Pettersen Aims to Increase Lead

 

Madshus Marathon Team racer Oeystein Pettersen (right) and his United Bakeries teammates are eager to increase the lead in the 2015 Ski Classics. Pettersen is currently wearing the yellow overall leader bib. Photo: Private

 

Madshus marathon racer Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) is stepping onto the Marcialonga start line with the yellow Ski Classics leader bib and a five-point margin to second place.

 

Pettersen, the former World Cup sprint racer who debuted on the long distance circuit last season, is eager to protect the yellow bib as well as stay in contention for the green sprint points bib. He is currently in second place in the overall sprint competition.

 

Shorter and even flatter: Marcialonga reduced to 57km
Due to a warm winter and lack of snow, the course is shortened from 70km to 57km, and the short version, Marcialonga Light, is cut down to 33km from its normal length at 46km. The start for both races is moved to Mazzin. The start time for elite men and women in Ski Classics is postponed one hour, and will start at 9am Central European Time. Ski Classics sprints remain the same and will be in Canazei after 5km and in Predazzo after 32km.

 

However, the organizers had seen the problem coming and prepared for the race with a backup plan. More than 100,000 cubic meters of artificial snow have been produced in the past weeks due to a lack of natural snow so far, and on Thursday, it was snowing in Val di Fiemme and Fassa.

 

But the snow conditions do no seem to deter skiers from the race. Marcialonga is also a part of the FIS Marathon Cup schedule, which means that all the top long-distance racers will be on the same racecourse, as opposed to last weekend where the field was split between the Ski Classics La Diagonela in Switzerland and the FIS Marathon Cup race Dolomitenlauf in Austria.

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Almost 8,000 skiers will partipate in the 42nd Marcialonga. Photo: Newspower.it

 

Small margins in the men’s race
Besides Ski Classics leader Pettersen, the elite men’s start list includes Madshus racer and last year’s second-place finisher John Kristian Dahl (NOR), as well as a long list of Ski Classics pro team racers eager to snag the leader bib, the sprint points and the victory.

 

Legendary Madshus veteran Thomas Alsgaard, who retired from World Cup skiing in 2003 after more than a decade on the circuit, three Olympics and five FIS World Championships, is also on the start list. Other veterans include Giorgio Di Centa of Italy and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic.

Men’s elite start list

 

Fierce battles in the women’s field
Masako Ishida of Japan will challenge experienced Katerina Smutna and Seraina Boner for the overall Ski Classics lead, while Russian Marathon team racers Tatiana Jambaeva and Julia Tikhonova are other tough opponents.

Also, Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren and Annika Löfström of Team SkiProAm, Adela Boudikova of the Czech Republic, local Italian favorite Antonella Confortola and current FIS Marathon Cup leader Holly Brook’s teammate Laila Kveli of Norway are some of the contenders expected to give Brooks a good run for her money on Sunday.

Women’s elite start list 

 

The course
The 2015 Marcialonga will start in Mazzin, 13km up on the original course, hence shortening the track to 57km. The original course over 70km starts on the plain of Moena, Val di Fassa, and finishes in Cavalese, Val di Diemme.

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The 2015 Marcialonga will start in Mazzin, 13km up the valley from Moena, where  the original course starts, which makes the race 57km rather than 70km. Graphic: Ski Classics

 

After the start the course climbs 20km through the villages of Pozza, and Canazei, where competitors then turn around to head downhill to Moena and on towards Predazzo before starting the last part which goes through the villages of Ziano, Panchia, Lago di Tesero, Masi di Cavalese, Castello–Molina. After 67.5km the most famous and hardest part begins; the Cascata climb. Where the athletes struggle up the serpentines to the finish in the center of Cavalese.

 

Science at work
This year’s Marcialonga is part of the new Marcialonga Science Project, which aims to evaluate and measure the impact of the double poling technique on muscles, muscle fibers and the heart of some athletes during and after the competition. The results of the study will be presented at the International Congress on Science in Nordic Skiing in Finland next June, and at the Mountain Sport Health Congress in Rovereto, Italy, next November.

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The Marcialonga Scienec Project aims to capture the effects of double-poling on muscles, tendons and the heart. Photo: Newspower.it

 

Proud history
Marcialonga is the most important Italian cross-country ski race. Founded in 1971 from the idea of four friends who, on the way back from the mythic Vasaloppet, decided to organize a similar event in Italy. However, it has been discussed that the idea to Maricalonga started already in 1969 inspired by the Italian skier Franco Nones outstanding performance in the Grenoble Winter Olympics the year before, where he took the gold medal in the men’s 30km.

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The Marcialonga Story vintage race is a success and has become a tradition after its introduction two year ago. Photo: newspower.it

 

The first problem was “where” an event at this size should take place, and almost immediately the two valleys of Fiemme and Fassa came to mind. The first race was held in 1971 and became famous for their promotional action, where they dropped 50.000 leaflets from an airplane over the valley to get the attention from the inhabitants. In the end the name Marcialonga, long march, was chosen.

 

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Steira Returns to World Cup

Madshus cross-country racer Kristin Stoermer Steira of Norway (center) is returning to the World Cup this weekend after several months of rehabilitation after the hip fractures she sustained in October. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

After suffering a double hip fracture in October, Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR) returns to the World Cup circuit, racing two of the three events in Rybinsk (RUS) this weekend.

 

Steira broke her hip in two places after falling during a workout on the glacier during the Norwegian National team altitude camp this fall. She continued training for several weeks after the injury before she finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with two fractures to her pelvic bone. During the long recovery, Steira has worked systematically at returning to racing in time for the World Championships in Falun, Sweden, February 18 to March 1.

 

Last weekend, Steira competed in the Scandinavian Cup races in Falun, her first races for the season, and was pleasantly surprised.

 

“It went far better than I feared, and I felt pretty OK. Now I’m just missing the top gears,” Steira says to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

 

Steira has been diligent with her rehabilitation, and tried to be patient, but admits that the alternative training has been tough, mentally as well as physically.

 

“As an elite athlete, it’s always hard to sit still so much. I’ve focused on finding alternative training methods and staying positive throughout the rehab period, and being patient enough to progress step by step. The hardest part is to understand and recognize how much and how hard you can train. But I think there almost always some way to stay active, even when you are injured. Of course, its always helpful to have a professional support staff, and I’ve had a lot of help from Olympiatoppen (the Norwegian Olympic Development Center),” Steira says.

 

This weekend, Steira is planning to race the 10km skate event on Friday and the 15km skiathlon on Sunday, while skipping the skate sprint on Saturday. Additionally, she will race the Norwegian national championships in Roeros the following week.

 

With strong performances at these events, along with the promising results from the COC in Falun last weekend, Steira might just find herself a part of the Norwegian squad to the 2015 FIS World Champioships.

 

“She has two opportunities prior to the World Championships: Rybinsk this weekend and the Norwegian national championships. And that we know what she is capable of in the past is never a disadvantage,” says Aage Skinstad, Norwegian National team director.

 

Steira has raced in six FIS World Championships and three Olympics, collecting two Olympic medals and eight World Championship medals, as well as 22 World Cup podium finishes.

 

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Working Hard on Getting Worse

 

Madshus cross-country skier Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) at the World Cup sprint in Otepää, Estonia, on Jan. 18. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, a 2014 Olympic gold and silver medalist in Sochi, has worked hard at becoming worse. More specifically, the 24-year-old Norwegian national-team member says she’s less obsessed with perfection and more focused on the overall picture.

 

“I’ve gotten a lot of training advice through the years, and a lot of it centers around listening to your body and things in that direction,” said Oestberg, widely considered one of the up-and-coming stars of the Norwegian women’s team after winning silver in the freestyle sprint at the 2014 Olympics and gold with Marit Bjoergen in the team sprint.

 

This weekend, Oestberg dominated the classic World Cup sprint in Otepää, Estonia, on Saturday, winning both the qualifier and every heat through the final, earning her second World Cup victory. On Sunday, Oestberg followed suit and helped Norway to second place in the team sprint. And she gladly shares her experience and training advice.

 

“Maybe the best advice I’ve gotten, and something that definitely has stuck with me, is that you have to go for quality over quantity,” she said. “I used to just want to do more and more and more, and thought that would be better, but what you do really matters more.

 

“I really have to focus on separating hard workouts from easy workouts, so that I don’t end up with everything being somewhat hard,” she added. “Then you don’t have the juice to go really hard when you want to go really hard.”

 

“Go hard when you plan to go hard, go easy when it’s an easy workout, and the more volume you do, the more important it is to distinguish. I can understand that people who just work out whenever they can get to it want to go somewhat hard to feel that they get something out of their workout. But for those who really train a lot, it’s not the way to go,” she said.

 

Oestberg also tries to focus on what she’s doing when she works out.

 

“Don’t waste your workout time. Think about your technique in every push, every kick and every pole plant, and make them count.”

 

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg dominated the classic WC sprint in Estonia last weekend, and earned her first ever classic WC victory, her second career victory on the World Cup. Photo: Nordic Focus

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Crushing the Competition

 

Emil Hegle Svendsen delivered both at the range and on the course, anchoring Norway to victory in the biathlon WC relay in Rupholding (GER). Photo: Screenshot

 

On Thursday, Emil Super-Svendsen served up a smoking anchor performance in the men’s 4×7.5km biathlon relay. Then Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg dominated the World Cup sprints from start to finish on Saturday and helped Norway to 2nd place in the team sprint on Sunday.

 

In Saturday’s individual sprint in Tallin, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) won everything from start to finish. She had the fastest qualifying time and won every heat she was in, including the final.

 

“I had incredible skis. Prior to the final, I was unsure whether to grab the klister skis or my Zeros, but I opted for klister and gained a few meters on the last hill into the stadium,” Oestberg said to TV2 after the race.

 

Oestberg’s World Cup victory on Saturday was the second in her career. The first was in Davos, Switzerland, in December.

 

“This was every bit as fun as the first time. To earn my second World Cup victory for the season feels just unreal,” Oestberg said.

 

The individual sprint at the World Championships in Falun, Sweden, in February are also in classic technique, so Saturday’s competition was an important test run for the World Cup racers.

 

In the team sprint on Sunday, Oestberg powered Norway to an impressive second place in a three-way sprint with Sweden and Poland.

 

“We felt good, and tried to get a big gap. Unfortunately the plan did not work as we had hoped, but the second place is good,” she said with a smile.  The next FIS World Cup races take place in Rybinsk, Russia, featuring 10/15km skate, sprints and skiathlon races on January 23-25.

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Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) earned her second individual World Cup victory this weekend. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

And on the Ski Classics long-distance cup, Karma goes a long way – read more about the drama in Switzerland where Madshus marathon team racer Oeystein Pettersen won the sprint finish but donated half of the prize money to 84th place racer.

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Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) won La Diagonela in Switzerland, his first Ski Classics victory, in a sprint finish after 43km. Photo: Ski Classics

 

On the Biathlon World Cup circuit there was plenty of action in Rupholding, Germany. On Thursday, Norway’s team, consisting of three Madshus racers including Emil Hegle Svendsen on the anchor leg, delivered an impressive victory in the 4 x 7.5km relay.

 

For the entire last kilometer of the race, Svendsen was right on the tails of Simon Schempp (GER). Then, on the final 200 meters, Svendsen accelerated, passed Schempp and could cross the finish line with his hands above his head. A calculated and perfectly executed plan.

 

“I went balls to the wall from the last shooting, and latched on to his tails. I needed to regain some energy, and I know I am efficient in the turns, so I tried to float on my technique. That was the plan, and it seemed to work quite well,” Svendsen said to Norwegian TV station NRK after the race.

 

“It feels great to be on top again. This was a tasty victory,” he added.

 

Madshus teammate Ole Einar Bjoerndalen raced the first leg for Norway, and Erland Bjoentegaard skied the second leg.

 

Additionally, Russia’s relay team with Timofey Lapshin on the second leg secured a second Madshus podium finish in the race. The biathlon World Cup moves to Anterselva, Italy, January 22-25.

 

Emil Hegle Svendsen was untouchable on the anchor leg in the 4×7.5km biathlon relay in Rupholding (GER) on Thursday. Photo: Nordic Focus

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Drama in La Diagonela

 

Bill Impola (left) caused some drama in La Diagonela in Switzerland, and Madshus marathon team racer Oeystein Pettersen (right) won the race but is donating his prize money to Impola. Photo: Ski Classics

 

Madshus Marathon Team racer Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) won his first Ski Classics event on Saturday, but donates his prize money to the 84th finisher in the race.

 

Pettersen bagged his first and unexpected Ski Classics victory after winning the sprint finish with Christoffer Callesen (NOR), while fellow Madshus racer John Kristian Dahl (NOR) snagging the last spot on the podium in the 43km La Diagonela in Switzerland.

 

However, a young Swede caused the biggest drama in the race. Bill Impola put the race into action when he broke away from the field after 14 kilometers. He put a gap on the chasing group, and had a 1 minute and 30 second lead at the most.

 

Impola looked like he had it all made, but with only 1.5 k to go, Impola went down the wrong track instead of the track towards the finish. When he realized the mistake, it was too late and the 8-skier chase group came first to he finish in Zuoz. At the end of the day, Pettersen had the strongest sprint, and beat Callesen by 3 seconds, while Dahl snagged the last spot on the podium from Morten Eide Pedersen (NOR) by less than half a second.

 

“I thought I was fighting for second place until there was 600 meters to the finish. Then I heard that Bill (Impola) had taken a wrong turn. That was of course really sad for Bill. He was really strong. But when he makes a mistake, I feel like a million,” Pettersen said to Norwegian TV2 after the race.

 

That said, Pettersen, who races for the long-distance team United Bakeries, admits that the victory comes with a ting of a sour taste.

 

“Of course. I feel bad for Bill. He was so strong today,” Pettersen said, letting Impola take care of spilling the champagne on the podium.

 

Later in the day, Pettersen announced that he’ll give half of the prize money from the race to Impola.

 

“In Team United Bakeries, we feel bad for Bill Impola, the moral winner of the day, and we’ll give him the prize money from La Diagonela. We hope to get a Christmas card next year,” Pettersen said Saturday night.

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All smiles on the podium. Photo: Ski Classics

 

With the victory in La Diagonela, Pettersen is now leading the overall Ski Classics, and will wear the yellow bib in Marcialonga next weekend.

 

Complete results La Diagonela, men and women

 

Drama on several levels
Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson organized a jury meeting after Impola lost the victory due to skiing the wrong track. The jury determined they would not overturn the winning order.

 

“Bill Impola showed impressive strength today, however the race is decided on the finish line, and it is the skiers’ responsibility to know the track. From Ski Classics, we will of course also discuss with the organizers how to make sure the track is clearly marked, so mistakes will not happen in the future. In addition, we have two disqualifications for skating in the elite men, so this was a dramatic Saturday,” Nilsson said in a press release, noting that there was plenty of drama off the race course as well.

 

Earlier this week, the organizers were struggling to cover the racecourse with enough snow to hold the race. Then on Friday, heavy snowfall created additional problems for the organizers.

 

“It began in the morning when due to last night heavy snowfall, the risk for avalanches forced the organizers to change the already remade course, and it is of course sad that a mistake should decide the race. La Diagonela is a fantastic race and the organizers have done a great work last week securing the event,” Nilsson said.

 

On raceday morning, the racers were treated to a 43-kilometer course that also included two sprint preems for both men and women. La Diagonela was the fourth event in the 2015 Ski Classics.

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Madshus racer Oyestein Pettersen (NOR) wins the sprint finish in La Diagonela, bagging his first Ski Classics victory. Photo: Ski Classics

 

SKI CLASSICS STANDINGS AFTER LA DIAGONELA

Ski Classics Champion
Men

1. Oeystein Pettersen, United Bakeries, 445 points
2. Morten Eide Pedersen, Team COOP, 435 points
3. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 430 points
4. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 380 points
5. Tord Asle Gjerdalen, Team Santander, 235 points

Women
1. Kateřina Smutná, Team Madshus Silvana, 560 points
2. Seraina Boner, Team COOP, 500 points
3. Masako Ishida, Team United Bakeries, 370 points
4. Britta Johansson Norgren, Team SkiProAm, 340 points
5. Laila Kveli, Team Santander, 220 points

Ski Classics Sprint
1. Petter Eliassen, Team LeasePlanGO, 110 points
2. Oeystein Pettersen, Team United Bakeries, 70 points
3. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 50 points
4. Anders Aukland, Team Santander, 40 points
4. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 40 points

Ski Classics Youth
Men

1. Anders Hoest, LYN, 183 points
2. Bill Impola, Team COOP, 180 points
3. Stian Hoelgaard, Team LeasePlanGo, 125 points
4. Andreas Nygaard, Team Santander, 99 points
5. Vetle Thyli, United Bakeries, 80 points

Women
1. Tuva Toftdahl Staver, Team LeasePlanGo, 90 points
2. Hilde Losgaard Landheim, Team COOP, 62 points
2. Tone Sundvor, Team Synnfjell, 62 points

Ski Classics Team Competition
1. Team United Bakeries, 1490 points
2. Team Coop, 1354 points
3. Team Santander, 1246 points
4. Team LeasePlanGo, 920 points
5. Silvini Madshus team, 839 points

Complete standings

 

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Stepping up for Broken Teammate

 

Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) is eager to defend his green bib in the La Diagonela on Saturday. Photo: Ski Classics

 

Madshus racer Johan Kjoelstad (NOR), who was second in La Diagonela last year, will not be racing this weekend after slipping on the ice and breaking his ankle on his way to the Ski Classics race Jizerska 50 last weekend. But his teammates have promised to race their brains out in his honor until his ankle is healed and Kjoelstad can return to competition.

 

And they didn’t waste any opportunities. At the Jizerska 50 last weekend, Madshus teammate Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) secured more sprint points and snagged the green points bib, which he is eager to defend in La Diagonela on Saturday, the fourth event in the 2015 Ski Classics.

 

Last year, Kjoelstad and fellow Madshus marathon team racer John Kristian Dahl (NOR) finished second and third in the event.

 

La Diagonela was introduced to the race series last winter as a replacement for the Jizerská 50 which had to be cancelled, but was such a success that the Ski Classics included the race as a new, permanent race on the Ski Classics calendar for this season.

 

This year, the 65-kilometer La Diagonela race was supposed to be held on a picturesque new course through the villages of St Moritz, Zuoz and Pontresina in the Engadin Valley. However, due to lack of snow, the organizers only have a 15km loop to offer, and that course will be skied three times for a total of 45km.

 

“Once again we have weather problems, this time lack of snow, we are thankful to the local organizer that have put in enormous efforts in order to secure the event. Now the weather forecast says 65cm of snow in the area Friday to Saturday. It will be an interesting race,” says David Nilsson, who is the CEO of the Ski Classics.

 

After the stop in Switzerland the Ski Classics moves to Italy for the Marcialonga in the valleys of Val di Fassa and Val di Fiemme on January 25. The 70-kilometer race is famous for its notorious final uphill climb, the Cascata, to the finish in Cavalese town square.

 

While the Ski Classics is tackling its fourth race of the season, the FIS Marathon Cup takes on the Dolomitenlauf in Austria with both a 42km and 20km option on Sunday, January 18. In addition to the FIS Marathon Cup skate race on Sunday, the Dolomitenlauf also offers a classic version over the same distances on Saturday. However, due to lack of snow, the original 60-kilometer racecourse was reduced to 42km. The event is also a part of the Worldloppet schedule.

 

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Tears of Joy

 

 

Heidi Weng fighting the last few meters to the finish line up Alpe Cermis, the last stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

Cross-country skier Heidi Weng (NOR) finished on the podium every stage of the Tour de Ski, and in the end she cried. But she was far from the only Madshus racer on the podium this week.

 

On Sunday, Weng fought her way into third place in the overall Tour de Ski – for the second consecutive year. At the top of the last hill, she cried. Tears of joy were running down her cheeks. More than anything, the success of her competitors moved her. Weng sees them every day. She trains with them all year round. She knows what it takes. It’s a lot of hard work.

 

“I am so happy for Marit (Bjørgen). It’s so silly to cry when I’m actually so happy, but I just can’t help it. She deserved it so much; she’s worked so hard for this. But now I’m so scared that she will quit after this season. She can’t quit. She’s the best,” Weng said of her 34-year-old teammate, who won the overall Tour de Ski 2015.

 

23-year-old Weng knows it came at a cost. She has paid the price herself.

 

“The final climb is so hard! I tried to focus on my race. I have had my best competitions ever in this time of the year. It is absolutely unbelievable that I was on the podium at every stage,” Weng said at the top of the monster hill Alpe Cermis.

 

See also Moved in on the Tour de Ski Podium  and Dream Start to Tour de Ski

 

But the Tour de Ski has been full of strong Madshus performances, from Ingvild Flugstad Østberg’s run on the podium early in the competition week, to the late surprises.

 

On Saturday, Tim Tscharnke (GER) pulled off an impressive sprint finish in the 15km classic mass start in Val di Fiemme. Despite a tough start to the Tour de Ski, Tscharnke managed to find both strength and motivation toward the end of the seven-race stage event, but the victory on the second to last stage was more than he had dared to wish for.

 

“It’s a little bit surprise for me to win today. Thomas (Bing) and me wanted to be in the front of the pack. We helped each other. We did not focus on sprints, we just wanted to go for a good position in the finish,” Tscharnke said to FIS reporters after the race on Saturday.

 

“I had a very bad start to the Tour. We have trained a lot before the Tour de Ski, and I was pretty tired. But I got better and better for every stage, and I felt much stronger on Saturday than at the beginning of the Tour,” Tscharnke said.

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Tim Tscharnke (GER) surprised himself and the rest of the field when he pulled into first place in the 15km Classic mass start in Val di Fiemme on Saturday. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

In the Nordic Combined World Cup, Magnus Moan (NOR) made the 10k cross-country course look easy, bagging his 23rd World Cup victory of his career and his 50th World Cup podium on Sunday. Fellow Madshus racer Magnus Krog (NOR) pulled into second place in that race.

 

“It was an amazing day! And it was really fun to be on the podium with my teammate Magnus Krog,” Moan said to Norway’s TV2 after the race.

 

“I’m really satisfied with this race, and the cross-country event was probably one of the top five in my career. I felt really strong today,” Moan said.

 

Moan, who started in 14th place, quickly advanced to the front. Going into the last lap, he was on the heels of the leader, Austria’s Bernhard Gruber, but Gruber had no answer to Moan’s surge. On Saturday, Moan finished third, and is showing great progress after battling injuries in the fall.

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Magnus Moan (NOR) won the Nordic Combined World Cup competition in Chaux Neuve (FRA) on Sunday, with fellow Madshus racer Magnus Krog (NOR) in second place. Photo: FIS Nordic Combined

On the biathlon World Cup, Anaïs Bescond anchored France to second place in the women’s 4x6km relay in Oberhof (GER) on Wednesday. Timofey Lapshin and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen helped Russia and Norway to first and second place respectively in the 4×7.5km relay on Thursday. The two also delivered podium finishes in the sprint on Saturday, with Bjoerndalen in second place and Lapshin in third.

 

Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR), who has been sidelined by hip fractures since October, had somewhat of a comeback at the Scandinavian Cup in Falun this weekend. Steira was fourth in the 10k skate on Friday, which was her first competition of the season. Then she was sixth in the 2×7.5km duathlon in Falun on Sunday. Two top-10 results in her first races of the season are good news thinking ahead to the FIS World Championships in Falun later this winter.  Madshus racer Paal Golberg (NOR) was third in the classic sprint in Falun on Saturday.

 

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Moved in on the Tour de Ski Podium

 

 

Heidi Weng didn’t have to look back on her final stretch to the finish line in the 15k pursuit on Thursday. She is now solidly in second place overall in the 2015 Tour de Ski with just 2 stages to go. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

Madshus cross-country skier Heidi Weng (NOR) has been on the podium in every stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski, landing her in a solid second place overall with only two stages to go.

 

Stage by stage, Weng has been putting more time between her and the competitors, and with only two stages to go, she has almost a full minute to spare down to third place for the overall Tour de Ski.

 

And Weng just can’t stop smiling. Weng feels like she’s taken some giant steps this season, particularly in skate and sprints.

 

“I just don’t understand what’s going on. I beat Ingvild (Østberg), who’s a sprint specialist. It’s very rare for me to beat Ingvild in a sprint finish,” Weng says eagerly, leaving no doubt that she’s excited for the rest of the Tour.

 

“I’m just enjoying myself out there, and it’s just a dream come true. I don’t understand what’s happening, it’s all just so fun. I’m a bit slow off the start, but I build a lot of steam toward the end. I was really ready to do another lap,” Weng said with a grin after stage 4, the 5k classic in Toblach on Wednesday.

 

In the 15k pursuit on Thursday, she picked up where she left on Wednesday. Weng pulled into another impressive second place, her fifth consecutive podium finish in the Tour, but admitted the rest day on Friday is a welcome break before the final two stages.

 

“I felt stiff in the first lap and I was little bit slower. Then I got better with my technique, and I gained some seconds on Therese. I need to rest a lot before the final stages in Val di Fiemme,” Weng said after the 15km skate pursuit in Toblach, Italy, on Thursday.

 

2015 Tour de Ski Overall Standing Ladies
1. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 1:28:25.6
2. Heidi Weng, Norway, +2:03.8
3. Therese Johaug, Norway, +3:01.4

Complete results 

2015 Tour de Ski Sprint Standing Ladies
1. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 2:00
2. Heidi Weng, Norway, 1:31
3. Therese Johaug, Norway, 0:37

Additionally, Weng is also in third place in the overall 2015 FIS World Cup and in the 2015 FIS Distance World Cup.

 

Heidi Weng is all smiles as she cruises through the stages in the Tour de Ski. Photo: FIS

 

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Gearing up for the Long Run

 

The Czech marathon event Jizerska Padesatka 50km classic is set for Sunday, January 11, and is offering stellar conditions this season. Photo: Jizerska

 

 

Madshus marathon team racer Johan Kjoelstad (NOR) won the overall Ski Classics title in 2014 and is second in the overall competition after the 15km Pro Team Prologue and the 35km La Sgambeda in Livigno, Italy, in December. Kjoelstad, who races with Team United Bakeries in the Ski Classics, is ahead of fellow Madshus racer Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) in third overall.

 

Kjoelstad is also ranked third in the Ski Classics athlete ranking, three points ahead of Madshus racer Stanislav Rezac (CZE), while Madshus racer Joergen Brink (SWE) is fifth overall going into the Jizerská 50km on Sunday. In the Ski Classics, Rezac and Brink represent Team Silvani Madshus and Team Lager 157, respectively.

 

In the Ski Classics overall sprint competition, Pettersen is in second place, 10 points behind first place.

 

New female racers join Ski Classics
Prior to the Jizerská the competition for the women’s overall Ski Classics champion gets tougher. Three different Pro Teams have entered new female skiers to the long-distance series, including Madshus racer Hilde Landheim (NOR), who will race for Team Coop.

 

In the Ski Classics, each professional team may enter a total of 10 skiers per season, male and female skiers included. Once entered, the teams may not unregister athletes, but they can enter additional athletes until they reach the maximum of 10 skiers.

 

Stellar conditions
Last year, the Jizerská races were cancelled due to lack of snow, so event organizers are double excited to put on the races this year and are proud to present stellar conditions on the race course. Promising weather forecasts, decent snowfall in the past week and cold weather have made it possible to produce enough artificial snow to cover the whole course, and the organizers are 100 percent sure that they will be able to run the race as planned given the weather forecast.

 

“We are happy to see that the weather has turned fine and the winter conditions have finally arrived. The whole Jizerská 50 track is now covered with snow while the race preparations continue to run along at full speed. There are some thirty centimeters of artificial and natural snow at potential critical points: at the Bedrichov stadium as well as the early kilometres of the route,” says Martin Koucky, a member of the Jizerská 50 Organizing Committee.

 

“According to the weather forecast, it should go on snowing by the start of the Jizerská 50 and the temperature should hover around freezing so that nothing should threaten the race.”

 

In addition to the 50km Ski Classic event on Sunday, the Jizerská race weekend opens with a 30km skate race and a children’s race on Friday January 9, and also offers a 25km classic race as well as a corporate relay race on Saturday, January 10. New this year is a 1.5-kilometer double-pole sprint race on Friday.

 

More about the Jizerská 50

 

Six more marathons on tap
After the Jizerská 50 on Sunday, the 2015 Ski Classics moves to Switzerland for the brand new event La Diagonela, on January 17th. La Diagonela was introduced to the race series last winter as a replacement for the Jizerská 50 which had to be cancelled, but was such a success that the Ski Classics included the race as a new, permanent race on the Ski Classics calendar for this season. This year, the 65-kilometer La Diagonela race will be held on a picturesque new course through the villages of St Moritz, Zuoz and Pontresina in the Engadin Valley.

 

After the stop in Switzerland the Ski Classics moves to Italy for the Marcialonga in the valleys of Val di Fassa and Val di Fiemme on January 25. The 70-kilometer race is famous for its notorious final uphill climb, the Cascata, to the finish in Cavalese town square.

 

From Italy the Pro Teams travel to Germany for the 50-kilometer König Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau, Bavaria, on February 1.

 

After the König Ludwig Lauf, the athletes get a well-deserved break from competing until the legendary 90-kilometer Vasaloppet from Saelen to Mora in Sweden on March 8.

 

After Vasaloppet, the Ski Classics moves on to Norway and Birkebeinerrennet on March 21. The 54-kilometer classic race starts in Rena, crosses to mountains to the finish line in Lillehammer, the host of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games.

The Ski Classics once again ends with the season finale Årefjällsloppet in Sweden on March 28. The 75-kilometer race offers stunning views from the in Vallbo to the finish line in Åre.

 

More information about the Ski Classics 

 

 

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Dream Start to Tour de Ski

 

Heidi Weng (NOR) is now second overall in the FIS 2015 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

 

Saturday, Heidi Weng (NOR) opened Tour de Ski 2015 with her best skate performance to date, placing second in the 3.3-kilometer prologue – only 10 seconds behind first place. Then Weng followed up with a second place in the 10km classic pursuit, where she beat Therese Johaug (NOR) in Johaug’s strongest event.

 

“I think I had a good race,” Weng said after her race in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Sunday.

 

“I tried to stay focused. Therese (Johaug) came on the first hill, and then I was trying to pick up some seconds on the climbs,” Weng said, explaining that she worked with her competitor trying to move up to first place.

 

“We helped each other today. Therese was very strong on flat sections. I tried to break away on the last hill before the finish,” said Weng, who beat JOhaug by 0.6 seconds in the 10km classic race.

 

After the opening prologue in Oberstdorf on Saturday, Weng couldn’t contain her excitement, for her second place, which is her best World Cup finish to date.

 

“I’ve never skied this well in a skate race. I don’t understand what’s happening with my skating. I’ve done three World Cup skate races and I’ve been on the podium three times. It’s a dream start for my Tour de Ski,” Weng said after the prologue.

 

“I felt like I skied slow. The plan was to start slower and speed up on the second lap, but I got so stiff on the first lap, so when I got to the big hill on the second lap, I could just think about digging, digging, digging to get to the top and then not crash on the downhill,” Weng said of her race.

 

After two of the seven stages in the 2015 Tour de Ski, Weng has every reason to shine as the skiers moves on to Val Muistar, Switzerland, for stage three: skate sprints on January 7. The next day features 15k/35k skate pursuit from Cortina to Toblach, Italy.

 

On January 9, the skiers get a second rest day before the final two stages in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

 

On Saturday, January 10, there are 10k classic mass starts for both men and women in Val di Fiemme, and on January 11, the Tour concludes with the brutal 9k skate pursuit for both men and women up Alpe Cermis.

 

OVERALL TOUR STANDINGS – After Stage 2
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 36:50.6
2. Heidi Weng, NOR, +1:01.2
3. Therese Johaug, NOR, +1:06.8
4. Stina Nilsson, SWE, +1:48.5
5. Nicole Fessel, GER, +1:52.7

Complete ladies’ Overall Tour standings 

 

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