Lahti, Finland – The Norwegian men and women won the rare World Cup relay events, capping an impressive weekend.
The women’s field featured more of the big names, and the race came down to a three-way battle for the victory. The current top four Norwegian women – Mathe Kristoffersen, Therese Johaug, Kristin Stoermer Steira, and Marit Bjoergen, edged out a strong German team at the line. Italy was third, just 1 second out, and Russia 4th, 8.7 back.
Each team was made up of top World Cup skiers, making for an exciting and close-fought race.
Buoyed by a strong leg from Irina Khazova, the Russians held a 9.7 second lead halfway through the race, but the eventual top-3 quickly closed back, along with Norway II.
It all came down to the 4th leg with Bjoergen, Evi Sachenbacher Stehle (GER), Arianna Follis (ITA), Natalia Korosteleva (RUS, and Vibeke Skofterud (NOR II) even at the start of the last 5km loop.
Skofterud, a member of the gold-medal winning Olympic relay team (and a stronger classic skier) couldn’t keep pace, but Bjoergen took care of the win for Norway, continuing her impressive run.
Said Sachenbacher Stehle after the race “I felt not so perfect during the race, but I knew I was racing for Germany and my teammates. I gave it all and at the end I was able to finish second. That is great! It was an interesting experience to go as the last racer [anchor leg].”
In the men’s race, Norway II edged Norway I by a mere .2 seconds. Germany took 3rd over Russia I in a photo finish just .5 seconds behind the winning team.
Norway II overcame a weak second leg by Roger Aa Djupvik. He dropped 32 seconds behind, but was bailed out by Sjur Roethe on the first skate leg. Roethe broought the team back in to the lead group and set up the final sprint between Kristian Rennemo and veteran Tord Asle Gjerdalen (anchoring Norway I).
The host Finns fielded a strong team, but struggled to 7th and were never in the race.