Race: Men’s 1.3-kilometer classic sprint, Beitostølen, Norway
Is there embedded video you can watch? Sort of. Here is the men’s final:
If you’d like to watch the full heats on YouTube, you’re out of luck, at least based on what I can currently find. Ski & Snowboard Live would be happy to take your money for a subscription. 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.
What happened at the front of the race: Norway slowed down for a day and the rest of the skiing world showed up, is what happened. Here is a handy graphic from Wikipedia, with flag icons and everything, showing the winners of the men’s races from the first two weekends in the 2022/2023 World Cup season:
That is a total of 18 podium spots up for grabs across six races. Federico Pellegrino, of Italy, took two of them. Norwegians took the other 16, including all six wins. There are reasons for this, and multiple opinions to be found online as to whether this is good or bad for the sport, and of course the Russian men remain on the sidelines while their country’s invasion of Ukraine continues, and so are unable to contend with Norway. But it is objectively true that, across the first six races of this World Cup season, it has been almost all Norway, all the time.
And here is *record scratch* today’s podium:
Put another way, more non-Norwegian men were on the podium today than in the rest of the season combined.
Pål Golberg of Norway was just off the podium today in fourth, and leads the overall World Cup standings by a healthy margin; Norwegian athletes make up four of the top-nine athletes in these rankings. Norway has hardly gone away from World Cup skiing. But for one day, at least, they had some competition at the front of the field.
Here’s what that looked like in practice in the final, which, again, you can watch here:
That’s Lucas Chanavat of France, bib 15; Richard Jouve of France, bib 19; Pål Golberg of Norway, yellow leader’s bib; Joni Maki of Finland, bib 9; Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden, bib 22; and Simone Mocellini, bib 3.
And here are some other numbers for you: 53rd, 44th, 34th, and 19th. Those are Mocellini’s prior World Cup sprint final finishing positions coming into today, i.e., he had made the heats once in four prior starts. Whatever happened in the final, Mocellini (who qualified in third) was already having a good day out there.
The two Frenchmen led the way out of the stadium, the field skiing relaxed behind them. It was still Jouve and then Chanavat as they headed up the course’s first of two climbs. Those two men were still leading at the top of the climb, but Mocellini had crushed the hill to move up alongside them.
Behind them, Golberg was suddenly off the back, ten meters or more back of fifth. A replay revealed that he had stumbled, fallen to the ground, and come to a complete stop approaching the crest of the hill.
Jouve led the men as they ran up the final climb, Chanavat slightly off his left shoulder. Maki followed them on the inside line, with a resurgent Golberg already back in the picture.
Ahead of them, Jouve led the way into the stadium, Mocellini close behind him, then Halfvarsson. Mocellini switched tracks approaching the end and tried to move up, but was second on the day, with Halfvarsson third. Golberg, in fourth, had arguably the most impressive race despite not making the podium, after making up so much ground following his fall.
An exhausted Mocellini was mobbed by his coaches at the finish, who jumped up and down in a jubilant mosh pit with Mocellini at its center. Mocellini, draped over his coach, sobbed openly. Even the typically dour finish vest–clad men in the background (and they are nearly all men) allowed themselves to smile. Sports!
What happened for the Americans: Uh, Ben Ogden was seventh, for the second week in a row, in a skate sprint in Lillehammer last weekend and now a classic sprint today. (As an aside, the top-eight in a classic sprint makes him the second American to auto-qualify for this year’s World Champs team, after Jessie Diggins; more on that later.)
Here’s a brief play-by-play of Ogden’s semifinal:
The American, who is still just 22 years old and graduated from the University of Vermont earlier this year, lined up alongside Jouve, Maki, Niilo Moilanen of Finland, Michal Novák of the Czech Republic, and Anton Persson of Sweden.
Ogden led the field out of the stadium and through the first downhill. He was in the second lane from the inside approaching the base of the first climb, but was moving fast enough to cleanly move over to the inside.
Jouve put in a strong move to take the lead up the first hill. Ogden was right behind and got the inside line over the top. It was Jouve, then Novak, then Ogden going into the second and final downhill, and roughly that order at the base of the final climb.
Going up the climb back to the stadium, Ogden exploded. Even in a heat of six world-class athletes, his tempo seemed to be the fastest in the field. He made up ground on everyone save Jouve, and was perhaps in second at that point in the heat. (More on this from Ogden immediately below.)
The camera angle is a little ambiguous as to precisely what happened over the top of the hill, but it appears that Ogden may have been forced, or let himself become forced, slightly to the outside by Maki as they came round the left-hand turn into the stadium. (I’m not insinuating anything about Maki here, I just literally can’t precisely reconstruct what happened here from the video. We’ll hear from Ogden in a sec, regardless, who would know better than me; Ogden suggests that it was largely a tactical error on his part, and certainly not questionable skiing from Maki.)
Jouve got the inside line finishing track in the stadium. Maki slotted into the next track to his right, forcing Ogden out to the third track in an attempt to make up ground. From that position, there was too much of a gap for the American to close. Jouve took the semifinal, with Maki second, 0.12 seconds back. There was another 0.61 seconds back to Ogden.
Enough of my take on things, here’s Ogden, via email to Nordic Insights.
Ogden was asked if he would ski his semifinal differently if given the chance to do it over again, and did not shy from the question: “I would have certainly stayed behind Jouve over the last hill, and I would have tried to be a bit closer at the base of the final climb so I could maybe have led over the top. I was coming up on Jouve which was why I decided to change lanes, but if I could have been in front of him maybe that would have been even better? Impossible to say, but these are the things I am thinking about now tactics wise.”
Ogden sounded similar notes when asked about finishing seventh overall for the second weekend in a row:
“While I am still very happy with being strong in the quarterfinals and having some good confidence in the semifinals, today’s 7th place is a bit more frustrating than last week. I was really feeling good today and was loving the course, but I find myself feeling as though a tactical error really cost me a shot in the final. I think I was in a really good spot over the last hill in the semi but for some reason decided to change lanes and gave up the inside lane around the last corner. Who knows how much of a difference this made but that nagging thought makes me not pat myself on the back too much just yet.
“I am, however, very excited with my shape and building some confidence in these sprints feels very good. There is always another chance and learning as much as I can is the only way to increase the chances that I won’t make the same mistake again.”
What else happened for the Americans: Also of note, the top-eight finish in a classic sprint, an event to be contested at 2023 World Championships in Planica, makes Ogden the second American to qualify for this year’s team under the official criteria from USSS.
If you were ever curious how much athletes think about things like this, as opposed to fans or reporters, here was Ogden’s reaction when asked to comment on this news:
“I actually did not know that I had auto qualified with this result, but that is exciting! I don’t think it changes my plans for this season too much just yet. I need to make a plan for the second half of the season in general, and when I do it’s possible that the auto qualified status will factor in, but until then it doesn’t change much. I had planned to get through period 1 and settled in Davos for Christmas before wrapping my head around the post–Tour de Ski part of the season, so check back later and I may have more information!”
Full speculation on the American team for Planica to commence on this site starting later this month.
So Ogden clearly crushed, but what else happened for the Americans today who were not named Ben Ogden: No other American man made the heats. Kevin Bolger was 40th in qualifying; Luke Jager was 44th; Zak Ketterson was 46th; and Logan Diekmann was 57th.
What do the Americans think about this? A sterling question, as always, but we have less of an answer for you today than typically. I apologize. Ogden’s thoughts will have to do.
What’s next? 10km classic interval-start tomorrow. Starters for the American men will be: Zak Ketterson, Ben Ogden, Scott Patterson, Gus Schumacher, and Hunter Wonders.
— Gavin Kentch
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