Women’s Ruka Triple: A Norwegian Sweep
It was another day for the Norwegian’s as the swept the women’s podium in exciting fashion. There was no doubt where Bjørgen would finish the day, but the excitement came in behind as Johaug skied an incredible race to overtake both Kalla and Skofterud enroute to the runner-up spot for this year’s Ruka Triple.
The action began 2.5km into the race and Bjørgen had already increased her lead on Skofterud by three seconds at 2.5km. Skofterud was doing extremely well early on and was increasing her lead on Kalla. In between 2.5km and 3.9km, Skofterud increased the gap by eight seconds.
Johaug had a big task at hand and began the day hunting down Kalla for third place and had a 22 secon deficit to overcome. Impressively, at 5km Johaug had caught the Swede and moved right pasted her and set her sights on Skofterud. Further behind, Haag was doing quite well and had moved up from 17th to 8th at the halfway point.
Johaug’s tempo was extremely impressive and with every stride, Johaug was catching her teammate and at 7.5km, Johaug and Skofterud were together. Further behind, both Kalla and Kowalczyk’s fast pace early on in an attempt to close the gaps in front of them, started to backfire as they began to lose big amounts of time compared to those around them.
Johaug and Skofterud skied together for about a kilometer on the flats out of the stadium, but at the first big hill of the loop, Johaug opened up a 10 meter gap on her teammate and with 1100m left, Johaug had a 3.1 second gap. Further back, Kalla was no over a minute back, while Kowalczyk appeared to continue to go backwards as she was 1:30 behind.
With the big downhill, her bigger body compared to Johaug was a massive advantage as she was able to glide back into contention and actually overtake Johaug coming into the big uphill into the stadium. The two athletes were side-by-side and red-lining. Coming into the finishing straight, Johaug had a slight lead on Skofterud and Skofterud tried to pull along side Johaug but didn’t have enough gas in the take and slipped back into the tracks behind Johaug for third place.
1. Therese Johaug
2. Marit Bjørgen
3. Vibeke Skofterud
1. Marit Bjørgen
2. Therese Johaug
3. Vibeke Skofterud
Another brilliant day for Norway, and the result of the day for me was Johaug. Not only was she able to move up from 4th to 2nd on the day, she also was the fastest female on skis today by nine seconds over Bjørgen. Like Goldstrom pointed out on the British Eurosport broadcast, for the Norwegian courses, this is the best worst-case scenario they could be put in. With all their athletes in top of the world right now, you just have to encourage all the them equally. This was no more apparent when both Johaug and Skofterud were going up the big-hill into the stadium the final time. What to the coaches say to the athletes?
Norway Coach #1: “Go Therese! You can beat Vibeke!”
Norway Coach #2: “Go Vibeke! You can beat Therese!”
The Norwegians are in a class of their own and that’s all that I’m going to say about that.
I was really happy to see Saarinen have a great race today. She posted the 4th fastest time of the day behind the three Norwegians which move her from 18th to 7th. It’d be nice to Saarinen return to the form she was in three years ago when her and Kuitunen ruled the women’s field. Here’s hoping…
It was another disappointing day for Kowalczyk. I was expecting a lot from her today, this type of race is and should be her bread and butter. The hunting style pursuit fits her race tactics and judging by the second half of her race today, I have to think that she let off the gas as the time gaps that opened up between her and the Norwegians were abnormally large.
It was also a poor race from Jacobsen today after such a strong showing yesterday when she finished 6th place. She posted the 45th fastest time today which bumped her down from 20th to 32nd place.
Biggest mover of the day was Russian newcomer Alevtina Tanygina who posted the 15th fastest time of the day which moved her from 72nd to 33rd in the Ruka Triple standings. She had a very good U23 last year and picked up a couple 4th places in the distance races and an 8th in the sprint. With performance like the ones she showed this weekend, I expect her to maintain her place on the Russian team for the rest of the World Cup.
Another Russian with the name of Polina Medvedeva had a very good race and had the 10th fastest time of the day. The 22-year old is still very raw and has only five World Cup starts to her name. Some good news for the Russian women who are starting to look more and more the part every race they enter.
That’s it for me, back early tomorrow with the men’s wrap.