Defending overall World Cup champ Martin Johnsrud Sundby took it to his Norwegian teammates on Friday in an opening International Ski Federation (FIS) race in Beitostølen, Norway. The 30-year-old Sundby won the 15-kilometer classic in 37:15.1 minutes, beating out runner-up Didrik Tønseth by 22.9 seconds and Petter Northug in third by 25.8 seconds.
According to VG, Northug led the men’s race by 4.2 seconds at 2 k, but Sundby reined him in, taking a 7.1-second lead by 6 k. By 12 k, Northug was some 20 seconds off Sundby’s pace, but he kept plugging to narrowly miss second to Tønseth by 2.9 seconds.
“It is reassuring that Petter has trained and done well,” Norwegian National Team Head Coach Trond Nystad told VG afterward.
Northug, 28, recently signed a contract with the national team just before the start of the season.
“That he is fast skiing is no surprise,” Nystad added. “Martin has been superb at training throughout the year.”
And while Northug breezed by reporters at the finish, responding to a few questions with brief answers like, “Fine,” “No,” and “I don’t know,” NRK described Sundby as happy to talk about his race.
“It was ‘average,’ nothing exceptional,” Sundby said, according to a direct translation. “I was extremely nervous. We messed around a lot, but it was insanely cool to be ski racing again.
“It means a lot for my confidence, and good feedback on the training I’ve put in this season,” he added. “I’ve been very curious about how much my body can handle all spring and summer. At least the first ski race went OK, so it remains to be seen as the season progresses. However, this was my world-champion effort, so I still have to climb a few more steps on the ladder.”
“It was insanely cool to be ski racing again.” — Martin Johnsrud Sundby, after winning Friday’s 15 k classic FIS race in Beitostølen, Norway
Sundby won the Tour de Ski last season as well as the 2013/2014 World Cup. But being the best last season won’t cut it this winter, Sundby explained. As a result, he increased his overall training volume from 1,000 hours last season to 1,150 hours this season.
For Tønseth, 23, Friday marked his first podium in any race since a Scandinavian Cup 15 k freestyle last December. The week before that, he placed third in last year’s Lillehammer World Cup 15 k classic.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium,” Tønseth told VG. “Well, to start.”
Norway swept the top nine with Chris Andre Jespersen placing fourth, Petter Eliassen in fifth, Niklas Dyrhaug in sixth, Anders Aukland in seventh, Kristian Tettli Rennemo in eighth, and Per Kristian Nygaard in ninth. Germany’s Tim Tscharnke placed 10th out of 167 men.
Norwegian great, 42-year-old Thomas Alsgaard raced — for the first time in Beitosølen in 12 years — placing 159th.
“There was not much work today … but it was fun to compete again,” Alsgaard told NRK. “I promise I’ll be better than this before season’s end.”
— Inge Scheve contributed reporting
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.