Ski Tour Canada marked the season finale for the 2016 FIS World Cup, and a particularly strong finale for Heidi Weng’s amazing season.
The brand new Ski Tour Canada started with skate sprints in Montreal on March 1, then a 10km classic mass start on March 2 in the same place.
Stage 2 was a 10km classic mass start, and a strong effort in the brutal event in Montreal put Heidi Weng in 2nd place overall in the Tour, after a 4th place in the opening skate sprint.
“My plan was to go fast from the start. I hoped that Astrid and I could win some seconds on Therese. But Astrid got tired so I skied alone. It was a good race but I lost a lot of seconds Therese. I have to improve in distance competitions.”
Weng followed up with a third place in the skate sprint in Quebec City on March 5, and Weng snagged the leader, which she held onto for the rest of the tour.
“Stina (Nilsson) was very good today and she deserved to win. The sprint was longer, but I liked it. It is great to be in the lead of the Ski Tour Canada, but there are many races to go.”
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The final race in Quebec was a pursuit on Sunday, March 6. Weng began the day just 11 seconds ahead of her teammate Therese Johaug in the overall Tour standings. Johaug quickly closed the time gap and moved into the lead, but Weng was able to match her pace and outsprinted Johaug to the finish by just 0.1 seconds. With 15, 10 and 5 seconds bonuses given to the top 3 at the finish, Weng kept the leader bib with a 5.1 second margin.
“It was a very good race. When Therese caught me she had a very high speed and I tried to stay with her. It was amazing to follow her. On the last hill I knew I was strong in the last meters. But it was very close. It is fun to win,” Weng said after the pursuit.
Then the Ski Tour Canada moved to Canmore, Alberta, for the last FIS World Cup sprint race of the season. Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) pulled off a strong 3rd place, which left her in second place in the overall 2016 Sprint World Cup.
“It was a really tough sprint. The course was long, and I had to fight until the end. I had to fight all the way I did not have any power left in the finish,” Østberg said.
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The next stage featured a 15km skiathlon for the women, in which Weng outsprinted Johaug again.
“I tried to keep the pace with Therese and to ski away from the chasing group. We worked together and it was a great fight between me and Therese,” Weng said.
Friday’s 10km pursuit was a Madshus podium party where Østberg dominated the field, winning by 23 seconds to Weng in second place and Krista Pärmäkoski (FIN) in third place.
“I never thought I would win 10 km skate. I thought that was the weakest event for me. I did not feel I was fast. It is a great day for me,” Østberg said, admitting that she never expected to beat both Johaug and Weng in a distance event.
Weng was happy to beat Johaug as well, and earned herself even more bonus seconds for the final pursuit on Saturday.
“I started slowly and wanted to speed up. I got tired in the second lap. I really happy I picked up seconds on Therese and built up the lead in the Ski Tour,” she said.
And finally, Pärmäkoski rounded out the Madshus podium sweep in the second to last stage of the tour.
“I was little bit tired, I knew I had to start slow. I wanted to finish fast. I am excited to be third today,” she said.
The final stage of Ski Tour Canada brought Weng another second place overall in the tour. Just like Tour de Ski. She has proven that she can perform day after day, through travel and time zones, with very little recovery between stages and races. She outsprints the best at the end of a distance race, and she can sprint with the best in a true sprint race. This certainly bodes well for next year, a season when the World Championships will take place in Lahti (FIN), one of Weng’s favorite venues and the place where she earned her first ever World Cup podium.