Race: Women’s 10-kilometer interval-start, Ruka, Finland
Is there embedded video you can watch? Yup! From Finnish broadcaster YLE:
What happened at the front of the race: The Swedish women are pretty good at skiing. One day after putting two athletes (Emma Ribom and Johanna Hagstrøm) on the podium in yesterday’s classic sprint, the Swedes did it again. This time it was Ebba Andersson in first, closing hard to put roughly five seconds on second-place Frida Karlsson, also of Sweden, over the final 1.9km of the course. Karlsson was 5.7 seconds back of Andersson’s winning time of 24:49.6.
Katharina Hennig was third (+13.3), leading a suddenly resurgent German women’s team. Over 10,000 meters of racing the final podium spot came down to literally the blink of an eye, as Hennig was only 0.2 seconds ahead of Anne Kjersti Kalvå of Norway (+13.5) for third. (This is a gap of 0.19 seconds, for reference.) Kalvå continues a strong start to her season that saw her sweep the distance races in Beitostølen last weekend, a measure of redemption after missing out on last season’s Olympics following an ill-timed Covid case.
Oh, and by the way, Rosie Brennan was seventh, 29 seconds off the win and 15.7 seconds off the podium. It was her highest finish in a World Cup- or Olympic-level 10km classic since she was sixth in, well, this race last year. She told Nordic Insights yesterday that she was looking forward to some distance racing; it didn’t take her long to find success there.
What happened for the Americans: Jessie Diggins was 21st, 1:18.0 back of Andersson in first. Novie McCabe was 39th (+2:03.0). Sophia Laukli was 45th (+2:26.2). Alayna Sonnesyn was 49th (+2:38.4). Julia Kern was 51st (+2:49.7).
N.b., World Cup points are being awarded for every position in the top-50 this year. Every athlete listed above is currently ranked in the overall women’s World Cup standings.
What do the athletes think about today? Great question. Here are some thoughts from Rosie Brennan, Jessie Diggins, and a notably candid and illuminating Julia Kern.
Here’s Rosie Brennan, in an email to multiple media outlets:
“I am very happy with today’s race. It felt really good to be able to turn around after a disappointing day yesterday. I was able to find good rhythm and strong skiing today and that is all I can ask for in my first race weekend of the year. I am pleased with some of the technical improvements I have made over the summer and am hopeful to have stronger classic races this season. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. It feels like a big opportunity with a new distance and I am excited to see what happens!”
Here’s Jessie Diggins, via transcribed audio:
“I was really happy with today. It was a good step in the right direction. I had no cramping in my muscles, which was really really wonderful after yesterday, so it was great to feel like my body is coming back to me.
“I think I always plan to work into the season. So based on how we felt and the energy out there — and I definitely am not in my sharp race form, but I also just as definitely did not expect to be, so I am really honestly very pleased with where I am right now according to my overall plan. So of course I want more, and I’m working on the technique, but considering I’ve had one week on snow and am bouncing back a little bit, I am really happy with this.
“I feel like mentally I was in it, I was taking transitions on the course well and was really focused on technique. And for me if I’m mentally in it, I know the physical part will come so that was a good time for me. And I was just really happy to ski that downhill really aggressively.”
Diggins also noted that she was “really, really happy with my skis”; she felt like she had “good glide” and “great grip, which is really important for me on this course.” She also shared that she raced on a pair of skis that she had never skied, or seen, before in her life; they were running well in testing and she trusted her techs and the Salomon team, so she raced on a pair of skis that she had only previously skied on for 20 minutes.
Diggins added, “I’m really excited for tomorrow. I’m really pumped for Rosie, and just cheering for the boys.”
And finally here’s Julia Kern, via transcribed audio, on her approach to the year’s distance races and on bigger-picture takeaways:
“My approach today for the first distance race was to start out pretty fast but also controlled, and think a lot about my technique cues, since the Ruka hills here are really big and there’s definitely a lot of herringbone out there too. So I just really wanted to ski well with good technique, and try to kick my skis as long as possible. So that’s been something that I’ve always struggled with here, especially with the early-season classic races on some some of the biggest hills we have all year long.”
Turning to the results sheet, Kern candidly noted, “I am not entirely pleased with today. I would say I was kind of missing my distance race gear today. I have had really good energy and have felt fitter than last year, and the sprint day yesterday went super well. But my prep the last few weeks is a little more sprint-focused because I got a cold before coming over to Europe, and I think I just need some distance races and efforts under my belt. It’s a little bit different than maybe 4 x 5 intervals or so; 30 minutes continuous effort is definitely a different type of thing.
“So I’ve always struggled a bit with the 10k here but have often found that it boosts me for the next day with the pursuit race; it’s a little more mass start, and I get my distance legs a little bit more under me. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. And just figuring out pacing and strategy in a new format, which is the 20km. But I’ll be in the wave [of 11 athletes starting en masse 2:30 back after Saturday’s classic race] so it’ll feel like a mass start, which is a little bit easier of a way to ease into distance racing and figure out how to pace everything.”
As for areas for potential growth or improvement, finally, Kern noted, “I think this Ruka course has always been tricky for me; there’s really big long hills, which maybe doesn’t play to my strengths as much. Figuring out how to herringbone efficiently and keep pushing the red line is always tough here.
— Gavin Kentch
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