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Norway’s men win as Finland complete double Team Sprint podium

Mar 01, 2024·Cross-Country
Golberg (left) and Klaebo (right) continue their successful Team Sprint run @ Nordic Focus

Finland holds happy memories for Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR). It was in Ruka in 2016, having just turned 20 years old, that he achieved his first World Cup podium. And it was here in Lahti, around 100 kilometres north-east of the capital Helsinki, that he proved it was no fluke, claiming bronze in the sprint at the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships to truly announce himself on the global stage.

Six years later, having fully established himself as the greatest men’s sprinters of all time and one of the very best cross-country skiers ever, Klaebo only has eyes for the top of the podium – even in the team events. “It’s always fun to race these kind of races,” he said.

And even on a challenging course in Lahti on Friday – with one gruelling climb and an equally challenging downhill section, with fast, sharp turns than claimed several skiers – victory for Norway 1 in the Men’s Team Sprint Classic never looked in doubt as long as Klaebo was out on the track.

Skiing alongside Paal Golberg, Klaebo didn’t have it all his own way, though. The Norwegian pair qualified fastest to take their place at the front of the grid in the 15-team final, but were only four seconds ahead of France, who looked strong even in the absence of two-time winner this season Lucas Chanavat, who is more of a freestyle specialist.

While Sweden 1 dominated the women’s race from start to finish, the men’s event was much more ‘cat and mouse’, with each skier completing three 1.3km laps alternately with his team-mate, making changeovers particularly important – as Norway 1 found to their detriment in the women’s race.

But the calm, experienced duo of Golberg and Klaebo – who won this event last year as well as the team sprint at the World Championships – stayed out of trouble and out in front. The led at the end of every lap, including the penultimate lap, after France 1’s Jules Chappaz had briefly taken the lead.

Individual sprint bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships, Chappaz hit the front ahead of Golberg as the two came down into the stadium section, travelling at speeds in excess of 50 km/h.

“I was quite nervous with the downhills today,” Golberg said. “The course was quite difficult but I managed to stay out in front.

“I gave him [Chappaz] three or four metres out of the turn to just try to slipstream him. Too bad for Jules, he fell, and luckily for me, I managed to go round the outside.”

In fact, Golberg skied outside the course marker, but the officials decided such evasive action was necessary and he was allowed to continue, handing over to Klaebo 1.6 seconds in front of Norway 2’s Haavard Solaas Taugboel and Even Northug. Finland 1’s Iivo Niskanen and Lauri Vuorinen were three seconds further back in third place, much to the delight of the local supporters.

In now-familiar style, Klaebo – a perfect blend of timing, balance, double-poling power and tactical awareness – gradually eased away, taking his lead out to 6.42 seconds with half a lap to go, before slowing down and looking over his shoulder as he approached the finishing line, victory secured.

“It was an exciting race,” Golberg said. Klaebo agreed.

“I felt good. It’s a cool track, a lot of downhills at the end, so I feel it’s an exciting race to watch as well. A little bit nerve-wracking for us but a lot of fun.”Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR)
Double jeopardy: Lauri Vuorinen (FIN, left) just beats Richard Jouve (FRA) to third place @ Nordic Focus
Double jeopardy: Lauri Vuorinen (FIN, left) just beats Richard Jouve (FRA) to third place @ Nordic Focus

The real fun was going on behind them, though. With Norway 2 clear in second, and Switzerland 1 dropping off the pace, Jouve was on the charge in a bid to claw back the time France 1 lost after Chappaz’s fall – and challenge Finland 1 for bronze. But in a desperate lunge for the line, Vuorinen held on to third by just one hundredth of a second and complete a double celebration for the crowd after the women’s silver.

They will be hoping for even more on Saturday in the women’s and men’s 20km Interval Start Classic.

Click here for the full results from Lahti

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