FIS XC Ski World Cup Underway
The World Cup is underway, and North American skiers have come out of the gate with strong early results that could foretell their fortunes at the Tour de Ski and Lahti 2017, the biggest events this season.
Nov. 26-27 - Ruka, Finland
Snow fell throughout the competition of the opening round of the Viessmann FIS XC Ski World Cup in Ruka, Finland, as Sadie Bjornsen (USA) led the North American women of the four who qualified, ending up 17th in the women's 1.4km CL sprint. Stina Nilsson (SWE) took her first-ever win in Classic technique.
Jessie Diggins (13th), Ida Sargent (23rd) and Sophie Caldwell (30th) also advanced, along with Sadie Bjornsen (seventh), while Kikkan Randall, who was off last year giving birth to new son, Breck, settled for 52nd in a tie with teammate Caitlin Patterson. Both were just behind Dahria Beatty (CAN) in 50th and Rosie Brennan (USA) in 44th.
In the men's race, Paal Golberg (NOR) took the men's first win of the season, as Alex Harvey (CAN) was the lone North American to make the heats, ending up 25th on the day, just missing out on a Lucky Loser spot to advance to the semifinals. Calle Halfvarsson (SWE) was second, grabbing his first-ever World Cup podium in a Classic sprint. Meanwhile, rising young star Johannes Klaebo (NOR) captured his first-ever World Cup podium.
Speed king Andy Newell (USA) was a surprise miss, qualifying 40th. Fellow American Erik Bjornsen was just behind in 42nd, while Len Valjas (CAN) was 54th.
Marit Bjoergen (NOR) was in charge of the women's 10km CL Interval Start on Day Two in Ruka. Missing last season's World Cup with the birth of her first child, she clearly did not forget how to win. In just her second competition of this new FIS cross-country season, she was back again on top of the World Cup podium.
Close behind her was Krista Parmakoski (FIN) at 4.6 seconds back, and in third for the second day in a row was Heidi Weng (NOR) at 12.7 seconds off the lead. Diggins had a strong showing, finishing 13th as the top North American. Following in 17th was her teammate Sadie Bjornsen, who had the best result in Saturday's CL sprint and was looking for a bigger hit in the 10km.
Cendrine Browne, 21, from St-jérôme, Que., led the way for the Canucks in 58th. Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse finished 59th, while Beatty, also of Whitehorse, was 74th.
Harvey put in a solid day at the office, claiming 11th in the men's 15km CL Individual Start, as Iivo Niskanen (FIN) proved he is in top form in taking a thrilling victory at home. Emil Iversen (NOR) was second at 10.2 seconds behind, while teammate Martin Johnsrud Sundby finished in third at 11 seconds off the lead pace.
Canada's Devon Kershaw, who has been showing strong form in his World Cup tune-up races, also put down a solid performance on Sunday, finishing just outside the points in 33rd place. The U.S.A.'S Erik Bjornsen finished in 41st, but was not expecting great results at Ruka, having suffered a bad rollerski crash at Soldier Hollow.
Dec. 2-4 - Lillehammer, Norway
Sadie Bjornsen lit up the scoreboard, topping the women's qualifications in the CL sprint in Lillehammer, Norway in Round Two of the FIS World Cup.
When the dust settled, it was Weng of Norway taking her first-ever World Cup victory in a sprint competition after recording 10 sprint podiums in previous World Cups. In second place for the second weekend in a row was teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla, with Hanna Falk of Sweden in third.
Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen drew the same quarterfinal and were eliminated, finishing third and fourth respectively and ending up 14th and 17th on the day. Caldwell was fifth in her heat, while Sargent did not advance either. None of the Canadian women advanced, as Nishikawa was the top Canuck in 62nd.
Harvey placed a strong 10th in the men's 1.6km CL sprint, with teammate Valjas in 13th as the three-day mini-tour got underway. Halfvarsson claimed the win, extending his overall series lead, Norway's Iversen was second, while Sweden's Teodor Peterson captured the final podium spot.
Harvey qualified 23rd and went on to win his quarterfinal heat, but in his semifinal, he was cut off by Halfvarsson, for which the Swede was yel- low-carded. Harvey's momentum was effectively killed at that moment, and he fell to the back of the pack.
Valjas was the top North American qualifier in 19th; after battling a sore knee following surgery nearly three years ago, it was one of his best results in two years.
The U.S.A.'S Erik Bjornsen qualified in 30th, also advancing to the heats, but his day ended with a fifth place in his quarterfinal heat. Canada's Kershaw was 42nd, the U.S.A.'S Newell was 47th, with teammate Simi Hamilton in 48th. Harvey delivered another strong result the following day, finishing 10th in the men's 10km FR Interval Start, as Halfvarsson made it two for two. Teammate Marcus Hellner was second, with Russia's Sergey Ustiugov in third. Surprisingly, Norway was shut out at home.
Noah Hoffman was the top American in 33rd. Canucks Kershaw skied to 40th and Valjas was 42nd.
On the women's side, Diggins claimed her second-ever Individual World Cup victory, winning the 5km FR Individual Start in Stage Two of the mini-tour. Diggins put 4.8 seconds on second-place finisher and tour leader Weng of Norway, while legendary Bjoergen finished third.
American Sadie Bjornsen continued her strong early season, finishing 14th – her fourth-straight top-20 finish. The top Canadian finisher was Browne. Finishing 50th, she was at 24 seconds of the top 30.
The next day, Diggins led the North American women, finishing eighth in the women's 10km Classic Pursuit finale. Weng (NOR) won the Pursuit and her first FIS World Cup mini-tour, with teammate Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg in second and Parmakoski (FIN), who started the day in fifth, taking the final podium spot.
Sadie Bjornsen was 11th, while the top Canadian was Emily Nishikawa in 46th, with Browne finishing 52nd and Beatty in 59th.
Wrapping up the three-day mini-tour in the men's 15km CL Pursuit, it was another solid day for Canada's Harvey, who continued to impress by finishing ninth overall with the sixth-fastest time of the day.
The pace was driven by Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) as a group of 12 chasers caught lead skier Halfvarsson, with approximately five kilometres to go. Johnsrud Sundby made his move on the last lap on the longest climb of the course and scattered the lead pack to cruise home for the win by 2.3 seconds.
2017 FIS XC Ski World Cup
Overall Standings after Round Two in Lillehammer, Norway Women 1. Heidi Weng (NOR) 459; 2. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) 369; 3. Krista Parmakoski (FIN) 357; 4. Marit Bjoergen (NOR) 333; 5. Stina Nilsson (SWE) 286; CAN/ US 9. Jessie Diggins (USA) 168; 10. Sadie Bjornsen (USA) 130; 37. Sophie Caldwell (USA) 21; 47. Ida Sargent (USA) 11; 53. Liz Stephen (USA) 5; 56. Caitlin Patterson (USA) 3; Men 1. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) 350; 2. Calle Halfvarsson (SWE) 316; 3. Johannes Klaebo (NOR) 304; 4. Emil Iversen (NOR) 281; 5. Paal Golberg (NOR) 260; CAN/US 10. Alex Harvey (CAN) 174; 47. Len Valjas (CAN) 20; 52. Devon Kershaw (CAN) 16; 64. Erik Bjornsen (USA) 7; 73. Noah Hoffman (USA) 2.
(clockwise from top) Jessie Diggins (USA) claimed her second-ever individual World Cup victory in Lillehammer, Norway; Sadie Bjornsen (USA) topped the women's qualifications in the CL sprint in Lillehammer, Norway; Alex Harvey (CAN) had one of his strongest starts to the season with two top-10 results.
(facing from top left) Canada's Emily Nishikawa and Cendrine Browne in the mix; Marit Bjoergen (NOR) was in charge again at only her second competition after taking a year off to give birth to her son; Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) won the mini-tour at Round Two in Lillehammer, Norway.