CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Seasonal races too close to call!

Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (Photo: Frankie Fouganthin via Wikipedia)

The Cross Country World Cup seasonal title is coming down to the final events of the season, with two Norwegian winners of Sprint races on Tuesday.

In Drammen (NOR), sprint king Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the men’s 1.2 km Classical Sprint to retake the seasonal World Cup lead, but only by 1,281-1,250 over Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov, who was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

They’re the only two in contention for the seasonal crown, with Norway’s Sjur Roethe well back in third at 802. There are five races left in the season:

16-17 March in Falun (SWE): Sprint Freestyle, 15 km Freestyle
22-24 March in Quebec (CAN): Sprint Freestyle, 15 km Mass Start Classical, 15 km Pursuit Freestyle

With Klaebo an ace in the Sprint events, Bolshunov’s chance will come with three distance races remaining to two Sprints. It’s worth noting that Klaebo did win two 15 km races – Mass Start and Pursuit – way back in January at the Tour de Ski, so he’s capable. It should be quite a duel.

The women’s season race is just as close and also a match between Norway and Russia. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) has a tiny, two-point lead over Russian Natalia Nepyraeva, the emerging star of the season, by 1,329-1,327. Their remaining schedule:

16-17 March in Falun (SWE): Sprint Freestyle, 10 km Freestyle
22-24 March in Quebec (CAN): Sprint Freestyle, 10 km Mass Start Classical, 10 km Pursuit Freestyle

In Drammen, Norwegian sprint star Maiken Caspersen Falla barely outlasted teammate Astrid Jacobsen in the women’s 1.2 km Sprint, winning by just 0.8 seconds in the final. They were followed by Nepryaeva (+1.06) and Sweden’s Stina Nilsson (+1.28) with American Jessie Diggins fifth.

With Norway’s comebacking sensation Therese Johaug dominating the distance races, Oestberg hasn’t won a World Cup race since early January and hasn’t won a medal in the last nine races. Nepryaeva hasn’t won since 30 December, but has medals in eight of 14 races this year. At age 23, she is poised to make the jump from 13th last season to the Crystal Globe in this one.

Look for results from Falun and Quebec here. Summaries from Drammen:

FIS Cross Country World Cup
Drammen (NOR) ~ 12 March 2019
(Full results here)

Men’s 1.2 km Sprint Classic: 1. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), 2:37.90; 2. Erik Brandsdal (NOR), +0.89; 3. Richard Jouve (FRA), +2.17; 4. Sondre Fossli (NOR), +3.34; 5. Oskar Svensson (SWE), +3.63.

Women’s 1.2 km Sprint Classic: 1. Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR), 2:56.12; 2. Astrid Jacobsen (NOR), +0.80; 3. Nataia Nepryaeva (RUS), +1.06; 4. Stina Nilsson (SWE), +1.28; 5. Jessica Diggins (USA), +5.38.