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On Track from the Start

Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR). Photo: Nordic Focus
Heidi Weng (NOR) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) during the 10km pursuit on Sunday. Photo: NordicFocus

Heidi Weng (NOR) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) during the 10km pursuit on Sunday. Photo: NordicFocus

Madshus athletes opened the World Cup season right where they left off last spring: On the podium.

Madshus racers went straight for the World Cup podium on the first opportunity across the board: Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) was third in the overall World Cup mini tour in Ruka (FIN), after delivering strong performances in the distance events as well as the sprint.

Heidi Weng (NOR) was third in the sprint, third overall in the mini tour after the first two stages and started the Sunday pursuit race only 4.9 seconds behind the leader.

However, the pursuit took a dramatic turn toward the end: Weng fought her way to ninth place overall despite losing track of her laps, which caused her to assume she was done one lap short of the finish. She literally collapsed across the line, only to discover she had one more lap to go. Weng mustered all available courage and energy, got up, chased the pack and hauled into an impressive top 10 finish.

“I’m the biggest idiot in the world sometimes. At the time, I just wanted to dig myself into the snow and take my skis off. I thought I was at least five minutes behind. But I decided to continue and make the best of it. And it wasn’t a disaster after all,” Weng said to reporters after the race.

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Heidi Wend (NOR) during the final pursuit in the World Cup mini tour in Ruka (FIN). Photo: NordicFocus

Heidi Wend (NOR) during the final pursuit in the World Cup mini tour in Ruka (FIN). Photo:
NordicFocus

Noteworthy: Pål Golberg (NOR) posted the fastest qualifier time in the classic sprint in Ruka (FIN) on Friday, the very first World Cup competition of the 2016 season. However, Golberg fell in the quarterfinal and didn’t advance to subsequent heats.

Madshus racers also posted two of the three fastest qualifier times in the women’s sprint: Østberg posted the second fastest and Weng the third fastest time. In the final, they were fourth and sixth respectively. The FIS Word Cup continues in Lillehammer (NOR) this coming weekend.

Complete results FIS World Cup

In the first 2016 IBU World Cup, Madshus biathlete Benedikt Doll helped Germany to second place in the mixed relay in Östersund (SWE) on Sunday. The IBU World Cup in Östersund continues with individual competitions Wednesday through Sunday.

Also, Madshus biathletes Bente Landheim (NOR), Erlend Bjøntegaard (NOR) and Erling Aalvik (NOR) claimed their first podiums of the season at the IBU Cup in Idre (SWE), with first, second and third place respectively in the Sunday sprint races.

Complete results IBU World Cup and IBU Cup

Benedikt Doll (GER) helped Germany to 2nd place in the mixed relay at the IBU World Cup in Östersund (SWE): Photo: NordicFocus.

Benedikt Doll (GER) helped Germany to 2nd place in the mixed relay at the IBU World Cup in Östersund (SWE). Photo: NordicFocus

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.

 

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

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.

 

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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