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Klaebo signs off 'one of the best sprint seasons' of his career with Falun victory

Mar 15, 2024·Cross-Country
Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) with the sprint Crystal Globe © NordicFocus
Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) with the sprint Crystal Globe © NordicFocus

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) showed why he is the Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup 2023/24 season's sprint Crystal Globe winner as he claimed the victory in the Men's Sprint Classic in Falun, Sweden, on Friday.

The Norwegian 27-year-old, who had kicked back from a maiden 50km Mass Start triumph on Sunday to win the freestyle sprint in Drammen, Norway, on Tuesday, made it three victories in six days, finishing 1.14 second before runner-up Lauri Vuorinen (FIN) as Harald Oestberg Amundsen (NOR) completed the podium.

Klaebo's 14th victory this season – and fifth consecutive triumph – puts him on par with Cross-Country icon Bjoern Daehli's record (NOR) of 112 World Cup podiums, with two distance races left to race this weekend.

Despite struggling with illnesses for crucial parts of the winter, Klaebo, who bagged his sixth sprint Crystal Globe this week, said this had been one of the best sprint seasons of his career.

"The Crystal Globes are always parts of the goals so I'm really satisfied and I think this has been one of my best sprint seasons so far in my career, which is fun," Klaebo said.

"I will just try to celebrate this one but there are two more races this weekend before we can have a real good celebration."

Klaebo said he was happy with the conditions in the central-Swedish town, where a 10km Interval Start Classic and a 20km Mass Start Free remain of the season.

"It has been pretty warm the last couple of days but with the salt and everything it was quite good conditions and it was a fair race, which was fun," he said.

The winner had however looked forward to battling it out with his teammate Erik Valnes, who suffered a fall in the last hill of the final after he got tangled in with Johan Haeggstroem's skis.

Instead, Vuorinen took upp the battle for the top spots, landing the first individual podium of his career in the last sprint of the season.

"It feels great," the 29-year-old said.

"I've ben in the World Cup for many years and made it to a couple of finals, but I've never made it onto the podium so that feels great.

"This season has been really good for me, every race has been good, and I had a fourth place in Canmore (CAN), so that feels good."

Now Vuorinen, whose only other podium-finish ha been a third place with Iivo Niskanen (FIN) in the Team Sprint Finals in Lahti, Finland, two weeks ago, can relax and enjoy the last races of the best season of his career.

"Tomorrow is a good race for me, the 10km Classic," he said.

"After these kinds of races it's pretty hard to make a good recovery but I hope I can do it and maybe (finish in the) top-20 or something like that."

Amundsen, who finished 1.37 second before the winner, has got himself a strong start of the weekend in Falun and maintains his lead in the overall standings by a margin of 143 points down to runner-up Klaebo. His teammate Even Northug finished fourth, 0.54 second behind him.

In the Women's Sprint Classic, Kristine Stavaas Skistad (NOR) finished off the season with a third consecutive sprint victory, making it 10 World Cup triumphs in her careeer.

The 25-year-old print ace from Drammen, where she won the freestyle sprint on Tuesday, made it look effortless as she beat three Swedish chasers on their home snow to claim her fourth victory this winter.

Runner-up Linn Svahn (SWE), Jonna Sundling (SWE) in third place and Emma Ribom (SWE), who finished fourth, were unable to get close to Skistad, who made a tactically clever race and won by a margin of more than a second.

"It was amazing. My plan was to win here and to do it I'm very, very happy," said Skistad, who put a finger to her mouth as she crossed the finish line, as if she had not shushed the Swedish Cross-Country fans enough with that strong performance.

"It was fun. The best to win here so I'm happy."

The first women's semifinal could as well have been the final, as Sundling, Skistad and Svahn battled it out for the top spots. Sundling had set off at a furious pace but was caught up by Skistad and Svahn, having to settle for a third place that was so fast that she earned a spot in the deciding race.

The Olympic sprint champion, who had skipped the competitions in Drammen to recover from last weekend's 50km Mass Start, had the same brave tactic in the final but could not get a gap to the two sprint aces behind her. Sundling was once again beaten by Svahn and Skistad, who had stayed behind the two Swedes in front before pushing past them in the home straight.

"I'm happy with my day, even tough you of course always want a bit more," Sundling said.

"But it is always a special feeling to climb the podium here in Falun. And to compete in front of a home crowd, that is incredibly cool."

Svahn, who had secured the sprint Crystal Globe on Tuesday, had not been able to respond to Skistads power in the last sections of the race and had to settle second place for the second time this week.

Completing a season of podiums in every sprint final but the first one, however, the 24-year-old home skier however got closer to Jessie Diggins (USA) in the overall World Cup standings. With two races left to compete, Svahn is 41 points behind the USA superstar who was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

"It was a fun start to what I think will be a tough last weekend of the season. Incredible that so many people in the audience came to support us, despite the rain and mist. It means a lot and then it is extra nice that we get two Swedes on the podium," said Svahn, who was awarded the sprint Crystal Globe in front of the home fans.

"It was nice to receive this trophy. I see it as a nice proof of a solid, well executed season. To get to receive the globe like this, on home soil, feels incredibly cool, like the icing on the cake."

Laura Gimmler (GER) finished fifth as Nadine Faehndrich (SUI) had to settle for sixth place.

Click here for full results from the Women's Sprint Classic and here for full results from the men's competition.

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