Times are what they are. Precautions are the name of the game. This year’s Blink Festival in Norway played to a reduced field and limited spectators due to COVID precautions. Some races, as will be noted, included modified race rules to limit close contact between athletes.
Lysebotn Opp – 06/08
The Lysebotn Opp is perhaps the marquee event. It features lovely fjord views and a grueling 7.5-kilometer uphill skate switchbacking up a mountainside. In normal years, the Lysebotn Opp is a mass start event. This year, however, it was an individual start affair.
Therese Johaug won the women’s event in 33:11 minutes. Heidi Weng placed second (+00:34), and Helene Marie Fossesholm was third (+02:20). All three skiers are from Norway with Johaug and Weng seasoned veterans with Fossesholm an upstart 19 year old relatively new to the elite level scene. Fossesholm won two individual golds at the 2020 Junior Worlds winning both the 5 k classic and the 15 k mass start skate. According to FIS, she has competed in three World Cups and notched a fifth place in last season’s 10 k mass start skate in Falun.
For the men, Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krüger won in 29:25. Hans Christer Holund was third (+01:02), and Håvard Moseby third (+01:21). Moseby, the relative unknown on the podium is 21 and placed third in the 2020 U23 Worlds 30 k mass start skate.
Skate Sprint – 07/08
The second day of cross-country racing featured a skate sprint. For those used to larger fields and six-skier-deep heats, things looked a bit different. This was head-to-head racing, two racers per heat, as skiers advanced to the finals. Racers were required to remain in their respective lanes throughout the race which resulted in no drafting.
Norwegian sprinter Maiken Caspersen Falla won the day with Mathilde Skjærdalen Myhrvold placing second overall. Myhrvold lost the final by 1.4 seconds. Myhrvold is 22 years old and has raced two World Cups, both in Norway.
Kristine Stavås Skistad (21) placed third overall. She lost to Falla in the second semi in a photo-finish.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo did as he does: win sprints. The star of the show placed first in the final, 1.5 seconds in front of second place GjøranTefre. At 25, Tefre raced nine World Cups last year with his best result an eighth place in Oberstdorf’s classic sprint. Klæbo has won the last four World Cup sprint titles. Erik Valnes placed third overall. He lost out to Tefre in the second semi by 0.1 seconds.
10 k / 15 k Classic – 08/08
In the individual start 10 k classic, run on a 2.5 k closed loop, Tiril Udnes Weng won in 24:57.9 minutes. Fossesholm raced to second place, 3.9 seconds back, with Johaug in third (+12.1).
Klæbo took the crown in the men’s 15 k classic over a field that featured some of Norway’s top distance talent. He won in 35:08.9, just 0.2 seconds ahead of Moseby, who was second overall in the Lysebotn Opp. Daniel Stock was third (+2.1).
If you are looking for more, as in the view-from-the-comfort-of-home experience, Norwegian broadcaster NRK has archived the 2020 Blink Festival races. You can find a menu of races here.