XC Ski World Cup Finals

Yesterday we were very lucky to have the opportunity to attend the in the XC ski World Cup Final in Falun (about 100km west of here in Dalarna).  Thanks to Camilla for finding a couple extra seats for us.  After a week of spring-ish weather, a snowstorm moved in Saturday night and it snowed heavily throughout the entire drive out and during the races – not the most spring like start to spring.

After missing the Olympics it was nice to be able to see all the same athletes in action even if this competition wasn’t as important as the Olympics.  The atmosphere was great with lots of very knowledgeable Scandinavian fans lining the course especially along  ‘Mördarbacken‘ (the killer hill) which is not only steep but really long.

Profile of the men's race - notice the monster climb about half way through up Mördarbacken.

The race for first in both the women’s and men’s races was never really in doubt as Norwegian Olympic champions Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug both started with big leads (based on the previous day’s results) and were never threatened.  Northug was so far ahead at the end of the race that he gathered a couple of Norwegian flags from the crowd and shook a bunch of hands before waiting just before the finish line for the next competitor to come and then cross just ahead of him.  So the results show a 3.4 second victory but in reality he was probably a full minute ahead of second place Maurice Manificat of France who had an amazing race making up a lot of time from his 12th place starting position.  Swedes won Bronze in each race so the home crowd was pretty happy, and the large Norwegian contingent was of course very excited about double Gold.  It was really impressive to see how fast the best in the world can ski even up hill in poor conditions.  I’m not sure if you’ll be blocked from outside Sweden, but try watching the men’s and women’s races online.  I don’t think we got in any shots, but it’s possible.

This picture of Sweden's Marcus Hellner gives a little perspective of how steep the hill is. He's only about half way to the top.
After they climb they need to descend and they do so very quickly. It was very impressive to watch them come racing down a steep pitch with loose snow all over the place and then have to take a relatively tight corner (seen here) all the while it was snowing like crazy.
The shot shows how much soft snow was on the course and how hard the snow was falling (especially during the women's race)

Canadians Ivan Babikov (31) and Alex Harvey (18) climbing to the top. We missed Ivan and Devon Kershaw a couple times because they weren't wearing the distinctive suits we'd seen the team were at the Olympics. Ivan had a really strong race moving up 14 positions.
Wilma and Camilla decided to be traitors and go for Norwegian and Canadian face paint respectively.
Bad close-up of Northug shaking hands about 50m from the finish line.
Catherine with her trademark picture face posing with the owl mascot. Also check out those sweet reflecto-snowpants!