Johaug wins third women’s Tour de Ski

Klæbo finishes in a disappointing third among the men

Photo: Granada/Wikimedia Commons
Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (58) and Therese Johaug (60) collapse in exhaustion and joy after the 10-kilometer race at the world championships in Seefeld, Austria, on Feb. 26, 2019, won by Johaug with Østberg second. Johaug was first in the Tour de Ski, a week-long event of various stages, held Dec. 28 to Jan. 5 in Czechia, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The 10-kilometer at Val di Fiemme, Italy, was the last stage, and Norway swept the podium with Johaug, Heidi Weng and Østberg. Johaug leads the World Cup table by 367 points over Weng. Seven Norwegians are in the top 20.

Jo Christian Weldingh

Therese Johaug cried tears of joy when she crossed the finish line on top of Alpe Cermis in Cavalese, Italy, after winning her first Tour de Ski title in four years, her third in total. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, Norway’s hope in the men’s race, was, however, less happy after coming in third overall, beaten by his two biggest rivals, Russians Alexander Bolshunov and Sergey Ustiugov.

Heading into the final stage, the 10-kilometer freestyle mass start on Jan. 5 at Val di Fiemme, Italy, Johaug was leading the tour, with teammates Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Russian Natalia Nepryaeva trailing only seconds behind in the overall time score. Johaug is known for her superiority up the finishing alpine skiing course, so most of the excitement was in who would end up in second place.

Johaug took the lead from the start and barely slowed down when she entered the finishing climb. Østberg, Nepryaeva, and  Jacobsen were left behind. Norwegian Heidi Weng tried to keep up for a while but soon found that Johaug’s tempo was just too high. At the 9K mark, Johaug’s lead had increased to 59 seconds, and the stage, and consequently, the tour, was predictably decided.

Johaug, who won three races in the tour, had an overall score of 2 hours, 28 minutes, 18.6 seconds, besting Nepryaeva by 1 minute, 11.1 seconds and Østberg by 1 minute, 37.3 seconds. Eight Norwegians are in the top 20.

“I’m very happy. My goal was to win the tour, and I did,” Johaug said in the post-race interview. “It has been tough, but I’m happy to be here. I’m also happy the tour is over. It’s so nerve-racking.” 

Following the Tour, Johaug led the World Cup table by 367 points over Weng, with Norwegians placing fourth, seventh, 10th, 15th and 20th.

Photo: Granada/Wikimedia Commons
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo prepares for the final exchange in the 4×10-kilometer. classic freestyle relay at the world championships in Seefeld, Austria, last March. On the right are Russians Sergey Ustiugov and Alexander Bolshunov. Klæbo battled the Russians at Tour de Ski from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5, but Bolshunov and Ustiugov finished first and second in the tour standings, followed by Klæbo. Bolshunov leads the World Cup table by 75 points over Klæbo, with Ustiugov third.

Before the start of the men’s final stage—the 10-kilometer freestyle mass start—things were a bit less predictable. Many Norwegians had travelled down to Italy in hope of seeing Klæbo take home his second consecutive Tour victory. Heading into the final stage, Klæbo was leading the Tour, one second in front of Bolshunov and 15 seconds in front of Ustiugov.

Before the race, most experts believed that it would end up being a fight between the two Russians since they’re both stronger than Klæbo on the longer tougher races. This time, the experts were right. Norwegian Simen Hegstad Krüger won the stage in front of teammate Sjur Røthe, but Bolsjunov and Ustiugov came in as number three and four, respectively. Klæbo had a tough day at the office and ended up as No. 20.

“They’re better than me today, it’s as simple as that,” Klæbo told the newspaper VG after the race. “I just have to admit that and congratulate them. They’re incredibly strong up the last hill, and I needed a bigger lead than a second.” 

Norwegians placed fourth, fifth, sixth, and 18th. 

Bolshunov’s Tour victory made the overall World Cup table a bit closer. The young Russian is currently No. 1, 75 points in front of Klæbo. With Klæbo being the best sprinter and Bolshunov the best skier in the longer distances, it will be exciting to see who will end up on top when the season is over. Norwegians are fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 18th, 25th, 26th, 27th, and 30th.

The Tour de Ski is a cross-country skiing event held annually since the 2006–07 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 Czechia, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The Tour has concluded every year with two or three stages in Val di Fiemme, with the final stage where the skiers race up the alpine skiing course on Alpe Cermis in Cavalese. The Tour de Ski took place from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

This article originally appeared in the January 24, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.