*Note: this article has been updated to include comments from U.S. women’s head coach Matt Whitcomb as of Monday, Jan. 30.
After sealing her 105th individual World Cup victory on Sunday, and her second distance win in a row, Marit Bjørgen is shutting out any doubt. The 36-year-old Norwegian was the first across the line in the women’s 15-kilometer classic mass start in Falun, Sweden, besting her teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg by half of a second, as well as the current overall World Cup leader, Heidi Weng, also of Norway.
“It’s great to be able to win World Cups still,” Bjørgen said according to an International Ski Federation (FIS) press release. “The young girls are strong, so it feels good to be able to come out with a win.
Starting in bib 5, Bjørgen wasted no time putting her teammates and the field to work. By 1.5 k she was in the lead, pulling Østberg and Weng, as well as Sweden’s Stina Nilsson — yesterday’s sprint winner — and Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski.
Also within firing range was American Jessie Diggins, skiing in seventh, along with Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Maiken Caspersen Falla, and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla.
However, within another four kilometers, the Norwegians had broken away, a close to seven-second gap forming from them to Nilsson and Pärmäkoski.
While Bjørgen led for the first third of the race, Østberg took over by 10 k and Weng continued to follow in third.
With 1.8 k to go, Bjørgen was back to the front, Nilsson the closest challenger to the Norwegians just over 30 seconds behind.
“I thought Stina might catch me, so I am very happy to make the podium today,” Weng said, according to a FIS press release.
As the three headed into the second-to-last major climb, Østberg pushed to the front, Bjørgen trailing back. But coming into the final climb, Bjørgen moved back into first as she herringboned to the far outside right of Østberg, almost departing the marked course.
“I didn’t ski the final climb well … Marit got a gap and I wasn’t able to close it,” Østberg said according to FIS. “I wasn’t satisfied with yesterday’s sprint result, so it’s good to be back on the podium today.”
In a double-pole sprint to the finish, Bjørgen held off Østberg for the win in a time of 41:28.8. Østberg finished half a second later for second place, followed by Weng in third (+8.1).
The first American across the line was Diggins in 10th (+1:37.5) wearing bib 4. While the Afton, Minn., native explained that Sunday’s sugary conditions are some of her least favorite, the opportunity to put her classic striding to the test was something she welcomed.
After losing the leaders, the 25-year-old Diggins skied with a mix of Finnish skiers, including Laura Mononen, Anne Kyllönen, and Kerttu Niskanen, as well as Norway’s Falla.
“Early on I tried to go with the leaders but then settled into a great pack of girls to ski with and it came down to an exciting sprint out,” Diggins wrote in an email. “I’m really looking forward to some rest and then a quality training camp with some family time in Valadalen [Sweden] for the next few weeks! My boyfriend is here cheering me on and coming to camp with me, and then my parents come next week so I have so many great things to look forward to!”
The second U.S. woman across the line was Sadie Bjornsen in 21st (+2:43.6). A known lover of all-things-classic, Bjornsen was disappointed when she found herself tired during Sunday’s race. The 27 year old, however, was happy that she made it through the mental and physical challenge.
“Today I literally gave everything I had, and while I am not stoked on the number or result, I am really proud that I kept fighting through that wall in front of my face,” Bjornsen wrote. “It was really challenging classic skiing out there, which I love, so I am sad to have missed an opportunity to fight in those tricky conditions. Big shoutout to our team for giving me good skis! I am looking forward to some rest and recovery to rebuild for a big and important block of racing to come!”
Two other American women also scored World Cup points, including Rosie Brennan in 24th (+2:57.0) and Liz Stephen in 29th (+3:24.5).
Despite the sugary conditions and deteriorated tracks due to the men’s race, Brennan explained that Sunday’s snow was what she was looking for coming into the 15 k.
“I actually really enjoy skiing in this kind of condition so I was optimistic about today’s race,” the 28-year-old Brennan wrote in an email. “I felt that I was fighting a bit of fatigue out there and only really had one speed, luckily it was a decent speed and I was able to hold consistent throughout the race.”
Also competing for the U.S. finishing just outside the points was Caitlin Patterson in 32nd (+3:47.6) and Ida Sargent in 34th (+4:02.8).
“Today was a solid day for the team,” U.S. women’s head coach, Matt Whitcomb wrote in an email. “We fought hard, and nearly accomplished what I will consider to be a huge achievement for the women, and that will be when we regularly can score our full national quota (6) in the points. Today we had 4, with a close 32nd and 34th. That’s close to where I know we can be.”
Canada’s lone competitor in the women’s race, Cendrine Browne crossed in 46th (+5:41.4) and American Liz Guiney finished 49th (+6:22.6).
- anne kyllonen
- Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen
- Caitlin Patterson
- Charlotte Kalla
- Falun 15 k classic mass start
- Falun World Cup
- Ida Sargent
- Ingvild Flugstad Østberg
- International Ski Federation
- Jessie Diggins
- Kertu Niskanen
- Krista Parmakoski
- Laura Mononen
- Liz Guiney
- Liz Stephen
- Maiken Caspersen Falla
- Marit Bjørgen
- Matt Whitcomb
- Rosie Brennan
- Sadie Bjornsen
- Stina Nilsson
- U.S. Ski Team
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.