New sport, same Sadie. New name, same Sadie.
Anchorage cross-country skier Sadie Maubet Bjornsen — the Maubet is new, thanks to her marriage last month — became the first American to win a stage in the Toppidrettsveka festival, a three-day rollerski race series in Norway featuring many of skiing’s top World Cup skiers.
The two-time Olympian won the 25-kilometer race Friday and Saturday made it the semifinals in the sprint and posted the second-fastest time in a pursuit race to lead a group of six Americans. Her brother, two-time Olympian Erik Bjornsen, was the top American man in the 25K and had the 13th-fastest time in the pursuit race.
For Maubet Bjornsen, the results were impressive on two fronts.
For one, she’s dealing with a back injury she feared might keep her out of a training camp in Trondheim, Norway, prior to the rollerski races. She made it through the camp and the races with no ill effects, in part, she said, because of the efforts of Anchorage physiotherapist Zuzana Rodgers, who was part of the U.S. contingent.
For another, Maubet Bjornsen is fairly inexperienced when it comes to rollerski racing, so she was jittery.
“I have never done summer rollerski racing except for a few team races back in Alaska, so I had no idea what to expect,” she said by email. “We had a great ten-day camp beforehand, but I was honestly a bit nervous to know if I was in the same league at rollerskiing as I am on skis.
“In the end, it’s a similar sport, just higher risk when you fall down.”
The risk is higher because the races are on paved streets, so when someone falls, it can hurt.
In the 25K race, a number of competitors crashed because of equipment problems, including race favorites Frida Karlsson of Sweden and Alexander Bolshunov of Russia. Maubet Bjornsen topped the women in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 12.4 seconds, almost five seconds ahead of Italy’s Anna Comerella.
The race ended with a 3K uphill climb, and that’s where Maubet Bjornsen passed Comerella to grab the victory.
“For whatever reason my brain and muscles just clipped into place and I found myself chasing the leader and passing her halfway up the climb,” she said. “The sprint race that afternoon was a fast and furious competition, which involved staying on your feet during a downpour on slippery roads. The final competition, I went into the race excited rather than scared, and had the most amazing time racing through the downtown streets of Trondheim.”
In Saturday’s pursuit, Maubet Bjornsen finished fifth — 26.9 seconds behind winner Tiril Weng of Norway — but she had the second-fastest time in the 12K race.
Weng won the race series to lead a 1-2-3 finish by Norway. Maubet Bjornsen placed fifth overall and Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell finished 13th overall.
Erik Bjornsen led the American men in the 25K with a 16th-place finish. In the pursuit, Simi Hamilton of Colorado led the U.S. men with the fourth-fastest time and Bjornsen was the second-fastest American with the 13th-fastest time.
Both of the Bjornsens plan to spend the next month training in Alaska in preparation for the World Cup season-opening races in November. Sadie said she hopes smoke from nearby wildfires won’t impact air quality too much.
“(We’re) really crossing our fingers for some fresh air,” Maubet Bjornsen said. “It has been a challenge trying to make training work this summer, but thank goodness for air filters and indoor training.”