FIS World Cup Otepää, Estonia 1.3 k / 1.6 Classic Sprint
Starting the day’s performance benchmarks off was Stina Nilsson of Sweden with the fastest qualifier in the women’s 1.3-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää on Saturday. She stopped the clock in 3:07.62 minutes.
The U.S. Ski Team’s (USST) Jessie Diggins was the top-qualifying North American in 18th (+5.37). Sadie Bjornsen (USST) qualified 20th (+5.71), and Ida Sargent 27th (+8.38).
On a course rewarding patience and technical skiing know how, Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla won the overall in 3:05:16 minutes. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva placed second (+1.40), and Maja Dahlqvist of Sweden third (+5.78). Also from Sweden, Jonna Sundling, who fell at around the 1:30 mark in the final, placed fourth (+8.12), with Slovenia’s Katja Visnar fifth (+23.22).
Nilsson placed second to Falla in the first semi-final, but did not start the final. Nilsson had won the last four World Cup sprints, all in skate, coming into Otepää.
Bjornsen looked strong in the fifth heat, yet stepping around the right hand turn before the final straight she fell taking out several other skiers. Bjornsen was given a yellow card for obstruction. She ended up 22nd overall.
Diggins placed second to Falla in the second heat to advance to the first semi. She was eliminated after finishing in sixth (+3.68). Diggins placed 12th overall.
Sargent finished third in the third heat, to place 15th overall.
U.S. athlete Rosie Brennan (APU) finished 45th (+15.81).
Dahria Beatty (CNST) was the only Canadian entered. She placed 44th overall (+15.79)
Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo was the fastest qualifier for the men in the 1.6 k classic sprint with a time of 3:21.99 minutes.
The young Norwegian seems on form as he swept his heat, semi, and final on his way to the win. Klæbo won the final in 3:20.05 minutes. Alexander Bolshunov of Russia, the only non-Norwegian in the final, was second (+1.51), and Pål Golberg third (+2.53). Rounding out the final three spots in the final were Eirik Brandsdal in fourth (+2.57), Mattis Stenshagen in fifth (+7.69), and Erik Valnes in sixth (+11.99).
For the U.S., Erik Bjornsen (USST) was the fastest qualifying North American in 23rd (+8.2), Andy Newell (SMS T2) 26th (+8.75).
Bjornsen was knocked out of the rounds after placing fifth in the second heat. He placed 24th overall. Newell ended up third in the first heat, 2.99 seconds in back of Klæbo. Newell, in his second World Cup sprint of the season, placed 15th in the final standings.
Kevin Bolger (USST) finished in 41st (13.13), Ben Saxton (SMS T2) 44th (+14.16), and Ben Lustgarten (CGRP) 63rd (+23.04).
For Canada, Lenny Valjas (CNST) was 43rd (+13.61), and Bob Thompson 51st (+15.96).
Worlds Selections/NorAms/Coupe Québec, Bishop’s University, Québec
Day two of the NorAm weekend was interval start classic, with very cold conditions delaying the start and simplifying the ski preparations.
Katherine Stewart-Jones (CNST) topped her Friday 2nd place with a clear win in the 10km, finishing in 28:51.6 with the fastest time on all three laps. Cendrine Browne (CNST) was second at 30.8 behind. Zoë Williams (Nakkertok) was third at 1:53.5, just pulling clear of Frédérique Vézina (CNEPH) by 3.1 seconds with a fast final lap.
In the men’s 15km, Scott Hill (Hardwood) bounced back from a slow start to the season with a well-timed victory to join Stewart-Jones on the World Championships team. Hill was fastest on the last three of four 3.75km laps to win in 36:59.7, 9.0 seconds ahead of a fading Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.). Graham Nishikawa (CPNST), here training for his role as Brian McKeever‘s guide, held onto third at 38.0 seconds, just 3.2 seconds ahead of a fast finishing Dominique Moncion-Groulx (Nakkertok).
There are two more automatic selections for World Championship available on Sunday in the mass start skate races (20km for women, 30km for men). With cold temperatures and heavy overnight snow predicted, it should be an exciting end to the weekend.
IBU World Cup Ruhpolding, Germany 4 x 6 k Relay
The teams from France, Norway and Germany claimed the positions at the top of the podium on Saturday in the women’s 4 x 6-kilometer relay in Ruhpolding, Germany, cheered on by over avid 25,000 fans lining the course.
France with Julia Simon, Anaïs Bescond, Justine Braisaz and Anaïs Chevalier stayed in the top group all race mainly due to the best shooting performance of the day, at times with a lead of over half a minute. On the anchor leg, Chevalier defended her narrow lead through three loops and two shooting stages to the finish line in a time of 1:09:27.7 hours, with no penalty and just four spares. According to an IBU press release, it was their first win since 1994 at this venue with a long tradition on the biathlon competition calendar, which has undergone a slight redesign for this season to add stands and make a downhill section less tricky.
Behind the French women, Norway with a team comprised of the reactivated veteran Synnøve Solemdal, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, Tiril Eckhoff and anchor Marte Olsbu Røiseland was second, with Røiseland narrowing the gap to Chevalier on the final loop from 21 to seconds but not quite catching up to finish 11.5 seconds back (with no penalty and seven spare rounds). The home team from Germany with Vanessa Hinz, Laura Dahlmeier, Franziska Preuss and Denise Herrmann was third, after the fast Herrmann was unable to catch the leaders when she needed all three spares in the final shooting to clear her targets (+23.4, with no penalty and nine spares).
Over a minute behind the podium finishers, the fourth team crossing the line were the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic relay silver medalists from Sweden around anchor Hanna Öberg (+1:29, with no penalty and nine spares).
For the North American teams it was a race with many ups and downs.
Canada began the race with Sarah Beaudry, who moved the team as high as sixth thanks to a clean shooting performance in her standing shooting stage after she had required two spares in prone. She then lost time to the top teams on the track to exchange in 13th position (+54.5 sec). Emma Lunder then managed to bring the team back up to sixth position but she also needed two spares in prone and followed that up with a clean standing stage, tagging off in seventh place right behind Sweden (individually her leg was the fifth-fastest). Megan Bankes kept up with the teams around her on the course and slightly improved to fifth position less than a minute back, but then missed two targets in her standing stage and could not clean with her spares. She skied a single penalty lap (0+1, 1+3). She tagged anchor Rosanna Crawford in 10th position (+2:14), who then herself added a penalty in her prone stage.
At the site of her podium finish a year ago and coming off a 27th place in the sprint earlier this week, the Canadian team leader then needed two spares in the standing stage and ultimately came to the finish in 12th position (+3:01.6), with two penalties and 13 spare shots for the team.
For US Biathlon, Clare Egan began the race and recorded a clean prone stage to move the team up all the way to third position coming into the standing shooting stage despite a broken pole. She then missed three targets and ran out of spares and skied two penalty laps.
That set the team back quite far, exchanging in 19th position (+1:26.6). Susan Dunklee needed four spares in her shooting stages but avoided another penalty (0+1, 0+3) to exchange in 12th position (+1:47.3).
Rounding out the team after being called back up to the World Cup from the second-tier IBU Cup following solid performances in Duszniki Zdroj, Poland, Joanne Reid only needed one spare in each of her shooting stages (0+1, 0+1) to tag off in 15th position. In her second time anchoring a relay this season, Deedra Irwin – who had recorded her first clean shooting performance in a race in Poland a week ago – then required all her spares to clear her targets in the prone shooting before achieving another clean standing shooting stage. She crossed the line in 16th position, 4:06.0 back, with two penalties and 12 spare shots for the team.
Races in Ruhpolding conclude on Sunday with mass starts for the women and men. US Biathlon’s Sean Doherty is scheduled to be lone North American starter for the elite men’s field (though Canada’s Christian Gow would be the next one up from a reserve list in case of an illness), while Egan and Dunklee are qualified for the women.