NorAm mini tour (Rossland, B.C.): 10/15 k freestyle pursuits
Team Gregg ended the Rossland NorAm mini tour with another double win, with American Caitlin Gregg and her husband Brian Gregg winning the 10- and 15-kilometer freestyle pursuits, respectively, at the Black Jack Ski Club trails.
Caitlin capped the long weekend with her third-straight win, a 48.28-second victory over former Canadian biathlete Zina Kocher (Foothills Nordic). Caitlin started first and was first across the finish in 29:02.86, while Kocher started ninth and rose to second place for her second-consecutive podium (after placing third in Saturday’s skate sprint). Andrea Dupont (Rocky Mountain Racers) started fourth and finished third (+1:58.35) for her second-straight podium as well (she was second in the skate sprint behind Gregg).
Lisle Compton of the National Team Development Centre (NTDC) Thunder Bay and Canadian National Junior Team finished fourth overall (+2:07.03), Frederique Vezina of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) was fifth (+2:16.10), and Annika Hicks of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) sixth (+2:16.51). Laura Leclair (CNEPH) placed seventh, Kaia Andal (Caledonia Nordic) was the top junior in eighth overall, Jaqueline Mourao (Brazil Ski Team) ninth, and Sophie Carrier-Laforte (Skinouk) 10th.
Brian, who won the Rossland men’s 10 k classic on Friday, also started Sunday’s 15 k freestyle pursuit first and finished in that position in 38:43.93. Andy Shields (Lappe Nordic) raced to second overall, 7.65 seconds back, after starting fourth, and Jack Carlyle (AWCA) reached the podium in third (+8.75) after starting 10th.
Evan Palmer-Charrette (NTDC Thunder Bay) ended the weekend in fourth (+17.68), Philippe Boucher (CNEPH) was fifth (+19.02), Brian McKeever (Canadian Para-Nordic Ski Team) sixth (+22.16), Michael Somppi (AWCA) seventh (+34.62), Alexis Dumas (CNEPH) eighth (+52.78), Bob Thompson (NTDC Thunder Bay) ninth (+54.76), and Julien Locke (Black Jack/Canadian U25 Team) 10th (+1:04.46).
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup (Ramsau, Austria): Saturday & Sunday individual competitions
After a bye week, the Nordic Combined World Cup resumed in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria, with back-to-back individual normal hill/10-kilometer Gundersen starts on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, American Bryan Fletcher posted his best individual result in nearly two years in seventh place, 32.6 seconds behind German winner Eric Frenzel.
Saturday’s individual competition on Ramsau’s 98-meter hill started out with Japan’s Taihei Kato going farthest in the jump portion, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Portyk jumping to second, and Frenzel jumping to third. Fletcher tied Japan’s Yoshito Watabe for 28th and the two started the 10 k race 1:02 minutes back accordingly.
While Frenzel picked off two places to finish first in 24:05.8 minutes, Fletcher moved up 21 spots to seventh place with the second-fastest course time of 23:48.4.
Germany had two on the podium with Fabian Rießle just 0.7 seconds back in second place, and Norway’s Jan Schmid finished third, 8.1 seconds behind Frenzel.
On Sunday, Rießle climbed to the top step on the podium, winning the weekend’s second normal hill/10 k in 26:12.5.
Norway’s Jørgen Graabak led after the jump portion, yet ultimately finished sixth, 9.8 seconds behind Rießle.
Rießle jumped to ninth and started 18 seconds out of first, then took the win on the four-lap course by just 0.3 seconds over Italy’s Alessandro Pittin. The Italian notched second place after starting 36th based on his jump and racing the fastest 10 k time in 25:00.8.
Finland’s Eero Hirvonen finished third (+1.5) after starting 10th, and Schmid was another 2 seconds back in fourth (+3.5) after jumping to seventh. Frenzel did not start.
Three Americans qualified for Sunday’s competition. Fletcher jumped to 45th and started 1:30 back, yet rose to 14th (+43.7) with the third-fastest course time. His younger brother Taylor Fletcher skied the second-fastest course time to finish 34th (+2:01.6), up 24 places after jumping to 58th. Adam Loomis finished 52nd (+4:38.6) after jumping to 59th.
The U.S. Nordic Combined team is headed back to the states to prepare for U.S. Olympic trials later this month, according to the USA Nordic Facebook page.
FIS Cross Country World Cup (Toblach, Italy): 10/15 k classic pursuits
If you thought Johannes Høsflot Klæbo was out, think again. After placing 10th in the men’s 15-kilometer freestyle on Saturday in Toblach, the 21-year-old Norwegian raced to his seventh victory of the season in the men’s 15 k pursuit on Sunday.
In doing so, Klæbo broke the record for the most World Cup wins before the New Year: he’s tallied seven in the last eight races he’s contested.
On Sunday, he started 10th, 36 seconds behind his Norwegian teammate Simen Hegstad Krüger, who won the 15 k freestyle and started first. Klæbo had worked his way up to third by 11.4 k, and at the finish, he edged Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov by 1.9 seconds for the win in 33:31.1 minutes.
Ustiugov, who started fifth, claimed second, and Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin rose from 14th to third place (+4.5), ahead of Russia’s Alexander Bessmertnykh in fourth (+9.7), Finland’s Matti Heikkinen in fifth (+9.8), France’s Maurice Manificat in sixth (+10.7), Norway’s Hans Christer Holund in seventh (+11.1), Switzerland’s Dario Cologna in eighth (+11.8), Canada’s Alex Harvey in ninth (+16.3), and Krüger in 10th (+24.0). Norway’s defending Overall and Distance World Cup champion, Martin Johnsrud Sundby placed 11th (+34.4) after starting 20th based on his result on Saturday.
Erik Bjornsen once again led the U.S. men, racing from 29th at the start to 26th (+1:43.1). Scott Patterson improved from 42nd to 39th (+2:37.2), Paddy Caldwell moved up from 52nd to 44th (+2:57.7), and Noah Hoffman slipped to 49th (+3:01.7) after starting 40th.
Canada’s Devon Kershaw moved up five places to 33rd (+2:02.8), Graeme Killick finished 50th (+3:42.0), Russell Kennedy 66th (+5:05.8), and Knute Johnsgaard moved up six places to finish 76th (+6:20.8).
In the women’s 10 k classic pursuit earlier in the day in Toblach, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen overcame a 22-second starting deficit to take the win by just 0.3 seconds over her teammates Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in second. It was an all-Norwegian podium with Heidi Weng in third (+0.8).
Bjørgen started fifth, 22 seconds behind Swedish race leader Charlotte Kalla, based on their results in Saturday’s 10 k freestyle individual start. By the 6.4 k checkpoint, Bjørgen led a pack of four other Norwegians and Kalla — all within 1.4 seconds of first. At 8.5 k, Bjørgen led Østberg in second and Weng in third, while another Norwegian Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen skied another eight seconds back with teammate Ragnhild Haga in fourth and fifth, respectively. By that point, Kalla was skiing alone, another 11.7 seconds in sixth, while American Jessie Diggins led a group 25 seconds behind Kalla in sixth.
Ultimately, Bjørgen finished first in 25:19.3 and formed an all-Norwegian podium with Østberg and Weng, Jacobsen placed fourth, 21.5 seconds out of first and 20.7 seconds behind Weng in third.
Haga was fifth (+31.8), Kalla sixth (+41.9), Diggins seventh (+53.7), Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva eighth (+54.2), American Sadie Bjornsen ninth (+55.2), and Austria’s Teresa Stadlober 10th (+55.6) in a photo finish with Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen, who placed 11th (+55.6).
For the U.S. Ski Team, Diggins and Bjornsen retained their starting positions of seventh and ninth, respectively, while Rosie Brennan started 19th and finished 25th (+2:14.6). Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University) finished 39th (+3:03.8) and Liz Stephen (USST) finished 48th (+4:05.2).
Canada’s Emily Nishikawa placed 53rd (+4:14.5), Dahria Beatty finished 63rd (+5:44.7), Cendrine Browne 66th (+5:57.7), and Katherine Stewart-Jones 70th (+7:31.5).
IBU World Cup (Annecy, France): Women’s and men’s mass starts
France’s Justine Braisaz won her first International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup race of the season on Sunday at home in Annecy, France, topping the women’s 12.5 k mass start by 11.2 seconds in 37:19.4.
While Braisaz shot 19-for-20 (0+0+1+0), Iryna Kryuko of Belarus cleaned the four-stage race for second place, her first World Cup podium. Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier, who won Saturday’s 10 k pursuit, placed third (+19.9) with two penalties (0+1+0+1).
Two North Americans qualified for the selective mass start, with Susan Dunklee (US Biathlon) racing to 20th (+1:16.3) with three misses (1+0+1+1), and Emma Lunder (Biathlon Canada) placing 28th (+2:21.4) with a single penalty (1+0+0+0).
In the men’s 15 k mass start that followed, France’s Martin Fourcade finally got the win he was looking for, shooting clean and beating his main rival Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway by 3.9 seconds. Fourcade crossed the finish line first in 36:30.3, Bø settled for second after skiing two early penalty loops (2+0+0+0) and Germany’s Erik Lesser tallied his second podium in Annecy (after placing third in the sprint) in third place again (+6.2) with clean shooting.
Two Americans and a Canadian qualified for the mass start, with US Biathlon’s Lowell Bailey leading them in 23rd (+2:22.4) with three penalties, Sean Doherty following in 24th (+2:52.5) with four misses, and Biathlon Canada’s Scott Gow finishing 26th (+4:05.4) with five penalties.
OPA Cup (St. Ulrich, Austria): 10/15 k freestyle pursuits
On the final day of Alpen Cup (a.k.a. OPA Cup) racing in St. Ulrich, Ida Sargent of the U.S. Ski Team (USST) scored her third-straight top five with a fifth place in the women’s 10 k freestyle mass start. She previously placed third in the skate sprint and 5 k classic on Friday and Saturday.
Germany’s Julia Belger won the women’s mass start on Sunday in 28:33.6, while Saturday’s 5 k winner, Elena Soboleva of Russia placed second (+0.7). Russia had two on the podium with Mariya Istomina in third (+6.4). Germany’s Elisabeth Schicho finished fourth (+15.8), just ahead of Sargent in fifth (+15.9).
Germany’s Antonia Fräbel placed sixth (+17.1), followed by American Sophie Caldwell in seventh (+17.9). The USST had three in the top 10 with Julia Kern in 10th (+41.9), out of 60 finishers.
In the men’s 15 k freestyle mass start, Beda Klee of Switzerland took the win in 37:14.6, 2.4 seconds ahead of Germany’s Thomas Bing in second. Six-time Olympian Sergey Dolidovich of Belarus reached the podium in third (+4.5).
The U.S. had two men in the race, with Simi Hamilton finishing 14th, 16 seconds out of first, and Andy Newell finishing 71st (+2:25.2) out of 118.