Tiril Udnes Weng Claims TDS Lead, Niskanen Fastest on the Day

John TeafordJanuary 1, 2023

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On Sunday, Val Mustair, Switzerland played host to Stage 2 of the 2023 Tour de Ski: a 10 k Classic Pursuit.

The Pursuit isn’t just a distance race. It’s a combined result—an event that is inextricably linked (and combined in value) with the prior day’s sprint. Pursuit racing is a funny event, one that doesn’t sit entirely well with our sense of fairness: an advantage is given to the skier who proved the fastest on the previous day, with additional World Cup points being awarded to the one who crosses the line first. It’s a regular occurrence that the “winner” on the day may not be the fastest finisher on the day (and such was the case on Sunday in Val Mustair). One way or another, the overall standings of the Women’s Tour de Ski were definitely re-shuffled in Sunday’s 10 k Classic Pursuit.

Tiril Udnes Weng (NOR) outsprints Kerttu Niskanen (FIN) in Tour de Ski Stage 2. Weng claimed the overall lead, while Niskanen posted the fastest time of the day. (Photo: NordicFocus)

In any pursuit event, there’s far more to the race-story than simply counting a skier’s finishing place. The most accurate way to judge a skier’s success may be to assess whether they moved up or down within the field (relative to their own starting place), and whether they gained or lost time to the leaders (regardless of their finishing place). In Stage 2 of the Tour de Ski, there were a number of exceptional performances: The fastest skier on the day was Kerttu Niskanen (FIN) who moved from 12th to 2nd, making up nearly 44 seconds. Second fastest skier on the day was Katherina Hennig (GER) moving from 26th to 6th, making up 22 seconds. And third fastest was Anne Kjersti Kalvaa (NOR) moving from 6th to 4th, and making up 19 seconds. Behind them, Frida Karlsson (SWE) moved from 5th to 3rd, making up 18 seconds. The day’s Pursuit winner, Tiril Udnes Weng (NOR), moved from 4th to 1st, making up 17 seconds. Heidi Weng (NOR) leaped from 51st to 8th, making up nearly 12 seconds. Rosie Brennan (USA) moved from 14th to 7th, making up 11 seconds. Astrid Oeyre Slind (NOR) moved from 35th to 10th, making up 6 seconds.

After Stage 2, Overall TDS leaders are as follows:

  1. T. Weng
  2. Niskanen
  3. Karlsson

In addition to Brennan (whose finishing time was 7th fastest on the day), American finishers included Jessie Diggins (moving from 39th to 30th, but losing nearly a minute to the leaders), Julia Kern (started 10th, and skied well to finish 12th), Sophia Laukli (jumping from 67th to 50th), and Alayna Sonnesyn (falling from 37th to 53rd).

Canadian finishers all improved their standings: Katherine Stewart-Jones (rising from 46th to 25th), Dahria Beatty (skiing from 54th to 45th), and Liliane Gagnon (rising from 64th to 60th).

Women’s 10 k Pursuit

Stage 1 Sprint winner, Nadine Faehndrich (SUI), began the day with a 17 second advantage over the field, one she was able to maintain through the first of four 2.5 kilometer laps. Soon after passing through the stadium, however, she was joined by the group that had formed behind her, led by Karlsson and containing T. Weng, L. Weng, and Kalvaa. By the five kilometer mark, the lead group had been reduced to Karlsson and the three Norwegians, with a hard-charging Niskanen whittling away at their lead with each passing kilometer.

Rosie Brennan (USA) and Krista Parmakoski (FIN) racing the Tour de Ski 10 k pursuit in Val Mustair, Switzerland. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Rosie Brennan moved steadily up in the field throughout day. Before the race, Brennan had spoken of her expectations—and hopes—for the Pursuit:  “I hope I can make up some time in the distance races moving forward,” she said. “Tomorrow will certainly be a bit of a wild day with a short course and fast conditions so we’ll see what happens out there.” Her optimism was rewarded, as her finishing time proved seventh fastest on the day.

Diggins started the Pursuit in 39th position, 1:11 behind the leader. She began making up places right away, but was never able to make considerable gains on the deficit to the leaders.

“I did feel like I went out a little bit aggressively, kind of going for broke,” Diggins said. “Honestly, I was really proud of how I skied. I kept fighting the whole time. Bigger picture: there’s a lot of things that need to come together in order for it to be a stellar result; those things didn’t come together today or yesterday. That’s okay, and we’re working on it. I have faith that it’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Julia Kern (USA) skied strongly and consistently, claiming 12th in the 10 k Classic Pursuit in Val Mustair. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Julia Kern raced bravely throughout the day, and may have benefitted from the pace of skiers around her. Early in the race she was in contact with Brennan. Later, she kept pace with the Germans—Laura Gimmler and the resurgent Hennig—just as Heidi Weng also began making a move through the field. Kern described her race in a post-event interview: “I’ve had a few weeks off from distance racing so I wasn’t sure how it would go,” she said. “[Today] was really hard, and really good. It was a game of send it, die, and come back to life.”

With one lap to go, Niskanen had joined the leaders, pulling L. Weng back into contact to create a lead group of five. Karlsson continued to lead through the stadium at the beginning of the final lap, but with 1.5 k to go it was Niskanen who moved forward to push the pace. Only Niskanen was able to stay in the tracks on the final uphill, and she pressed the issue in hopes of shedding the stronger sprinters around her. In the end, though, it was T. Weng who sprinted down the homestretch to take the win, followed by Niskanen, Karlsson, and Kalvaa (the first four finishers all finished within two seconds of each other). Niskanen was by far the fastest on the day, a masterful performance that has pulled her into a virtual tie atop the Tour de Ski standings with T. Weng and Karlsson.

There will be a day off for the racers on Monday, before the Tour de Ski moves to Oberstdorf, Germany.

Women’s 10 k Pursuit RESULTS

Kerttu Niskanen (FIN), Tiril Udnes Weng (NOR), Frida Karlsson (SWE), (l-r) – FIS world cup cross-country, tour de ski, pursuit, Val Mustair (SUI). (Photo: NordicFocus)

John Teaford

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