Showing no signs of fatigue from Saturday’s sprint victory, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen outlasted the field again to win for the second time this weekend. Sunday’s 10-kilometer classic individual start in Lahti, Finland, was decided at the second time check as Bjørgen proved once again why she is called, “Magic Marit.”
The Lahti course featured several significant hills that the women face twice as the course was a two-loop setup. The weather in Finland was relatively warm, leading race organizers to salt the hills in order to break up ice that was formed overnight. That making waxing difficult because the snow was warm and wet, and as the race went on, it’s structure deteriorated quickly.
As a result of her dominating season so far, Bjørgen had already wrapped up the overall World Cup title, but told FIS after Sunday’s race that she had one goal this season.
“My goal is to take all three crystal globes this season,” she said, referring to the overall title, as well as the sprint and distance crowns.
Her toughest challenge for the distance title comes from her two Norwegian teammates Therese Johaug and Heidi Weng. With two races remaining, Bjørgen leads the overall distance rankings by 718 points, 42 points ahead of Johaug. Heidi Weng is another 131 points back in third.
Out of the gate, Johaug showed that she wasn’t about to concede the distance title to Bjørgen. At 3.4 k, Johaug had the fastest time of all the skiers crossing at 3:31.6. Bjørgen was second fastest at that mark, just 0.8 seconds back. Early on, the woman they were all chasing was Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla.
Of the favorites, Kalla had a slight advantage going out sooner than everyone else. The course wasn’t as worn as it was when the rest of the competitors started, giving her fresher, faster snow. By 6.2 k, Kalla had the fastest overall time in 16:21.0. That held up until Weng and the rest of the Norwegian train crossed.
The fastest skiers at that point mirrored the current distance-competition standings. Weng bested Kalla’s time by 2.9 seconds, and that held until Johaug came through 6.3 seconds faster. The race was essentially over as soon as Bjørgen blasted through 18.3 seconds faster than Johaug.
“I had perfect skis today,” Bjørgen said after the race. “I felt powerful from the beginning. After 5 k, I was in the lead by 5 seconds, and I thought the race is going my way.”
As Bjørgen took hold of first place, the race for the other two podium spots remained heated. Kalla crossed the finish line in 25:53.1 and held that position until Weng crossed the line eight seconds faster. The advantage Kalla had by starting early also hurt her toward the end of the race, as she was essentially a target for the other skiers.
“I tried to open hard and keep pushing all the way,” she told reporters. “Most of the best athletes were behind me so it was not easy to get the information.”
Weng remained in the leader’s chair until Bjørgen crossed the line shortly afterwards, 17.3 seconds faster with a wining time of 25:27.8.
“It is amazing for me to be back on the podium,” Weng said after placing second. “The World Championships did not go as I hoped and it is great to be back. I was so happy in the finish. Lahti is a great place for me.”
Unable to capitalize on her fast start, Johaug finished fifth (+32.7) behind Norwegian teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in fourth (+32.6). Bjørgen extended her lead in the Distance World Cup with 818 points, while Johaug is 101 points back in second and Weng is another 90 points back in third. If Bjørgen, Johaug and Weng keep their positions, it will be the first time since the Distance World Cup was introduced in the 1996/1997 season that one nation swept the top three.
The women (and men) return to action on Wednesday in Drammen, Norway, for the last sprint race of the season.