After technique work on snow comes race effort on rollerskis. Racing Thursday evening in Hitra, Norway, Ben Ogden led four American men when he placed 18th in a field of nearly 100 in the 54-kilometer classic mass start, the opening race of the Toppidrettsveka race series in the Trondheim region of western Norway.
Ogden finished 50.2 seconds back of the winner, and 10.4 seconds off the podium. He was followed by fellow USST athletes Finn O’Connell in 47th (+3:57.4), Johnny Hagenbuch in 55th (+6:38.4), and JC Schoonmaker in 65th (+9:26.0). Kevin Bolger and Walker Hall are also on this trip, and may compete in upcoming races.
The race was won by Max Novak of Sweden in 2:03:13.6, after he and Norwegian Gjøran Holstad Tefre distanced themselves from a 17-man chase pack within the final 10 kilometers. Novak used a powerful acceleration on a small uphill 1.8 kilometers out to open up a small gap on Tefre, which he held all the way to the finish. Tefre finished 1.8 seconds back of Novak. Mikael Gunnulfsen of Norway won a group sprint to finish third (+39.8).
Perhaps the best-known retired skier in the field, Petter Northug, 36, finished 38th (+2:53).
The women’s race, in which no Americans competed (there are no American women on this training trip), was won by Norwegian Astrid Øyre Slind, who covered 54 k in 2:10:40.5, a staggering 12+ minutes ahead of Lotta Udnes Weng in second. Friend of the program Frida Karlsson finished in 2:25:31.2 to place fifth in a field of twelve women.
U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Matt Whitcomb was buoyant about the team’s fitness and recent training heading into the race.
“Everyone is healthy,” wrote Whitcomb in an email to multiple media outlets Thursday morning, “and we’ve all had one of the best training camps of my coaching career. The guys have had a blast together. We’ve trained hard, both on and off snow. While we’re training into these races, everyone feels ready to race. Training through the summer races is a common approach.”
Thursday’s races started at 6:20 p.m. in the evening local time, with the men’s winner finishing at 8:23 p.m. and the final American not finishing until after 8:30 p.m., suggesting a late night for all after cooldown, recovery, and coming down from the high of racing.
Competition continues in western Norway with a classic sprint on Friday, then a 10/15 k interval-start skate race on Saturday morning and a 5/10 k classic pursuit Saturday afternoon. FasterSkier will publish a more detailed article after the final race. The races will be shown on NRK, if you can manage to access the Norwegian broadcaster from where you live, and may be livestreamed on the event’s Facebook page.
Gavin Kentch wrote for FasterSkier from 2016–2022. He has a cat named Marit.