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Bjornsen Leads U.S. in Ruka Distance

By Lara Carlton
November, 25 2018
Sadie Bjornsen Ruka
Sadie Bjornsen was the top American in both the classic sprint and the 10k classic in Ruka, Finland this weekend. (Getty Images/AFP - Markku Ulander)

It was a furious first distance race on the FIS Cross Country World Cup circuit in Ruka, Finland on Sunday. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) led the U.S. Cross Country Team, finishing eighth in the women’s individual classic. 2018 Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) was close behind in 14th. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) led the U.S. men in the in 31st in the 15k classic.

Norway’s Therese Johaug took the victory - her 53rd World Cup win - as Sweden was second and third with Charlotte Kalla and Ebba Andersson respectively. For the men, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov won, Norway’s Emil Iversen was second and Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson came in third.

“The downhills were wicked fast, so there was little to no recovery,” said Bjornsen, who is currently 10th in the overall World Cup standings. “I went out hard and did my very best to hang on. Despite losing my ‘fight for the podium’ on my third lap, I feel so excited and encouraged about finishing eighth today. I had good feelings, I had good skis, and I know where I lost my time a bit. It is a long season ahead, and this weekend was a good first checkpoint. I know each race will build on the one before, so I am just loving every second of this process.”

Due to variable snow conditions, the course was changed to three laps of a 3.3k course for the women and four laps of 3.75k course for the men. Despite the challenging conditions, Diggins was happy with her start to the season.

“I always like to build into the season and carry quite a bit of training load into the first few weekends in order to be racing in top form later in the year, so this is right around where I’d hope to be!” said Diggins. “The process of picking skis, being mentally tough and focusing on my best technique during the race went really well so I’m stoked with how the process is going early in the season!”

The FIS Cross Country World Cup season continues next weekend, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, in Lillehammer, Norway, with men and women’s freestyle sprint; a 10k freestyle for the women, 15k freestyle for the men, and a 10k classic pursuit for the women and 15k classic pursuit for the men.

Women’s 10k Interval Start Classic Ruka, Finland
Men’s 15k Interval Start Classic Ruka, Finland

Bjornsen Top American In Ruka Sprint

Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.), Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) and Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vt.) all advanced to the World Cup classic sprint finals in Ruka, Finland on Saturday, with Bjornsen leading the Americans in 11th place.

“It sure was fun to fire the engine for day one of World Cup racing this winter,” said Bjornsen, who was the fifth overall qualifier. “I am excited to get that first sprint race of the season in, and looking forward to building on this start.”

“Today we saw the first hints of great coming seasons out of Sadie, Sophie and Ida, all qualifying in comfortable fashion,” U.S. World Cup Coach Matt Whitcomb said. “We wanted more from today, but we aren’t discouraged. Wanting and expecting are two different things, and we can’t expect a huge day for the team unless we come to Europe three weeks in advance of the World Cup. We need more time on snow, as well as more racing.”

Russia’s Yulia Belorukova won, Sweden’s Maja Dahlqvist and Ida Ingemarsdotter closed out the podium in second and third respectively. For the men, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov was first and Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Eirik Brandsdal were second and third.  

Men’s Classic Sprint Ruka, Finland
Women’s Classic Sprint Ruka, Finland