FIS Cross Country World Cup (Kuusamo, Finland): 10/15 k classic
On Day 2 of the Ruka Triple World Cup opener on Saturday, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen collected a 17-second victory in the women’s 10-kilometer classic individual start in Kuusamo, Finland.
Bjørgen started 30th of nearly 90 women and was contested by one other: Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in bib 44. Kalla clocked through the 3.1 and 6.2 k checkpoints faster than Bjørgen, but the Norwegian’s time stood up against Kalla’s at 8.1 k, where Bjørgen was 1 second faster. Over the last two kilometers, Bjørgen continued to gain speed toward the finish, crossing the line in 25:07.6 minutes. Kalla came within 17 seconds of her, which was good enough for second place and 0.8 seconds faster than another Norwegian, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, who was bumped to third (+17.8).
Norway had three in the top four with Heidi Weng in fourth (+34.0). Austria’s Teresa Stadlober put herself in the mix in fifth (+36.4), Norway’s Ragnhild Haga was sixth (+38.2), Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva seventh (+42.8), Sweden’s Stina Nilsson eighth (+46.1), Russia’s Anastasia Sedova ninth (+53.4), and American Jessie Diggins 10th (+1:03.9).
Also for the U.S. Ski Team, Ida Sargent placed 22nd (+1:21.9) and Sadie Bjornsen, who notched a career-best second in Friday’s classic sprint and led the women’s Ruka Triple standings after Day 1, finished 23rd (+1:23.4). Bjornsen is now 11th in the standings (46.5 seconds behind Kalla in first) with one more day of racing (women’s 10 k freestyle pursuit) remaining.
Kalla is 2.6 seconds ahead of Bjørgen in the mini-tour standings, and Nilsson is third (+12.4) ahead of Østberg in fourth (+20.0).
Nine American women raced on Saturday, with Rosie Brennan placing 33rd (+1:47.7), Sophie Caldwell (who was eighth in Friday’s sprint) following in 36th (+1:50.1), Kikkan Randall finishing 48th (2:14.5), Liz Stephen 58th (+2:26.3), Chelsea Holmes 64th (+2:50.0), and Julia Kern 74th (+3:19.2).
Three Canadian women competed, with Emily Nishikawa placing 56th (+2:42.2), Cendrine Browne 76th (+3:23.6), and Dahria Beatty 84th (+3:53.5).
Klæbo Doubles Up in Ruka
In the men’s 15 k classic that followed, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo rocketed to his second-straight win of the World Cup’s opening weekend in 33:38.8, which was 15.3 seconds clear of runner-up and fellow Norwegian Didrik Tønseth.
Finland’s Iivo Niskanen started after Klæbo (bib 42) and Tønseth (bib 33) in bib 70 and pushed to contend with Klæbo, but came up 17.7 seconds short at the finish. Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov also emerged as a later contender, starting 66th (out of 115) and clocking the fastest times at 3.1 and 5 k. Bolshunov ended up 19.9 seconds behind Klæbo at the finish and ultimately settled for fourth.
Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin placed fifth (+25.6) after being an early race leader in bib 12, and Russia’s Evgeniy Belov (another early starter in bib 10) followed sixth (+26.5). Norway’s Emil Iversen placed seventh (+30.2) and Martin Johnsrud Sundby was eighth (+30.7), Russia’s Alexey Chervotkin ninth (+31.2), and Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson 10th (+34.4).
Canada’s Alex Harvey placed 13th (+49.7), behind Norway’s Pål Golberg and Hans Christer Holund in 11th (+38.1) and 12th (+44.7), respectively.
American Erik Bjornsen and Canadian Devon Kershaw tied for 26th (+1:15.2).
Also for the U.S., Noah Hoffman was 43rd (+1:58.4), Andy Newell 59th (+2:29.6), Paddy Caldwell 72nd (+2:53.5), Scott Patterson 86th (+3:17.7), and Simi Hamilton 96th (+3:43.4).
For Canada, Len Valjas finished 48th (+2:08.0), Graeme Killick 58th (+2:23.4), Knute Johnsgaard 87th (+3:19.8), Julien Locke 100th (+3:56.4), and Jess Cockney 109th (+5:20.7).
Klæbo extended his lead in the Ruka Triple standings to 38.3 seconds over Bolshunov, who moved up to second place. Golberg is third (+44.1), Halfvarsson fourth (+47.8), and Niskanen fifth (+49.5) with Sunday’s 15 k freestyle pursuit remaining.
Harvey is 12th in the standings (+1:22.8) and Bjornsen 23rd (+1:50.9) to lead the Canadian and American men, respectively.
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup (Kuusamo, Finland): Individual large hill/10 k
Also in Ruka, the second day of nordic-combined action started on the HS 142 large hill and ended with a 10 k Gundersen start, which Japan’s Akito Watabe won by 31.7 seconds over Finland’s Eero Hirvonen. Watabe jumped to first on the large hill with a total of 158.6 points, while Austria’s Wilhelm Denifl followed with 154.2 points in second, just ahead of France’s Maxime Laheurte with 154.2 points in third.
The lone American to start the competition round for the second-straight day, Bryan Fletcher jumped to 31st. (His USA Nordic teammate Ben Berend just missed the top-50 cutoff in the qualification round in 52nd, while Taylor Fletcher was 65th in qualifying.)
In the 10 k that followed on Saturday, Watabe started with a 16-second head start on Denifl and extended his lead to the finish, crossing first in 24:58.6. Hirvonen, who started ninth and 58 seconds back based on his jump, rose to second, while Germany’s Johannes Rydzek raced up from eighth to third (+32.8). Norway’s Jan Schmid placed fourth (+34.4) and France’s Antoine Gerard finished fifth (+36.5), Laheurte took sixth (+38.4), Norway’s Espen Andersen was seventh (+39.8), Austria’s Mario Seidl was eighth (+43.7), and Denifl ended up ninth (+55.7). Bryan Fletcher skied the fourth-fastest time to place 18th. Fletcher started 2:29 after Watabe and finished 1:45.8 behind him.
On Friday, Fletcher placed 17th in the individual large hill/5 k Gundersen. In the first Nordic Combined World Cup competition of the season, Norway took first and second with Andersen holding off his teammate Schmid by 7.7 seconds for the win in 12:58.0. Watabe placed third, 11 seconds out of first, after jumping to third.
Andersen’s jump ranked second on Friday and he started the two-lap 5 k four seconds behind Seidl, the jump leader. Seidl fell back three places to fourth at the finish (+15.4) while Schmid rose from sixth to second place with the third-fastest ski time.
Denifl maintained his jumping position in fifth (+29.1) and Laheurte finished ninth — up from 12th in the jump. Fletcher jumped to 18th and improved one spot to 17th (+2:47.6) after starting 3:04 out of first.
Day 3 of nordic combined’s long weekend in Ruka is another individual large hill/10 k Gundersen on Sunday.