Another Norwegian Heard From: Amundsen Earns First World Cup Victory in Les Rousses

John TeafordJanuary 27, 2023

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Harald Oestberg Amundsen (NOR) earned his first FIS world cup cross-country victory at Les Rousses, France. (Photo:  Thibaut/NordicFocus)

Fans have become accustomed to Norwegian men occupying the World Cup podium, but it’s getting pretty crowded there on the top step. Team Norway has delivered World Cup wins this season from Iver Tildheim Andersen, Paal Golberg, Simen Hegstad Krueger, Johan Hoesflot Klaebo (who has already won 12 times this season), and now Harald Oestberg Amundsen. It seems that any Norwegian can win on any given day . . . and no skier from any other country seems to have a chance.

Norwegian skiers have claimed so many of the podium spots in early-season World Cups, but at Les Rousses their usual dominance was somewhat less than total: Amundsen (NOR) claimed his first World Cup victory, Roethe (NOR) second, and William Poromaa (SWE) third. Frenchman, Jules LaPierre, had a spectacular day racing in his home country, further interrupting the usual Norwegian strangle-hold on the top placings and finishing a very impressive fifth, just 25 seconds behind race winner, Amundsen.

Scott Patterson (USA) led the American contingent at the World Cup Skate 10km, Les Rousses, France. (Photo: Authamayou/NordicFocus)

Scott Patterson (USA) continued a season of distance race performances in the top thirty with a 24th place finish.

“It’s been a solid break after the Tour de Ski from World Cup racing,” said Patterson. “[I finished] 24th today: not everything I wanted, but I think it was a solid result. I was in the fight . . . I raced a distance double pole marathon last weekend and was still feeling some effects from it. I think the form’s coming along and I’m excited as we keep having ore races coming up and build toward [World Championships].”

Other American finishers included Finn O’Connell 50th, Peter Wolter 56th, Will Koch 63rd, and Zak Kettterson 65th. Nordiq Canada chose not to enter skiers in the races at Les Rousses.

Will Koch (USA) got his first taste of World Cup racing on the 10 k course in Les Rousses, France. (Photo: Thibaut/NordicFocus)

The day’s results demonstrate how difficult it is to prepare for the upcoming World Championships while also defending individual places in the World Cup standings. Early in the season, Klaebo had stated that his chances at winning the overall World Cup championship were over. It appeared, then, as though he would pick and choose his World Cup starts in order to secure the Sprint crown, while prioritizing his preparation for the World Championships (which most competitors hold in higher regard than the World Cup). It would’ve been easier for Klaebo if he’d stayed that course. As it is, he now seems determined to pursue every win, and to chase points in any event in which Paal Golberg—his Norwegian teammate and closest rival in the race for the overall World Cup—is entered.

Men’s 10 k Skate

Fresh snow and overcast skies greeted competitors in Les Rousses, a resort community in the Jura Alps north of Geneva. At an elevation of nearly 4000 feet (1219 meters), Les Rousses offers challenges that other, lower, venues do not. Additionally, 10 k is not a typical men’s distance, raced this season in a nod to distance-equity that has been instituted between men’s and women’s fields. For skiers at the World Cup level, the 10 k distance is a bit of a sprint . . . and a distance in which much can go wrong. Sprinters have a chance to excel (though they could also blow up). Distance skiers are forced to press the pace, and hope that their speed will emerge.

The Les Rousses World Cup 10 k was raced around three laps of a 3.3 k loop. In any such lapping course, there’s potential for results to be affected by the ways in which skiers pair up (or group up) over the course of three high-speed laps. Strategically, the greatest advantages are available to skiers who pair up with later starters (the faster/fresher skier “giving a ride” to the skier who has been on course longer). Veterans are always looking for this (entirely legal) advantage. Toenseth and Andersen grouped up on the course, working well together through the middle lap, but neither seemed to gain enough advantage to affect the final standings. Most other contenders seemed to race mostly on their own. Pre-race favorite, Krueger, found himself alone . . . no beneficial pairings for Krueger. Klaebo who was the day’s final starter, and was therefore unlikely to benefit from the speed of other racers; however, he would hear split times of all skiers who started before him. Game on . . .

Amundsen, was an early leader, but he was also skiing alone. Krueger started conservatively, some 11 seconds behind Amundsen at the first check point. Klaebo started equally conservatively—only 21st fastest at the first check point—but would gain time through the first lap (5th at 3.3 k, only five seconds out of the lead). He lingered 13 seconds behind Amundsen at the halfway point. Klaebo has already earned 12 World Cup victories this season (only two behind the season-record of 14 wins set by Martin Jonsrud sudby), but his performance in Les Rousses appeared a bit flat. He may be conserving energy (lord knows he spends enough of it), or he may be in a pre-Worlds training cycle that hinders top-speed efforts. Either way, he skied consistently if not brilliantly—never really excelling, never really losing too much time—finishing the day in 8th.

Klaebo’s countryman, Amundsen, continued to lead his teammates through the later check points. Early leader, Andersen (who won the 10 k skate earlier this season in Lillehammer), faded over the closing kilometers to finish 9th. Poromaa (SWE) started fast, though struggled a bit to maintain his form late in the later stages of the race. He moved into second at the finish (still behind Amundsen, and snatching crucial World Cup points from Golberg) where he remained until the later arrival of Roethe.

Jules Lapierre (FRA) raced with bravery and panache in front of loyal French fans at Les Rousses, finishing a remarkable fifth. (Photo: Authamayou/NordicFocus)

France’s Jules LaPierre led at 8.1 k, and sat in second in the results at the finish until Golberg eclipsed him (though still behind Amundsen). Ultimately, Amundsen finished in 21:26.5 for his first career World Cup win. Roethe finished second  (11.9 seconds behind), with Poromaa another six seconds behind to earn his second career World Cup podium

With so many Norwegian skiers fighting for spots in the upcoming World Championships, Amundsen acknowledged the magnitude of his performance in securing his first World Cup victory. “It was a really important race for me,” he said.

Men’s 10 k Individual Start Freestyle RESULTS

Sjur Roethe (NOR), Harald Oestberg Amundsen (NOR), William Poromaa (SWE), (l-r)—FIS World Cup cross-country, 10km, Les Rousses, France. (Photo: Authamayou/NordicFocus)

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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