While many top World Cup skiers converged on Muonio, Finland this past weekend, Norway's best stayed home for the annual Beitostolen FIS Cup races. The schedule was full with a freestyle sprint on Friday, a 10/15km freestyle on Saturday, and a 5/10km classic on Sunday. In addition to the cross-country races, the schedule also included two days of biathlon compeition – a 7.5/10km race on Saturday, and 12.5/15km on Sunday.
The fields consisted almost entirely of Norweigans – though just about all th ebig names were present, making for deep, challenging fields. The top Swiss skiers did bring an international presence to the cross-country races.
Petter Northug started the weekend with a victory in the sprint. After qualifying in 12th position, Northug won each of his heats to claim the top spot. The top qualifier, Johan Kjoelstad, finished second and veteran Tor Arne Hetland rounded out the podium. Another big name, Jens Arne Svartedal was just behind in fourth.
Swiss Eligius Tambornio, one of only 6 non-Norweigan skiers in the 74 man field, finished 10th.
The course was reported at a challenging 1.8km with heat times ranging from 3:48 to 3:57.
The women raced a slightly shorter course, clocking in at 1.4km. 19 year old Marthe Kristoffersen led wire to wire, winning the qualification and each of her heats enroute to victory. Kristoffersen was part of the Norweigan World Junior Champion relay team last season. Vesna Fabjan (SLO) took second, and another up and coming Norweigan, Celine Brun-Lie finished third. Top Swiss World Cup skiers Seraina Mischol and Laurence Rochat took 8th and 9th respectively.
The Swiss men fared better in the 15km freestyle on Saturday. Toni Livers finished second, 10 seconds behind winner Geir Ludvig Aasen Ouren. The 34 year old Aasen Ouren has more than 30 World Cup starts since 2000, but has not been a consistent threat for top finishes.
Tore Ruud Hofstad took third, with another Swiss, Remo Fischer in fourth. The event did not feature as many of the big names as the sprint and Sundays classic race.
In the women's 10km freestyle, former World Cup Champion and Olympic Medalist, Marit Bjoergen skied to a 13 second victory over the young Kristoffersen. Yet another under 21 Norweigan and World Junior Champion, Therese Johaug rounded out the podium, 34.8 seconds behind Bjoergen. THe Swiss placed tewo in the top 10, with Rochat in 6th and Seraina Boner in 9th. Astrid Ã˜yre Slind, the daughter of former Williams COllege Head Coach Peder Einar Slind, finished 11th, giving the Norweigan women 4 skiers 20 years old or younger in the top 11.
The Norweigan men were out in force for the 10km classic. Eldar Ronning paced the field with an impressive 22 second victory. John Kristian Dahl took second and Dario Cologna (SUI) battled to a noteworthy third. 89 men raced, including Petter Northug, who ended the day in 14th. Veterans Anders Aukland and Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset, 36 and 37 years old respectively showed the young guns they still have it, laying claim to places 4 and 5.
Bjoergen won her second race in two days, edging Johaug bu under 7 seconds for the victory in the 5km classic. 18 year old Ingvild Flugstad Ostberg finished third, a day after taking 5th in the freestyle. Kristoffersen capped an impressive weekend in 4th, and SLind posted another strong result with a 10th.
The top Swiss skipped the race and Sandra Hansson (SWE) was the lone international presence in the top half of the field, finishing 8th.
In biathlon action, veteran Frode Andersen won by 22 seconds in the 10km sprint. American Williams College skier Mark Johnson, studying abroad in Lillehamar, finished 36th in the 77 man field, 4:12 behind the winner. Andersen missed only one target, Johnson 3. In an interesting aside, Johnson posted the third fastest range time for the prone portion, missing once.
Tora Berger, the top Norweigan woman won by 30 seconds in the 7.5 km.
Racing concluded with the biathlon mass start events on Sunday. Andersen was edged by 1.9 seconds by Emil Hegle Svendsen. Svendsen's two misses to Andersen's three was the difference. Johnson finished 30th, +6:00 with 7 misses.
Berger won for the second consecutive race with one miss. Clean shooting Solveig Rogstad took second +8.3.