Scott Patterson 14th in Toblach 10 k Freestyle, Norwegians Sweep the Podium

Ken RothFebruary 4, 2023

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Racing in Toblach, Italy continued today with the Men’s 10-kilometer freestyle. Coming into the race Johannes Hosflot Klaebo (NOR) had won 13 men’s events and was only one victory away from tying countryman Martin Sundby for the most individual victories in a World Cup season. If Klaebo’s winning ways continued, he could threaten Therese Johaug’s record of 20 wins in a season; a record which many thought was unbreakable. It’s been all Norway in men’s distance racing this year; they have won every individual distance event. The last time a non-Norwegian man won a distance race was in February, 2022, when Iivo Niskanen (FIN) won the 15-kilometer classic in Lahti, Finland.

Klaebo leads the overall World Cup points standings over Paal Golberg (NOR) by 181 points. If Golberg wished to stay in the overall championship hunt, he would have to have a good performance today. Golberg is the overall distance points leader so he was definitely a threat to win or keep pace with Klaebo. Hans Christer Holund (NOR) sits second in the distance rankings; he would also be a threat to be at the top.

It was warm for the start of the race, about 40 Fahrenheit. The warm temperatures didn’t negatively affect the racing, and at the end of the day Golberg was able to finish first, 0.3 seconds ahead of countryman Simen Krueger (NOR). Klaebo ended up third, 2.8 seconds back. Norway took the first seven positions.

At the end of the day it was all Norway on the podium: Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR), Paal Golberg (NOR), Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo. (NOR) (Photo: NordicFocus)

American Scott Patterson had an excellent day, finishing 14th, only 34.5 seconds off the lead. Other American finishers were Finn O’Connell 41st, Kevin Bolger 54th, Hunter Wonders 55th, and Logan Diekmann 71st.  No Canadians raced today.

Scott Patterson masterfully navigated ski choice and pacing to place 14th. (Photo: NordicFocus)
The Race

Today’s warm weather meant that ski choice would play a large factor. Clear bases were definitely in the mix. Toward the start of the race, the sun had moved off the course and the snow firmed providing fast and challenging conditions, especially for the later starters. This made for a tough ski choice. Scott Patterson told FasterSkier that, “Ski choice was definitely about thinking ahead for the refreeze. We tested skis in the stadium initially and recognized that the really warm skis that performed well in the stadium would probably be a risky choice by race time.” Patterson continued that, “Overnight we got a bit of rain and relatively high winds. This combined to deposit an ice layer on the ski track and some pine needles and sticks from the trees. As we were starting at 3 pm, part of the course had baked in the sun during the day and gotten quite slushy. However, by the start of the men’s race the whole course was refreezing and the sun was gone. This resulted in some fast firm sections that hadn’t seen sun as well as glazed rutted parts that were quite funky to ski in.”

Finn O’Connell (USA) had a personal best World Cup day, finishing 41st. (Photo: NordicFocus)

U.S. coach Kristen Bourne confirmed the tricky conditions. “The track was pretty ripping fast for the women and sort of the same for the men. All of the divots and ruts from the women’s race [froze] and started to become bumpy and firm for the men. It was a weird fluctuation but was super-fast.”

As has been the pattern most of the season, today’s race would be a back-and-forth affair between the top Norwegians with Klaebo, Golberg and Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) trading punches and fighting for the lead all day.

Klaebo was one of the earlier starters among the pre-race favorites. Golberg and Krueger started several spots behind Klaebo, so they would have the advantage of marking their teammate. At the 1.7-kilometer mark Klaebo had taken the lead and established the early time to beat. When Golberg and Krueger reached the 1.7-kilometer mark, they were already a couple of seconds behind Klaebo.

Paal Golberg’s (NOR) finishing lunge put him on top of the podium. (Photo: NordicFocus)

At  2.1 kilometers, Hugo Lapalus (FRA) decided he would take a shot at the lead and moved into first over all the skiers  who had already reached this mark. His pace would only be eclipsed later by Krueger who had a later start than Lapalus. But, Lapalus’ glory was short lived, at 3.0-kilometers he had dropped back to fourth. Klaebo and Krueger were virtually tied and had retaken the lead.  Golberg was now 3.2 seconds back.

Between three and five kilometers, Klaebo put in a strong burst of speed to regain his lead outright at the five kilometer time checkpoint. Golberg and Krueger trailed Klaebo by about two seconds.

As the raced played out and skiers hit the 7.1- kilometer mark, Krueger had surged into the lead with Golberg now 1.9 seconds back.  Klaebo had dropped off the pace considerably and was now 9.8 seconds off the lead. This trend held up over the next kilometer as Krueger increased his lead to 5.4 seconds over Golberg.  Klaebo was now a whopping 11.4 seconds off the lead.

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) was in the hunt for the victory all day, but couldn’t overcome a mid-race deficit. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Pacing on the course was difficult, and not just for Klaebo.  Patterson told FasterSkier that, “I had a few short opportunities to ski with people but mostly it was about finding my own pace and enduring through the muscular burn while keeping the tempo high.” He continued that, “It’s crucial to V2 almost all [of] the more gradual hills. Thus, I was focused on skiing smooth through the first 2km to build into the race a bit, then really turn it on and work the rest of the course as hard as I could.”

The U.S. team received advice on pacing the five kilometer loop course from veteran Jessie Diggins (USA) at their team meeting the night before the race. Bourne said that Diggins advised her teammates to “Go out as hard as you can, because once you get to 3 k, it’s pretty much all downhill from there.”

Kevin Bolger (USA) representing team USA in the Toblach 10 k. Bolger would finish 54th. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Klaebo also made adjustments and was able to turn up the speed in the last two kilometers, and coming into the finish, he put in one of his patented sprints, crossing the finish first among the racers who had finished. At this point Klaebo was in the leader’s chair, 2.4 seconds over Harald Amundsen (NOR).

But Golberg and Krueger were still lurking on the course, taking advantage of their later start. As he finished, Golberg was able to meet Klaebo’s finishing speed and went into first ahead of Klaebo by 2.8 seconds.

The only question now was whether Krueger would be able to match his teammates speed over the last two-kilometers. As Krueger came into the finish he was moving very smoothly and put in a ferocious finishing sprint but fell short of Golberg by 0.3 seconds. As it turned out, Golberg’s lunge at the finish was the difference between first and second.

Klaebo had put in an amazing final two-kilometers skiing it nine seconds faster than Krueger and three seconds faster than Golberg. But Klaebo’s slower speed in the middle of the race had given Golberg and Krueger the opening they needed to pull past him.

At the end of the day, Norwegian domination in men’s distance racing continued, Sundby’s record was intact, for the time being, and a young American continued to show great promise.

Men’s Freestyle 10-kilometer Individual 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 36 years trying to chase down his wife on classic skis; to no avail.

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