Marit Bjoergen showed no ill-effects from an illness that kept her out of the first two FIS races in Beitostolen, Norway. She skied to a convincing 51.4 second victory over teammate Therese Johaug, who won Friday’s skate race by 40 seconds.
Bjoergen led at every time check, demonstrating strong early season form in the 10km classic event.
“It’s not surprising there are such differences early in the season,” said Bjoergen to the Norwegian newspaper Afternposten, discounting her margin of victory. She was most pleased that her sickness was not serious.
Veteran Vibeke Skofterud completed the Norwegian sweep of the podium, taking 3rd, 11 seconds back of Johaug. Skofterud faded in the second half of the race after sitting in second virtually even with Johaug at the 5km mark, and four seconds up at 7k.
Kristin Stoermer Steira and Astrid Jacobsen did not start.
Sandra Hansson (SWE), who has finished in the top-3 overall in the FIS Marathon Cup the last two years, was the first non-Norwegian across the line, finishing 8th. Hansson is racing for Thomas Alsgaard’s Team United Bakeries this season.
In the men’s 15km classic, Martin Johnsrud Sundby skied away form the field over the last 10km to post a convincing 23.5 second win over Eldar Ronning. Early race leader Eirik Kurland Olsen barely held on to a podium spot, edging out Sjur Rothe by .3 seconds.
Olsen, with just a single career World Cup start, had one of his best races. The 23-year-old has never cracked the top-10 at Norwegian national Championships, but skied aggressively and beat a number of top skiers.
The win for the veteran classic specialist Johnsrud Sundby was not unexpected, but still a good sign. A mainstay on the Norwegian relay team, he has been one of the top Norwegian distance skiers after Petter Northug, a group that has come under significant criticism for a lack of podium caliber performances.
With the exception of Johnsrud Sundby, the race did not show much promise for the distance team. Sprinters Oystein Pettersen and Ola Vigen Hattestad finished 8th and 11th respectively. Neither man is competitive in World Cup distance races. Of course it is early, and many top skiers were not present.
Petter Northug did not race,having left Beitostolen mildly sick and fatigued. His brother Thomas demonstrated that his distance skiing is not on par with his sprinting yet, skiing to 41st, less than a second behind Great Britain’s Andrew Musgrave.
Torin Koos (USA) has been based out of Norway since arriving in Europe placed 58th, 3:27 behind the winner. He was 17th in yesterday’s sprint.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.