After failing to win the Overall World Cup title last season, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen continues to make a statement on the World Cup in this season. On a cold Sunday with little glide and many tactics, Bjoergen picked up yet another win, crossing the line first in the 10 k skate pursuit in the ‘Ruka Triple’ in Kuusamo, Finland.
While many other skiers moved up and down the rankings Sunday, Bjoergen was consistent, leading wire to wire, and her pursuers never closed enough ground to make it close. Bjoergen crossed the line over 30 seconds up on her closest competitor.
For the first 5 kilometers, second and third starters Petra Majdic (SLO) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) skied together, until Sweden’s, Charlotte Kalla, who started 23 seconds back of Majdic, reeled them in. Kowalczyk and Kalla then combined forces to drop Majdic in an ultimately futile attempt to reel Bjoergen.
After failing to make up ground, Kowalczyk then dropped Kalla, and last years’ Crystal Globe winner avoided a sprint finish with the Swede, and ended her mini-tour in second place, while Kalla crossed the line third, rounding out the podium.
The real battle of the day was much further back, as Therese Johaug (NOR), who started in 28th position, 2 minutes and 10 seconds behind Bjoergen, ploughed through the field en route to the fastest time on the day, and a 10th place in the Overall mini-tour standings.
As half of the regular complement of World Cup points were given for each individual race in the mini-tour, Johaug was rewarded for her effort with 50 World Cup points on top of her total for the weekend.
The American women mirrored Johaugs’ effort, and made gains of their own. “I was really psyched for everybody today,” said U.S. Ski Team (USST) Head Coach Chris Grover, of the results the American team.
Kikkan Randall jumped three spots to finish 19th in the overall mini-tour standings, and 20th on the day, her third top 20 placing in a distance race this season.
Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola took advantage of a course which finally played to their strengths, and recorded the 39th and 48th fastest times on the day. Both athletes jumped enormously in the rankings, and Grover said he thought they could have gone even higher than the eventual 47th and 54th they earned respectively.
Grover pin pointed the narrow course which limited passing opportunities, and the large number of skiers the two Americans had to ski around as major limiting factors. Also, Grover mentioned that Stephen and Arritola were at a disadvantage on the down hills, as their light weights prevented them from breaking away from the other comparatively heavier women on the fast descents.
Ida Sargent did not finish, and Grover said she was suffering from asthma issues connected to the cold temperatures.
Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) slipped down a little in the overall standings, dropping to 48th after starting in 35th position.
Meanwhile, Chandra Crawford did not start, opting instead to focus on her training in preparation for next weekend, a skate sprint in Dusseldorf, Germany, where Crawford has traditionally had strong results.
The Americans will now divide and conquer, with the distance team of Kris Freeman, Morgan Arritola, Liz Stephen and possibly Noah Hoffman head to Davos, Switzerland to train. The sprinters will remain in Kuusamo to train until Thursday, when they will head to Dusseldorf.
Topher Sabot and Nathanial Herz contributed reporting.