Norway’s Marit Bjoergen can’t have been pleased when her season-long winning streak came to an end in Liberec, Czech Republic on Saturday. But seven victories in her eight World Cup starts isn’t all that bad.
After being edged out for a berth in the finals of Saturday’s freestyle sprint, everything was back to normal in the women’s field in Sunday’s classic team sprint. Led by Bjoergen and rounded out by Maiken Caspersen Falla, the Norwegian pair gapped the
women’s field from the start and skied to a dominating, 31-second victory over Italians Magda Genuin and Marianna Longa. The second Norwegian team of Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes and Celine Brun-Lie was third.
The Canadian squad of Chandra Crawford and Dasha Gaiazova came in fifth, after running as high as second in the middle stages of the race.
After a rainy day Saturday, Sunday was warm and sunny, with temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The skiing looked sloppy, and television coverage showed technicians applying klister.
With just 13 teams entered, the women raced only the finals, eschewing the typical pair of semifinal heats.
Bjoergen had made an untimely exit on Saturday, getting boxed out by Slovenian Katja Visnar in their semifinal heat. She said afterwards that she felt good enough to get into the finals—which seemed obvious, given her four-second win in qualifying—but as she put it, “the sprint is the sprint.”
On Sunday, Bjoergen wasted no time in reminding the World Cup field that she is “from another planet,” as Longa put it.
After receiving her first tag from Falla in a dead heat with the Italians, Canadians, Swedes, and the second Norwegian team, Bjoergen put more than ten seconds into those pairs on her opening lap.
“It was the goal for me to give a good advantage to Maiken after the first exchange,” Bjoergen said.
Falla’s skiing may have been slightly more terrestrial, but she’s still from Norway, which means that she was able to match the efforts of Genuin, Gjeitnes and Crawford without too much trouble. In fact, both she and Bjoergen put in the fastest times on all six laps.
Most of the action was behind them, as the Italians, Canadians, and Norwegians jockeyed for the last two podium positions.
The Canadians were in the mix all the way up until the final lap, and a medal seemed realistic for them, given that they had come away with a third place in the last team sprint in Dusseldorf.
Gaiazova matched up well with Gjeitnes and Genuin, but Crawford, the anchor, struggled to stay with Longa and Brun-Lie, who were turning in faster times.
“[Dasha] gets all the credit today. It was awesome to have a teammate handing off to me in strong position,” Crawford said in a press release.
Gaiazova tagged off to Crawford for the final lap with the Canadians sitting in third, but Crawford couldn’t hold on, losing contact with the second Norwegian team and dropping another spot to a charging Finnish squad anchored by Pirjo Muranen.
Despite falling to fifth, the Canadians earned $1,000 apiece. And both Gaiazova and Crawford will have another chance at an individual sprint at next weekend’s World Cup, in Estonia.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.