FIS Nordic World Championships (Lahti, Finland): Men’s 50 k freestyle mass start
After a week of missing out on the medals at 2017 Nordic World Championships, Canada’s Alex Harvey, a four-time World Championships medalist from 2011, 2013 and 2015, achieved his first individual gold medal in the final race of this year’s World Championships in Lahti, Finland.
Harvey, 28, won the men’s 50-kilometer freestyle mass start in a drag race to the finish. Entering the final descent into the stadium with Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, Harvey rode his fast skis past both of them then had the most finishing kick in the final straightaway for a 0.6-second victory. He finished in 1:46.28.9 hours, while Ustiugov followed him across the line in second and Finland’s Matti Heikkinen from behind for third (+1.4), after passing Sundby around the outside of the last corner.
Sundby appeared to miss a pole plant soon after Heikkinen passed him and let off the pace a few meters before the finish. That’s where Great Britain’s Andrew Musgrave continued to accelerate and took fourth place, 2.9 seconds behind Harvey and 0.1 seconds ahead of Sundby in fifth. Norway’s Sjur Røthe followed another 0.4 seconds back in sixth, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna was seventh (+8.9), Norway’s Petter Northug eighth (+12.3), France’s Maurice Manificat ninth (+13.4), and Norway’s Hans Christer Holund 10th (+14.3).
“I had really good skis,” Harvey said in a post-race interview with FIS. “I knew if I came into the corner in second place, that was the optimal position. So I was able to fight hard and hit that last corner in second and slingshot by Martin along the flat and then that was good after that.”
“This is the best race of my life, for sure,” he added. “So I’m really happy.”
Tad Elliott (Ski Club Vail) led the Americans in 27th (+3:16.8). Noah Hoffman (U.S. Ski Team) finished 50th (+8:53.1) and Kyle Bratrud (CXC Team) did not finish.
Canada started four men, with Devon Kershaw finishing 38th (+5:45.5), Graeme Killick 43rd (+7:04), and Knute Johnsgaard in 55th (+12:03.3).
For Harvey, the medal is his fifth at three World Championships and his first individual gold after winning the classic team sprint with Kershaw in 2011.
IBU World Cup (PyeongChang, South Korea): Men’s and women’s relays
Between the men’s and women’s relays on Sunday at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup in PyeongChang, South Korea, Canada had two teams in the top eighth, with its men’s team finishing seventh in the 4 x 7.5 k and women’s team eighth in the 4 x 6 k. Behind them, the U.S. men finished 10th and U.S. women 14th.
France won the men’s relay by 33.8 seconds over Austria, using a total of 10 spare rounds but avoiding the penalty lap. Martin Fourcade anchored France to the win in 1:12:09.5 hours, after Jean-Guillaume Béatrix initially tagged them in first, his older brother Simon Fourcade raced them into second with near-perfect shooting (using just one spare to clean), and Simon Desthieux picked off one more place to give Fourcade a 16-second lead for the final leg.
Austria achieved second place with Lorenz Wäger, Simon Eder, Julian Eberhard, and Dominik Landertinger combining for zero penalties and nine spares.
Norway finished third (+45.4) with Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Vegard Gjermundshaug, and Henrik L’Abée-Lund. They had one penalty on Gjermundshaug’s third leg, and used a total of eight spares.
Canada’s Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Nathan Smith, and Brendan Green finished seventh (+3:03.1) with zero penalties and nine spares. After Christian tagged his older brother Scott in ninth, Scott raced them into sixth place before Smith slipped four places to 10th at the final exchange. On the final leg, Green raced them into seventh, requiring two spares to clean.
The Americans finished about nine seconds later in 10th (+3:12.8) with Lowell Bailey, Leif Nordgren, Paul Schommer, and Sean Doherty combining for zero penalties and nine spares, just like Canada. Bailey had originally put them in second at the first exchange, Nordgren dropped to seventh, then Schommer to 13th, before Doherty finally brought them back to 10th out of 24 teams.
In the women’s relay, Germany pulled off a 22.8-second win over Norway, with one penalty and eight spares. Nadine Horchler put Germany in third at the first exchange, then Maren Hammerschmidt raced them into first by the race’s halfway point. From there, Denise Herrmann, a former cross-country World Cup regular, had to ski a penalty lap and tagged off in second, 13.5 seconds out of first. With teammate Laura Dahlmeier sitting out the relay, Franziska Hildebrand anchored Germany to the win in 1:07:35.6 after she used just one spare to clean.
Norway placed second with Kaia Wøien Nicolaisen, Hilde Fenne, Tiril Eckhoff, and Marte Olsbu accumulating one penalty and 11 spares. Olsbu beat out the Czech Republic’s Gabriela Koukalová by one-tenth of a second at the finish, as the Czechs placed for third (+22.9), with Jessica Jislová, Eva Puskarčíková, Lucie Charvátová, and Koukalová (with a total of one penalty and nine spares).
Canada took eighth (+1:34) with Rosanna Crawford, Julia Ransom, Megan Tandy, and Emma Lunder. Crawford tagged in second at the first exchange, Ransom slipped one place to third, Tandy lost another place to tag in fourth, and Lunder ultimately anchored them to eighth.
The U.S., with Clare Egan, Susan Dunklee, Joanne Reid, and Maddie Phaneuf, finished 14th (+3:08.3) with one penalty and 10 spares. After Egan had a penalty on the first leg, Dunklee skied the fastest second leg to move the team from 19th to 14th, then Reid put them in 11th by the final exchange. Twenty-one teams competed in the women’s race.
Ski Classics 90 k Vasaloppet (Sälen to Mora, Sweden)
[UPDATED] In Sunday’s 93rd annual 90-kilometer Vasaloppet from Sälen to Mora, Sweden, the ninth event of the Ski Classics series, John Kristian Dahl (Team United Bakeries) outlasted Andreas Nygaard (Team Santander) by one-tenth of a second for the win in 3:57:18.1 hours. The race came down to a five-way fight for first, with Stian Hoelgaard (Team Leaseplan) finishing 0.6 seconds back in third. The top 15 men were all within 21.7 seconds of the podium, and Brian McKeever, a member of Canada’s Para Nordic Ski Team, placed 20th (+2:31.1).
“It has been a fight all day,” Dahl said, according to a Ski Classics press release. Three days ago, he had been unsure about starting the Vasaloppet following a back injury. “I was tired already after 30 k and had to let go of the lead group, but I fought my way back taking it step by step and hill by hill.”
In the women’s race, Britta Johansson Norgren (Lager 157 Ski Team) broke away from the field to win by 1:37.9 minutes in 4:19.43.4.
Astrid Øyre Slind (Team United Bakeries) finished second, and Sara Lindborg (Team Serneke) placed third, 9 minutes and 4.2 seconds behind Norgren. Kateřina Smutná (Team Santander) dropped out of the race about halfway through.
“I am very tired but also so happy to win today,” Norgren said, according to the press release. “It felt pretty easy until Oxberg [Sweden] with 30 k to go, but then it got really tough and I had to fight all the way to the finish.”
It was Norgren’s first Vasaloppet win after placing second the last three years. She increased her lead in the overall Ski Classics to 215 points over Smutná, while Tord Asle Gjerdalen continues to lead the men’s overall standings ahead of his Santander teammate Nygaard, who is 349 points behind in second place. Gjerdalen did not race Sunday’s Vasaloppet.