Ida Sargent (CGRP) has been struggling to find her top form following a December car accident. But things may be looking up for the World Championship-bound 23-year-old.
Sargent skied to a strong fifth place finish in the 1.2km classic Scandinavian Cup sprint in Jõulumäe, Estonia on Saturday morning.
“Today was really good,” Sargent wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “It was the best I’ve felt during a race since November so I think Im on the right track.”
The Scandinavian Cup is the Northern Europe version of the SuperTour and NorAm Continental Cup series, and while the field in Estonia was not large, there was some strong competition.
Triin Ojaste (EST) the top qualifier took the home victory, besting a pair of Norwegians – Heidi Weng and Mari Eide. Ojaste, a veteran of nine World Cup starts, with two heat appearances was joined by fellow Estonian, Piret Pormeister in the finals. Pormeister qualified second, but was last in the final, and sixth on the day.
Both Weng and Eide competed in the recently completed U23/World Junior Championships in Otepaa. Weng won the 10km pursuit in the Junior category, while Eide bested Sargent, among others, in the classic sprint when she placed sixth.
Eide, despite just three World Cup starts, has already established herself as one of the up-and-comers in Norway. She placed 10th in the World Cup freestyle sprint in Liberec in January, and 24th in the same event in Dusseldorf in December.
So Sargent was doing battle with some of the top young skiers in Europe. According to US teammate Reese Hanneman, she won both her quarterfinal and final on the relatively flat course.
“Super good skiing by her!” Hanneman wrote in an email to FasterSkier.
“I got tired at the end of the final and went from second to fifth in the last couple hundred meters,” Sargent said. “But I’m still very happy with the day.”
Laura Ahervo (FIN) was fourth.
A timing error – the starter held the American in the gate too long, gave Sargent a relatively poor seeding coming out of qualification. She placed 14th, ten seconds behind Ojaste on the official results. But with only 28 starters the error only impacted the heat assignments, lane choice, and FIS points – not who made the heads.
The points issue is not inconsequential, but race organizers couldn’t figure out a way to correct the error. Sargent estimates the blunder cost her 8-10 seconds.
Two other American women competed. Jennie Bender (CXC Elite) placed 13th on the day, and just missing advancing to the semifinals after qualifying 15th.
Becca Rorabaugh (APU) was eliminated in the quarterfinals and finished 23rd. “I had a crappy start and couldn’t ski back into the race,” tweeted Rorabaugh. “Gotta start fast when it’s fast in Jõulumäe!”
The US men did not fare as well as their female counterparts, though the field was significantly larger, and a decision to go with skate gear, made for a tougher day.
Sixty-three men started the 1.6km event, with strong Norwegian and Estonian contingents representing. Kent-Ove Clausen (NOR) qualified first and skied through the heats to the victory
In ten World Cup sprint starts, Clausen has qualified for the heats in all but one. He was clearly a step above the rest today, winning qualification over Finn Antti Haekaemies by an impressive 3.6 seconds.
Haekaemies matched his qualification spot, finishing the day on the second step of the podium, just ahead of a trio of Estonians led by former UAF standout Vahur Teppan.
Hanneman led the US in 41st, just over four seconds out of the top-30. Skyler Davis (SMS) finished 46th.
The two US men opted to double pole the entire course on skate equipment, a decision that ultimately was the incorrect one.
“We both felt really good, but it was not the right choice,” Hanneman told FasterSkier. “The course was extremely mild, and very much double-pole-able…We were right in the mix until the final hill, where striding was, in hindsight, clearly advantageous.”
Hanneman noted that the fastest skiers chose classic equipment, double poling nearly the entire race before striding the final climb.
In an interesting aside, Estonian classic distance specialist Jaak Mae competed, qualifying 27th and finishing 25th on the day.
Racing continues in Estonia with a 10/15km classic event.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.