GeneralNewsRacingJohaug Finds Her Form at Top of Beito Season Opener; Weng 38 Seconds Back

Inge Scheve Inge ScheveNovember 13, 2015
Therese Johaug (Norwegian National Team) on her way to winning the first race of the 2015/2016 season, a FIS 7.5 k classic race in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Eirik Lund Røer/SKIsport)
Therese Johaug (Norwegian National Team) on her way to winning the first race of the 2015/2016 season, a FIS 7.5 k classic race in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Eirik Lund Røer/SKIsport)

It was the first test of the season for some of the world’s most competitive cross-country skiers, particularly the Norwegians, and the results came more or less as expected.

Therese Johaug won the women’s 7.5-kilometer classic race in Beitostølen, Norway — one of the International Ski Federation (FIS) season openers used as a tuneup two weeks out from the start of the World Cup.

The leading woman on the Norwegian national team this season, Johaug finished in 20:26.1, 38.4 seconds ahead of the next-fastest woman, her teammate Heidi Weng. Norwegian National Development Team member Kari Øyre Slind, 24, surprised in third, 55.2 seconds behind Johaug.

The track in Beitostølen, which was jeopardized by warm temperatures last week leading up to the FIS season opening races there Nov. 13-15. (Photo: Beito World Cup)
The track in Beitostølen, which was jeopardized by warm temperatures last week leading up to the FIS season opening races there Nov. 13-15. (Photo: Beito World Cup)

All in all, Johaug was content.

“I feel like I had a decent race,” Johaug said in a TV interview with NRK after the race. “I was looking for answers to how I have responded to the fall training.

“My main focus today was to find the rhythm and that good flow I’ve had on rollerskis this fall,” she added. “But I was definitely nervous, wondering how it would work out. I felt a little harried and rushed in some spots, but overall, it was a decent season opener.”

While she led at all checkpoints throughout the two-lap course, Johaug started last and battled deteriorating conditions in the packed-powder natural snow. Temperatures hovered just above freezing, but the tracks wore thin as the day progressed.

Fortunately, she had Marit Bjørgen at her side.

Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (front) double poled the entire two-lap women's course during Friday's 7.5 k classic FIS race in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Eirik Lund Røer/SKIsport)
Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (front) double poled the entire two-lap women’s course during Friday’s 7.5 k classic FIS race in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Eirik Lund Røer/SKIsport)

“She gave me splits twice today,” Johaug said of her teammate, who is sitting out the bulk of the season as she’s due with her first child in December. “It was strange to hear her voice and it not coming from behind me or in front of me in the track.”

Last night, 27-year-old Johaug made up her mind to race on kick wax rather than skate skis.

“I know that my double-pole-kick technique is pretty solid, and on this course, there are lots of areas to use that technique, so I wanted to take advantage of that,” Johaug explained. “But I am very impressed with Ingvild, who chose to go without wax.”

Her teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg placed fifth, 1:01.5 back from Johaug, after double poling the entire race on skate skis. She finished 5.3 seconds behind another Norwegian National Team member, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in fourth.

Østberg’s Gutsy Move: Just before the start, Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, 25, decided to grab her skate skis.“I don’t regret going all double pole, but there were a couple of places on the course where I really would have loved to have some kick,” she said after the race. “I am a fan of traditional diagonal striding so I don’t really know why I did this. But it was kind of fun, too.”Will she do it again?“Maybe. But I doubt I will do this again in Kuusamo. If I do, I am stupid,” she said with a big grin.Her first-and-second-place teammate Therese Johaug and Heidi Weng were impressed with her performance.

“Ingvild is really tough. I have trained with her a lot, we live in the same street, and I’ve seen her take big steps this fall,” Johaug said after the race. “She will be hard to beat this season.”

“I am impressed with Ingvild, who skied without wax. Respect,” Weng said.

“I am glad I did it and tried it,” Østberg told TV reporters after the race. “It was a combination of peer pressure and my own curiosity. It kind of feels like people wanted to sacrifice me to see if it could be done, and I had a chance to show that it is possible [to double pole the whole course]. It would have been even more fun if I could have been a few seconds faster and made it to the podium.”

She explained that it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. While Jacobsen was 1 second off the podium, Østberg was just over 6 seconds out from third.

The runner-up, Weng was moderately satisfied with her first race of the season.

“It was all right. I am still a ways back from Johaug, but it was not as far back as last year,” she said, explaining that she didn’t quite find her groove. “It was hard to push myself really hard. It felt a bit weird, and it was difficult to turn and even just to ski. But I’m looking forward to the skate race tomorrow.”

The Beitostølen FIS race series continues Saturday with 7.5 and 10 k freestyle races, and wraps up Sunday with men’s and women’s classic sprints.

Results

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Inge Scheve

Inge Scheve

Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.

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