For the 11th time in a row, Ruka (FIN) will host the first sprint event of the World Cup calendar on Saturday, 24th November. The distance races of Sunday, 25th November were confirmed as an interval start on a 5 km loop.
The lack of snow and mild temperatures put up a warning signal a few weeks before the official opening. However, within the last week temperatures dropping, it allowed the organizers to process in their snow production in order to ensure World Cup level races. Who will handle the arctic conditions and decide the sprint and distant races for themselves? Who will push through the season and win the race for the crystal globe?
Find a first listing with the nation's team selections for Ruka here.
Let's start the season with a sprint
The youngest overall World Cup winner of all time, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, is surely out to defend his last year's success. As for the overall season, Klæbo has also won the last two overall sprint World Cup titles and can become the first male athlete to win this title three times in a row. He won seven of the 10 individual sprint World Cup events last season. Including the sprint as well as the distant races at Ruka Nordic.
On the ladies sprint side, Stina Nilsson of Sweden won the sprint classic World Cup race in Ruka in the past two seasons and ended up on the second place at the 2017/18 overall sprint World Cup. She is challenging Maiken Caspersen Falla who won the ladies' overall sprint World Cup from 2016 to 2018 in a row.
For the distance racers, Therese Johaug has reported back to the World Cup level and made her intensions clear by winning the 10 km C and 10 km F at the Norwegian season openenr at Beitostølen one week earlier. If her form proves to be constistent throughout the season, Johaug could join Bjørgen and Kowalczyk as only women to have won the distance World Cup on at least three occasions (she won the ladies' overall and distance World Cup in 2013/14 and 2015/16 and finished second in both these events in 2014/15).
Also Heidi Weng must have put an eye on the ladies' overall World Cup as as well as on the distance World Cup as she could win the title for the third season in succession.
Another distance racer with a big chance on the crystal globe is US athlete Jessica Diggins. With a strong second place in the ladies' overall World Cup and a third place in the distance World Cup, Diggins is up for the challenge.
On the men's side, will Alexander Bolshunov start his season as he ended the past one by winning the 15km classic World Cup race? One less competitor at the season opener that he can be sure of is Switzerland's one and only Dario Cologna as he decided to enter the World Cup races at Lillehammer, giving himself one extra week of preparation. Cologna is however eyeing a record number of crystal globes as he is tied with Bjørn Dæhlie on a record eight World Cup titles among men (all events).
Dario Cologna and Petter Northug Jr. will both not attend the World Cup season opener at Ruka, the organisers of the Equinor Cup at Gaalaa will be pleased as both superstars enrolled for the race weekend in Norway.
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