At the end of World Cup period I, Norway sits on top of the Nation’s Cup standings, and in a shift from the recent past, it is the women leading the way.
The 4x5km relay in La Clusaz demonstrated exactly how the Norwegians built their points lead, with four women putting on a virtual clinic on their way to a 56 second victory over Italy.
Three of the four Norwegians posted the fasted times on their respective legs, and the only one who didn’t was Therese Johaug, who virtually tied for second with Italy’s Marianna Longa, 18 seconds behind the always-strong Justyna Kowalczyk.
Sweden finished third, +1:24.
Vibeke Skofterud led the way for Norway I, pairing with Astrid Jacobsen of Norway II to open a 15 second gap on the field.
Johaug took over and held position on the second classic leg before handing off to Kristin Stoermer Steira.
“The victory for our team is great,” Steira said following the race. “We all know a relay is a relay and anything can happen, but today all of us were very strong.”
Steira kept the pressure on, adding another 17 seconds to the lead, an insurmountable margin with the undefeated Marit Bjoergen anchoring.
And the Norwegian star did not disappoint, winning the 5km leg by 20 seconds, to keep her perfect record for the season.
Italy, with the inexperienced Virginia de Martin Topranin scrambling, skied a strong race, and never slipped below second place after the first lap. The team was led by veterans Marianna Longa and Arianna Follis, both second in the second and fourth legs.
“It is a hard course but I could ski without the pressure from behind and skied my own race,” Follis said. “Second place is great for this young team!”
None of the Swedes had sensational days, but all were solid, which was good enough for the final podium spot.
Charlotte Kalla skied away from Finnish youngster Krista Lahteenmaki in the final 2.5 kilometers to secure third for Sweden.
The Swiss women could not match the performance of the men’s team, and did not even finish the race after second skier Ursina Badilatti lost two minutes.
Norway II also dropped out despite sitting in third after three legs. While Kristine Skeie was scheduled to anchor, but according to Langreen.com, she was not actually present, and there was never any intention of finishing.
No North American teams entered.
Women’s 4x5km Relay – complete results
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.