinal and place second in his semifinal, while Lustgarten and Saxton both won their quarterfinals and semifinals.
In the women’s A-final, Jennie Bender of the Bridger Ski Foundation, coming off a classic sprint win at nationals, scored another victory in 3:29.07. She edged Craftsbury’s Kaitlynn Miller by just seven-hundredths of a second, and Stratton’s Julia Kern placed third (+3.42). Racing at home, Hannah Halvorsen (Sugar Bowl Academy) finished fourth (+3.88). Craftsbury had three in the women’s final with Caitlin Patterson in fifth (+3.93) and Heather Mooney in sixth (+27.35).
Miller proved to be the woman to beat throughout the day, winning the qualifier in 3:30.9, along with her quarterfinal and semifinal. Kern qualified second (+3.2) and Bender third (+4.6). Bender went on to win her quarterfinal and semifinal as well before facing off with Miller in the final.
NorAm Western Canadian Championships (Whistler, B.C.): 10/15 k classic
It was interval-starts day at Western Canadian Championships at Whistler Olympic Park and national-team veteran Emily Nishikawa completed the four laps of the women’s 10 k classic in 30:35.5 to win ahead of teammate Dahria Beatty, 16.5 seconds behind. Maya MacIsaac-Jones completed the national team and Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) sweep in third (+1:36.5).
Sovereign Lake’s Hannah Mehain, of the national junior team, was the top junior for the second-straight day in eighth overall (+3:22.1).
In the men’s 15 k, Lappe Nordic’s Andy Shields won the six-lap race in 40:34.2, showing some of the form that won him the NorAm overall last season. National-team member Jess Cockney collected his second-straight podium, finishing second, 4.3 seconds behind Shields. Evan Palmer-Charrette (NTDC Thunder Bay) completed the podium in third (+55.1).
FIS Cross-Country World Cup (Ulricehamn, Sweden): 10/15 k freestyle
First individual win of the season (second straight, after winning last weekend’s team sprint), fifth individual victory of his career. That’s the latest news on Canada’s Alex Harvey, who won the World Cup men’s 15-kilometer freestyle individual start on Sunday in Ulricehamn, Sweden, for his first victory in a 15 k skate race and fourth individual podium of 2016/2017.
To say Harvey is on a roll is an understatement. On Saturday, he beat Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby by 6 seconds after starting a minute behind the Norwegian defending World Cup champion. Harvey’s fastest time across the line in 32:46.2 held up through 76 finishers, with Sweden’s Marcus Hellner coming somewhat within range after starting a minute behind him. Hellner ended up 14.3 seconds back from Harvey at the finish for third place, behind Sundby.
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna missed the podium by 0.5 seconds in fourth (+14.7), and Norway’s 24-year-old Daniel Stock broke through in fifth (+16.2) for his first World Cup top 20.
Great Britain’s Andrew Musgrave placed sixth (+18.7), Sweden’s Daniel Rickardsson was seventh (+25.0), Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh eighth (+32.2), Russia’s Petr Sedov ninth (+33.9), and Japan’s Keishin Yoshida 10th (+34.2).
American Erik Bjornsen landed in the points as he tied Norway’s Simen Andreas Sveen for 28th (+1:09.2), leading fellow U.S. Ski Team members Noah Hoffman, who placed 41st (+1:28.8), and Simi Hamilton in 53rd (+1:56.2). Also for the U.S., Matt Gelso, the Period 1 SuperTour leader from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team, finished 68th (+3:00.3).
Harvey’s Canadian World Cup teammates Len Valjas finished 35th (+1:17.7) and Devon Kershaw 38th (+1:22.2). Knute Johnsgaard (Canadian U25 Team) did not start.
In her first World Cup race in over a month and at a brand-new World Cup venue, Norway’s 36-year-old Marit Bjørgen returned to her winning ways, topping the women’s 10 k freestyle on Saturday in Ulricehamn.
Bjørgen started 40th out of 61 finishers and took the lead from Finland’s Krista Parmakoski at the finish with a time of 23:46.3 minutes. Parmakoski, who started a minute ahead of her in bib 38, ended up second, 10.7 seconds back. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla reached the podium for the second time this season in third (+24.9).
“It is always great to win,” Bjørgen said, according to an International Ski Federation (FIS) press release. “I stayed at home for five weeks and was training. It is great to come back with a victory. I know that the training I had done was good. It was an amazing atmosphere today by the course. There were people cheering everywhere.”
Norway swept fourth through sixth with Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in fourth (+25.7), Ragnhild Haga in fifth (+32.3) and Heidi Weng in sixth (+34.0).
American Jessie Diggins raced to seventh (+34.9), ahead of Sweden’s Hanna Falk, who recorded her best distance result in eighth (+36.4). Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg finished ninth (+44.8), and Germany’s Sandra Ringwald was 10th (+56.6).
“I didn’t have the snappy good feelings I was hoping to have in my body today, but it was a solid race,” Diggins wrote in a post-race email to FasterSkier. “It’s always hard when you know that on your best days you are capable of more, but at the same time we had great skis, and it was really fun for me to be able to ski with my teammates today!”
The U.S. had three in the top 20 and four in the top 30 with Sadie Bjornsen in 12th (+1:00.5), Liz Stephen in 16th (+1:07.3) and Rosie Brennan in 24th (+1:30.7).
Cendrine Browne as Canada’s lone woman in the race achieved 35th (+1:52.0) for her career best in an individual race. Also for the U.S., Kikkan Randall placed 40th (+1:59.6) and Liz Guiney of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project 52nd (+2:33.2).
IBU World Cup (Antholz, Italy): Men’s relay & women’s mass start
For the U.S. men, top six was a target for the 4 x 7.5 k relay on Sunday in Antholz, Italy, according to US Biathlon Men’s Coach Jonas Johansson.
Mission accomplished. In the final team event before 2017 World Championships, Lowell Bailey, Leif Nordgren, Tim Burke, and Sean Doherty combined for sixth, finishing 1:04.9 minutes behind the German winners. The Americans used a total of 10 spares but avoided the penalty loop, as did the Germans who used seven spares to clean the eight-stage race and won it in 1:13.57.2.
Germany’s Simon Schempp narrowly outlasted Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen in the finishing stretch to secure the victory for Germany (with teammates Erik Lesser, Benedikt Doll and Arnd Peiffer) by one-tenth of a second. Norway finished second with nine spares and no penalties (with Lars Helge Birkeland, Henrik L’Abee-Lund, Johannes Thingnes Bø, and Svendsen), and Russia secured third (+33.6) with nine spares and zero penalties as well (with Maxim Tsvetkov, Evgeniy Garanichev, Dmitry Malyshko, and Anton Babikov).
Ukraine used a total of just five spares and had zero penalties for fourth (+46.7), and Austria took fifth (+49.2) with eight spares and no penalties, after Austria’s Dominik Landertinger skied away from Doherty on the final loop and finished 6.9 seconds ahead of him for fifth place.
For the U.S. men, sixth was close to their team-best fifth with the same lineup in last year’s World Cup relay in Presque Isle, Maine. The same group also took sixth in Ruhpolding, Germany, last year as well.
With all four making US Biathlon’s World Championships team, announced Saturday, they will likely be aiming for a best championships result early next month in Hochfilzen, Austria.
Canada (Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Macx Davies, and Brendan Green) finished 16th (+4:13.8) on Saturday with two penalties and 11 spares. Scott Gow skied them up to 15th by the second exchange but they dropped to 18th after Davies had two penalties on the third leg. With Green anchoring and using just one spare, they recouped two places before the finish.
In the women’s race, Germany’s Nadine Horchler achieved a lifetime dream with her first World Cup win, after starting in bib 30 and earning her start as a reserve athlete. Germany took first and second with Laura Dahlmeier in second, and the Czech Republic’s Gabriela Koukalova placed third. Susan Dunklee of the U.S. was the lone North American starter and finished 24th after leading at the start of the second loop.
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup (Chaux-Neuve, France): Individual large hill/10 k
The first part of Saturday’s Nordic Combined World Cup individual large hill/10 k competition was a shining moment for U.S. Nordic Combined skier Ben Berend, who jumped to second for a total of 127.5 points, trailing only Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber with 139 points in Chaux-Neuve, France.
Berend flew farther than Germany’s Eric Frenzel, who jumped to third on the Chaux-Neuve large hill.
Later in the day, they started the 10 k Gundersen in that order, with Riiber heading out first, followed by Berend 46 seconds later, then Frenzel 53 seconds back in third.
Germany’s Johannes Rydzek started 1:15 minutes back in 12th and skied the fastest 10 k to take the victory at the finish (in 23:01.7). He held off his German teammate Fabian Rießle by 2.8 seconds for the win, after Rießle started sixth and 1:01 back. Japan’s Akito Watabe reached the podium in third (+5.7) after jumping to seventh and starting the race 1 second behind Rießle.
Frenzel ended up fourth (+8.3), and the fourth German in the top five, Björn Kircheisen improved to fifth (+22.6) after starting 11th.
Riiber dropped to 15th (+54.0), and Berend fell outside the top 30 to end up 32nd (+2:26.0) with the 39th-ranked course time.
Berend finished 12.2 seconds ahead of his U.S. teammate Taylor Fletcher, who placed 34th (+2:38.2) after the jump put him in 48th.
Bryan Fletcher was 49th after the jump but did not start the 10 k.
The Nordic Combined World Cup continues Sunday in Chaux-Neuve with another large hill/10 k.
Ski Classics #5: La Diagonela (Zuoz, Switzerland): 50 k classic
[UPDATED] Under “blue skies, no wind and perfect track conditions” in the Swiss Engadin Valley on Saturday, according to a Ski Classics press release, Russia’s Ilya Chernousov and the Czech Republic’s Kateřina Smutná won the men’s and women’s La Diagonela, respectively, in Zuoz, Switzerland.
Chernousov, of Team Pioneer Investments, and Tord Asle Gjerdalen (Team Santander) led a large pack of men into the final major climb on the 50 k course. There, Gjerdalen attacked and Chernousov matched him, accelerating away from his competitors up the last steep pitch to the finish, according to the press release. He finished in 2:03:39.6 hours, holding off Gjerdalen by 1.5 seconds, while Øystein Pettersen (Team BN Bank) finished third (+3.0).
In the women’s race, Smutná (Team Santander) pushed to break up the field around the halfway point, where the men caught the women. Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team) hung with Smutná, but lost contact over the last 5 k. After finishing second in the last two Ski Classics races, Smutná took the win by 1:03.2 minutes in 2:20:49.2. Nordgren finished second, ahead of Sara Lindborg (Team Serneke) in third, who finished more than three minutes later (+4:17.4).