BEITOSTØLEN, Norway – Alexander Legkov (RUS) was about a minute ahead of the top Norwegian racer, Geir Ludvig Aasen Ouren, in fourth place. Given that Aasen Ouren is not a part of the Norwegian national ski team, he more or less secured himself a spot on the impulse World Cup team for the season opener in Gällivare (SWE) next weekend.
And while the season opener is an anticipated event that both racers and fans look forward to for weeks, it is generally not an event the skiers peak for. Rumors have it that the Russians put in about 700 kilometers on snow over the past 12 days leading up to Friday’s race. “What Legkov does is simply impressive. The 15K skate is arguably the event with the stiffest competition, and when Legkov dominates the way he did today, it’s a real wakeup call for us,” said Norwegian national team coach Morten Aa Djupvik to Norwegian television station NRK.
Petter Northug Jr was 49th, more than three and a half minute behind Legkov, but isn’t worried. Neither is Djupvik. ”I’m totally in control. I will race the next two events here, and then I’ll drop my hours leading up to Gällivare next weekend. I think I will be in much better shape by then,” Northug said to NRK after Friday’s race.
“That’s the way the best racers think. (Northug) dares to train hard right up to the World Cup season opener. Today he had a bad day, and he didn’t push himself,” Djupvik says.
Complete results here: Beito 15K men
Triple Norwegian for the women
If the Russians dominate the men’s field, the Norwegians were equally superior in the women’s race. Therese Johaug won the 10K skate with more than 40 seconds to spare, crossing the finish line in 28:17.4. She opened hard and just kept hammering.
“I had a great race today. My body was responding and that makes it fun to race,” Johaug said.
While Johaug knew she was fit going into the race, the season opener is always exciting, she said.
“I was nervous before start. After all, this was the first race, but I’ve felt good at practice lately. I’ve worked a lot with my technique this year, and that helps me conserve energy,” Johaug said to NRK.
Kristin Størmer Steira was second, but no less thrilled with her first race. Having battled injuries, including two fractures in her foot this dryland season, she has done more alternative training than traditional dryland workouts.
“This just felt incredibly good,” Steira said to NRK after the race. “I’m surprised. I had no expectations at all, and was just happy to be able to race. That’s more than I expected just a couple of weeks ago,” Steira said.
“But I have more to offer. I ski technically well, and have a good feel for the snow, but I only have one gear. That’s how it goes when you’ve done a lot of volume and lack that little extra,” Steira explained.
Half a foot of fresh powder overnight and falling snow throughout the morning made for a tough day on the course.
Complete results here: Beito 10K Women
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Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.