U.S. Cross Country Championships (Anchorage, Alaska): 20/30 k classic mass starts
Sweden’s Hedda Bångman denied Caitlin Patterson of her first outright victory of the week at 2018 U.S. Cross Country Championships, but Patterson as the first American racked up her third-straight national title in the women’s 20-kilometer classic mass start at Kincaid Park on Sunday in Anchorage, Alaska.
Bångman, a 22-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), pulled off a 15.9-second win in the mass start, crossing the line in 1:00:55.3 hours. Patterson, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), finished second, but was the top American in the event for the third time this week, and Rosie Frankowski, of Alaska Pacific University (APU), notched third (second American), 19.6 seconds back.
Rounding out the top 10 was Jessica Yeaton, who trains with APU and races for Australia, in fourth (+44.1), Kaitlynn Miller (CGRP) as the third American in fifth overall (+1:13.5), Alayna Sonnesyn of the University of Vermont (UVM) in sixth (+1:25.3), Chelsea Holmes (APU) in seventh (+1:55.4), Norwegian CU skiers Christina Rolandson and Anne Siri Lervik in eighth (+1:55.7) and ninth (+1:56.1), respectively, and Erika Flowers of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team in 10th (+2:14.6).
The men’s 30 k classic mass start was incredibly close, with APU’s Tyler Kornfield taking his first-ever distance national title (he was the 2012 classic sprint national champion) in 1:21:43.6. He edged his teammate Eric Packer by 0.7 seconds at the line, and Eivind Romberg Kvaale, a sophomore at the University of Denver (DU), finished 1 seconds back in third.
Kris Freeman (Caldwell Sport) was just off the overall podium in fourth (+1.6), but was the third American. Another DU skier, Dag Frode Trollebø, also from Norway, finished fifth (+2.0), and APU had three in the top six with David Norris in sixth (+2.5). Noah Hoffman (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) finished seventh (+2.6), Scott Patterson (APU) eighth (+3.6), and Craftsbury’s Adam Martin and Ben Lustgarten followed in ninth (+14.7) and 10th (+14.9), respectively. With Brian Gregg (CXC/LNR/Team Gregg) in 11th (+16.1), the men’s top 11 were separated by less than 17 seconds.
IBU World Cup (Oberhof, Germany): Men’s and women’s relays
The Swedish men’s team and French women won the second relays of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup season on Sunday, with Sweden winning the men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay by 1:10.8 over Italy, and France besting Germany by 32.4 seconds.
Notably, most of the top teams didn’t start all of their “A” teamers.
In the men’s race, Sweden’s Martin Ponsiluoma, Jesper Nelin, Sebastian Samuelsson, and Fredrik Lindström combined for their first win together — and the first win for most of the members on the team.
“It is a dream when you are a kid to compete in a World Cup,” Samuelsson said, according to an IBU press release. “To have a win is really amazing!”
The Swedish women’s team also landed on the podium in third (+48.2).
“What a race by the whole team,” said Lindström, who also has one non-relay World Cup win (from 2012) to his name. “It could not be better.”
Conditions could not have been much more difficult for shooting on Sunday, with the fog that had descended early in the day for the women’s race worsening for the men’s race. When there wasn’t fog, there was wind.
Misses were common throughout the two races, and even with racers being able to use three spares per shooting stage to clean, there were a high number of penalty laps.
But the Swedish men kept their penalties to a minimum, with just one for the entire team and a total of nine spare rounds used among them. After Ponsiluoma came through the first exchange in sixth, Nelin skied them into third, Samuelsson picked off another place despite skiing a penalty after his standing stage to put them in second, and Lindström anchored them to first.
“The conditions today were so special. Somehow I felt not so nervous, I was calm and had luck on my side,” Lindström said at a post-race press conference about his nearly flawless shooting (0+0; 0+1).
“I have never [been first] before,” he added. “Not like this in a relay at least. That’s really fantastic.”
“I had to look up to see if I was aiming the right way,” Nelin said after cleaning prone (0+0) then using two spares to clean standing (0+2). “I had no idea where I was aiming, so it was really difficult. But I hit, and it was good. Maybe these conditions fit me and I should never see anything.”
Italy placed second with Thomas Bormolini, Lukas Hofer, Dominik Windisch, and Thierry Chenal combining for two penalties and 11 spares. Hofer had skied them up from eighth to second, and Windisch then took the lead on the third leg to put them in first at the final exchange, 1 minute ahead of Sweden. But Chenal slipped with the seventh-fastest last leg time and a penalty after standing.
“Being on the podium with the team is always a special feeling,” Hofer said at the press conference. “For Thierry, it’s the first year in the World Cup, and he does a really good job, not just today. I am really happy that he could close out this relay. Second place is like a win for us.”
Norway placed third (+2:04.6) with Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, Henrik L’Abée-Lund, Lars Helge Birkeland, and Tarjei Bø. Together, they had three penalties (two from L’Abée-Lund and one from Birkeland) and 14 spares.
“I grew up on Holmenkollen so I practiced a lot there [in fog],” L’Abée-Lund said. “But today was really really hard, I didn’t see anything in prone. Standing was OK, but prone was really difficult.”
“It’s great to be on the podium,” Christiansen said. “Of course Norway always wants to win, but today we are very happy for our brothers in our neighbor-country Sweden.”
The Canadian men placed 10th (+6:23.1) out of 25 teams with Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Brendan Green, and Carsen Campbell having a combined six penalties and 20 spares. Three of those penalties came on Scott Gow’s second leg, two from Campbell’s anchor leg, and one on Christian Gow’s first leg.
After a penalty on his first prone stage (1+3), Christian cleaned standing with a spare (0+1) and tagged Scott in 11th, 53 seconds out of first. Scott then had two penalties in prone and three in standing, but managed to improve to eighth given how much everyone else was struggling with the shooting as well. Green kept them in eighth with two clean stages (0+2, 0+3), and Campbell, in his first World Cup relay, cleaned prone (0+2) but had two standing penalties (2+3) to put the team in 10th at the finish.
In an interview with German broadcaster ARD halfway through the race, Canadian coach Matthias Ahrens called the range conditions, which ranged from thick fog to unpredictable wind, “very hard to assess.”
“… To be honest, the good thing was that conditions were very bad,” he later added. “So regarding visibility, almost everyone was on the range at the same time [with the same irregular conditions]. They had to wait very long, and of course had bad conditions to shoot, but much of the field was there at the same time.”
In the women’s race, with better shooting visibility, France’s Anais Bescond, Anais Chevalier, Celia Aymonier, and Justine Braisaz took the win in 1:12.42.4, with one penalty and 10 spares. After Bescond put them in first through the first exchange, 6 seconds ahead of Italy in second, Chevalier had to ski a penalty loop after prone but cleaned standings (1+3, 0+0) and tagged off in second, 23 seconds behind Italy, now in first.
One loop later, France was back in first thanks to Aymonier, who cleaned with just two spares (0+0, 0+2), and they extended their lead from 0.8 seconds at the last exchange to 32 seconds at the finish with Braisaz, who shot 0+1, 0+3, and skied the fastest anchor leg.
“I know that it’s always good for Justine to start in the first position, so I really wanted to pass the relay to her in that,” Aymonier said in a press conference after.
“I was nervous, too,” Braisaz said. “That kind of shooting turned my mind upside down, actually. The crowd was very loud, and … I wasn’t very focused on what I did. It was a bit foggy, too, so that made it harder. But finally it was a French day, maybe.”
“In my mind the whole team is really strong, and really able to get the first place,” Bescond said. “After years and years and years behind Germany’s team we finally did it. So just Oberhof spirit I think.”
Germany placed second with Vanessa Hinz, Denise Herrmann, Franziska Preuss, and Maren Hammerschmidt. They combined for two penalties and 13 spares; with a penalty on Hinz’s first leg and one more on Hammerschmidt’s last shooting. After being tagged in 14th, Herrmann skied them into fourth, 40 seconds out of first, and Preuss elevated them to second, which Hammerschmidt held onto.
“I was struggling a little bit in the prone shooting,” Herrmann said. “But the skiing was good today, and also the standing [shooting]. I tried to go fast on the track and catch some girls.”
Sweden, with Linn Persson, Anna Magnusson, Elisabeth Högberg, and Mona Brorsson, avoided the penalty loop and used eight spares to reach the podium for the first time in six seasons. In sixth place at the first exchange, they slipped one place to seventh on the second leg, but Högberg raced them up to fourth with near-perfect shooting (0+0, 0+1) with one leg to go. Brorsson then anchored them to third with clean shooting (0+2, 0+1) and the third-fastest last leg.
“It’s just super nice for us! I am super happy,” Magnusson said. “We were very emotional at the finish.”
When Brorsson was asked if she believe she could fight for the podium, she responded, “Not really. But I said to Linn, ‘Maybe it is our day today. Please let it be our day today.’ ”
The Canadian women finished 14th (+6:37.5), out of 20 teams, with two penalties and 13 spares. Sarah Beaudry initially put them in 15th after shooting 0+1, 0+2, then Julia Ransom had a standing penalty (0+2, 1+3) to slip one place to 16th. Megan Tandy picked off three places with clean shooting (0+0, 0+2) and tagged Emma Lunder in 13th, and Lunder had a penalty in prone but cleaned standing (1+3, 0+0) to finish in 14th.
Tour de Ski Stage 7 (Alpe Cermis, Val di Fiemme, Italy): 9 k freestyle climb
Dario Cologna of Switzerland added a fourth Tour de Ski (TdS) title to his list of accolades on Sunday, winning the 2018 edition of the race in dominant fashion, with a 1:26.5-minute win over Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby. And Canada’s Alex Harvey scored his first TdS overall podium in third.
The 31-year-old Cologna started the 9-kilometer freestyle pursuit up Alpe Cermis 1:15 ahead of Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin in second. Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, slated to start third, did not start due to a back injury. Thus Harvey was the third man off the start line, 1:23 behind Cologna.
(Sweden’s Marcus Hellner, 13th after Saturday’s Stage 6, also did not start the Tour’s final stage.)
Early on, Cologna started putting time into his competitors, extending his lead on Poltoranin to 1:20.5 and Harvey to 1:24 at 1.8 k.
By 4 k, however, Harvey had used his speedy skiing on the flatter portions of the race leading up to the climb to catch Poltoranin, and the two clocked through that checkpoint 1:19.4 behind Cologna. Behind them, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov skied just ahead of Sundby, another 21 seconds and 22 seconds back, respectively, in fifth and sixth.
While Harvey clawed back a few more seconds on Cologna, he was still 1:17.8 back at 6.2 k, with Poltoranin just 0.7 seconds behind him in third.
Harvey remained in second until around 8.5 k; with just a half kilometer to go, Sundby had caught both Poltoranin and Harvey, passing them both. Sundby held that position and finished second, 1:26.5 behind Cologna, who won in 28:52.1.
Harvey stayed strong for third (+1:30.6) while Poltoranin dropped off the Canadian’s pace in the final half kilometer and finished fourth (+1:41.7). Norway’s Hans Christer Holund placed fifth (+2:17.8), Bolshunov lost a spot to finish sixth (+3:09.7), France’s Jean-Marc Gaillard finished seventh (+3:16.7), Sweden’s Daniel Rickardsson eighth (+3:20.8), and Russia’s Alexey Chervotkin and Andrey Larkov took ninth (+3:33.5) and 10th (+3:37.8), respectively.
France’s Maurice Manificat, known for his strength in freestyle hill climbs and pursuit races, rose from 14th to 11th (+3:45.7) with the second fastest time of day, 12.8 seconds slower than Sundby as the time of day winner in 28:36.4. Cologna’s time was fourth fastest (+15.7), behind Russian U23 skier Denis Spitsov in third (+14.3) (Spitsov started 20th and finished 13th). Holund’s time ranked fifth (+20.6) and Harvey’s time was sixth fastest (+23.6) of the 43 men that finished the race.
The lone American man to complete this year’s Tour, Paddy Caldwell (U.S. Ski Team) skied the 22nd fastest time of day for 38th overall (+11:54.8).
In the women’s hill climb that kicked off the day, Heidi Weng raced to her second consecutive TdS title. The Norwegian started the day within two seconds of teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, and the two skied together for the flat section of the nine-kilometer stage of the competition. But when the climbing got steep on Alpe Cermis, Weng left her teammate behind and eventually racked up a 48.5-second win.
The battle for third was less predictable. Jessie Diggins of the United States started the day in fourth, but made up the ten seconds to third-place Krista Pärmäkoski of Finland in the first few kilometers. The pair climbed together for a while before Diggins attacked. Pärmäkoski tired on the final sections of the Alpe Cermis and Diggins took the podium in definitive style, 2:23.2 behind Weng and 24 seconds ahead of Pärmäkoski. It’s the first overall Tour de Ski podium for Diggins or any American athlete.
Teresa Stadlober of Austria finished fifth (+3:09.4), Kerttu Niskanen of Finland sixth (+4:17.0), Russia’s Anastasia Sedova seventh (+4:49.6), and Switzerland’s Nathalie von Siebenthal eighth (+4:56.1).
Sadie Bjornsen started eighth and slipped one spot to finish ninth (+6:15.0), giving the U.S. two top-ten finishers in the Tour de Ski for the first time. Liz Stephen finished 16th (+8:25.8) and Rosie Brennan 24th (+10:59.6).
En route to her win, Weng notched the fastest time of the day on the 9 k stage. Stadlober’s time was second, Diggins third, Østberg fourth, and Stephen fifth.
32 women finished this year’s edition of the Tour de Ski.