FIS logo
Presented by

Klaebo makes it a fantastic four with tactical masterclass in 20km

Jan 04, 2023·Cross-Country
Leader of the pack: Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo: @Nordic Focus

Different day, same story in the 2022-23 Tour de Ski as Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, with victory in the 20km freestyle pursuit in Oberstdorf, Germany, made it four wins from four to retain the yellow bib as well as closing the gap to leader Paal Golberg in the overall World Cup standings.

The sprint king proved that he could more than hold his own over distance races as well as putting on a tactical masterclass to leave the Norwegian’s rivals wondering how they can beat him.

Compatriot Simen Hegstad Krueger looked the most likely, having won the last 20km free in Davos, Switzerland on 18 December. He was among a group of four skiers who had caught Klaebo by the first split and by the third of six 3.3km laps, they were joined by 26 others.

But every time somebody tried to pick up the pace, the rest of the pack reeled them in – playing right into Klaebo’s hands.

“It was a fun race,” he said. “A little bit as I expected – a lot of people altogether there, and the last three laps was a little bit like a mass start, so I tried to be in a good position before the last uphill and have a good finish.

Was this all part of Klaebo’s plan?

“Yeah, I would say so,” he grinned. “Actually, I was expecting that Simen [Hegstad Krueger] was coming and that we could probably stay ahead a little bit but no.”

In fact, Krueger did hit the front at the start of the last lap but a stumble on the final climb cost him the chance to break away from Klaebo who stayed clear of trouble to open up a five-metre gap with a burst at the top of the final downhill.

With just five seconds separating the top 12, it was another Norwegian, Sindre Bjoernestad Skar, who emerged from the pack to take second place, just ahead of Federico Pellegrino. “I wasn’t expected to be on the podium so it was really, really good,” Skar said. “I like the tracks here and it’s a cool place to ski – cool downhills and cool uphills.”

Pellegrino, meanwhile, having not achieved a single podium finish in a distance race before this season, now has three to take him above Golberg and into second place in the Tour de Ski standings. However, the 32-year-old remains philosophical about his chances of making up a 12-second deficit to overhaul Klaebo.

“Klaebo is one of the best cross-country skiers ever and I’m really proud to be able to compete with him,” Pellegrino said. “My main goal is not to beat anybody but to beat my best – this is the hardest thing.”

But with double Olympic silver medallist likely to receive strong home support for the final leg of the tour – which starts in Val de Fiemme, Italy, on Friday – Klaebo believes the race for the yellow bib is far from over.

He said: “I think it will be a tough three races there so it will be nice to have a rest day tomorrow, then we will be back at it.

Click here for the full results from Oberstdorf.

Stay up to date and follow FIS Cross-Country on Social Media: