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Distance world No.1 Golberg shows golden shape in Norwegian clean sweep

Feb 04, 2023·Cross-Country
Norway's Simen Hegstad Krueger (left), Paal Golberg (middle) and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (right) finished top-three in the men's 10km individual free: @Nordic Focus

Norway's Paal Golberg showed why he is the best distance skier in the world as he won the men's 10km individual free at the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Toblach, Italy, on Saturday.

The 32-year-old World Cup distance No.1 did not claim his third distance victory this season with a big margin, however, finishing 0.3 second faster than compatriot Simen Hegstad Krueger and less than three seconds before Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, in third place, who completed the Norwegian clean sweep.

It was climb specialist Golberg's first World Cup win in a freestyle distance race, and he did it on a slippery course.

"It was good for sure, my first victory in a skate race, so it is a big milestone for me, but I felt like Bambi on ice," Golberg said.

"The course is fine but the conditions had changed from the women's race (earlier on Saturday). We had quite a hard and compact snow and it was tough to get the balance but I was the one who managed it best.

"Last weekend I got a fourth-place, which was my best (distance) skate result ever. I knew I had a chance today with the fast conditions and I'm really happy that I'm able to do it."

Last week's distance winner Harald Oestberg Amundsen finished fourth as Norway claimed the seven top spots in a display of dominance from the Nordic Cross-Country power house. Norway's coaching staff will have a tough task to pick the skiers on the men's side as the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Planica, Slovenia, starts in a few weeks.

Golberg, however, has reason to be confident about his spot in the distance race.

"My shape has been really good this year and I hope it will be the same in the world 'champs'," he said.

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For most of the race, however, it was Krueger who looked like he was going for his ninth World Cup victory. The 29-year-old started last of the podium candidates and could benefit from knowing the times of the racers in front of him as he structured his race.

At the 8km mark, Krueger was 5.4 seconds faster than Golberg, but lost it all in the last two kilometres, narrowingly missing out on the win.

"I knew it was tight between Paal Golberg and Klaebo at the end and I really wanted to finish at the top, but it was just a few tenths of a second behind. It feels a little bittersweet, but having said that, I'm really happy with today's race," Krueger said.

"The last weekend in France (Les Rousses) I had a lot of difficulties and it didn't work out at all. Today I'm up there again and that's important before the world championships which are the highlight of the season."

Krueger said he enjoyed battling it out with his teammates.

"We have a really, really strong team and we have tough fights both on trainings and in competitions," he said.

"It's a rivalry, but it's a good rivalry where we try to support each other and make the entire team stronger. And I think we see the result of that here today with a really strong team effort.

"For us it's really fun to be up there in the top and we are changing who is the best from weekend to weekend so the fight goes on the whole season."

I'm really glad for Paal to win todayJohannes Hoesflot Klaebo

Golberg's victory increases his lead in the distance rankings, where Hans Christer Holund is second and Klaebo in third. In the overall table, Klaebo is in pole position to win the crystal globe looks. The 26-year-old superstar has a 171-point advantage of runner-up Golberg with seven of this season's 31 races remaining.

"It was a great day. A lot of Norwegians up there in the top-seven and we had really good skis today. I'm satisfied with being third, for sure," Klaebo said.

"It was challenging for sure, but it was still a lot of fun, a lot of high speed all the way, and I think I managed to do well."

He was the first to congratulate his teammate Golberg as he crossed the finish line to push him out of the leader's chair.

"We have a good team spirit. I am really glad for Paal to win today," he said.

The World Cup action in South Tyrol continues on Sunday with the men's and women's 4x7.5km relay classic/free.

Click here for full results of the men's 10km individual free.

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