Norway’s Marit Bjørgen crushed the field in the women’s World Cup 30-kilometer classic on Sunday in Holmenkollen, Norway, beating teammate Therese Johaug by nearly two minutes. Bjørgen is the first woman to win four Holmenkollen 30 k’s and Sunday also marks her 100th World Cup podium.
Bjørgen finished in 1:20:55.7 hours, and Johaug placed second, 1:41.2 behind. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen took third (+2:25.8). Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla of Sweden finished fourth (+2:46.6), Finland’s Aino-Kaisa Saarinen was fifth (+3:08.9), and Sweden’s Emma Wiken, placed sixth (+3:17.8), completing a Scandanavian sweep of the top six. Kalla held third place early in the race before being passed by Niskanen. Wiken briefly held fifth place ahead of Saarinen around the 22 k marker, but by 27.5 k Saarinen had taken it back and held on until the finish.
“I felt much better than last week,” the 25-year old Johaug told FIS of her race. “I am happy to be second today. Marit was much stronger than me, I did not have chance.”
Kikkan Randall was the top American in 12th (+4:17.4), followed shortly after by Sadie Bjornsen in 14th (+4:27.8). Rounding out Americans were Liz Stephen in 32nd, Sophie Caldwell in 35th, Caitlin Gregg in 39th and Ida Sargent in 42nd. No Canadian women started.
Johaug, the current World Cup points leader, had the #1 bib. However, by 2.7 k Bjørgen had pulled into the lead, then gave the lead back to Johaug for a few kilometers before returning to the front. Both Bjørgen, Johaug and the Swedish Kalla opted to change skis after the second lap, while the Finns used the same skis for the entire race. Bjørgen’s skis consistently worked well for her, but Johaug struggled fell behind after the 10 k mark before switching at 13.3 k.
“I was struggling with grip skiing up to Frognerseteren,” Johaug told FIS. “I tried to focus on myself when Marit went away. I was little bit worried that Kerttu and Charlotte are coming from behind to catch me.”
Bjørgen held a steadily growing lead all the way to the finish. Her lead was such that at the last feed station she was handed a very large Norwegian flag which she waved all the way into the stadium. A tired-looking Johaug finished shortly after, and she and her victorious teammate embraced.
“It’s good news for us older skiers that it just keeps getting better with age,” the 31-year old Randall said of the 33-year old Bjørgen.
This brings Bjørgen to a 39-point deficit to Johaug in the World Cup overall standings. With 300 points to be doled out in next week’s World Cup Finals in Sweden, the final outcome is anyone’s guess.
Jacobsen takes a nasty spill
A bad crash by Norwegian Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen around the 7.2 k mark dampened the mood in Norway, with Jacobsen suffing a concussion and substantial bruising after veering off the trail on a downhill and colliding into with a padded post. Her injuries were sufficient to require hospitalization. She apparently slipped while going fast into a corner and slid underneath the course fencing, where she hit the post. This is one more blow in what has been a tough season for Jacobsen, including the sudden death of her brother just before the start of the Sochi Olympics.
Randall told NRK that she was skiing near Jacobsen at the time of her crash. She said that they both charged into a corner that most of the competition was snowplowing into, but that “it all went wrong for her.”
“I saw her hit; it was scary,” she said.