The Norwegian team was far from reaching their goal of a podium finish in last weekend’s 30 kilometer double pursuit race in Kuusamo, Finland. The best Norwegian was Kristen Skjeldal in 11th place and he isn’t even on the National team.
The result of this is that only Tore Rud Hofstad from the A-Team (24th last weekend) is racing the upcoming 30 kilometer skate mass-start in Toblach, Italy this weekend. The rest of the team members are prioritizing training or are simply not good enough to race, and other skiers will get a chance instead.
Neither Anders Aukland, Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset, Frode Estil, Jens Arne Svartedal, Tore Bjonviken nor Espen Harald Bjerke will be at the starting line this weekend. Norway is instead showing up with a team without much international routine – especially for this event. They’ll have to rely on a good performance from Tore Rud Hofstad, Kristen Skjeldal or Olympic Sprint Champion Tor Arne Hetland if it’s going to be any top results. Several of the classic specialists are intentionally choosing to skip this race.
Sport Director Bjornar Hakensmoen comments:
“We have to do some prioritizing. We discussed this (tough month) with the skiers and have made a plan that also makes it possible to fit in some training. It’s not made a secret of the fact that some of the skiers are not at a high enough level in skating to have been selected either. You are not an automatic pick by being on the National team. Six of the skiers on the team have classic as their strongest technique. The exception is Ruud Hofstad. We believe at this point that several of the (new) skiers we have selected are better skaters than the national team members. We have been criticized in the past for not allowing new talent to race in the World Cup. I think they should absolutely get a chance if they have proven results” – says Hakensmoen.
The elite team prioritized getting better in skating this summer and fall. Several skiers lead by Aukland and Estil has expressed a desire to race fast in skating. The second World Cup pure skate race is now being down-prioritized.
“There is no doubt that the team has improved in skating. Just look at Aukland’s race in Kuusamo (12th overall – 22 seconds from first). Estil also skated well. It wasn’t the skate part that was the problem in Kuusamo – it was the classic part. Aukland was the exception to this but he didn’t dominate that part either.” – says Hakensmoen and adds that he hopes that their skating skills will be good enough for good results in other upcoming double pursuit races.
Young and upcoming skiers will in the meantime get a chance to show their stuff. Among them are last year’s Junior World Champion in 30 kilometer mass-start skating, Chris Jespersen. Three weeks ago he wasn’t found good enough to be among the 23 Norwegians that were selected to race in the 15 K World Cup skate race at Beitostolen. He is now among the 8 selected for Toblach after a promising 5th place in last week’s main domestic race. Jespersen felt that this race was better that all his best races as a junior.
“Chris wasn’t among the top-25 in the National opening week and we could for that reason not select him. He is now back and showing results. He is therefore selected” – explains Hakensmoen.
Norway’s team for Toblach 30-kilometer mass-start skate race:
Tore Rud Hofstad
Tor Arne Hetland
Jan Egil Andresen
Geir Ludvig Aasen
Svein Tore Sinnes