Klaebo Sweeps Ruka World Cup Weekend

John TeafordNovember 27, 2022

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Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) cruising to victory in Sunday’s 20 K World Cup Freestyle Pursuit, and posting a clean sweep of sprint and distance events in the season’s first FIS World Cup weekend. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Snow-covered Ruka, Finland set a wintry stage for the third day of World Cup cross-country racing, as the men’s field returned to the trails to contest a 20 k Freestyle Pursuit. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo skied a smart, economical race to claim the victory (his third of the weekend), and was joined on the podium by Norwegian teammate Paal Golberg, and Italian sprint-specialist Federico Pellegrino (who advanced to bronze medal position upon the ultimate disqualification of Sweden’s Kalle Halfvarsson).

Among North American finishers, Canadians Graham Ritchie and Oliver Leveille were 47th and 55th, respectively, while American finishers included Scott Patterson 14th, Hunter Wonders 30th, Zak Ketterson 32nd, Gus Schumacher 36th, and Ben Ogden 50th.

In 2017, Klaebo swept the opening weekend of World Cup Races at Ruka on his way to an eventual 2018 Overall World Cup Championship It may not have been his goal to repeat such a sweep in 2022; nonetheless, Klaebo has silenced any who may have doubted his readiness for another season of dominance. At this early point in the season, Klaebo definitely looks like the skier to beat.

On his way to victory in the Men’s 20 K Pursuit, Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (in yellow bib) consistently marked the pace-making efforts of his teammate, Han’s Christer Holund (on left). (Photo: NordicFocus)
20 K Freestyle Pursuit

Sunday’s Freestyle Pursuit incorporated start positions determined by finishing statistics in Saturday’s Individual Classic 10 k. Having won Saturday’s race, Klaebo started first with an advantage of twenty seconds over the second starter, Paal Golberg. As it turned out, a number of other starters—including some starting nearly a minute back—would play significant roles in today’s race.

In the absence of Russian skiers, World Cup mass start races are likely to revolve around Klaebo. With any Klaebo-led pursuit race apt to evolve into a mass start strategy, it will always be unlikely that Klaebo—the world’s best sprinter—will volunteer do the lion’s share of the work. Predictably, while Klaebo’s pace was brisk at the beginning of Sunday’s race, he soon eased up and allowed himself to be caught by a charging chase pack led by Klaebo’s Norwegian teammate, Hans Christer Holund. The train of chasers behind Holund included Norwegians Martin Lowestroem Nyenget, Golberg, Erik Valnes, Emil Iverson, Mattis Stenshagen; Swedes Kalle Halfvarsson and William Poromaa; Pellegrino of Italy, Friedrich Moch of Germany, and the lone Brit, Andrew Musgrave. With Klaebo now skiing in the group—and Holund setting the tempo—this lead pack of a dozen proceeded to maintain a pace that effectively excluded all others from the race for medals.

American skiers spent the early part of the race grouped in the 30’s, with Scott Patterson having moved up 20 places from his 51st place starting spot. Patterson would continue to ski strongly throughout the race, eventually forming a group of only four chasers closely pursuing the lead group. Patterson would ultimately finish the day in a remarkable 14th place, after having begun his race near the back of the pack.


Hunter Wonders (USA) skied from an original 54th starting position to finish in the first chase group with a very impressive 30th place finish. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Holund drove the pace through the halfway mark, knowing that Valnes, Golberg, Halfvarsson, Pellegrino—and of course Klaebo—all possessed far superior sprinting skills. Musgrave also pushed the pace through the later kilometers, but neither he nor Holund could break the other contenders—nor did they put a dent in Klaebo who seemed contained, confident, and relaxed throughout the race.

With less than two kilometers to race, Klaebo moved to the front (shadowed by Pellegrino). Klaebo’s victories at Ruka have all been delivered by a surging attack on the final hill before the finish, and Sunday’s race proved no different. Klaebo led the pack into the bottom of the final hill, increasing his tempo and jump skating over the top of the hill with the other contenders faltering in his wake. Halfvarsson sought space far to the skier’s left, possibly even leaving the race course, though in a manner that did not seem to give him any advantage or to shorten his distance to the finish line. Ulitmately, both Halfvarsson’s skis veered outside the course markers for just a stride or two. In the eyes of the FIS jury, that small infraction was sufficient to merit his disqualification. Third place on the podium was awarded to Pellegrino who had started the race in the 14th position, and moved up to 3rd for what is likely to have been his first World Cup distance medal. In a post-race interview, and emotional Pellegrino spoke of goals well beyond what he had accomplished on this day: “The main goal this season will not be in sport, but with my wife at home.” Pellegrino and his wife are expecting their first child.

Sunday’s Ruka World Cup Pursuit was an especially satisfying day for sprinter Federico Pellegrino (ITA), who notched his first World Cup Distance Race podium. (Photo: NordicFocus)

20 K Freestyle Pursuit:  FULL RESULTS

John Teaford

John Teaford—the Managing Editor of FasterSkier — has been the coach of Olympians, World Champions, and World Record Holders in six sports: Nordic skiing, speedskating, road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, triathlon. In his long career as a writer/filmmaker, he spent many seasons as Director of Warren Miller’s annual feature film, and Producer of adventure documentary films for Discovery, ESPN, Disney, National Geographic, and NBC Sports.

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