CROSS COUNTRY Preview: Klaebo? Bolshunov? Oestberg? Nepryaeva? This weekend will decide …

Norway's Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (Photo: Steffen Proessdorf via Wikipedia)

After 26 races in all kinds of conditions, the Cross Country World Cup is not decided and may come down to Sunday’s final races in Quebec City (CAN). The schedule:

22 March: Men’s & Women’s Sprint Freestyle
23 March: Women’s 10 km Mass Start Classical & Men’s 15 km Mass Start Classical
24 March: Women’s 10 km Pursuit Freestyle & Men’s 15 km Pursuit Freestyle

In the men’s division, there are two contenders for the seasonal crown; standings:

1. 1,393 Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) ~ 9 wins, one silver this season
2. 1,379 Alexander Bolshunov (RUS) ~ 5 wins, two silvers, three bronzes
3. 852 Sjur Roethe (NOR) ~ 3 wins, one silver
4. 748 Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) ~ 3 silvers, one bronze
5. 730 Didrik Toenseth (NOR) ~ 1 silver, three bronzes

The women’s division is exactly the same: two contenders, with the Norwegian leading the Russian:

1. 1,424 Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) ~ 4 wins, three silvers, one bronze
2. 1,327 Natalia Nepryaeva (RUS) ~ 1 win, five silvers, two bronzes
3. 1,115 Krista Parmakoski (FIN) ~ 1 silver, one bronze
4. 1,060 Therese Johaug (NOR) ~ 9 wins!
5. 901 Jessica Diggins (USA) ~ 1 win, four bronzes

Klaebo is the defending champion in the men’s overall World Cup, while for Bolshunov, Oestberg or Nepryaeva, it would be their first. Oestberg was second overall in 2016.

The chase for the seasonal World Cup championship overshadows the amazing comeback of Norway’s Therese Johaug, herself the overall title winner in 2014 and 2016. In her return from a doping suspension caused by the issuance of a loaded lip balm by a team physician, Johaug has competed in 10 World Cup races, winning all nine distance events and finishing 33rd in a Sprint. Her distance win streak includes:

10 km: Classical (2), Freestyle (4)
15 km: Freestyle (1)
Mass Start: 30 km Freestyle (1)
Pursuit: 10 km Classical (1)

She also won the World Championships races in the 10 km Classical, 15 km Pursuit and 30 km Freestyle in Seefield (AUT), for a seasonal total of 12 straight distance wins. Amazing.

Look for results here.