After the drama — and exhaustion — of the Tour de Ski, most of the seven-race series’ participants took some much-needed rest to try to get ready for World Championships and replenish their ATP supplies. Instead of the distance skiers, sprinters were in the spotlight at this weekend’s World Cup competitions in Liberec, Czech Republic. With only one real sprint in the Tour de Ski this year, and a long break over Christmas, they were itching to get back to racing.
In the men’s classic sprint Teodor Peterson of Sweden took the win, reprising his place on the circuit as the man to beat. Teammate Emil Jønsson was second; as has been true so often in the last two seasons, the two tall Swedes will likely be dueling for the overall Sprint Cup title. However, Sweden couldn’t follow up on that success in the team sprint, with the Russians instead taking the victory on Sunday. Andy Newell (USA) finished sixth and Lenny Valjas (CAN) tenth, particularly impressive because Valjas completed the entire Tour de Ski. He was the top finisher in the sprint to have done so.
In the women’s sprint Mona-Liisa Mahlvaleto of Finland got her first win of the season, while Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland continued to roll after her Tour victory and won a photo finish for second. The Canadians were impressive, with all three women qualifying for the heats and Dasha Gaiazova taking a career-best fourth place finish after losing the same photo finish with Kowalczyk and Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway; Perianne Jones was ninth. In the next day Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg won the team sprint, while two young Americans, Sadie Bjornsen and Ida Sargent, teamed up for seventh place.
Biathlon returned to the site of 2012 World Championships, and things in Ruhpolding looked very similar to last March. Martin Fourcade of France was on a roll, anchoring the winning men’s relay and winning both the pursuit and mass start. While Miriam Gossner of Germany, a newcomer to the winners’ circle this year, powered her way to a sprint win under difficult conditions, Tora Berger of Norway rose to the top in the mass start, just as she did at World Championships. Both Fourcade and Berger had the lead in their World Cup total scores coming into this weekend, and they still have it going out.
It was a good weekend for the North American teams, too, starting with the men’s relay where the U.S. was in second place after two legs, thanks to excellent performances by Lowell Bailey and Leif Nordgren; despite fading in the second half, it was a good effort by the team. In the sprints, Scott Perras of Canada led the way with the first top-ten finish of his career, while Annelies Cook (USA) and Scott Gow (Canada) also had career-bests in 26th and 29th.
In nordic combined action in Chaux-Neuve, France, Taylor Fletcher led the U.S. in tenth in the large hill competition before teaming up with brother Bryan to place seventh in the team event.
It feels like ages ago, but U.S. Cross Country Championships just finished this week, with Sadie Bjornsen and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess winning the skate sprints to wrap up the week of racing. After that excitement, as well as Canadian junior/U23 trials, the domestic race circuits were off for the weekend.
We also explored how geopolitics and history have increased the depth of the biathlon field; interviewed Slovenian World Champion biathlete (and Croatian at heart) Jakov Fak; and learned all you need to know about the Canadians’ Tour de Ski tour bus.
FIS Cross Country World Cup, Liberec, Czech Republic (results)
IBU Biathlon World Cup, Ruhpolding, Germany
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup, Chaux-Neuve, France
Saturday large hill: results
U.S. National Championships, Soldier Hollow, Utah
NorAm/Junior and U23 Trials, Thunder Bay, Ontario – notes and quotes
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.