FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Kussamo, Finland: Classic sprint
On Saturday in Kussamo, Finland the 2018/2019 World Cup season began with a 1.4-kilometer classic sprint.
Twenty-three-year-old Yulia Belorukova from Russia won the final in 2:52.62 minutes. It was Belorukova’s first World Cup win. Second place went to Sweden’s twenty-four-year-old Maja Dahlqvist who crossed the line 1.12 seconds back. Also from Sweden, Ida Ingemarsdotter was third (+1.51), Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla fourth (+1.52), Krista Pärmäkoski of Finland fifth (+4.71), and Stina Nilsson of Sweden, sixth (+12.33). Nilsson crashed in the final.
In the women’s qualifier, Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva set the fastest time in 2:56.50 minutes. Seventy-three skiers started the qualifier.
Three U.S. Ski Team (USST) women advanced to the heats by qualifying in the top-30. Sadie Bjornsen in 5th (+3.01), Sophie Caldwell in 22nd (+6.97), and Ida Sargent 24th (+7.23).
Caldwell and Sargent did not advance out of the heats. Caldwell was third in the first heat, won by second fastest qualifier, Falla. Caldwell finished 0.36 seconds behind Falla and ultimately did not secure a lucky loser spot. Sargent raced in the third heat where she placed sixth (+4.50).
Four U.S. women bowed out in the qualifier, with last season’s second overall skier in the World Cup standings, Jessie Diggins, placing 33rd (+9.05). Rosie Brennan (APU) skied to 38th (+10.74), Kelsey Phinney (SMS-T2) 46th (+13.49), and last season’s overall SuperTour leader, Kaitlynn Miller (CGRP), was 58th (+18.06).
No Canadian women entered the race.
In the men’s race, last season’s World Cup overall and sprint cup winner, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, scorched the qualifier in 2:28.95, winning by 3.21 seconds over he next fastest qualifier, teammate Eirik Brandsdal.
Klæbo won his heat and his semifinal. But the semi was tight: Klæbo won by 0.1 seconds over Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov.
In the final, Bolshunov won in 2:29.35 minutes, Klæbo was second (+0.31), Brandsdal third (+1;35). Also of Norway, Emil Iversen placed fourth (+3:04), Russia’s Gleb Retivykh fifth (+3.86), and Norwegian Sondre Turvoll Fossli sixth (+4.85).
The only North American to advance to the heats was Canada’s Alex Harvey, who qualified in 25th (+9.40) and ended the day in eighth. Harvey advance out of the heats by placing second to Russia’s Gleb Retivykh in the fourth quarterfinal. In the second semifinal, Harvey placed fourth (+2.30) and did not advance as a lucky loser.
Also for Canada, Julien Locke (CNST) finished 69th (+15.43), Andy Shields 75th (+18.59), and Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.) 76th (+18.61).
For the U.S., Erik Bjornsen (USST) placed 42nd (+11.41), Kevin Bolger (USST) 55th (+13.19), Ben Saxton (SMS-T2) 70th (+15.68), David Norris (APU) 78th (+19.05), and Simi Hamilton (USST) 82nd (+1:11).