Madshus racers posted five podium finishes and a good number of strong performances during the FIS season opener in Beitostølen (NOR).
Heidi Weng (NOR) was second in the women’s 7.5-kilometer classic race on Friday. Hans Christer Holund (NOR) started his first season on the Norwegian national team with two podiums in a row: Third place in the 15-km classic on Friday, and second place in the 15-km skate on Saturday. Finally, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) and Pål Golberg (NOR) were second and third, respectively, in the classic sprint competitions on Sunday.
“It was really fun to be on the podium today after skiing fast enough to be on the podium, not because someone faster than me was disqualified,” said Holund after the skate race on Saturday.
And although there was a 47-second gap up to Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who won 15-kilometer skate race, Holund is satisfied with his season opener.
“Martin (Johnsrud Sundby) is in a league of his own. I have never been even close to him in skate or classic. For me, it was great to feel that my body felt good and that I am able to ski fast again,” Holund said.
During an altitude camp with the national team recently in Val Senales, Italy, Holund was evacuated off the glacier during a workout. Holund felt weak even at the start of the workout, and it just got worse. Suddenly, he was gasping for air and struggling to stay conscious. He was airlifted to the hospital and underwent a battery of tests. Ultimately, doctors could not find anything wrong.
“I have to take their word for it, but I’m still curious given that it happened so suddenly and during an easy workout rather than while doing intervals,” Holund said to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. But Holund admits that it was a scary experience.
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Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) opened the ski season with an impressive statement of her dryland training effort: She skied the women’s 7.5-kilometer course entirely without kick wax, and cruised into an impressive fifth place, as one of only four women opting for no kick.
“I am glad I did it and tried it. It was a combination of peer pressure and my own curiosity. It kind of feels like people wanted to sacrifice me to see if it could be done, and I had a chance to show that it is possible (to double-pole the whole course). It would have been even more fun if I could have been a few seconds faster and made it to the podium,” Østberg said, admitting that it was a spur of the moment decision.
At the very last minute before her start, she grabbed the skate skis and headed out.
“I don’t regret going all double-pole, but there were a couple of places on the course where I really would have loved to have some kick. I am a fan of traditional diagonal striding so I don’t really know why I did this. But it was kind of fun too,” the 25-year-old said after the race.
For the skate race the next day, Østberg commented that she was a bit more tired than expected and sore different places than normal, but despite the toll on her And by the end og the weekend, she moved on to the podium placing second in the classic sprint on Sunday.
Will she ditch the kick wax again?
“Maybe. But I doubt I will do this again in Kuusamo (at the FIS World Cup opener the last weekend in November). If I do, I am stupid,” she said with a big grin.
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Heidi Weng opened her season with a strong second place in the 7.5-kilometer classic on Friday, and a fifth place in the skate race on the same course on Saturday.
Finally, Pål Golberg (NOR) was third in the classic sprint on Sunday, after leading the final heat most of the way through the course.
Furthermore, Oestberg, Weng and Golberg are all skiers who are known to race themselves into shape, so the season opener weekend was a strong statement of what’s to come.
No doubt, the skiers are looking forward to the 2016 FIS World Cup, which gets underway with a mini-tour in Kuusamo, Finland, November 27-29. Let the season begin!