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After yesterday’s Sprints in Canmore, skiers today had their first opportunity to test their Classic legs when the 20 k Mass Start Classic was contested. Harald Oestberg Amundsen (NOR) has a commanding lead in both the Overall World Cup standings and the Distance competition. While Amundsen sits on top of the standings, a familiar contender—Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR)—has been clawing his way back up in the Distance standings and going into today was in fourth place behind countryman Simen Hegstad Krueger. While the Norwegians were battling for the top distance spots, North Americans were facing a different set of challenges.
Today there were 12 Americans and 12 Canadians in the men’s field. Having such large teams is a new challenge for either country’s organizations. And while it’s been exciting for the veterans and rookies, managing such large numbers has been daunting. For the Americans, the challenge would include an extra layer of complexity. Not only would the team have to prepare skis for 12 racers for each race—first for the women, and then for the men—they would also have to dial in kick zones for the Classic race: all while integrating 27 staff members into the process. Also complicating things is that the team is working out of a wax trailer instead of their usual wax truck. It’s a lot to manage in a short amount of time. But the presence of so many new skiers is having an impact. After the race Gus Schumacher observed about all the newcomers that, “it’s so cool to have a big group here, to see these young guys have some success.”
Things were further complicated when Scott Patterson (USA) did not start. He told FasterSkier’s Nat Herz that he had an incident this morning when he fell and hit his head. He may have had a mild concussion, so he decided to scratch from the race. Ben Ogden also chose not to start. So, before the race even began, team USA was down two racers.
In a race full of back-and-forth lead changes, it was Paal Golberg (NOR) outsprinting Klaebo at the finish to take the victory. Mattis Stenshagen (NOR) finished third for his first World Cup individual podium.
Gus Schumacher ended up being the top American in 20th place. The next American finisher was David Norris in 33rd who fell early in the race to disrupt his performance. He was followed by Hunter Wonders 34th, Zanden McMullen 36th, Luke Jager 43rd, Michael Earnhart 44th, Peter Wolter 45th, Will Koch 46th, Michigan native Reid Goble 50th, Braden Becker 53rd, and Graham Houtsma 56th.
The top Canadian finisher was Antoine Cyr finishing 16th. Behind him were Samuel Gary Hendry 21st, Oliver Leveille 37th, Remi Drolet 42nd, Xavier McKeever 49th, Scott James Hill 52nd, Aidan Kirkham 55th, Eamon Wilson 57th, Micah Steinberg 58th, and Adam Heale 59th. Leo Grandbois and Felix-Olivier Moreau did not finish.
Men’s 20 k Mass Start Classic
Early on, it was Klaebo at the front setting the pace along with Erik Valnes (NOR) and Stenshagen. Martin Loewstroem Nyenget (NOR) was also at the front early keeping the pace honest. However, 4.2 kilometers into the race, the pack was still largely intact.
As the competitors began their second lap, Nyenget was still out front pushing the pace. While the tempo wasn’t blistering fast, it was still a very legitimate pace. At 7.5 kilometers skiers taking on nourishment at an aid station consolidated the group even more. But there was a bonus sprint at 9.3 kilometers that was about to string out the field. Golberg, Klaebo and Mika Vermeulen (SUI) formed a wall at the front and controlled the group.
As the pack approached the bonus sprint, it was a mostly red Norwegian wave leading the charge when Klaebo shot to the front to take the most bonus points possible. But Amundsen and Valnes were right behind him, so Klaebo didn’t gain much ground on them in the Distance standings. The first non-Norwegian to take a bonus point was Thomas Maloney Westgaard of Ireland. After the sprint, Westgaard stayed with the leaders for a bit, but was unable to sustain the pace. The top American was Gus Schumacher in 27th, but he was only five seconds off the lead.
Then at 10.5 kilometers, Jens Burman (SWE) decided to make a solo break. Given the large hills, it was a bold move since good descenders could make up a lot of time on the downhills (as Jessie Diggins had proven decisively in the women’s race). With Golberg and Amundsen out front of the chase group, there was a question as to just how long they would let Burman venture out on his own.
With seven kilometers to go, Burman was still skiing alone, but now only with a five second lead. With a full Norwegian platoon behind him, it seemed extremely unlikely that he would be able to maintain his solo break. Sure enough, in just a few seconds the Norwegian squad hauled him in; Burman’s energy expenditure had seemingly been wasted.
The next bonus sprint less than two kilometers away; the pack began to position itself for the chase. To his credit, Burman had been able to stay at the front after the pack had captured him. His teammate, William Poromaa, then decided to push the pace and went to the front with Klaebo marking his every move.
As they approached the bonus mark at 15.9 kilometers, the lead pack had been reduced to 18 skiers. The Norwegian leaders had seen enough, and the red wave shot to the front with Klaebo again taking the lead at the bonus section. After all the Swedish heroics, it was Norwegians taking the first six bonus spots.
Andrew Musgrave (GBR) then took a pull at the front. It has been a tough journey to North America for the Briton, and he was now pushing all of his chips into the middle of the table. It looked like podium or bust for Musgrave.
With only 2.5 kilometers to go, Krueger, Musgrave, Klaebo were at the front with Golberg and Amundsen joining them to dominate the pace. With the long straight finish looming, the odds were good that unless the other skiers were able to dispatch Klaebo soon, that he would outsprint them at the finish. Entering the final uphill leading into the stadium, Klaebo shot to the front but was unable to sprint away from the field. After Klaebo’s break failed, there was a giant pack going into the finish of 15 men. Klaebo again went to the front taking a very wide angle going into the stadium. Golberg and Klaebo were positioned in the front and quickly broke out into a double poling duel. The expectation was that in a sprint to the finish it would always be Klaebo taking the victory. But Golberg was able to find a gear that Klaebo could not match and shockingly Golberg was able to out double pole Klaebo to take the victory. Stenshagen held on for third. Musgrave’s gamble didn’t pay out as he finished eighth. Musgrave always seems to be a crowd favorite. When asked why he replied, “it’s very strange that a lot of people like me.” He continued that “I think it’s nice having someone from a non-skiing nation that can be up there.” When Gus Schumacher overheard the comment he laughingly interjected that, “you’re basically Norwegian!” To which Musgrave good naturedly responded “that’s such a lie!”
It was an energetic race with a surprise finish that no one, other than perhaps Golberg, would have predicted.
After the race, Golberg said his plan was to stay in front all the way. “I’m really looking forward to putting on the cowboy hat,” he said. It was another all-podium Norwegian finish with Norwegian men taking seven of the top ten spots.
Men’s 20 k Mass Start Classic RESULTS