The 2018 Blink Ski Festival continued in full force on Friday and Saturday, with cross-country and biathlon prologues, 10- and 15-kilometer cross-country races and biathlon mass starts all taking place on Friday, followed by sprints on Saturday.
Elite racing began in the afternoon with the men’s prologue (no prologue was held for the women), Norway’s Gjøran Holstad Tefre posted the fastest time of 3:12.21. Finishing 1.89 seconds back was another Norwegian, Aleksander Dyrberg Ek, and Great Britain’s Andrew Young claimed the prologue’s final podium spot, finishing 2.27 seconds off the winning time.
Also in the top 10 were Norway’s Morten Eide Pedersen in fourth (+4.7), Britain’s James Clugnet in fifth (+4.76), France’s Lucas Chanavat in sixth (+5.09), Norway’s Stian Grastveit in seventh (+5.70), France’s Renaud Jay in eighth (+5.75), and Norway’s Sindre Folkvord and Harald Østberg Amundsen in ninth (+6.00) and 10th (+6.03), respectively.
Canada’s Evan Palmer-Charrette finished 34th (+16.68), Scott Hill placed 39th (+19.37) and Bob Thompson was 40th (+19.54) out of 47 finishers.
After the elite men’s prologue, athletes geared up for a men’s and women’s biathlon prologues.
Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø took the men’s biathlon prologue win in a time of 10:30.2 after two misses (1+1). One second back, it was a tie for second place between another Norwegian, Lars Aasheim Svaland, who had one penalty (0+1), and France’s Antonin Guigonnat, with one miss as well (1+0).
Slovenia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina, who took one gold and two silver medals at the 2018 Olympics, won Friday’s women’s prologue with clean shooting and a time of 11:34.6. Just 0.6 seconds behind was Norway’s Emilie Ågheim Kalkenberg, who placed second with perfect 10-for-10 shooting as well. France’s Justine Braisaz claimed third, 10.7 seconds out of first, after missing two targets (0+2).
The next event on Friday’s program was the women’s 10 k cross-country mass start, which Norwegian sprint specialist Maiken Caspersen Falla won in 20:39.4. She bested fellow Norwegian Mari Eide by 1.9 seconds, and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla and Norway’s Kari Øyre Slind followed in third (+3.9) and fourth (+3.9), respectively, with the same time.
Working their way into the top 10 were Russia’s Elena Soboleva in fifth (+4.9), Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski in sixth (+5.0), Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Ragnhild Haga in seventh (+5.1) and eighth (+5.2), respectively, Austria’s Teresa Stadlober in ninth (+6.6), and Russia’s Natalia Matveeva in 10th (+8.7). Out of 31 women, Nichole Bathe, racing for Great Britain, finished in 23rd (+1:09).
Friday’s program then moved on to the women’s biathlon mass start. Sweden’s Hanna Öberg won the event in a time of 13:19.4 despite three misses (0+1+2+0). Kuzmina finished second, crossing 2.1 seconds behind the Swede after a penalty in each stage (1+1+1+1). Third place went to another Swede, Mona Brorsson, who crossed 5.9 seconds after Öberg and shot four penalties (2+1+1+0).
Following the women’s biathlon race, the men’s biathlon mass start got underway. Norway’s Henrik L’abeé-Lund emerged as the winner, crossing the line in 17:21.3 after shooting four penalties (1+1+2+0). Exactly three seconds behind him was J.T. Bø in second place with two misses (1+0+1+0). Sealing the all-Norwegian podium was Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, who missed six targets (1+1+2+2) and finished 12.1 seconds after L’abeé-Lund for third.
Friday’s final race turned back to cross-country for the elite men’s 15 k freestyle mass start. Russian skier, Sergey Ustiugov, who was banned from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics, won it in 29:26.0, 2.1 seconds ahead of Norway’s Aleksander Ek, (who had placed second in the prologue to start the day). Italy’s Federico Pellegrino was just another 0.6 seconds back in third (+2.7).
“I was a little nervous today because I won it last year and I wanted to repeat my success here again today,” Ustiugov told NRK through a translator. “It didn’t go easy, but I did manage to do what I wanted to do, and I would like to thank all my team, Markus [Cramer], and the rest of the team. That was great.”
The remaining top ten included Norway’s Vebjørn Turtveit in fourth (+2.9), Sindre Bjørnestad Skar in fifth (+3.9), Øystein Pettersen in sixth (+5.4), and Torstein Bu in seventh (+5.8). France’s Adrien Backscheider and Clement Parisse placed eighth (+5.9) and ninth (+6.2) respectively, followed by Norway’s Eirik Brandsdal in tenth (+6.2).
Racing for Canada, Alex Harvey finished 14th (+7.5).
Saturday marked the final day of the Blink rollerski festival and included cross-country and biathlon sprints. In the women’s cross-country final, Norway’s Falla picked up her second-straight win, ahead of Russia’s Matveeva in second (+1.6) and Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter in third (+2.4). Norway’s Eide was just off the podium in fourth (+2.9), Norway’s Barbro Kvåle Trømborg placed fifth (+3.7), and another Norwegian, Linn Ravndal, finished 8 seconds back in sixth.
Falla’s won the final in 3:40.8 after topping her quarterfinal and semifinal as well.
The men’s cross-country racing began with a prologue, which Norway’s Vetle Christiansen won in 1:31.92, just three-hundredths of a second ahead of his fellow countryman, Ek. France’s Baptiste Noel placed third in the prologue, 1.76 seconds out of first.
In the heats later in the day, Russia’s Gleb Retivykh came out on top of the final, getting there by placing second in both his quarterfinal and semifinal, then winning the last round by 0.2 seconds over Pellegrino in a time of 3:15.5. Pellegrino had won his quarterfinal but advanced as a lucky loser in fourth out of the second semifinal. The 25-year-old Ek capped off his successful series with another podium, placing third in the final, just 0.3 seconds out of first.
In a post-race interview with NRK, Retivykh explained this was his first time at Blink.
“I am very happy,” he said in English. “Today is my first win at Blink, and [it was my] first time here.”
In a close final, Norway’s Gjøran Tefre and Brandsdal followed in fourth (+0.5) and fifth (+0.7), respectively, Italy’s Francesco De Fabiani was just behind in sixth (+0.8).
Biathletes were able to experience head-to-head sprint racing as well (a deviation from the typical biathlon World Cup sprint format, which is individual), in the women’s and men’s biathlon supersprints, which included one prone and one standing shooting stage per heat.
France’s Braisaz won the women’s final in 7:45.3. She had previously won her quarterfinal (which was a longer distance), then placed seventh in the first semifinal (same distance as final). Norway’s Marte Olsbu placed second in the final (+0.4), and Sweden’s Brorsson returned to the podium in third (+0.9).
“It was really close at the end, but I am very happy about the weekend here,” Braisaz told NRK on English after. “Everything is perfect, even though the weather is a little bit — how do you say — moody. But it’s OK. And I am really happy to be in Norway and I will make my stay longer after the festival weekend.”
In the men’s biathlon super sprint, Norway’s Christiansen dominated the day, winning his quarterfinal and semifinal before beating J.T. Bø by 2.2 seconds in the men’s final with a time of 12:01.8. France’s Guigonnat completed the podium in third, 8.5 seconds behind Christiansen.