Niskanen Takes Classic Win in Beitostolen 10k. Diggins 6th, Brennan 8th.

Ken RothDecember 10, 2022

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The women’s 10 kilometer individual classic race was held on the second day of the FIS World Cup stop in Beitostolen, Norway.  So far this season, distance racing has been dominated by Swedish women with Ebba Andersson and Frida Karlsson winning at the 10 and 20-kilometer distances, respectively.  With Andersson sidelined with Covid this week, Swedish hopes rested upon Karlsson’s shoulders.

The home country—Norway—would look to Tiril Udnes Weng who finished second a week earlier in the Lillehammer 20 kilometer mass start classic, having been barely beaten out by Karlsson by 0.6 seconds. Katharina Hennig (GER) was hoping to continue her excellent long-distance form this season, having finished third in the 10-kilometer classic individual start two weeks ago in Ruka, and second in the 10-kilometer freestyle in Lillehammer.

Kerttu Niskanen (FIN) celebrates her victory in Beitostolen, Norway. (Photo: NordicFocus)

At the finish line, though, it was classic phenom Kerttu Niskanen earning the victory for Finland. Anne Kjersti Kalvaa (NOR) continued her breakout season in second, followed by Frida Karlsson (SWE) in third.

Jessie Diggins (USA) was in the mix the entire day, finishing only 33.8 seconds back in 6th. Rosie Brennan was just behind her in 8th, 39.8 seconds behind. The rest of the American finishers were Sophia Laukli (29th), Novie McCabe (32nd), Alayna Sonnesyn (47th), and Lauren Jortberg (53rd). Top Canadian finisher was Katherine Stewart-Jones, 19th—continuing her impressive string of top-twenty finishes.  Dahria Beatty was 36th, followed by Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt in 46th.

Women’s 10-Kilometer Classic Individual

At the start, the racers had to warmup in cold but sunny Beitostolen weather: gorgeous if you like clear and cold with temperatures around 0 Fahrenheit (-18.3 Centigrade). The snow was loud and squeaky cold.  In other words, it was a perfect day for classic skiing. The racers competed on a five-kilometer course which had a number of climbs with a steep long climb towards the end of the lap.

Many of the racers wore protective face tape, including Jessie Diggins and Rosie Brennan.  With downhill speeds reaching 30 mph, precautions were in order.

“It was VERY cold today! I think the temperature actually dropped from when we woke up to when we started, and the course sits in a bit of a cold sink too. I am normally not bothered by the cold, but I was admittedly not as prepared as I could have been.”                                       Rosie Brennan

Head Coach Matt Whitcomb said the team was ready for the cold. “We have heated vests, blankets, face tape, and incredibly warm clothing from our sponsors,” he said. “I didn’t talk to any athletes who really froze up.”

Jessie Diggins (USA) battled through the cold in Beitostolen, collapsing at the end of her 10 k effort. She would finish the day in 6th, yet another impressive classic skiing performance. (Photo: NordicFocus)
The Race

The racers started in thirty second intervals. Diggins crossed the first time check as the leader on course, but most of the competitors for the podium were still behind her. After all racers had cleared the first time check at 1.3-kilometers, Karlsson led Niskanen by 5.5 seconds, a lead she would extend to 7.9 seconds by the 2.6-kilometer mark.  Diggins was in the hunt for the podium crossing the second time check in fourth, only 8.3 seconds off the lead. Brennan was holding steady in 5th place only 11.5 seconds off the lead.

By the halfway point, Niskanen had asserted herself and led by 1.1 seconds over Kalvaa, a lead that Niskanen would extend to 6.4 seconds by the 6.3 kilometer split. After this mark Niskanen never looked back.  By the time skiers reached the 7.6-kilometer checkpoint the race had settled into a battle between Niskanen, Kalvaa, and Karlsson. Americans stayed close with Diggins and Brennan off the podium by only 11 seconds and 18 seconds, respectively; however, with three great classic skiers ahead of them, the Americans would not get the break they needed.  Niskanen continued her relentless pursuit, displaying the textbook classic technique for which she is known. At the finish, she led comfortably by 12.7 seconds. Kalvaa held onto second by four seconds over Karlsson.

Diggins told Fasterskier that she had trouble with the cold.   “It was so cold that I raced with heated socks and boot covers and struggled to keep myself warm,” she said, adding that she didn’t feel great throughout the race. “I felt kind of mentally detached during the race and was not ok at the finish. It took a definite toll. Our skis were on fire, and I was proud of how my classic technique has progressed. ”

Diggins being helped by teammates after paying the price for fighting in the cold of Beitostolen (Photo: NordicFocus)

Brennan reflected upon her day by saying that, “I was really happy with my skiing, especially coming off illness. My skis were great as well. I did what I could with the body I had, and it was definitely missing a gear that I wanted, but it was a very solid effort with some improved technical skiing.”

Whitcomb stressed the success of today’s outcome. “We had phenomenal skis today. It was one of those classic days you hope for. Our skis were exceptional, we’re very proud of that.” He added that, “We don’t take top ten or even top 30 finishes for granted.”

Whitcomb also highlighted the accomplishment of Sophia Laukli who is better known as a skate racer, and who finished in the top thirty today in Beitostolen.

Sohia Laukli having a top 30 day in the 10 k Classic Individual at Beitostolen. (Photo: NordicFocus)

“It’s easy to forget that just 15 years ago it was often that we would have zero people in the top 30 in distance, so this is a natural progression and an important thing to remember.”  Matt Whitcomb

It was a great day for classic skiing and a great day for the American women.

Full Results

Ken Roth

Ken lives in Southeastern Michigan. He's an avid outdoor sport enthusiast. He's an attorney, former Mayor of Northville, Michigan, and former bowling center owner. He's spent much of the last 35 years trying to chase down his wife on classic skis; to no avail.

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