Comeback and redemption were the big themes in Beitostølen over the weekend, as the opening race series of the Norwegian Cup continued with a pair of interval-start distance races.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Anne Kjersti Kalvå each took home a pair of victories, in a return to form after recent setbacks. The lone American in the weekend’s field, Zak Ketterson, was 78th on Saturday, but rebounded from a broken pole in the classic race to finish 44th earlier today. Read on for more, and for video highlights from all races.
Men’s classic race: Klæbo’s hamstring might be feeling okay after all
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo’s right hamstring tendon may be the most talked-about piece of connective tissue on the World Cup right now. NRK ran this deep dive on the injury over the weekend, in advance of Saturday’s distance races. The tentative conclusion was that Klæbo’s lingering injury (it has been four months now since the original incident) is, well, lingering, but that he had successfully done two hard sessions earlier in the week and he wanted to test things out at race speed.
Saturday, in the Norwegian Cup men’s 10-kilometer interval-start classic race (two laps of the Beitostølen homologated 5km course), things certainly seemed to be working well for Klæbo. He won the race, over a deeply stacked domestic field (Simen Hegstad Krüger, no slouch of a distance skier, was ninth; Didrik Tønseth, a man with 14 individual World Cup podiums to his name, was 12th), in 24:46.0.
Emil Iversen, another athlete who has had his own share of trials recently, was second, 5.9 seconds back. Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget was third, 17.9 seconds back.
Zak Ketterson (USST/Team Birkie) was 78th (+2:17.7), but take that result with a grain of salt because he suffered a broken pole midway through the race and never received a replacement pole of the correct size. He could be seen briefly at one point on the broadcast standing on the side of the trail during the race, presumably while seeking out a new pole.
Women’s classic race: Kalvå wins by over 30 seconds
Anne Kjersti Kalvå has had a rough year as well. The 30-year-old had skied well in the first half of the 2021/2022 season, and had qualified for a spot on the Norwegian women’s Olympic team. But things all came crashing down 10 days before the start of the Games, when she fell victim to the Covid outbreak percolating through the Norwegian pre-Olympic camp in Italy. Kalvå watched the Olympics from home, then returned to the World Cup in March only to DNF in Holmenkollen as her body was not yet ready to race at a World Cup level.
Saturday, all that seemed to be behind her, as she set the pace in the women’s 10km interval-start classic race. Kalvå crossed the line in 27:51.9, taking a resounding victory by over 30 seconds. Heidi Weng was second, 31.7 seconds back. Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, another athlete who had overcome much just to get back to the start line, was third, 36.6 seconds back.
Kalvå spoke candidly with NRK after the race about her struggles last spring. “I was actually very fragile. I was tired, bored, somehow very emotional and quickly got on a bad track,” Kalvå said, according to an auto-translation.
Men’s skate race: Klæbo wins again
Sunday brought more of the same on the course, two laps of the Beitostølen 5km FIS course, and on the results sheet, with Klæbo once more taking the win in the men’s 10km interval-start skate race.
But there were some surprises behind him on the results sheet after Klæbo stopped the clock at 23:20.9. Henrik Dønnestad, a man with a single World Cup start to his name (54th, in Beitostølen, in December 2018), placed second, perhaps supplanting a sixth-place finish in this spring’s Norwegian national championships as the top mark of his career. Dønnestad was 7.5 seconds back.
Dønnestad was followed by Great Britain’s Andrew Musgrave, a man with a World Cup podium finish to his name but also the sole non-Norwegian in the top 30 finishers of Sunday’s race. Musgrave was 15.3 seconds back.
Ketterson finished 44th on Sunday (+1:19.3).
Women’s skate race: Kalvå wins again
The margins were smaller but the top of the podium was the same in the women’s 10km interval-start skate race, as Kalvå took her second victory of the weekend. Her winning time on Sunday was 26:21.
Kalvå was followed by Helene Fossesholm, by this point a well-known name (also a four-time World Cup podium finisher) but still only 21 years old, 4.2 seconds back. Third place went to 28-year-old Silje Theodorsen, 7.0 seconds back. Theodorsen has a few dozen World Cup starts on her résumé, with a best individual finish of 13th, in the 2020 Holmenkollen. She made her first World Cup start eight years ago.
Results: men’s classic | women’s classic | men’s skate | women’s skate
— Gavin Kentch
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