After taking a month-long break from racing since experiencing an irregular heartbeat in December, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen is set to return to the circuit this weekend in La Clusaz, France, for the 10 k classic and 4 x 5 k relay.
“Yes, joining the gang again,” the defending World Cup champion wrote on her website on Sunday, attached to a picture of the of the trails in La Clusaz.
Bjørgen quickly returned to training after doctors determined nothing seriously wrong with the dysrhythmia but decided to skip the Tour de Ski as a precautionary measure.
“It’s important that she does not burden the body too much. Tour de Ski is a huge burden,” said her coach Egil Kristiansen immediately following her hospitalization.
Bjørgen will ski on fresh legs this weekend with nine other Norwegian women. Despite a perfect win record in the first races of the year she faces a steep climb back up the World Cup rankings. Bjørgen missed out on a significant number of World Cup points in the past month — she skipped Canada and Liberec in addition to the Tour — and currently sits in eighth in the overall standings, 852 points behind Justyna Kowalczyk’s position at the top of the list.
Saturday’s mass start event in La Clusaz falls just before Kowalczyk’s 30th birthday and will be the first time the old rivals have competed head to head since the Kuusamo mini-tour. The Pole’s coach, Aleksander Wierietielny, told Interia.pl Kowalczyk is ready for the duel.
“We do not care what the rivals do, even Bjoergen,” Wierietielny said. “Does not matter to us whether they start, train, or maybe rest. For us, the most important are the world championships.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.