Does the name Barbro Kvåle ring a bell? If you’ve been following international skiing since late November of last year, you might recall the day when the 22-year-old Norwegian won the classic sprint in Beitostølen, Norway.
Yes, it was a pre-season tuneup International Ski Federation (FIS) race and not a World Cup event, but she beat fellow Norwegians Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes and her best friend Kathrine Harsem to do so.
Kvåle was also known as a junior world champion in ski orienteering. On Thursday, she added a FIS Nordic U23 World Championships title to her list.
With her 23rd birthday coming at the end of the month, Kvåle of the Lillehammer Skiklub bested Russia’s Daria Storozhilova by 5.8 seconds to win the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle at U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Kvåle started 28th out of 41 women, and by the first 1.7 k checkpoint, her time ranked 10th. She was up to fourth by the halfway point and clocked the fifth-fastest time at 6.7 k. There, Storozhilova ranked second behind Switzerland’s Nathalie von Siebenthal, who was fastest through every timing point on the two-lap course until the finish.
Siebenthal started 38th and couldn’t match Kvåle’s finishing kick despite having an 11.4-second lead on the Norwegian, and 2.6 seconds on Storozhilova, with 3.3 k to go. She finished third, 6.4 seconds back from Kvåle and 0.6 seconds behind Storozhilova.
“I am on the podium today and happy with it,” the 21-year-old Siebenthal told FIS after the race. “I would say the race was not hard to me.”
It was her first podium at a U23 or Junior World Championships, besting her previous best of eighth in the 15 k skiathlon at 2014 U23 worlds in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
For Kvåle, the victory also marked her first podium at a cross-country World Championships after placing seventh in the classic sprint earlier this week.
“I am very happy with the race despite the fact that it was very difficult,” she told FIS. “This is my second victory in international championships and I am very happy to be here in Almaty.”
Storozhilova, 22, was also pleased with her performance in her first race at an international championships.
“The slopes are dangerous and sharp, but I am satisfied with my result,” she said.
Despite falling on the last downhill, Canada’s Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, 22, of Rocky Mountain Racers posted the top North American women’s result in 17th, 1:18 behind Kvåle’s winning time of 27:20.3. In her second U23 worlds, it was Bouffard-Nesbitt’s career best, improving on her 21st from Tuesday’s classic sprint.
“I was sooo stoked about today’s race,” Bouffard-Nesbitt wrote in an email. “It was unlike any distance race I’ve done this season. Normally I feel really good early in the race and have a fast first lap and then die on the second lap.”
On Thursday, she found that she wasn’t moving too fast on the first lap, sitting in the middle of the pack in 25th at 5 k, but had the energy to push the pace her second time around. The terrain required a “decent amount of one skate,” or V2, she explained, so she used that to her advantage to power through it.
“I was caught by a Slovenian who was on her first lap near the end of my race and pushed as hard as I could from that point on to the end and stayed with her, and I was stoked that I felt really good the whole time,” Bouffard-Nesbitt wrote. “I fell on the very last downhill on the course unfortunately, but I don’t think I lost more than five seconds. It felt so good to feel so strong at the end of a race, it was a ton of fun.”
Cendrine Browne of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH) and Canadian National U23 Team placed 23rd, 1:45.4 behind the winner.
Joanne Reid, a 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) and former Buffs skier and NCAA champion, led the Americans in 25th (+1:47.4). After taking last season off following her senior year at CU, Reid returned to the U.S. SuperTour scene in November and went on to place ninth and 11th at U.S. nationals last month in the 10 k freestyle and freestyle sprint, respectively. Thursday’s race marked her first at a U23 World Championships after racing at two junior worlds in 2010 and 2011.
“It was definitely a bit jarring to be back into the international scene, but also a great experience,” Reid wrote in an email. “The most fascinating thing about racing in Almaty is the army lining the course!! It looks like a really boring job for them but makes you feel like you’re in a really big deal race.”
Reid explained that she ramped up her training, which she does solo, in late August/early September.
“It’s certainly a building year for me, I didn’t have many expectations for this year, since I just didn’t know how I would stack up,” she wrote. “Hoping to do better in the next race, now that I got the experience of this one. We’ll see!”
“The most fascinating thing about racing in Almaty is the army lining the course!! It looks like a really boring job for them but makes you feel like you’re in a really big deal race.” — Joanne Reid, 25th in U23 World Championships 10 k freestyle
Canada’s Dahria Beatty of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and national U23 team finished 30th (+2:12.2), and Americans Cambria McDermott (Montana State University) and Annie Pokorny (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) placed 32nd (+2:22.4) and 36th (+2:51.4), respectively.
“Kazakhstan has been a whirlwind of new experiences,” McDermott wrote in an email. “We were so lucky to be able to spend a full week here before the races began. Almaty is a beautiful, though smokey city and all of the people here have been incredibly warm and welcoming.
“The level of competition here has been the most eye-opening component of this trip,” she added.
The U23 World Championships wrap up with the 15/30 k skiathlons on Saturday.
— Chelsea Little contributed reporting
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.