On a day of high-profile absentees and intriguing sub-plots, Kerttu Niskanen proved her class – and her longevity – with victory in the women’s 10km Classic at the FIS Cross Country Skiing World Cup event in Falun, Sweden on Friday.
The Finnish skier, whose World Cup career dates back to 2008, claimed her fifth stage victory – all over 10km, a distance she claimed silver at behind the legendary (and now retired) Therese Johaug (NOR) at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
With Swedish heavyweights Ebba Andersson and Frida Karlsson both still recovering from illness and Maja Dahlquist also absent after opting to concentrate on the Saturday’s sprint race, Niskanen was the favourite over her favourite distance and discipline.
As Norwegian veteran Ragnhild Gloeersen Haga noted pre-race, the Falun course has “a little bit of everything”, including what loosely translates as ‘the murder hill’, a gruelling climb that featured on two of the race’s three different loops.
This played right into the hands of the Finn, known for her supreme climbing ability. On a murky day with the temperature hovering around freezing, the 34-year-old went through the 2.5km mark 6.8 seconds behind early pace setter, Jonna Sundling (SWE), but – as the snow started falling more heavily – Niskanen had edged in front by the next checkpoint and gradually increased her lead.
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