Race: Women’s 1.3-kilometer classic sprint, Beitostølen, Norway
Is there embedded video you can watch? No, it seems, alas, at least not that I can currently find. Ski & Snowboard Live would be happy to take your money for a subscription if you would like to watch the full heats. Alternatively, you can use a VPN (instructions here) to watch a full re-broadcast on Norwegian station NRK (broadcast link here, not available outside of Norway). You can also get a decent replay of some parts of the day on Ski & Snowboard Live, registration required but no subscription.
Here’s video of the last thirty seconds of the final, plus some finish-line gasping, which may be better than nothing:
What happened at the front of the race: Nadine Fähndrich of Switzerland took the victory, the second World Cup win of her career. She won the skate sprint in Dresden in December 2020, over, it must be said, a Norwegian-less field. But there was no case to be made for an asterisk today, as Fähndrich had the fastest time in qualifying and looked strong throughout the heats on her way to the victory.
Lotta Udnes Weng of Norway was second, nearly a full second back, in the first podium of her career in her 76th World Cup start. Johanna Matintalo of Finland was another half-second back in third. Tiril Udnes Weng and Kristine Stavås Skistad, both of Norway but only one of them (Weng) meriting a national team suit, followed in fourth and fifth.
Also of note in the final, Tereza Beranová in sixth was the first top-six finish for a Czech woman on the World Cup in over fifteen years, according to the insightful Masashi Kohmura on Twitter:
As for the final itself: Skistad had a blatant false start the first time around — to be fair, the starter did hold them in “set” for quite some time — which was duly met with a yellow card.
On the reset, Skistad took the inside line, and the lead, out of the stadium, with Fähndrich trailing close behind. Lotta Udnes Weng made a strong move approaching the base of the first climb; she reached the top in first and led the field into the second and final downhill, followed by Matintalo.
Lotta Udnes Weng engaged in a generous interpretation of the classical technique to move outside of the tracks approaching the final climb (jury: “verbal warning: technique violation”), then charged up the hill. But Fähndrich and Matintalo were both less than a ski length behind.
At the top of the hill, Fähndrich simply found another gear. She moved past Lotta Udnes Weng, hugged the V-boards very tightly to keep from being passed on the inside through the final curve, and entered the stadium with a clear lead. She kept it to the finish, gaining ground with every doublepole, to take the victory.
What happened for the Americans: Julia Kern looked strong all day, advancing from her quarterfinal with relative ease and ultimately finishing tenth overall, on a day when she could have potentially gone far further if not for the position-jockeying vagaries of sprint racing.
Here’s a review of Kern’s semifinal. For those of you watching at home, Kern was alongside Fähndrich in bib no. 1, Johanna Hagström in bib 2, Tiril Udnes Weng in bib 6, Laura Gimmler in bib 18, and Maja Dahlqvist in bib 20.
Hagström led the field out of the stadium at a relatively relaxed pace, Kern content to tuck in at the back of the field. The two Swedes led two trains of skiers down the first long downhill, Kern still comfortably in sixth.
Approaching the first climb, Kern used fast skis, combined with a strong doublepole, to move from last to first. She created enough room to move to the second-to-inside track and ski alongside Hagström up the climb. Kern made the top of the hill first, but Hagström still had the inside track, so Kern had to back off slightly as they crested the rise.
More jostling ensued roughly ten seconds later, coming into the final downhill. Here’s roughly that moment, per a rough screenshot from the video. This is at 1:56 on the race clock, for those of you keeping score at home. This is admittedly not the highest-quality video, and there’s a light pole in the middle of the frame, but that’s Fähndrich in third, in the red suit, with Kern right behind her.
Here’s Kern’s play-by-play on what happened at this moment in the race, via transcribed audio sent to multiple media outlets:
“I’m learning how to be physical and hold my own in the sprints which I think has helped me move on. But on the flip side I think that kind of was my mistake, or where I lost my position, in the semifinal.
“So early in the semifinal I was feeling good; the pace was shockingly slow given how stacked our semi was. I was expecting it to be quite a fast heat, but people were really relaxed. And so on the first hill I made a move to get from the back to the front and was a good position, but I was worried about leading on the downhill.
“So I was trying to slot in behind Johanna, and unfortunately she slowed down and then Nadine pulled a bit questionable move on the inside — outside — of the track between me and the V-board, where I got my pole kicked and a little bit pinched from both sides. And so that was my tactical error perhaps, or maybe just sprint racing, but that’s where I lost a little bit of momentum, got tangled, and then into the downhill was towards the back, and had to find my own lane coming up the hill.”
Kern was fourth going into the ensuing downhill. She was as high up as second at points within the climb back to the stadium, but had fallen back somewhat by the top of the hill.
Kern was in fifth place entering the stadium, and while she used a fearsome doublepole to move up into 0.02 seconds back of Hagström by the finish, making up an impressive amount of ground over the final meters, that is where Kern ultimately finished. She was fifth in the semifinal, tenth overall on the day, her second top-10 result of the season and her third time reaching the semis in as many World Cup sprints this year.
“Just a little bit shy of moving on,” Kern noted. “I was feeling really really good in the finish, and even got out of the track to lunge, hoping for lucky loser, but our heat was a little bit too relaxed and slow in the early part of the race.
Kern was more than pleased with her day overall, noting, “I’m really happy with how today went. Again, I think just every time I ski heats I’m learning more about tactics in how people are skiing and who to follow and where to make moves. But overall my skis were super awesome, I was happy with it, energy felt great. And just another beautiful day of skiing out there.”
What else happened for the Americans: Jessie Diggins had a strong qualification, finishing seventh in the morning time trial. She was fourth in her quarterfinal to end the day in 17th overall. Rosie Brennan, returned to racing after having to sit out all three races in Lillehammer last weekend due to illness, followed a similar trajectory on the results sheet: 12th in qualifying, 21st overall after finishing fifth in her quarterfinal.
Alayna Sonnesyn was 44th in qualifying. Movie McCabe was 50th in qualifying. Lauren Jortberg was 56th in qualifying.
What do the athletes think about today? A fantastic question. Here are some answers.
Julia Kern: Most of Kern’s thoughts were written out above. That said, here’s an embed of her full audio, if you would like even more details.
Here’s Jessie Diggins, via transcribed audio sent to multiple media outlets:
“It felt like a really fast day out there. I was really grateful for my speed and kick on my skis. So I thought the team did a really good job. It was kind of a funny scene, honestly, because everyone was warming up in the dark, because it was so early. …
“I was pleased with my qualifier. I don’t think I skied all that well in the heats. But I learned a lot of things. And I’m excited to put that energy forward into tomorrow’s 10k race. But I was really, really pumped seeing Julia, and oh my gosh, Ben was skiing so well too. It’s just really, really neat seeing the momentum of the team and seeing people’s positive attitudes. And it’s been really awesome team camaraderie. Especially this week, we’ve had a really great living situation and I think people are just sort of settling into life on the road really well. So that’s been really cool to see.”
Here’s Rosie Brennan, in an email sent to multiple media outlets:
“I was happy with my qualifier after a bad sprint in Ruka and sitting out sick last weekend. The heats ended up being more technical than I had hoped and I struggled to find space and the speed I needed to advance. I was so happy to be in the heats again and to be reminded of all the little details sprinting requires to put together a good day. I’m glad to be back at it racing and am really looking forward to the 10k tomorrow.”
Here’s Lauren Jortberg, in an email to Nordic Insights: “I’m struggling a bit with my classic skiing right now, but I’m working on trying some new things, technically. I know the fitness and speed are there, but I’m feeling like I’m not classic skiing like myself right now. Overall I’m super grateful to get these opportunities to learn so much even if the results aren’t where I know I can be. It’s motivating!”
And here’s Alayna Sonnesyn, via email to Nordic Insights, briefly and politely after being asked to comment on a day when she was 44th in qualifying: “There isn’t too much to say… I did everything I could to warm up, prepare the best I could, and fight out there. World Cup skiers are fast!”
What’s next? 10km classic interval-start tomorrow. Starters for the American women will be: Rosie Brennan, Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, Lauren Jortberg, Novie McCabe, and Alayna Sonnesyn.
— Gavin Kentch
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