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What a way to start the season

Hans Christer Holund was twice on the podium in equally many attempts in the season opener at Beitostølen this weekend. Photo: Geir Olsen

Madshus racers posted seven podiums at the Norwegian cross-country and biathlon season opener events this weekend.

Marte Olsbu (NOR) won the biathlon mass start at Sjusjøen (NOR) on Sunday, with Anaïs Bescond (FRA) in second place.

“It was really fun. I did exactly what I set out to do and it worked,” Olsbu said after her race.

Olsbu became the first Norwegian woman to ever win the season opener in Sjusjøen.

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Marte Olsbu (NOR) won the season opener at Sjusjøen on Sunday. File photo: Nordic Focus

Marte Olsbu (NOR) won the season opener at Sjusjøen on Sunday. File photo: Nordic Focus

Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg were second and third, respectively, at the 10km classic race that opened the Beitostølen season opener in Norway on Friday morning.

“It felt really good but very painful at the same time, almost unusually painful. But it was really fun to race again and go really hard,” Østberg said after her first race of the season.

Weng admits that she was nervous before the start, but relieved to finish second.

“I didn’t feel like I skied super fast up the hills, and I never thought I would be on the podium today, so I’m super excited about the race. It was really fun, and I’m really happy to be back in the racing again,” she said.

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Heidi Weng was second in the 10km classic race at Beitostølen on Friday. Foto: Geir Olsen

Heidi Weng was second in the 10km classic race at Beitostølen on Friday. Foto: Geir Olsen

In the afternoon Hans Christer Holund finished third in the men’s 15km classic. The young Madshus racer Johan Hoel finished fifth after leading much of the race and impressed both fellow racers and the experts.

“This is by far the best race I’ve done at Beitostølen ever. I feel like I have a lot to prove after a bad season last year, and hope to be a part of the mix when the national team is naming the 2018 Winter Olympics team,” Hoel said to reporters after his race.

Holund was content with his third place in the first event of the season.

“My main focus for this season is to race well at the World Cup and secure a spot on the Olympic team. In order to do that, I need to race well from the start, so these races are important,” explained Holund, who followed up with second place in the 15km skate race on Sunday.

Weng also concluded her weekend with another podium on Sunday. She was third in the 10km skate race.

Hans Christer Holund was twice on the podium in equally many attempts in the season opener at Beitostølen this weekend. Photo: Geir Olsen

Hans Christer Holund was twice on the podium in equally many attempts in the season opener at Beitostølen this weekend. Photo: Geir Olsen

 

Straight to the Podium

Håvard Solås Taugbøl (NOR) won the sprint at the Swedish cross-country season opener in Bruksvallarna Sunday, while Caitlin Gregg (USA) was third in the 10K skate in Gällivare.

Madshus racers waste no time when they get on snow.

“It was really good, and nice to get a victory this early in the season. I’m really not used to beating people like Jönsson and (Teodor) Peterson,” Håvard Solås Taugbøl said to VGTV after the sprint.

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Håvard Solås Tagbøl won the sprint in Bruksvallarna Sunday. Here from the World Cup in Rybinsk (RUS) in January. Photo: NordicFocus

Håvard Solås Tagbøl won the sprint in Bruksvallarna Sunday. Here from the World Cup in Rybinsk (RUS) in January. Photo: NordicFocus

Also in Gällivare (SWE), Madshus racer Noah Hoffman (USA) pulled into sixth place in the men’s 15K skate on Sunday. Caitlin Gregg, who earned the bronze medal in the women’s 10K at the 2015 FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE), was seventh in the classic sprint in Gällivare on Saturday.

Complete results from the FIS opener in Gällivare 

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Noah Hoffman (USA) was 6th in the season opener this weekend. Here from the 15k skate at FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE). Photo: NordicFocus

Noah Hoffman (USA) was 6th in the 15km skate race at the FIS season opener in Gällivare (SWE) this weekend. Here from the 15k skate at FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE). Photo: NordicFocus

The season opener in Bruksvallarna (SWE) also featured classic races on Friday, where Swedish Madshus racers Sara Lindborg and Marika Sundin were fifth and seventh respectively, in the women’s 5-kilometer, and Simon Andersson was sixth in the men’s 10-kilometer event. On Saturday, Andersson was ninth in the 15-kilometer skate race, while Anton Lindblad was tenth.

Complete results from the FIS opener in Bruksvallarna 

At Sjusjøen (NOR), the biathletes had their season opener with sprint competitions for both men and women on Saturday and mass starts on Sunday. Madshus racers posted several top 10 results on both days, including Benedikt Doll (GER), who was fifth in the sprint and tenth in the mass start on Sunday – just ahead of biathlon’s grand old man, Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) in 11th place.

“It wasn’t half bad, but I didn’t shoot well today. It will get better as the season gets underway,” Bjørndalen said to NRK after the race on Sunday.

Both Bjørndalen and Svendsen sat out Saturday’s sprint race. Due to illness, injury and recent altitude camps, the two were playing the national races conservatively in order to be peaking for the first World Cup races in Östersund (SWE) December 1-6.

Complete results Sjusjøen  

Ole Einar Bjørndalen practicing at Sjusjøen (NOR) prior to the season opener races this weekend. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen practicing at Sjusjøen (NOR) prior to the season opener races this weekend. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Ready to Rumble

Sjusjøen is ready for the biathlon season opener and this weekend features a start list worthy of a World Cup. Photo: NSSF

Sjusjøen is ready for the biathlon season opener and this weekend features a start list worthy of a World Cup. Photo: NSSF

The biathletes are getting their show on the road with season opener competitions in Sjusjøen (NOR) this weekend and a start list worthy of a World Cup.

Although the IBU World Cup doesn’t get underway until Dec 1, when the first round takes place in Östersund (SWE), the start lists for the upcoming weekend races in Sjusjøen (NOR) are packed with World-Cup athletes itching to see where they stack up after a long dryland season. There are racers from the German, French, Italian and several other national teams on the rosters, along with all of Norway’s national teams and elite athletes.

However, Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) is planning to skip Saturday’s sprint after recently returning from altitude. His main focus is the World Championships on home turf in Holmenkollen, March 3-13, and everything prior to that is practice for the main goal. Being sidelined by injury and illness for much of the dryland season, Bjørndalen plays it safe with the first race weekend of the season, and sits out the first event on Saturday.

“I have bad experiences with burning too much fuel right after an altitude camp. So I try to cool my jets now in order to race fast at the World Cup opener in Östersund,” Bjørndalen said to NRK.

Bjørndalen is planning to race the Sunday mass start at Sjusjøen.

Saturday, November 21, features sprint competitions for both men and women, followed by mass start races on Sunday, November 22. The events will be televised by Norwegian broadcaster NRK, and there is also free access to the stadium for all spectators.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) will compete in the mass start on Sunday. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) will compete in the mass start on Sunday. Photo: Nordic Focus

The King Delivers

 

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) won the mass start at the Norwegian Biathlon Season Opener at Sjusjoen, in a field that was worthy of a World Cup.

 

Bjoerndalen won the mass start in 40 minutes and 6 seconds, had 6.7 seconds down to Birkeland in second place, while fellow Madshus racer Emil Hegle Svendsen was third.

 

“I had fantastic skis, and it was fun. Its always fun to win,” Bjoerndalen said to Norwegian TV station NRK after the race.

 

Bjoerndalen is already preselected for the first three World Cups, which opens with the Oestersund (SWE) December 1-7.

 

“For me, this was an important part of the peaking plan for the World Cup opener. And its always useful to prove that I can ski fast,” Bjoerndalen said matter of factly.

 

Bjoerndalen missed only once, the first time at the range. He was determined to make that the only one, and stood by it, even if one miss in theory is one too many for the King. But it’s still early in the season, and competition is different from practice, no matter how you slice it.

 

“It’s harder to shoot well in a competition setting than in a hard workout. I felt that yesterday,” Bjoerndalen said, referring to the ninth place in Saturday’s sprint race.

 

But with a benchmark and the first race under his belt, Bjoerndalen had a plan for the mass start.

 

“Today I opened easy and skied conservatively until the last laps, which was my plan from the start. These are some really tough courses, and I was a little concerned that I would blow up half way,” Bjoerndalen explains.

 

Well, the King didn’t blow up. He won. Let the season begin.

 

Complete results from the entire weekend

 

The Return of the Kings

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen at the 2014 Season opener at Natrudstilen. Photo: Madshus.com

Emil Hegle Svendsen and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen move back in on the top of the podium at the first possible opportunity. On Sunday, Lars Berger joined the podium party too.

 

Emil Hegle Svendsen and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen were first and second, respectively, at the Norwegian season opener sprint races in Sjusjoen Saturday. Svendsen beat Bjoerndalen by seven seconds, which he made up on the second lap.

 

Svendsen was particularly content with his second series at the range, and is happy to be on track for the Olympics in Sotchi, Russia, in February.

 

Bjoerndalen, who has encountered trouble at the range the past few seasons, didn’t miss a target on Saturday.

 

“It was fun to race today. Things went smooth, and it was fun to shoot well. That meant a lot to me,” Bjoerdalen says to Norwegian TV station NRK after the Saturday race.

 

Then on Sunday, Bjoerndalen went all the way to the top. “I had fantastic skis, I was able to ski efficiently and conserve energy, so I had power to surge on the last lap when the field was breaking up,” Bjoerndalen said to NRK after the mass start.

 

However, the biggest surprise was Lars Berger (NOR), who put in a serious bid for a World Cup ticket for Östersund in a couple of weeks after finishing third in the mass start on Sunday. The veteran Madshus racer nailed every target on the last round at the range, and skied better than most to secure the last spot on the podium.

 

“It was like the good old days,” Berger grinned after the race, where both shooting and skiing came together for the 34-year-old.

 

Let the season begin.

Lars Berger was third in the mass start event at Sjusjøen on Sunday. Photo: Madshus.com

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