Finally in first: Heidi Weng wins 11th edition of Tour de Ski
Jo Christian Weldingh
Heidi Weng destroyed the competition up Alpe Cermis, the steep hill that finishes each year’s Tour de Ski, and won her first title. “I didn’t think this would happen when the tour started. It has been exhausting, and I’m glad it’s over. I have to go home and rest,” Weng said after securing her victory.
Weng was the big favorite to win overall this year, but she has not performed up to her usual standards. And after several mediocre performances in the last couple of stages, she was trailing Swedish Stina Nilsson by 20 seconds before the 9 km pursuit on Jan. 8. Nilsson had an extraordinary tour with five stage wins, but still Weng was the favorite to win since she was considered stronger up Alpe Cermis.
Two kilometers into the race, Nilsson’s lead had decreased to 15 seconds, and after four kilometers the lead was down to nine seconds. When Nilsson reached the dreaded Alpe Cermis, Weng had caught up and immediately took the lead. The Swede, who usually performs best on the shorter, flatter distances, didn’t stand a chance. One kilometer into the hill, Weng was leading with almost a minute. And at the finish line, the lead had increased to almost two minutes. At just over 33 minutes, Weng had the best stage time.
Krista Parmakoski from Finland, who is considered one of the stronger climbers, also overtook Nilsson and knocked her down to third place. Norwegian Ingvild Østberg came in fourth. Østberg, who has been haunted by bad luck during this year’s tour, tried to stay positive in the press zone. “It’s frustrating to be so close to the podium, but this is the best experience I have ever had up Alpe Cermis. That feels good,” she told the Norwegian press.
Heidi Weng has been one of world’s best cross-country skiers for many years, but she has made a habit of coming in third—usually behind Therese Johaug and Marit Bjørgen, neither of whom participated this year. Before this season she was the skier with the most podium finishes in the world cup without ever winning a race. She has no individual gold medals in the Olympics or the World Championship, but she has three bronze medals. Before this win, she had three third-place finishes overall in Tour de Ski. Weng admitted that after almost losing a test run against her older sister during her Christmas holidays, she considered not participating in this year’s tour. “If she had beaten me, I would have stayed home. And if my mom had beaten me, I would have retired,” she laughed.
Weng is the third Norwegian woman to ever win Tour de Ski. Only Therese Johaug and Marit Bjørgen have done it before.
Former three-time champion Martin Johnsrud Sundby came in second overall in what, from a Norwegian perspective, can only be described as a disappointing men’s tour. Several forfeits and bad performances contributed to the first non-Norwegian winner in three years, Sergej Ustjugov from Russia.
The Tour de Ski is a cross-country skiing event held annually since the 2006-2007 season in Central Europe, modeled on the Tour de France of cycling. Each Tour de Ski has consisted of six to nine stages, held during late December and early January in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. With four overall wins, Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland holds the record for most overall wins.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.